San Antonio is a city on the rise, but we never forget our rich heritage. Come explore San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, our crowning jewel.
In San Antonio, we celebrate our real heritage, and we hold our city’s true history in the highest regard. One of the many beautiful aspects of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is that though it is a site steeped in history, it is still very much a thriving, active community today. Along with the Alamo and Mission Espada’s off-site livestock operation in Floresville, Rancho de las Cabras, San Antonio Missions National Historical 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. Fun Fact: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the only unit of the National Park system in San Antonio.
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 and Ranger-led tours at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are always free, no reservations are required. Ranger-led tours are provided daily at Mission San José.
Admission to the Alamo is free. Guided Alamo tours and additional enhanced tour experiences are available at additional costs.
What are the hours of the San Antonio Missions?
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park:
• Contact Stations at Mission San Juan & Mission Espada: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
• Visitor Center at Mission San José: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., daily
• Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
• Open daily 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
• Closed Christmas Day
• Last entry is 15 minutes prior to closing
Is there parking at the San Antonio Missions?
Free parking is available at each of the mission sites at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
The Alamo does not offer parking, but downtown San Antonio has a number of public parking lots close by
Explore the San Antonio 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. How will you adventure? By foot, rideshare, hiking or biking along the Mission Reach portion of the River Walk? Bike rentals and electric assist bicycle rentals are available at each mission site throughout the park.
Visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Visitors Center at Mission San José to catch a rotating film, “Gente de Razón,” to brush up on the missions’ rich history. Available in English and Spanish, the film is shown every hour on the hour from 10:00 am to 4:00 p.m. Even more, 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 San Antonio Missions National Historical 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. Be sure to explore the 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.
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Gallery Photos by NPS Photo