Fun Facts for History Buffs
Calle del Cristo is the oldest street in Old San Juan and has the largest number of religious buildings.
El Morro was built in 1539 to defend the city from attacks by sea. It has six floors and is higher than the Castillo San Cristóbal, built to prevent attacks by land. The white and red flag that flies over El Morro is a Spanish military flag known as the "Cruz de Borgoña."
The Casa Blanca Museum is the oldest sample of Spanish architecture in the United States and Puerto Rico. The structure has 14 rooms and original furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The San José Church is one of the oldest in America and was built in 1532. It recently reopened to the public after being closed for about 20 years for restorations. One of the church's chapels has the governors' crypt, where the remains of the governors of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries rest. The ceiling of that chapel has frescoes of mermaids, which poses a mystery.
In the 16th century, Hotel El Convento was a religious school that later became Puerto Rico's first convent in the 17th century with Carmelite nuns.
The oldest spiral staircase in Puerto Rico and America built in mortar in the 16th century is at the back of the San Juan Bautista Cathedral. It has 88 steps and leads to the church bell tower. Access is not open to the public.
The architecture of Old San Juan was made "in grids" and allowed cross-ventilation between its buildings and squares. When you walk through the streets, always look for shade!
The material used to build structures in the 16th century, including forts, is called mortar and consists of limestone, sea sand, and brick.
16th-century houses were single-story, had one or two doors, and had inner gardens. The second floors and balconies were built from the 17th century onwards.
Old San Juan's forts and points of interest