The Five Missions of San Antonio

by | Oct 18, 2018 | Cultural, Tourism, Travel, Travel Tips, USA

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Five Missions of San Antonio

Four Spanish colonial missions: Concepción, San Juan, San Jose’ and Espada are included in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which officially opened in 1983. These four missions, along with the Alamo, have been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO).

The Historic Missions | San Antonio

san antonio missions

In the early 1700s, Apache and Comanche raided from the north; the arrival of Europeans brought devasting diseases, and drought lingered. Survival for some lay in the missions which these people seized. These Spanish missions were a frontier institution that sought to incorporate indigenous people into the Spanish colonial empire. Struggling under such hardships, the native people were relatively willing recruits for the missionaries.

Work Begins

The mission Indians learned to farm, quarry and build with stone. They found food and refuge in the missions in exchange for labour and submission to religious conversion. The Friar used the tenets of catholic faith to teach them a new way of life. By combining specialised skills, the mission Indians achieved a sense of security and were protected, sheltered, fed, and clothed. However, they also paid a price! They were expected to give up their own religion, culture, and traditions.

san antonio missions

The missions are walled compounds encompassing a church and buildings, where the priests and local Native Americans lived and worked. At the end of the 18th-century, Spain’s military and economic interests in northern frontier waned, and support for the missions was withdrawn. In San Antonio, all five missions were secularised by the turn of the century.

San Antonio’s History is All Around

Allow 3-4 hours to explore the 18th century architecture and historic gardens. For further information on each Mission visit click here

Getting There

From north to south is approximately 6.5M/10.5K: Mission Concepcion, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Espada. Each mission is about 2.5M/4K from the next mission. It is very easy to drive from mission to mission, with parking and restrooms available at each mission site. Each mission is situated near the San Antonio River, and are connected by Mission Rd.

Alamo Mission

300 years on, the Alamo has shaped the city of San Antonio. Alamo is the Spanish word for ‘Cottonwood’. The first stone of the Alamo was laid in 1744 and the first mission on the San Antonio River.

The Alamo museum is located in downtown San Antonio in the Alamo Plaza district, the site of the famous ‘Battle of the Alamo’. In 1836, Mexican soldiers attacked the Alamo and most of the soldiers of the Texan Army were killed. The Mexican soldiers stayed for a while, but eventually left Texas.

The Alamo was built by the Spanish Empire as a place to educate the local American Indians about Christianity. The mission became a non-religious compound in 1793 and was abandoned very soon afterwards. In approximately 1803, a Mexican Army group that called themselves the ‘Second Flying Company’ of San Carlos de Parras, took over the abandoned fortress to use for their base. It was later surrendered to the Texan Army, subsequently becoming the site of the ‘Battle of the Alamo’.

Daughters of the Republic of Texas

A group known as the ‘Daughters of the Republic of Texas’ convinced the government to buy the Alamo in 1905 so it could be restored.  After a court battle over who would oversee the restoration, the state took control and restoration began in 1912. Later in 1912 the site was given back to the ‘Daughters of the Republic of Texas’ and has remained in their custody ever since.

Today, the Alamo is a public monument and is considered to be a shrine to the heroes who tried to defend it in the ‘Battle of the Alamo’.  For further Alamo history click here.

Bike and Hike Trails

There are about 10M/16K of trails that connects all four missions and extends north to The Alamo. The pedestrian and bike trail follow the San Antonio River. B-Cycle stations are located at each mission site, and you can rent a bike for a 24-hour period for $12. Bike must be docked every 60 minutes when renting a B-Cycle. Spring and Summer months can be extremely hot in San Antonio and there is not much shade on the trail, so always carry adequate water.
San Antonio Bike Share – B-Cycle Click Here

Free and Open to the Public

 Click on the icons to see location addresses of the San Antonio Missions

Mission Concepción
807 Mission Road
San Antonio
Mission San José
6701 San Jose Drive
San Antonio
Mission San Juan
9101 Graf Road
San Antonio
Mission Espada
10040 Espada Road
San Antonio
Mission Alamo
300 Alamo Plaza,
San Antonio

Looking for the Best San Antonio Sights to Visit?

Viator Tours can help. They have been helping travellers discover destinations and experiences since 1999. Check out the San Antonio Missions Tours here on Viator.


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