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San Juan Travel Guide


The capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is a wonderful city that is absolutely worth discovering. North of the island, the second oldest city in the Americas offers a journey into the heart of history with its charming heritage and beautiful landscapes. Visit the 500 old Spanish heritage in the neighborhoods of Old San Juan, burst along the coast with its beaches and do not miss the neighborhoods Rio Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra and Santurce... San Juan is a must when visiting Puerto Rico, classified as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with all a rich architectural heritage.

At first glance, San Juan is not attractive. Washed out with concrete buildings, crumbled houses and signs of American fast food, in the most exclusive neighborhoods, giant hotels posed in blocks along the beaches and this suggests that the highway that crosses west is the capital of Puerto Rico. The Atlantic Ocean is just glistening there in the distance, between two palm trees or two laps of luxury.

And then you end up in the old town of San Juan, perched at the end of a peninsula just west of the capital. Change of scene: narrow streets lined with colorful facades - a succession of pastel shades of orange and ocher, interspersed here and there a bright blue or as intense green. Windows outlined in white and decorated on the floor of wrought iron railings or wood. And on the road, paved in gray-blue reflections, worn by centuries. Because, despite its frequent facelifts, the old town of San Juan is almost 500 years old. In 1521 it was founded by Spanish conquistadors - including Ponce de Leon, perhaps best known for his pursuit of the elusive fountain of youth for his duties as first governor of the island of Puerto Rico.

Today, the old town boasts approximately 400 buildings dating from Spanish colonial and XVI - XVII century - sometimes you can see their inner courtyards behind heavy wooden doors ajar. Random street, it also falls on the facades of the years 1920 and 1930 - with large windows, surrounded by naked nymphs - just as carefully renovated. In short, it is a must to discover the Old San Juan. On foot, in order to avoid traffic jams. But also do not forget to look ahead, because the streets are narrow, many passerbies and the street with a permanent show. The piragüeros, the merchants who sell ice syrup, waving their bell in the hope of attracting customers.

Of course, all these beautiful colors - these impeccably renovated homes – release a light scent of tourist traps. At least the American restaurant chains have also forced hiding behind traditional facades. To leave the charm to act, just leave the streets crowded with merchant memories - Calle Fortaleza - and back for example Calle San Justo before taking Calle Sol and Calle San Sebastian. There, the Old San Juan is much more quiet and residential. Neighbors are the talk of a balcony to another. Strolling to the West, you end up falling on the imposing cathedral of San Juan Bautista, built by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. The cathedral from the streets probably one of the most photographed of the old city: Caleta de San Juan, all in pastel shades and shaded by lush vegetation - banyan, tangled roots, palm trees - and very popular with cats.

Other recommended break: the garden of the Museum Casa Blanca. It is reached by a small door at the bottom of the picturesque streets of the hospital. A haven of peace and greenery, only disturbed by the singing of "Coquis", the mascot of Puerto Rico: frogs 2 or 3 inches long living in trees, and whose name evokes the croaking.

Note also the book museum - La Casa del Libro - an eighteenth century building in old-fashioned charm, housing a collection of ancient books in several languages, including a first edition of Don Quixote in 1605. No sign on the outside, but doors and windows wide open to invite you to come and walk the halls in black and white tiles and the two flowered patios.

After a long day's walk, San Juan offers an assortment of restaurants: Italian, Venezuelan, French... and of course Puerto Rican. Two cafeterias serve local dishes-rice and beans and red meat or fried fish or coated with breadcrumbs - tasty and unpretentious: La Bombonera, whose walls are decorated with photos of San Juan in 1900 and where street musicians are playing regularly minutes prior to the race. And in the same street, Cafeteria Mallorca, where waiters are in vests and navy hats.

And if all that did not tire you, you can take a walk on Calle San Sebastian - the old town is said to have the best bars and clubs of San Juan. And the night is just beginning…

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