As with all cities in Puerto Rico, San Juan is a culture of diversity. A Spanish colonial city from 1521 to 1898, San Juan absorbed many traits of Spanish culture but also indigenous Caribbean culture. When Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory, American culture was added to the mix.

“Sanjuaneros,” the people of San Juan, would probably describe their city’s culture today as a blending of traditional island values with American modernity. The combination can be seen everywhere. In Old San Juan, people talk on cell phones amidst 16th century architecture; in the business districts, locals sell crafts out of corner booths dwarfed by skyscrapers.

If you’re looking to gain a more academic understanding of San Juan culture, start at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan. Features include a replica of a native Puerto Rican village, and uncovered artifacts predating Spanish rule of San Juan. The Institute web site is in Spanish, but phone numbers and contact information can be found here .

If you want to experience culture as a Sanjuanero would, spend an evening visiting the art galleries of Old San Juan, which are all within walking distance of one another. Another night should be devoted to seeing a film in Santurce’s glamorous Metro Cinema, which first opened in 1939.