Standing guard at Old San Juan’s eastern gate is Castillo de San Cristóbal. Built to protect San Juan against land attacks, the ancient Spanish fort is now part of the San Juan National Historic Site. It is the largest Spanish fortification built in the New World and offers spectacular views of the bay and nearby Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
The massive structure, which was built in the 18th century to complement the El Morro fortification, rises 150 feet (46 meters) above sea level and occupies most of the northeastern edge of Old San Juan. Proven to be an effective fortification, which helped repel a 1797 land invasion by Sir Ralph Abercrombie, the Castillo de San Cristóbal is one of the top attractions of Old San Juan and is featured as a stop on many guided tours of the area.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable, sturdy footwear to navigate the uneven surfaces, which may become slippery if there’s a rain shower.
- An elevator in the main entrance leads to the main plaza or the first floor of the fort; the upper levels are accessible via steep ramps.
- Accessible restrooms and water fountains are located in the main entrance area.
- Self-guided tours and ranger-led tours are available.
- Service animals are permitted.
How to Get There
Castillo de San Cristóbal is within walking distance of most of the cruise ship piers, about 10- to 15-minutes away by foot. You can also hop on one of the city’s free trams, which travel around Old San Juan and stop at both Castillo de San Cristóbal and El Morro. Taxis are also available. Public parking is located nearby, but driving is not recommended since it is tricky to navigate the narrow streets.
When to Get There
San Juan experiences the biggest influx of tourists during the winter months, from December to early April. The time between mid-April and June is considered ideal since you can avoid the crowds, as well as hurricane season, which starts in June and ends in November. At the forts, weekends are typically busy because that’s when tourists and locals gather on the field near El Morro.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
This neighboring fortress is generally more popular than Castillo de San Cristóbal, and definitely worth a visit, especially for travelers interested in history. It was built to protect Old San Juan and the bay from incoming attacks by sea. A combination pass is available for purchase and offers entry to both forts.