Puerto Rico’s architecture history dates back to the 16th Century, when Spain arrived to the island in 1492. When visiting Old San Juan, you’ll see how the Spanish architecture heritage stands out in this cobblestone city just by watching its buildings. All around Puerto Rico, you will see Spanish colonial, neo-classical, medieval-style and baroque architecture very close to each other. It’s fascinating getting to know the history behind these buildings. If you’re an architect, a historical buildings fanatic or just appreciate a beautiful architecture, we give you a few must-see San Juan sites when visiting Puerto Rico.
El Morro Castle & San Cristóbal Fort (Medieval Style Architecture)
Probably two of the most popular sites in Puerto Rico. El Morro was designed to guard the entrance of the San Juan Bay and defend San Juan from seaborne attacks from enemies while the San Cristóbal Fort was built to protect against land-based attacks on the city of San Juan. Both are now part of the San Juan National Historic Site and you can buy a ticket to visit the interior of both of them. El Morro was declared a “World Heritage Site” in 1983, putting it in the same class as Versalles, the Taj Mahal, and the Egyptian pyramids.
La Fortaleza (Classical Revival architecture)
Another World Heritage Site, built around its 16th-century core is a 19th-century facade with neoclassical motifs and a richly furnished interior. Originally built to protect Spanish settlers from attack, and as of today, it’s the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico and the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World. It has been restored since then, trying to use original materials when possible.
Cuartel de Ballajá & Museo de las Américas
This building was built between 1854 through 1864 as military barracks. It now has shops and restaurants on its courtyard, the 2nd floor now features the Museo de las Américas, with an overview of cultural development in the New World. It features changing exhibitions, and Caribbean and European American art.
Parque de Bombas, Ponce (Moorish and Gothic Victorian architecture)
Ponce’s fire station was built in the early 1880’s. It has been used as a museum since the early 1990s, the two-level building was created with Moorish and Gothic Victorian architectural influences. To get here, it’s approximately an hour drive from San Juan.
La Concha Resort isn’t left behind in this architecture frenzy with its outstanding shell, Perla.
The signature seashell-shaped floating restaurant has been hailed as a marvel of engineering and architecture, and is an architectural treasure. You can’t miss dining at Perla, a luxury seafood restaurant serving happening American cuisine. Come see it for yourself!
There is so much more historical architecture to see all around our 100×35 miles island. If you’re into these type of sightings, you should follow Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society and make your own must-see buildings list before visiting!