A highlight of any visit to Puerto Rico is a trip to Serralles Castle (Spanish: Castillo Serralles), a historic mansion located in the city of Ponce. Built in the 1930s, this stunning mansion has become one of the top attractions of the city. Today, it operates as a museum dedicated to the agricultural history of Puerto Rico.
The Castle was built on the south side of Del Vigia hill two miles (3.2km) north of the center of Ponce Puerto Rico. Its location makes it visible from nearly every part of the city and gives visitors to the mansion a beautiful view overlooking Ponce. It was built in the Spanish Moroccan architectural style in a “Y” shape to provide breathtaking views from its eastern, southern, and western sides.
The mansion was built by architect Pedro Adolfo de Castro to be the exclusive residence of Don Juan Eugenio Serralles, son of the founder of Destileria Serralles, which still makes many brands of rums, including the popular Don Q brand. The Castle was bought by the city from the Serralles heirs in the 1980s with the intentions to turn it into a museum of Puerto Rican music. The property has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
The museum formally opened on February 20, 1991. It encompasses all four floors of the mansion with an entrance through the side patio on the southern end of the building. Today, the museum is operated by a private non-profit civic organization called Patronato de Ponce and sees roughly 100,000 visitors a year. Visitors interested in seeing the museum can take a guided group tour and visit its gift shop, wine cellar, and snack bar.
Each floor of the museum has something different to offer. The ground floor, which used to house the garage and basement, is now the home of all of the museum’s displays related to the area’s rum and sugar industries. The garage has been turned into the museum’s gift shop and the main center area has been remodeled into a restaurant and a 50-person auditorium. The entrance to the museum is also located on this floor.
The second floor holds the living room, dining room, kitchen, and a library. The walls are decorated with historical photographs showcasing the development of the rum and sugar businesses of Ponce Puerto Rico. The third floor is dedicated to the personal and family lives of the Serralles clan. The former sleeping quarters on this floor are decorated with the furniture and personal accessories of the past occupants.
The fourth floor holds the terrace, which was originally used as a relaxed entertainment space. It has both covered and uncovered areas for visitors to view the city below. The Castle also has an outdoor area used for private social events, like weddings and quinceanera celebrations, and an outdoor square used to showcase the work of local artists and photographers.
The Castle is part of a large complex that includes a Japanese garden, a butterfly garden, and the Cruceta El Vigia, a 100-foot tall cross comprised of a tourist center, a ten-story vertical tower, and a horizontal sky bridge offering panoramic views of the city. Tours of the museum are offered in Spanish and English from 9:30am to 5:00pm Thursday through Sunday, with the last tour beginning at 4:30pm. Tickets for access to the Serralles Castle, the Gardens, and the Butterfly House are $9.00 for adults and $4.50 for children or seniors as of the time of this writing.