Puerto Rico’s second-oldest town
While there is evidence of its existence as early as the sixteenth century, San Germán was officially established in 1573, making it the second-oldest city in Puerto Rico (behind San Juan). In fact, at one point the entire island was divided into two parts: San Juan and San Germán. Today the area preserves its nostalgic appeal, with cobblestone streets, neoclassical architecture, and two meticulously maintained plazas. The entire Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The municipality of San Germán is located in the southwest of the island, with Mayagüez and Maricao to the north, Hormigueros and Cabo Rojo to the west, Lajas to the south, and Sabana Grande to the east. Rafael Hernandez International Airport (BQN) in Aguadilla is an hour north, and driving to San Juan takes about two hours.
A Journey Through History
The San Germán Historic District includes more than 100 significant buildings, and the most iconic is Porta Coeli, a convent and church originally erected in 1609. The austere structure is accessible via a grand staircase that leads what is now a religious art museum, with wood-carved saints, hand-painted tiles depicting biblical passages, and other items of Christian interest.
Overlooking Plaza Francisco Mariano Quiñones, Iglesia San Germán de Auxerre is a Roman Catholic church originally built in 1688. More ornate than Porta Coeli, the active house of worship features ornate details like a marble altar circa 1869, eighteenth-century wood carvings, painted archways, and a painting by famed Puerto Rican artist Jose Campeche.
Housed in a former savings and loan bank dating back to 1881, the Museo de la Historia de San Germán is a museum that encompasses a series of small galleries detailing the history and legacy of the municipality. Displays focus on different aspects of the past and present, from rare Puerto Rican coins to a room dedicated to the town’s love affair with basketball. While most of the exhibits are in Spanish, an English-language video explains how San Germán played a vital role in the development of Puerto Rico. Across the street, Museo Farmacia La Botica occupies the ground floor of an exquisitely restored structure built in 1887. The museum recalls a typical nineteenth-century pharmacy, complete with original details like an old-timey cash register, apothecary jars, a microscope, and a balance scale.
Museo de Arte y Casa Estudio, San Germán’s art museum, tells the story of Puerto Rico through a collection of paintings, drawings, religious artifacts, and other relics. Nearby at the Casa de Lola Rodriguez de Tio museum, visitors can explore a recreation of the home of one of the town’s most famous and accomplished families, where items like antique furniture and housewares, important letters, and historic documents are on view.
The dining scene in San Germán offers a deliciously varied mix of contemporary international cuisine. The creativity coming out of the kitchen at Tierra Viva Bistro includes sumptuous dishes like cinnamon roll pancakes and eggplant burgers with sweet potato fries. Lupito’s offers a warm and inviting atmosphere for chowing down on tacos, burritos, nachos, and other Mexican dishes, alongside stunning views of Porta Coeli from the outdoor patio. For a taste of Spain in San Germán, snag a seat at Tapas Café, where the menu’s staples range from chorizo in wine sauce to house-made sangria. If you’re thirsty for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail, stop into Donde Sea Bar, a chic lounge adorned with colorful murals.