The area was named by Ponce de León, who in 1508 founded the first settlement in the area. The city fell to English attacks in 1598 led by George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, and was sacked by the Dutch in 1625. U.S. troops occupied the city during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Historic buildings include El Morro Castle, San Cristóbal Castle, and La Fortaleza, a former fort now used as the Governor's official residence. Other landmarks include San José Church, the oldest church in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere; and the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which contains the tomb of Ponce de León. Also in the city are the University of Puerto Rico, the University of the Sacred Heart, and a campus of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.
The city is served by the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.