San Juan is the biggest city and the capital of Puerto Rico. It covers an area of seventy-seven square miles and has a population of over four hundred and twenty thousand resident. The city is one of the main sea ports of Puerto Rico and is the center of the island’s cultural, financial, manufacturing and tourism trade. San Juan can trace its history to the sixteenth century, when Juan Ponce de Leon founded the settlement of Caparra, just west of modern San Juan. The following year, this settlement was relocated to a site called Puerto Rico, which in Spanish means “good port”. Thirteen years later, the settlement was given its official name, San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, to honor John the Baptist. The settlement of San Juan was used by the Spanish as a base for military and merchant ships traveling from Spain to the Americas. Because of its importance in the Caribbean, the Spanish constructed a series of forts to protect the traffic of precious materials traveling from the Americas to Spain. As a result of the gold laden transport ships that were traveling from the area to Europe, soon the city became a target by foreign powers.
In 1595, Sir Francis Drake led a series of attacks on the city during the Battle of Puerto Rico. Three years later, George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, led a similiar attack against San Juan. While the artillery fire from the forts in the city managed to repel Sir Francis Drake, it did not stop Clifford. He managed to mount a beach head and siege the city. George Clifford was forced to withdraw, however, because his troops began to suffer from illness and physical exhaustion. San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico would once again get attacked twenty-seven years later by the Dutch, but the city was able to repel the assault. In 1746, the name of the city changed from San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico to San Juan Bautista and the island became known as Puerto Rico. For the next fifty years, San Juan enjoyed a nice break from foreign attacks. But, in 1797 that would change. Sir Ralph Abercromby mounted an attack on the city, but once again the city was able to repel it.
During the Spanish American War, the United States Navy sent a force, commanded by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, to attack the city. In this force were battleships such as the USS Montgomery, USS Detroit, USS Terror, USS New York, USS Indiana and the USS Amphitrite. These battleships pounded the city with heavy artillery, but no ground troops were put into the city. Two months later, General Nelson A. Miles took three thousand soldiers and landed at Guanica. The American soldiers met heavy resistance from Spanish and Puerto Rican forces. The next month, military actions were suspended after French Ambassador Jules Cambon (acting on the behalf of Spain) and American President William McKinley signed an armistice. Later that same year, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Today, San Juan is a popular tourist destination. This is due to its warm climate, beautiful beaches and the many attractions that the city offers visitors. One of the more popular attractions in the city of San Juan is Old San Juan. Old San Juan is the historic colonial section of the city and the oldest settlement that is located within the territory of the United States. This city has narrow cobblestone streets and stone buildings that have flat brick roofs. Most of these buildings date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the island was a possession of Spain. Barrios (or neighborhoods) in this area include Mercado, San Francisco, Puerta de Tierra, San Cristobal, Catedral, Ballaja and Marina. This area contains many prominent forts and defensive structures. These include Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristobal and El Palacio de Santa Catalina.
Another prominent attraction in the city of San Juan is the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico. This museum was built in the 1920s by architect William Shimmelphening, with a new wing added in 1996. The Museum of Art of Puerto Rico covers an area of one hundred and thirty thousand square feet and the building is designed in the neoclassical style. It is considered to be one of the largest museums in the Carribean and one of the few art museums on the island. This museum has eleven hundred works of art that date from the seventeenth century to the present day. Artists represented in its collection include Ramon Frade, Domingo García, Anaida Hernandez, Manuel Hernandez Acevedo, Marcos Irizarry, Epifanio Irizarry, Antonio Martorell, Jose Morales, María de Mater O’ Neill, Arnaldo Roche Rabell and Julio Rosado del Valle.
Other attractions in the city of San Juan include Acampa, Rocaliza Adventure Tours, EcoQuest Tours, Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, Castillo de San Cristobal, Haitian Gallery, Museo de Casa Blanca, San Juan Cemetery, Segway Tours of Puerto Rico, Paseo de la Princesa, Plaza las Americas, Aventuras Tierra Adentro, San Juan Cathedral, Parque de las Palomas, Legends of San Juan, Teatro Tapia, La Fortaleza – Palacio de Santa Catalina, Maricao Forest Preserve, Plaza del Mercado, Museo de Las Americas, San Juan Gate, Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum, Cafe Carli Concierto, Museo del Nino, Bacardi Rum Plant, Museum of History-Anthropology and Art, Aquatica, Luis Munoz Marin Park, Puerto Rico Surf Academy, Isla Verde, La Muralla, Plaza de Armas, Puerto Rican Art & Crafts, Parque Central Municipio de San Juan, Fine Arts Cinema, Museo de Nuestra Raiz Africana, Hijos de Borinquen, Condado Lagoon, Statue of Ponce de Leon, Chapel of Christ the Savior, La Princesa Gallery, Casa del Libro, Iglesia de San Jose, Luis Munoz Marin Foundation, Munoz Rivera Park, Convento de Los Dominicos, Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, El Farolito, San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, Galeria las Americas and Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.