10Best Beautiful Spanish Missions Across the West

  • San Xavier Mission - Tucson, Ariz.

    San Xavier del Bac in Tucson was built from 1783 to 1797 after Father Eusebio Kino, a famous Jesuit priest, founded a mission on the site after his visit in 1692. Considered one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the nation (and the oldest European structure in Arizona), the mission still houses much of its original statuary and paintings, and best of all, it's free to visitors.

    Photo courtesy of tonda/iStock

  • Mission Concepción - San Antonio

    Dedicated in 1755 after some 20 years of construction, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña, or Mission Concepción for short, looks much as it did when it was first built. Located in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park in Texas, Mission Concepción holds the distinction of being the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S.

    Photo courtesy of Amy the Nurse

  • San Francisco de Asis Mission Church - Taos, N.M.

    From 1772 to 1816, Franciscan missionaries in what is now the Rancho de Taos Historic District in Taos, N.M. oversaw the construction of San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. The well-preserved adobe structure, with its two front-facing bell towers, blends traditional Spanish colonial architecture with stylistic elements borrowed from the native pueblo populations of Northern New Mexico.

    Photo courtesy of jim pruitt/iStock

  • Old Mission Santa Barbara - Santa Barbara, Calif.

    Santa Barbara's most recognizable landmark is the Old Mission Santa Barbara, founded by Franciscan Friar Fermín de Lasuén in 1786. Today, the beautiful complex continues to house an active parish and a community of Franciscan friars. The mission is open daily for self-guided tours.

    Photo courtesy of Woodkern/iStock

  • Mission San José - San Antonio

    Another of San Antonio's missions, Mission San José - called the "Queen of the Missions" in Texas - has been fully restored, allowing visitors to see what a Spanish mission might have looked like more than 250 years ago. Located along the San Antonio River 7 miles south of the Alamo, Mission San José dates back to 1720 and continues to hold Sunday mass to this day.

    Photo courtesy of Mobilus In Mobili

  • Mission San José de Tumacácori - Ariz.

    The Franciscan Father Kino established San José de Tumacácori as a mission in 1691, making it the oldest mission site in present-day Arizona. The current mission church was built at its present location within Tumacácori National Historical Park in the late 18th and early 19th century.

    Photo courtesy of Chris M Morris

  • Mission San Diego de Alcalá - San Diego

    Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first of 21 missions founded by Spanish Franciscans in what is now the state of California. Nicknamed "The Mother of Missions," this beautiful white structure in San Diego dates back to its founding in 1769. Today, the building houses an active Catholic parish.

    Photo courtesy of Rooster7144/iStock

  • San Miguel Mission Church - Santa Fe, N.M.

    The oldest church in Santa Fe and perhaps even the entire United States, the San Miguel Mission Church, was originally built in 1626 but was almost completely destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt. The chapel was rebuilt in 1710. Evening mass is still held within the church on Sunday evenings and is open to the public throughout the week. An 800-pound bell housed within the chapel is believed to have been cast in 1356 in Spain.

    Photo courtesy of David Baron

  • Mission Dolores - San Francisco

    Founded in 1776, Mission Dolores (full name Misión San Francisco de Asís) lends San Francisco's Mission District its name. Besides being the oldest building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores is also the oldest intact mission in the state of California and is open to visitors daily.

    Photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association/Scott Chernis

  • Mission San Francisco de la Espada - San Antonio

    Mission San Francisco de la Espada, founded in 1690, was the first Spanish mission in Texas, but it wasn't relocated to its present spot in San Antonio until 1731 and wasn't completed until 1756. The picturesque mission ruins are one of four missions that comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

    Photo courtesy of Stuart Seeger