Most visitors go to Ponce to see the city's rebuilt historic section. The renovations beautifully restored much of the city's whimsical architectural style. While the city dates back to 1692, its unique "Ponce Creole" architecture, mixing Spanish colonial, Caribbean, and contemporary influences, was mostly created from the 1850s through the 1930s. The style is marked by the use of wide balconies, distinctive masonry work, and neoclassical touches: plaster garlands, punched tin ceilings, and stained glass panels. Other architectural motifs such as metal grill work are present within specific geographic areas of the city. The style takes European concepts, but adapts them to the city's tropical climate by using pastel colors on building facades and adding high ceilings that help keep houses cool.

The city's unique architecture was created during the years of Ponce's heyday, in the 19th century, when it trumped San Juan as the island's most important city and rose as a regional trading power. Cut off from San Juan because of geographic barriers, Ponce's trade brought foreign influences and style, which shows in its architecture, as well as its wider culture, including music and cuisine.

The weekday marketplace, open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, at calles Atocha and Castillo, is colorful. Perhaps you'll want to simply sit in the plaza, watching the PonceƱos at one of their favorite pastimes -- strolling about town.

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