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A Walking Tour of Old San Juan

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First Stop: Castillo de San Cristóbal
A Walking Tour of Old San Juan

Castillo de San Cristóbal

Photo © Zain Deane
Directions
From the Tourism Information Center, head east along Comercio Street, passing by the piers. (If you want a little pick-me-up to get the blood circulating, stop by Casa Don Q, across the street from Pier 1, for a free sample of Don Q rum!) Follow the road as it curves north into the city and becomes O'Donnell Street. You'll pass by the historic Tapia Theater and then arrive at Plaza Colón, instantly recognizable for its white marble pillar atop which stands a statue of Columbus. Crossing the plaza, you'll be on San Francisco Street. Take a right here and follow the road to the end, and turn left onto Norzagaray Street. The Castle looms on your right, and the entrance is just ahead.

Highlights

  • Castillo de San Cristóbal, or Saint Christopher Castle, is the largest fort in Puerto Rico, and the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Completed in 1785, it covers 27 acres of land and rises almost 150 feet above sea level.
  • Built to guard against a land assault from the east, San Cristóbal is an example of the “defense-in-depth” architectural model. This was a tiered network of fortifications that would force an enemy to face several defensive barriers before the fort was breached.
  • San Cristóbal fired the first shot of the Spanish-American War in 1898.
  • In 1942, the U.S. army built World War II bunkers on the northen face of the fort.
  • From its ramparts, you can see beautiful views of El Morro, the city, and the piers.

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