Old San Juan
Walking Tour Part 5
|Another large fort and the capitol building are on this final part of your walk.|
15. Plaza Colon: Named in honor of Christopher Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico, bronze tablets at the foot of the Columbus statue record events of the explorer's life. The plaza was restored to further dramatize the statue. Some nice open-air cafes border the north side.
16. Tapia Theater: Where theater, dance and other cultural activities are held. Construction on this theater began in 1832 and continued until the last quarter of the 19th century. It was financed by taxes on bread and imported liquor and by subscription.
17. El Castillo de San Cristobal: El Morro is more famous but San Cristobal is the largest fortress the Spanish constructed in the New World. Rising 150 feet above the sea and covering 27 acres, San Cristobal is located just above the Plaza Colon. It was built in 1771 to defend the city from inland attacks after successful invaders like the Earl of Cumberland made such a mess back in 1598.
A rather belated response to the problem, San Cristobal is considered a strategic masterpiece. Attackers could storm the main fortress only after taking five structures connected by tunnels and a dry moat. Operated by the National Park Service, hours are from 9-6; 787/729-6536.
18. The Casino: Looking like a French mansion of the Louis XIV style and now used by the State Department, in 1917 the building was opened as an aristocratic social club. Financial problems during WWI caused the Casino to back down on its plans to use marble on the floors and walls. Instead, everything was plastered and painted to look like marble.
During recent restoration, real marble replaced the fake. The Casino's proper name is the Manuel Pavla Fernandez Government Reception Center. Open Monday-Friday, 8-4; 787/724-5985.
19. The Capitol: To the east of the old city, and a bit too far to walk this white-pillared building is the seat of the Puerto Rican legislature. Elaborate dome friezes depict island history. Open Monday-Friday, 8:30-5; 787/721-7305 to arrange a guided tour by appointment.