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The most striking features of San Juan are the fortifications recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

San Juan occupied a strategic point as the first stop for explorers, traders and colonists coming from Europe to the Americas. Spanish, Dutch, British and Americans disputed ownership of Puerto Rico.

The Fort San Felipe del Morro was a masterpiece of military engineering with 400 cannons and stout wall and ramps for carrying men and artillery.


Between the 15th and 19th centuries a series of defensive structures was built to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan.

The turrets or bartizans are an important symbol in Puerto Rico, appearing on the license plates and other logos.

Fort San Cristobal served as an arsenal, prison and residence. Its rooms are now a museum with displays about Colonial Spain.


The National historic site includes forts, bastions, powder houses and walls and also includes Canuelo Fort on the the Isla de Cabras across the entrance to the bay.

Cementerio de San Juan (San Juan Cemetery) is located between El Morro and the rocky cliffs above the Atlantic. The cemetery is particularly noteworthy for its elaborate tombstones and the circular neoclassical chapel.

By the nineteenth century the old city had become a charming residential and commercial district. The city itself with its institutional buildings, museums, churches and plazas is part of the UNESCO heritage zone.


Just outside the walls of Old San Juan sits the Capitol Building, inaugurated in 1929. Across the street are bronze statues of every U.S. president that has visited Puerto Rico.