San Germán, Puerto Rico

San Germán was founded in 1573. This makes it Puerto Rico’s second oldest city. It also was the capital of half the island when colonized by the Spaniards. Now the Historic District is quiet, delightful and filled with marvelous architecture. Note: Photos taken two months before Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Share this
View MAP

Introduction to San Germán, Puerto Rico

San Germán is a city of about 36,000 people located in southwestern Puerto Rico. It began as a Spanish colony in the early 16th century, grew into a capital of Puerto Rico, prospered until the late 19th century and now is quiet and charming. The Historic District has two churches, one dating back to an early 17th century convent. Surrounding these landmarks are some of the island’s finest 19th century homes. Many of them have been lovingly restored. San Germán is worth a self-conducted walking tour for a few hours.

Enlarge/Slideshow

1 Historic Architecture in San Germán, Puerto Rico

Within the 35 acres designated as San Germán’s Historic District are over 100 notable buildings. They combine design features of the Spanish, American, French and Italian from the 19th century. Most were residences of citizens who became wealthy during the height of coffee and sugar exporting prior to the Spanish-American War in 1989. This marvelous collection of historic architecture has earned a listing in its entirety by the National Register of Historic Places.

Calle Lorencita Ramirez, San Germán 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

2 Iglesis de San Germán de Auxerre in San Germán, Puerto Rico

The earliest settlers in this area founded a Roman Catholic community around 1510. In 1680, the Spanish passed Leyes de Indias. This law required parish churches to be located near the town square. Consequently, when construction began on the second Iglesis de San Germán de Auxerre eight years later, the new church became an anchor of Plaza Francisco Mariano Quiñones. The structure was extensively refurbished after earthquake damage in the 18th and 19th centuries. The bell tower was replaced in 1939.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Cll De La Cruz, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

3 Interior of Iglesis de San Germán de Auxerre in San Germán, Puerto Rico

Iglesis de San Germán de Auxerre is proud of having one of the finest interiors in the Caribbean. The nave’s vaulted ceiling is painted in a trompe l’oeil style accented by a magnificent crystal chandelier. Within the Carrara marble altar is a statue of Saint Germain, the city’s patron saint. Saint Germanus of Auxerre was a bishop who lived in present-day France from 378 – 448. The Catholic church also hosts five side chapels.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Cll De La Cruz, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

Brief History of San Germán, Puerto Rico

The origin of San Germán dates back to 1511, making it Puerto Rico’s second oldest city. Its namesake is Germaine of Foix, the second wife of Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic King of Castile and León. After frequent attacks by pirates, the settlement was moved to the Santa Marta Hills in 1573. Although the Spanish called it Nueva Villa de Salamanca – a tribute to a city in northwestern Spain – the locals refused to adopt the name. During the balance of the Spanish colonization, San Germán was the capital of the island’s southern partido (partition) while San Juan was the northern capital. The city’s coat of arms symbolizes its major historical influences.

Enlarge/Slideshow

4 Casa Morales in San Germán, Puerto Rico

The architectural gem of San Germán is Casa Morales. The Victorian design of Don José A. Vivoni was constructed by Juan Barón Capriles in 1898 for the Tomas Vivoni family. This delightful structure features a wraparound porch and a turret flanked by dramatic gables. Unfortunately, the Waldemar Morales Residence is a private home so tours are not available.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Calle Rama, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

5 Plaza Santo Domingo in San Germán, Puerto Rico

Etched into the brick walkway of Plaza Santo Domingo are the words, “1570 – 1573 San Germán En Las Lomas Santa Maria.” The 1570 refers to May 12 of that year when the city was ordered by the Spanish to abandon their coastal location and merge with another town named Santa Maria de Guadianilla. The reference to 1573 is when it was reestablished at its present location on the Santa Maria Hills near the Guadianilla River. San Germán’s nickname of La Ciudad de las Lomas (City of Hill) is well deserved. Where comfortable hiking shoes when exploring this delightful city.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Cll Raul Mercado, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

6 Oscar López Rivera Mural in San Germán, Puerto Rico

FALN was an acronym for a paramilitary group who sought Puerto Rico’s independence from 1974 until 1983. Their tactics included the bombing of U.S. targets. One of its notorious leaders was Oscar López Rivera. In 1981, he was convicted to 55 years at a U.S. penitentiary. On January 17, 2017 – three days before leaving office – President Obama granted Rivera clemency. This street art appeared in San Germán to celebrate the event.

Plaza Santo Domingo, Cll Ruiz Belvis, San Germán 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

7 Iglesia Porta Coéli in San Germán, Puerto Rico

In 1609, Dominican monks established a monastery here named El Convento de Santo Domingo de Porta. The 17th century adjacent chapel was replaced by this church named Porta Coéli. This means Gateway to Heaven. It is believed to be the second oldest religious property in the Americas. The complex was transferred to the Puerto Rican government in 1949. In 1960, the Church of Porta Coéli was refurbished by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Calle Rama, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

8 Museum of Religious Art in San Germán, Puerto Rico

The Museum of Religious Art is housed inside of Iglesia Porta Coéli. For a small admission fee, you can admire wooden sculptures, paintings and other artwork dating back to the 16th century. Artists from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain are represented.

Cll Ruiz Belvis & Calle Rama, San Germán, 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

9 Balcony Bouquet in San Germán, Puerto Rico

Most of San Germán’s houses, like this one along Esperanza Street, have a lower-level porch topped with one or two balconies. You sense an era when people watched their neighbors walk along the cobblestones before engaging them in idle conversations. Adding to the welcoming ambiance are bright bouquets of flowers decorating these homes.

Calle Esperanza San German, San Germán 00683, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

10 Casa Juan Ortíz Perichi in San Germán, Puerto Rico

Don Isidro Roman was the architect who designed this elegant home in 1920. The residence at 94 Calle Luna was commissioned by Juan Ortíz Perichi. It is one of the finest Victorian facades in Puerto Rico.

94 Calle Luna, San Germán, Puerto Rico
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions
TOP