Caribbean Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Guide Things To Do Essentials Restaurants Nightlife Where to Stay Neighborhoods Itineraries Events Getaways All Puerto Rico Visiting La Fortaleza in Old San Juan By Zain Deane Zain Deane LinkedIn Zain Deane is the author of "Explorer's Guide San Juan, Vieques & Culebra: A Great Destination" and several other guidebooks for Puerto Rico. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 06/26/19 Share Pin Email gregobagel/Getty Images La Fortaleza, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960, isn't just the oldest governor’s mansion in continued use in the western hemisphere; it's also one of the loveliest. Its pale blue and white facade, tiled roof, patios and wrought ironwork recall the grace of Spanish colonial architecture. The building is the official governor's residence, and has been for centuries—and the fine galleries, period furniture, and lush gardens of the museum is well worth the visit. The History La Fortaleza means “The Fortress,” and it was certainly intended as such when it was completed in 1540 as part of a massive construction effort to secure the island’s defenses. It didn't do so well, though, falling to the Earl of Cumberland in 1598 and the Dutch Commander Boudewyn Hendrick in 1625. In 1846, it was remodeled and converted for full-time use as the governor’s house. The building, which is also known as El Palacio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Palace), has housed no less than 170 governors of Puerto Rico. The Basics La Fortaleza is located at Recinto Oeste Street in Old San Juan, near the San Juan Gate. It is open from 9 to 4 on weekdays, and guided tours are offered every weekday except holidays. . Entrance to the site is free. Hours can change due to government business or special holidays, so call ahead to confirm the building is open. For more information, call 787-721-7000 ext. 2211. There is also a tour guide office by the west end of Calle Forteleza that you can stop by in person. La Fortaleza is located directly in the center of Old San Juan and is easily walkable from most parts of the city. There are many local buses that will let off travelers at the Terminal Covadonga San Juan. From the terminal, it will take under 15 minutes to walk to the site. Don't Miss One of the highlights in the entire palace is an ancient mahogany clock that stands along one of the corridors. Before he left La Fortaleza, the last Spanish governor of Puerto Rico paused in front of it and struck its face with his sword, stopping time at the very last moment of Spanish rule in the New World. Don't Forget About Christmas If you've bought the kids to the island for Christmas, check out what's cooking at La Fortaleza on December 25th—the children might just come away with a free gift. Package Tours Consider visiting La Fortaleza as part of a more extensive tour. Operators like Viator.com offer fun outings with expert guides that include a stop at the museum but include more sights. A benefit to booking a package tour is the operator will handle tickets and entry into La Fortaleza, so all you'll have to do is enjoy the scenery. Package options include historical walking tours through the streets of Old San Juan, zipping along on a Segway, visits to the Barcadi Factory, and breezy sailing excursions through the waters of the Old San Juan Harbor.the waters of the Old San Juan Harbor. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Visiting the Catedral de San Juan in Old San Juan The Top 10 Museums in Puerto Rico Where to Go Shopping in San Juan, Puerto Rico Explore Puerto Rico's Best Things to Do The Top 12 Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico Only Have a Week in Puerto Rico? Try This Great 7-Day Itinerary The 9 Best Day Trips from Seville The Ultimate Itinerary for a European-Inspired Solo Trip Around the U.S. Your Trip to Puerto Rico: The Complete Guide 19 Things to See When Your Cruise Is in Havana 10 Incredible Places to See in Cuba Top 20 Attractions to Connect With Texas History 54 Places for a Weekend Getaway in California 15 Best Day Trips From Los Angeles Where to Go in the Caribbean for Christmas Where are the best cities in Spain for tapas?