By: Anja Francesca Richter | From: Welt

If you want to know what life is like for real cowboys, you can get an insight into their everyday life at a ranch near San Antonio. Cowboy hats and boots are present even in the city, but the metropolis in South Texas offers visitors much more than just a Wild West feeling.

For Lucky Luke, Butch Cassidy and co., throwing a lasso looks somehow easier. In fact, the skillful swinging of the rope made of nylon and polyester fibers (not cotton, as is wrongly assumed) turns out to be quite complicated. "I have rarely seen a group with so little coordination!" says Larry Cortez and laughs.

The man in his mid-seventies runs a ranch in the Hill Country just outside San Antonio. All year round, guests here experience authentic work with cattle and horses beyond TV series and Wild West novels - a three-quarters of an hour's drive from the big city. Urtexan everyday life you can touch.

This is what makes a vacation in the south of the US state of Texas so special. Both San Antonio and the surrounding area offer insights into past worlds, the chance to try a variety of cuisine styles, or the opportunity for unlimited adrenaline rushes.

The most popular attraction in Texas

Outside the US borders, it may not yet enjoy a legendary reputation like Central Park in New York or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But within Texas - and it is the second largest state after Alaska - the River Walk is considered the most popular attraction of all.

The promenade along the San Antonio River winds its way for five kilometers through the center - which makes it a walkable travel guide, as it is lined with a variety of restaurants, bars, boutiques and cultural institutions such as the excellently designed Briscoe Western Museum. The path, which was artificially created over 100 years ago, is one level below street traffic; pedestrians can descend to the River Walk via stairs.

Especially on weekends, the promenade is transformed into a single open-air spectacle. Here, current hits are booming from the loudspeakers of the bars, there excited waiters are vying for the favor of potential guests, and the words of the guides echo from the boats slowly gliding across the river, describing San Antonio's diversity from A to "Tower of the Americas" ( the 229 meter high observation tower).

The liveliness and friendliness, which never seems fake and which gives tourists - i.e. strangers - the feeling of being part of a community after just a few days, is what makes the metropolis so attractive. “More than a million people live here, and yet we feel like we’re in a small town because of the cohesion,” says Daniel Ureno. Like so many others, the man in his mid-thirties recently moved from California to Texas; mainly because of the comparatively low prices of everyday life.

Coriander must be in the food

Eating out in San Antonio is also pleasantly inexpensive. While a piece of prime rib roast beef costs $72 in the typical New York steak restaurant "Keens", guests pay $47.50 at "Boudro's" on the River Walk. As one of only two cities in the USA - the other is Tucson, Arizona - the metropolis can boast the UNESCO title of "Creative Cities of Gastronomy" for its outstanding culinary history.

The jury was impressed by the harmony of European and Mexican cuisine, also known as “Tex-Mex”, which young talents take to a new level called “Tex-Next” through modern interpretations, for example with Asian flavors. Many James Beard Award finalists, i.e. nominees for the most prestigious honor for restaurateurs in the USA , run local restaurants - such as Lattoia Massey's "The Jerk Shack" or Jennifer Dobbert's "Best Quality Daughter".

If you want to try the omnipresent, sometimes extremely spicy Mexican cuisine, try tortilla soup. The traditional dish with chicken, jalapeños, avocado, cheddar cheese and of course tortillas is prepared a little differently in every kitchen depending on the house recipe; the only must and for many, in the truest sense of the word, a matter of taste: coriander.

This herb, which some love and others hate, is an indispensable part of San Antonio's restaurants. At "Carriqui" in the Pearl district and at the "Esquire Tavern" on the River Walk, chefs use the spice particularly generously. If you discover chili & co. during your stay, you can't miss the version of tortilla soup at "Casa Hernan". They also have perhaps the best tacos in the city.

The sweet finale follows, for example with “Churros” in the “Mi Tierra” café. It is opposite the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. At 150 covered stalls in the “Historic Market Square” you can find every souvenir imaginable, from brightly colored piñatas to richly embroidered blouses and “Catrina” dead figures.

Many Germans moved to San Antonio

While the must-see San Antonio Art Museum presents 30,000 exhibits spanning 5,000 years - including a sand mandala approved by the Dalai Lama for healing purposes, silk robes of the emperors of China and Peruvian pipe vessels - another attraction focuses on US history: the Alamo.

As of spring 2024, the former mission station, which has been converted into a fort, looks a bit lost next to a construction pit that feels like the size of a football field. The entire area is to be transformed into a facility that is appropriate for the location: cheap shops with two-dollar items must make way for a state-of-the-art visitor center with a roof terrace, restaurants and event area.

According to plan, an education center will open in spring 2025; it will show the story of the 1836 war for Texas' independence between resistance fighters and the Mexican army in a 4-D cinema. The actual visitor center will open in 2027.

There is already a new building on the fort site with a gallery of unique artifacts. 200 of them were donated by Phil Collins. For decades, the musician amassed the largest collection of items from the battle, such as the legendary utility knife of Alamo commander and hero James “Jim” Bowie. You can even use this to cut through nails.

If the topic is the influence of the Germans on the city, those interested can walk a few minutes further to the "King William" district. Because of the revolution in 1848/49 in many German states, many citizens decided to start a new life in the promised West. The Beethoven Maennerchor association is also based in the area, where a men's choir - as the name suggests - performs folk songs from their former homeland every week.

In their own beer garden they serve imported Munich beer, bratwurst and Reuben sandwiches. "It's not from over there, but it's well received by the guests," says club vice president David Uhler and laughs. In the 19th century, he says, at times more San Antonio residents spoke German than Spanish or English.

A cowboy hat for the Pope

Contrary to the common Texas cliché, guns are not a common sight on the streets of San Antonio. Cowboy boots (the world's largest, made of steel, are in front of the North Star Mall, 15 kilometers from downtown) and hats, however, are. Women, men and children wear them as a matter of course when strolling through the city, attending conferences, going to the movies or having a picnic in one of the 250 parks.

Myrna and Abe Cortez sell Stetson hats – usually made of beaver or mink fur – in their shop, Paris Hatters. Founded in 1917, King Charles, his compatriot Paul McCartney and US presidents from Johnson to Truman have ordered their headgear here. A yellowed thank you letter from the Vatican is stuck to a cash register. “Pope John Paul II received a hat from our store during his visit to Texas in 1987,” says Abe Cortez, beaming.

If you want to show off your new wardrobe: every February, a gigantic rodeo takes place in the stadium of the basketball team San Antonio Spurs, where cowboys from all over the world show off their skills on horses, bulls and even sheep.

From March to November you can visit the “Tejas Rodeo” in Bulverde, 50 kilometers away. Or a trip to Larry Cortez's aforementioned ranch in the Hill Country. On the way there, there are always lost horseshoes on the sides of the road. Maybe they'll bring a little luck with your next lasso swing?

Tips and information:

Getting there: From May 17th, Condor will be offering direct flights from Frankfurt/Main to San Antonio - they are the only ones from Europe. Condor initially has the route in its program until September 6, 2024. Alternatively, you can travel with American Airlines, for example, also from Frankfurt or KLM via Amsterdam with a stopover in Dallas.

Accommodation: The classic business hotel “Hyatt Regency” (from around 230 euros per night, ) is located directly on the River Walk. The “Hotel Emma” in a former brewery is one of the “Leading Hotels of the World” (from 700 euros, ).

Editor's tip: For those traveling alone, a trip with the "Vespa Sidecar" is recommended. Guide José drives a Vespa with a passenger cabin to all the sights in the city, 90 minutes costs around 160 euros, .

Participation in the trip was supported by Visit San Antonio. Our standards of transparency and journalistic independence can be found at .