San Antonio is a fun city to visit in Texas, even if you have limited time. The River Walk and the Alamo are the highlights, but there are a few more great places to explore.
If you have just one day in San Antonio, you have just enough time to tour the best spots in the city. Here are five places to visit during your visit to San Antonio.
The Alamo is famous for being the site of the battle between Mexican forces and Texas defenders in 1836. It was a brutal battle that the Texians lost. The Texians, under the command of James Bowie and William B. Travis, were greatly outnumbered, but still managed to inflict serious casualties on the Mexicans before losing the battle. This is also the site of Davy Crockett’s famous last stand.
Many first-time visitors are surprised to learn how small the Alamo is. The church, which is the main building of the Alamo, seems dwarfed in the city center of San Antonio, with high rise buildings rising up all around it.
This is the most popular spot to visit in San Antonio, and some sources say that the Alamo is the most popular tourist site in Texas.
It’s best to visit the Alamo early in the day or right before closing hours to avoid the crowds.
Entrance fee: Free; advance reservations are required
Hours: vary by season, get updated hours on the official website
Tours: Audio tours and guided tours are available
Length of time to visit: 1 – 2 hours
San Antonio Mission Trail
San Antonio is home to five missions. These missions were Spanish communities that were dedicated to converting the native people to Catholicism. Dating back to the 17th century, these missions became the foundation of the city of San Antonio.
The most popular mission is the Alamo. There are four more missions, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada, located just south of the San Antonio city center. These four missions make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
There are multiple ways you can tour the missions:
By Bike: The Mission Hike and Bike Trail links the four missions in the Historical Park. You can use one of the city bikes to get between the Missions. It is a 16 mile round trip journey from Mission Concepcion to Mission Espada and back. Click here for a map of the trail that you can download. Biking the Mission Trail will take at least a half a day.
By Bus: Viva bus is a public bus system that you can use to tour the Mission Trail. The cost is just $2.75 for one day, hop on and off as often as you like. Learn more here.
By Bus and Bike: If 16 miles is too far to bike, consider taking the bus one way and renting a bike for the return journey (or vice versa).
By Car: This is the quickest, most convenient way to tour the Mission Trail. Each Mission has plenty of parking. With your own car, you can tour the entire trail in just 2 hours.
If you only have time to visit one mission, the best one is Mission San Jose.
Mission San Jose
The River Walk
The River Walk is a beautiful, fun spot to visit in downtown San Antonio. A lazy river winds it’s way through the heart of the city, flanked by hotels and restaurants. I loved the River Walk, and it was so much better than I expected it to be.
You can take a 35 minute boat tour of the River Walk, in which your guide will teach you the history of the area. Most people on these boats looked hot and bored, so we chose to walk the River Walk instead. It takes about a half an hour to 45 minutes to walk the entire River Walk, without allowing time for stops.
Here are three spots we tried that we recommend for dinner.
Boudro’s on the Riverwalk. For some of the best Tex-Mex in town, visit Boudro’s. The guacamole is so good that we came back a second time. It’s a small place and it can get loud in the restaurant during dinnertime, but the quality of food can’t be beat.
Zocca Cuisine d’Italia. Located in the quieter section of the River Walk, this is a great place for Italian food.
Ostra at Mokara Hotel. This is an upscale restaurant with a gourmet menu. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner.
San Fernando de Bexar Cathedral
This cathedral is a landmark of San Antonio. It’s a short walk from the River Walk and one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States.
Historic Market Square
Located within walking distance of the River Walk, this is the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. Many people rave about the food at Mi Terra Café and Bakery.
Planning Your Time
With half a day, visit the Alamo and have lunch or dinner at the River Walk.
Here is a sample itinerary for one day in San Antonio:
- Breakfast at Mi Terra Café and Bakery
- Walk 10 minutes to visit the San Fernando Cathedral.
- Spend the day touring the Mission Trail, either by car, bus, or bike.
- Visit the Alamo in the late afternoon, after most of the crowds have left.
- Have dinner and drinks on the River Walk.
Have you been to San Antonio? What was your favorite thing? Comment below!
More Information about Texas:
- AUSTIN: Best Things to do in Austin, Texas
- GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS: How to Hike to Guadalupe Peak, aka the “Top of Texas”
- BEST OF BIG BEND: The Complete Guide to Big Bend National Park
- BIG BEND: 3 Days in Big Bend: The Perfect Itinerary
- BIG BEND: 15 Great Hikes to do in Big Bend National Park
- BIG BEND RANCH STATE PARK: Big Bend Ranch State Park: Things to do with Limited Time
Are you planning a trip in the United States? Read all of our articles about the USA in our United States Travel Guide.
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