If you love history and you’re looking for a destination in the U.S. that offers you plenty of historic charm, look no further than San Antonio. Located in Texas, San Antonio may be best known for The Alamo, but the historical merits of the city go far beyond that.
Once occupied by Native Americans, Spanish explorers came to the area in the 1600s and started building Missions along the River. The city’s official history goes back to the 1700s, and along with Spanish influence and architecture, you can find other building styles including Victorian-era hotels and landmarks.
If you’re thinking about a trip to San Antonio that will primarily be focused on history, the following are some things to know.
The Alamo was a pivotal part of Texas history. It was the battleground for Texans who were resisting invasion by the Mexican Army. The Mexican General Santa Anna did take it on March 6, 1836, but the leaders of the resistance were remembered for their bravery and refusal to surrender. This included legendary Davey Crockett.
Eventually, the “Remember The Alamo” battle cry led Texans to keep fighting, and they gained their independence.
If you’re going, consider taking a tour of the Alamo. The Alamo can get extremely crowded with 2.5 million visitors making their way there annually, so a guided tour can help you see all the important parts of this site even when there are significant crowds. You won’t miss the details and the true rich history the Alamo has to offer when your visit is structured by a tour.
Along with the church that the Alamo is known for, there are also gardens and museum exhibits to see.
San Antonio Missions
The missions in San Antonio outside of the Alamo are certain worth visiting if you love and admire history. Some of the missions built along the San Antonio River in the early 18th century include Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.
Franciscans built these, and each was built to be like its own city. There were the churches, but also farming land around them. Many of them still have weekly mass, in contrast to the Alamo.
You can even hike or bike the Mission Trail, which spans eight miles and links the landmarks along the river in the southern part of the city.
San Fernando Cathedral
The San Fernando Cathedral is a Catholic church founded in 1731, and it’s the oldest cathedral in the U.S. It was built by people from the Canary Islands in the years between 1738 and 1750.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and some of the remains of those individuals who defended the Alamo are buried here.
Across the plaza at the San Fernando Cathedral is the Bexar County Courthouse. With Romanesque Revival Architecture, this was constructed in the 1890s and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s still used as the County Courthouse.
The Spanish Governor’s Palace
The Spanish Governor’s Palace has been described as the most beautiful building in the city, although it’s not a palace. It’s also a National Historic Landmark, and it was where the Captains of the military garrison were housed and stationed in the 1700s and early 1800s.
You can tour the building, and there’s Spanish Colonial furniture inside.
The Buckhorn Saloon
If you want something a little different from the cathedrals and missions, consider visiting the Buckhorn Saloon. It was opened in 1881 by a then-17-year-old.
The Saloon still features the original bar constructed of cherry and marble columns. It’s also the site of the Texas Ranger Museum.
La Villita Historic Arts Village
Finally, La Villita Historic Arts Village is an art community located in downtown San Antonio. It’s connected to the San Antonio River Walk and is near to the Alamo. Most of the hotels in downtown San Antonio are within walking distance to the Arts Village as well.
This was one of the first neighborhoods to be established in San Antonio. You’ll find many galleries, shops, jewelry stores and Mexican folk art here. There are also restaurants, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places listing. It spans one city block.
Each April during Fiesta San Antonio, there is Night in Old San Antonio where vendor booths are set up, and there are tens of thousands of visitors. Within this district, 27 buildings or houses are notable, so it’s a treasure for history lovers.
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