San Antonio is a city on the rise, but we haven’t forgotten our rich heritage. Come explore the Missions National Historical Park, our crowning jewel.
In San Antonio, we cherish our heritage and we take our city’s history seriously. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun exploring what’s old and discovering what’s new. Don’t believe us? Take the Missions National Historical Park, for instance. Along with the Alamo, the park was named the first World Heritage Site in Texas by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), and includes the city’s four southernmost Spanish colonial missions – Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada. In the 18th century, Spanish priests established these five Catholic missions along the San Antonio River to serve as the center of an ethnically diverse society. Today, the missions – walled compounds encompassing a church and buildings where the priests and local Native Americans lived – represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America.
How much does admission to the San Antonio Missions cost?
Admission to the San Antonio Missions is free.
What are the hours of the Missions?
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park:
• Contact Stations at Mission San Juan & Mission Espada: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Visitor Center at Mission San José: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily
• Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Is there parking at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park?
Free parking is available at each of the Mission sites.
Plan your visit
Explore the Missions along the River Walk’s Mission Reach, an eight mile stretch with recreational trails, pedestrian bridges, pavilions and portals to four Spanish colonial missions—Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada. Download our Drive, Bike, Bus guide here.
Or, visit the park’s visitor’s center at Mission San José to catch a rotating film, “Gente de Razon,” to brush up on the Mission’s rich history. What’s more is all four mission churches still boast active Catholic parishes that hold regular services. All churches are open to visitors during regular park hours.
Mission San José
Queen of the Missions. Established in 1720, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo is the largest mission in San Antonio. Spanish designers built the mission using Texas limestone and brightly colored stucco. At its height, it provided sanctuary and a social and cultural community for more than 300 Indians. In 2011, it underwent a $2.2 million renovation to refinish interior domes, walls and the altar backdrop. When visiting the church, be sure to look for flying buttresses, carvings, quatrefoil patterns, polychromatic plaster and the famed “Rose Window,” a superb example of Spanish Colonial ornamentation.
Dedicated in 1755, the church at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña remains true to its original design, look and feel. In fact, the church stands as the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States. Exterior paintings have faded, but if you peek inside, you can still see original frescos in some of the church rooms.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Established in 1731, Mission San Juan’s fertile farmlands used to allow for a self-sustainable community, and its surplus helped supply the region with produce. Today, the chapel and bell tower are still in use. When visiting, don’t miss the typical Romanesque archway at the entrance gate. For outdoor fun, take a self-guided tour on the nature trail that begins at this Mission and leads to the river.
The southernmost mission in the park, Mission Espada was established in 1731 and boasts the best-preserved segment of the area’s original irrigation system that was used to bring water to the fields. In 1826, a fire destroyed most of the mission buildings at Espada, with only the chapel, granary, and two of the compound walls remaining. Today, part of the original irrigation system still operates: the Espada aqueduct and dam. Guided tours of the property are available every first Saturday of the month. Self-guided walking tours are available during park hours. Don’t miss the newest installation near Espada, the massive Arbol de Vida, or Tree of Life that displays the personal stories and tales of San Antonio locals. And, visitors should note the unusual door and stone archway – they make for great photos!
Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo)
The Alamo, founded in 1718, was the first mission in San Antonio, serving as a way station between east Texas and Mexico. In 1836, decades after the mission had closed, the Alamo became an inspiration and a motivation for liberty during the Texas Revolution. Today, located on Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio, the Alamo houses exhibits on the Texas Revolution and Texas History. Visitors are invited to experience interactive history lessons, guided tours, and stroll through the beautiful Alamo Gardens. Just a short distance from the River Walk, the Alamo is a “must see” for all who visit the Alamo City.
Learn More about the San Antonio Missions.