When you think of San Juan, the first thing that comes to mind is the colonial, walled-in city of Old San Juan. This is the indisputable go-to place for a comprehensive dose of the island’s incredible history and tradition. But nuggets of folklore and old-time charm are also spread throughout the modern areas of Greater San Juan, and one such place is the delightful La Placita de Santurce.
Defying the logical progression of urban development by smartly adapting to the ever-changing landscape of San Juan, La Placita has won the hearts of locals with its unique and eclectic mix of tradition and entertainment. Representative of the time-honored market squares present throughout Puerto Rico’s towns and villages, La Placita is both a quintessential embodiment of the island’s culture and a charming anomaly. For one, it sits in an unusual location enclosed by the busy thoroughfares Baldorioty de Castro expressway and Juan Ponce de León Avenue in the blue-collar district of Santurce. Most unique is also the fact that it transcends its commercial origins by becoming a popular hangout spot amongst locals from Thursday to Sunday nights.
The heart of this square is the Plaza del Mercado, a handsome and colorful building representative of the distinctive criollo neoclassical architectural style. As a fitting tribute to the building’s commercial purpose, bronze sculptures of gigantic avocados are strewn about the entrance, adding to its eye-catching appeal.
Inside you’ll find dozens of stalls manned by local merchants and farmers selling a wide variety of produce. This method of acquiring groceries was once commonplace throughout the island and still is (to a certain degree) in some of Puerto Rico’s most isolated and rural municipalities. Plaza del Mercado gives you the chance to mingle with the locals and get a taste of the homegrown goods that Puerto Rico has to offer.
The 100-year-old building has undergone a number of modifications and restorations throughout its lifetime, yet it retains the spirit of yesteryear and small-town charm that larger, modern supermarkets have all but replaced throughout Puerto Rico. The marketplace is open Monday-Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Inspired by the commercial activity of Plaza del Mercado, the square has attracted a number of bars, restaurants and hangouts that have turned La Placita into one of the most unique and essential nightlife centers in San Juan. Evenings here heat up to the extent that finding parking is close to impossible as crowds of locals converge to enjoy the bohemian atmosphere.
Epicureans will find superb eateries such as Restaurante El Pescador, legendary for its fresh fish and seafood, or criollo cuisine favorites Restaurante Su Casa or Restaurante D’Akí. Hopping bars include Fat Tuesday, perhaps the ultimate nocturnal hotspot in La Placita, Bar el Sabroso, Vibra Lounge, Bar Verde Luz, Nano Sports Bar and a host of others.
For more information about La Placita and a comprehensive list of its offerings, visit placitasanturce.com