The Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas.

© traveler1116 / Getty Images

Mission San José

San Antonio

Known in its time as the Queen of the Missions, San José is certainly the largest and arguably the most beautiful of all the sites on the Mission Trail. Because it's a little more remote and pastoral, surrounded by thick stone walls, you can really get a sense of what life was like here in the 18th and 19th centuries. It's also the location of the main visitor center for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which oversees the city's four mission sites.

History of the missions

The San Antonio missions were constructed in the early 18th century as part of an effort to provide way-stations and staging areas for Spanish colonial expansion to the north. The native Coahuiltecans, already under pressure from other nomadic Native American tribes pushing down from the north, showed a willingness to convert to Christianity, and labored for the colonial Spanish priests in order to receive food and protection at the missions.

Constructed in what is now downtown, the first and most impressive mission was what would come to be known as the Alamo. With the destruction by war or disease of many East Texas missions, the Spanish quickly built four more missions south of the Alamo, now collectively known as the Mission Trail. Religious services are still held in the mission churches.

An archway leading through to gardens and another series of arches
Rangers can talk you through details of the building and surrounding landscape © traveler1116 / Getty Images

Tours of Mission San José

Admission to all four San Antonio missions is free. Free ranger-led tours start from the visitor center at 11am each day and last around 45 minutes. There are also ranger talks each afternoon, which cover the history of the Mission, and look at the architecture, church carvings and surrounding landscape. 

Services at Mission San José

Mass at Mission San José is conducted in English and Spanish. Check with the church directly for information on services

How to get there

Mission San José is the second mission as you head south from downtown. To get to the mission from downtown, take VIA transit bus 42, which connects to San José. To drive from downtown, take St Marys Street south until it becomes Mission Road, then follow the brown signs indicating the direction to the missions.

The new Mission Reach, an 8-mile extension of the River Walk, connects downtown with all four missions. South of the Blue Star Arts Complex, the River Walk becomes a pretty walking and cycling trail, open from dawn to dusk.

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