Ponce, Puerto Rico

Most tourists come to Puerto Rico for San Juan and then are delighted when they explore Ponce in the south. The city is a charming mix of arts, culture, architecture, history, beaches and entertainment. Enjoy the “City of Lions.” Note: Photos taken two months before Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

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Introduction to Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

1 Introduction to Ponce, Puerto Rico

Ponce richly deserves its nickname “The Pearl of the South.” Founded in 1693 and named after Spaniard Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, this delightful city of 170,000 Puerto Ricans is filled with marvelous architecture facing the Caribbean Sea. Ponce also makes an excellent hub to explore the island’s western towns and coastline. This cityscape was captured from the gardens of Castillo Serrallés.

Sector El Vigia, Paseo De La Cruceta, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Lions Fountain at Plaza Federico Degetau, in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

2 Lions Fountain at Plaza Federico Degetau, in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Since the late 17th century, the center of Ponce has been a square now called Plaza Las Delicias. It consists of two plazas on either side of the Ponce Cathedral. The visual highlight of the Plaza Federico Degetau is the Fountain of the Lions. Fuente de los Leones was originally featured at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and then installed at Ponce.

Cll Plaza Degetau, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

3 Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ponce, Puerto Rico

The first chapel was built here in 1670 when the area was only a modest Spanish settlement. In 1692, Carlos II, the King of Spain, declared it a parish church at the same time Ponce was founded by royal degree. The Catholic church was replaced in 1839 and then declared a cathedral in 1924. The twin square towers were revised in 1937 based on a design by architect Francisco Porrata Doria. Each is crowned with a silver dome and a crucifix.

S/N Concordia, Ponce, 00732, Puerto Rico
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Armstrong-Toro House in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

4 Armstrong-Toro House in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Carlos Armstrong-Toro, a prominent local banker, commissioned this mansion across from the cathedral in 1899. It is also called Casa de las Cariatrides in recognition of the caryatids flanking the entrance. The property is now a museum and listed by the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The estate was designed by Manuel Victor Domenech. He was one of the architects who created the Ponce Creole style. He was also the city’s mayor, a member of the House of Representatives, the Treasurer of Puerto Rico and the island’s governor during the first half of the 20th century.

3 Calle Unión, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Parque de Bombas in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

5 Parque de Bombas in Ponce, Puerto Rico

This former pavilion was designed by Maximo de Meana y Guridi for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair. The following year, it was transformed into a firehouse, a role it retained until 1990. Parque de Bombas translates to Pumps Park. The landmark station is now a firefighting museum. The vibrant black and red façade reflects the city’s official colors. This stunning building located at Plaza Las Delicias is the most photographed in Ponce.

75 PR-1, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Historic Banks in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

6 Historic Banks in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Side-by-side on Plaza Degetau are two of Ponce’s historic financial structures. On the left is the former headquarters of Banco Crédito y Ahorro Ponceño. It was founded in 1895 and became the island’s largest credit and savings bank with over 50 branches. After collapsing in 1978, it was acquired by Banco Santander. On the right is the Banco de Ponce building. This institution started locally in 1917 and grew across Puerto Rico with branches in the United States. It merged with Banco Popular in 1990. Both landmarks were built in 1924.

Cll Plaza Degetau & Calle Amor, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Juan Morel Campos Statue in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

7 Juan Morel Campos Statue in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Juan Morel Campos was a 19th century composer. He is often called the father of Puerto Rican danzas (dances). The island’s favorites are merengue, bomba, salsa and the cha-cha. Other famous Puerto Rican entertainers are José Feliciano, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin and Tony Orlando.

Cll Plaza Degetau, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Ponce Creole Architecture in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

Ponce Creole Architecture in Ponce, Puerto Rico

During the late 19th century, an architectural style emerged in Ponce blending features of Victorian, Art Deco and Neoclassical elements. This was a period when design and wealth flourished in the city. Fortunately, many of the nearly 1,000 residences built in this Ponce Creole style have been or are being restored. This pale blue home with ornate French detailing is a gorgeous example.

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Museum of Ponce Architecture in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

8 Museum of Ponce Architecture in Ponce, Puerto Rico

What better place to house the Museum of Ponce Architecture than the wedding-cake shaped building named Casa Wiechers-Villaronga? The Art Nouveau style was designed in 1911 by the famous local architect Alfredo B. Wiechers as his home. Six years later, it was purchased by the Villaronga Mercado family. The museum opened in 1996 to celebrate the city’s elaborate buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This mecca of architecture covers 66 blocks.

Cll Mendez Vigo & Calle Reina, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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National Pantheon Román Baldorioty de Castro in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

9 National Pantheon Román Baldorioty de Castro in Ponce, Puerto Rico

The National Pantheon Román Baldorioty de Castro is a Catholic cemetery established in 1843. Its namesake was a 19th century journalist, political activist and abolitionist who died in Ponce in 1889. Other famous politicians and citizens are interred in the Panteón Nacional. Many of the mausoleums follow a neoclassical design. Attached is the Museum of Puerto Rican Autonomism. The 3.7 acre property is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

15 Calle Frontispicio, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Antonio Paoli Mausoleum in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

10 Antonio Paoli Mausoleum in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Opera singer Antonio Paoli Marcano was born in Ponce in 1871. At the turn of the century, his voice propelled him to international fame. He soon became known as “The King of the Tenors and the Tenor of the Kings.” That career ended as he lost his ability to sing and World War I forced all European opera houses to close. In 1915, he became a boxer in Spain. Later, after regaining his voice, he resumed his performances and then returned to Puerto Rico to teach. His mausoleum is in the National Pantheon Román Baldorioty de Castro.

15 Calle Frontispicio, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Landmarks on Cerro Vigía in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

11 Landmarks on Cerro Vigía in Ponce, Puerto Rico

The Municipality of Ponce is nestled between the Caribbean Sea and over a dozen mountains. The tallest peak at 4,390 feet is Cerro de Punta. Considerably smaller at 364 feet is Cerro del Vigía. However, this hill attracts the most attention from tourists because of its side-by-side landmarks. On the left is La Cruceta del Vigía. On the right is Castillo Serrallés. Read more about these attractions in this gallery.

85-73 Cll Pico Dulce, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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La Cruceta del Vigía in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

12 La Cruceta del Vigía in Ponce, Puerto Rico

La Cruceta del Vigía is a concrete, cross-shaped structure overlooking the city of Ponce. The landmark stands 110 feet tall and 70 feet wide. The location of the Watchman Cross atop Cerro Vigía is where Spanish sentries began posting sentries in 1801 to look out for approaching merchant and enemy ships. At the top of the ten-story structure is an observation deck offering terrific views of Ponce. Adjacent to the property is a 24,000 square foot Japanese Garden.

Sector El Vigia, Paseo De La Cruceta, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Castillo Serrallés in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

13 Castillo Serrallés in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Juan Serrallés Colón was born in Ponce in 1845 and became the city’s most successful businessman, largest employer and generous philanthropist. In 1861, he founded the Hacienda Mercedita sugar plantation. Four years later, he began distilling rum. This evolved into Destilería Serrallés, the producer of the popular Don Q rum brand named after Don Quixote. In 1930, his son, Juan Eugenio Serrallés, commissioned architect Pedro Adolfo de Castro to build this lavish, Spanish Moroccan mansion on 2.5 acres atop El Vigia Hill. The Serralles Castle is now a museum. One look at this elegant terrace overlooking Ponce makes it easy to see why this is a popular wedding venue.

Sector El Vigia, Paseo De La Cruceta, Ponce, 00730, Puerto Rico
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Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico - Encircle Photos

14 Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico

The Museo de Arte de Ponce is the largest art museum in Puerto Rico and one of the best in the Caribbean. Its collection exceeds 4,500 works by Puerto Rican and European artists from the 14th through the 20th centuries. The most famous pieces are from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They were an association of mid-19th century, English painters. The Pre-Raphaelites specialized in complex paintings with realistic details and elegant colors.

2325 Expreso Luis A. Ferré, Ponce, 00717, Puerto Rico
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