Called the ‘Queen of the Missions’ for its graceful beauty and picturesque setting, Mission Santa Barbara is the city’s most iconic landmark.
Its architectural style has strongly influenced the look of the city. In 1925, a major earthquake destroyed much of Santa Barbara, and it was rebuilt in Spanish Colonial Revival style, inspired by Mission Santa Barbara.
This is the only California mission to remain with the Franciscans since its founding in 1786, and a community of Franciscan friars still lives here today.
Most visitors spend an hour or two taking a self-guided tour, and scheduled docent-led tours are available on certain days.
One of the top places to visit is the church. It was completed in 1820 and was built by Chumash Indians under the leadership of Father Antonio Ripoli after an earthquake destroyed the original chapel and surrounding buildings in 1812. Highlights include its Roman temple facade, the twin towers (which are unique among the missions), and colonial-era art and sculptures. Today, the mission serves as a parish church – an evocative place to attend a Sunday service.
Also within the complex is a museum, with art pieces from the colonial period and many interesting artifacts. Especially worth seeing is the beautiful La Huerta Historical Garden, with mission-era plants such as citrus, grapes, pomegranates, and prickly pear.
Another stop on a self-guided tour is the cemetery, where many prominent early Spaniards, as well as 4,000 Chumash Indians, found their last resting-place.
After visiting the mission, wander across the street and explore the ruins of the old mission aqueduct, built by the Chumash Indians in 1806.
Also save time to explore the fragrant Mission Rose Garden. It’s a beautiful place for a picnic on a sunny day for both locals and tourists.
Address: 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, California