For its size, San Juan is probably one of the most exciting cities you have ever visited in terms of nightlife. If you seek a place to have a drink with friends or meet new people, or if barhopping is one of your favorite sports, there are nighttime adventures for you to enjoy every night of the week. If dancing is your thing, there are different venues that offer a wide variety of music and rhythms so you can mover el esqueleto (literally “to move your skeleton”, or to “shake your booty”) until you drop. There is enough cavorting and frolicking going around to satisfy the most ardent party animal. Romantic, bombastic, fantastic, busy, noisy, relaxy, there is a mood for every mode. So go ahead. Party on. Take to the streets. In San Juan, the night is always young.
San Sebastián Street
Undoubtedly, San Sebastián Street is the undisputed epicenter of the party scene in Old San Juan. Almost every square foot of this magical strip lies in front of a lounge, a bar or a restaurant. More than enough to quench your thirst for every craving.
Located in the corner San Sebastián and Cristo you will find Nono’s, one of the most iconic places in Old San Juan. This two-leveled bar-restaurant, with a huge bar and tables, features a privileged location right in front of Plaza San José. A second bar awaits on the second floor, which offers an excellent view of the Square, which gets very crowded on weekend nights. For hard-core sports fans, the place has multiple TV’s tuned to different sports channels to make sure nobody misses a game.
One of the better-known cocktail bars on the island is named La Factoría. Although you will not find it anywhere on the building, that is the name of the place. Just look for it on the corner of San Sebastián and San José streets and there you are. This speakeasy offers the best cocktails in town and it portrays a trashy chic, distressed look/grunge ambiance, but it is cherished by any age group. The real game-changer of the joint is the fact that this labyrinthine venue consists of three different lounge spaces with different atmospheres. Right up front is where the bar formerly known as Hijos de Borinquen was located. They offer an exquisite array of cocktails, served by accomplished prize-winning Mixologists that understand that a cocktail should be crafted and prepared as excellent as a fine-dining meal. Best of the best. A little further inside is a second bar where you can get delicious vino cocktails or wine-based cocktails. If you are in a dancing mood, there is Chingalín, where you can enjoy salsa music and do the steps. Finally, there is a cave-like dark space that caters electronic music. A bonus: it connects with another legendary bar of Old San Juan: La Cubanita. Old-school chinchorro style bar where old-timers and locals alike like to enjoy a beer or a not so fancy drink.
Just a couple of steps further in San Sebastián is another Old San Juan legend reloaded in tune with the times: Cafe Teatro Hermanas Rivera. This Old City landmark bar is now a very versatile bar for nighttime enjoyment with different offers. It houses a café teatro, where some nights you can enjoy live music from some of the most talented local artists and you can even catch a stage-play, monologue or performance from time to time, if you are lucky. Next-door is a more modern lounge space featuring some avant-garde and humorous decoration where you can enjoy rock music and mingle with the locals. Tourists love to get selfies sitting on the toilet seats. Do not ask. See for yourself. Bonus: this bar serves one of the most spanking mojitos in town.
Further down this sinful street, you will find Aquí Se Puede, a local hangout for writers, artists, musicians, and other bohemian types. It is located right at the corner of San Sebastián and San Justo streets. It is an artsy place where you can enjoy a nice conversation and even play a game of chess with the locals. On some nights, you can enjoy live classical music performed by some of the finest musicians. Open until late.
If you continue your walk East on San Sebastián, you will reach a special place a few blocks ahead: El Callejón de la Tanca. This is a very short alley that takes you to one of the borders of town, right by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the strikingly interesting La Perla neighborhood, down on the shore. The promenade coming from San Cristobal fort to El Morro is one of the most wonderful sunset walks you will ever have, with a breathtaking view of the ocean and the barrio below, plus the most intoxicating sea breeze ever. That little alley may be the most intense two-hundred meters of party space you will ever experience. You can dance to live music on the street and a couple of bars caters to a considerable crowd, especially on weekends. One of the bars worth mentioned is called La Vergüenza, right at the corner of Tanca and Norzagaray Streets. This wonderful bar-restaurant has two levels and offers excellent local food and live music from time to time. But, the big deal of the place is the second-floor balcony from where you will enjoy great views of the ocean and the city.
Off San Sebastián Street, but not off the radar, is El Batey, another legendary bar on Cristo street, right on the other side of El Convento. This bar has been open almost continuously for half a century and is famous for its punk aesthetic. Its walls are covered with thousands of signatures of hard partying locals and tourists that have visited the place throughout the years. Most of the tourists that come to this place once, will come again and again. You are more than welcome to leave your signature on the walls for hard drinking history. Warning: intense after-hours hanging place.
Now we are heading downtown to another area brimming with nighttime excitement. This is the area of Norzagaray Street and the zone around the Tapia Theatre down to Recinto Sur street. This busy curved strip is full of restaurants, bars and lounges with outdoor seating where you can enjoy an outdoor food and drink experience. It makes for a pleasant part of your evening.
Outside the Old City but still in the realm of San Juan, there is a very special area worth visiting: La Placita de Santurce. This square, located in Santurce (just ten minutes by cab or Uber from our hotel) is packed with restaurants offering a wide variety of international and local cuisines, a lot of bars, lounges and live music. Here you can dance under the stars to hot local bands and musicians in town. From Thursday through Friday it is full of nighttime revelers¬dancing, drinking, mingling and having an awesome time. You can try sitting at a bar or restaurant, but out in the streets is where the real fun is. One of the most intense party zones in the island. Guaranteed.
These areas are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of nighttime enjoyment. There are dozens of bars, lounges, restaurants, live music venues and other options for your night adventures in the city. Do not take our word for it. Step out into the San Juan night!