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Castillo de San Cristobal sits on a limestone cliff 150 feet above the sea. There are five separate units spread over more than 27 acres. All units are connect by moats and tunnels, however, each unit was self-sufficient in case a portion of the fortress should fall to the enemy. The first fortifications started here in 1625. The original construction was a small redoubt with adjoining earth works and ramparts. Substantial additions and renovation began in 1765 and were completed by 1783. This made San Cristobal the second largest Spanish fortress in North America. Escabron is the site name for the outer line of defenses. A British attack in 1797 was repulsed at the Escabron line. The first shot of the Spanish-American War were fired here from two Spanish batteries in 1898.
The U.S. National Park Service controls these forts, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. The views from the heights of the fortification of the Caribbean, San Juan Bay and Old San Juan are spectacular. On your tour of San Cristobal you will find a labyrinth of dungeons, barracks, vaults, lookouts, and ramps. Parking may be available on one of the nearby streets if you arrive early in the morning. The nearest parking lot is under the Quincentennial Plaza at the Ballajá barracks on Calle Norzagaray. One hour free tours are conducted by the Park Service. Check in at the visitors center to check on the next available tour. Your entrance ticket will permit you to visit El Morro on the same day.