San Antonio Missions National Park is made up of four out of five of the city's missions. Mission San Jose, Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, and Mission Concepcion are all part of a UNESCO World Heritage designation. The fifth, and perhaps most famous, mission is the Alamo. The Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, was founded in the early 1700s and was the first mission established in the city. The Alamo is not part of the San Antonio Missions National Park; however, it does share the UNESCO World Heritage site designation.
During the mid-17th century, members of the Spanish Catholic church established settlements in Texas that would later be known as missions. Missions served as a place for the Spanish Catholic church to share their faith with the land's Indigenous People while providing them with refuge during times of war and conflict.
The grounds of the mission included churches, homes, and farmland; the churches are mostly what remains of the missions today. These architecturally stunning structures are not only captivating but visiting these outposts brings you right to the doorstep of the Lonestar State's history. The stucco and limestone exteriors are reminders of Old World Spain's influence. Inside, you'll find towering domes, flying buttresses, original frescoes, and majestic finishes.
Learn more about the Spanish Missions in the following video:
Each one of the missions has a distinct character and unique history. Make your visit a full-day adventure and tour all four missions of the park before heading over for an Instagram-worthy shot of the Alamo.
Begin exploring by visiting Mission Concepcion, which was established in 1716. This mission is the most well-preserved of the park's missions. Inside the church, you'll see original artwork in the form of colorful frescos. Mission Concepcion still holds weekly mass on Sundays.
Mission Espada was the first mission in Texas, founded in 1690 near present-day Weches. It was transferred to the San Antonio River area in 1731, where a friary and church were later completed.
Arguably the most impressive, Mission San Jose is indeed the largest of the missions. In the 1930s, it was almost fully restored to its original design by the Works Projects Administration (WPA). Its unique architecture and size lend to its nickname as the "Queen of the Missions."
Mission San Juan was a self-sustaining community where Indian artisans produced a vast variety of goods. Today, the San Antonio Missions NHP supports a living demonstration at the mission's farm, which shows visitors what productivity at the compound looked like.
The San Antonio Mission National Park is open year-round (excluding major Federal U.S. holidays) from sunrise to sunset. Guided and self-guided tours are offered as well (times may vary).
Cover image by Wally Gobetz via Flickr under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0