Get an In-Depth Perspective on All 21 California Missions

Whether you’re interested in visiting one of the historic California Missions, or you would like to learn more about the time-worn history of the Missions, you are on the right track. Look below to explore the 21 California Missions and start your journey into the rich past of the state of California. You will find key facts including important historical events, as well as visitor information such as contact information, attractions, tips for visiting, and more.

Explore the 21 California Missions

Mission San Diego

San Diego de Alcalá

California's first mission was founded on July 16, 1769. Mission San Diego’s church (rebuilt in 1931) has a captivating 46’ Campanaro (bell wall) you won't forget. This mission has inviting grounds, informative displays, and a rich history.

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San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, headquarters of the California missions, was founded on June 3, 1770. The stunning Mission Carmel church was completed in 1797. This mission contains a great deal of significant art and original artifacts. The Serra Memorial Cenotaph (sculpted by Jo Mora in 1924) is a special attraction.

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San Antonio de Padua

San Antonio de Padua

San Antonio de Padua, California’s third mission, was founded on July 14, 1771. This mission was extensively restored (between 1948-1952). The extensively restored complex and grounds offer a lot for visitors to see.   Mission San Antonio de Padua’s setting is much as a traveler would have experienced it two centuries ago.   

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San Gabriel Arcangel

San Gabriel Arcángel

San Gabriel Arcángel was founded on September 8, 1771. The unique San Gabriel church features a Moorish “fortress-like” appearance. Mission San Gabriel has a full set of the Stations of the Cross painted by mission neophytes, and a large number of artifacts and historic items on display on the grounds.

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Mission San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded on September 1, 1772.  The mission church was built in 1792-1794. The former convento (now a museum)  has a distinctive front colonnade. The museum has a special room that focuses on the Chumash Indians. A large modern plaza in front of Mission San Luis Obispo is a popular site for community events.

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Mission Dolores

San Francisco de Asís

San Francisco de Asís was founded on October 9, 1776. The mission’s iconic church is the oldest intact building in San Francisco.  Popularly called Mission Dolores, the chapel contains some of the most sophisticated religious art in the mission chain. The cemetery is a well-landscaped oasis in the middle of a busy city.

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San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano was founded on November 1, 1776,   This mission, designated the “Jewel of the Missions,” contains picturesque ruins, a distinctive bell wall,  and beautifully landscaped grounds. Mission San Juan Capistrano is a popular destination known for its many special events, particularly “The Return of the Swallows.”  

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Mission Santa Clara

Santa Clara de Asís

Santa Clara de Asís was founded on January 12, 1777 and was the first mission in California to honor a female saint, Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun. Also known as Mission Santa Clara, this mission is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, which was founded in 1851.

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San Buenaventura

San Buenaventura

San Buenaventura was founded on March 31, 1782. Mission San Buenaventura became a parish church after it was secularized in 1836. The high altar and its reredos date to 1818.  Mission Buenaventura has a well-landscaped garden, informative displays and a small, inviting museum. 

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Santa Barbara

Santa Bárbara

Santa Barbara, founded on December 4, 1786, is the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding. This major mission has a distinctive church with a Neoclassical façade, a beautiful Moorish fountain, well-tended gardens, and a large museum. The only restored California Presidio is located in downtown Santa Barbara.

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La Purisma

La Purísima Concepción

La Purisima Concepción is the most completely restored California mission, with over twenty buildings. The mission was founded on December 8, 1787. This is the only mission that is a "living museum" with docents in period costume walking the grounds and live animals in a mission coral. La Purisima is now a California State Historic Park.

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Santa Cruz Mission from Side

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz was founded on August 28, 1791, and is named for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christianity. This mission is located on a bluff in the city of Santa Cruz, near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad was founded on October 9, 1791. Mission Soledad was abandoned for almost 100 years, then carefully restored between 1954 – 1962. The simple chapel and padre’s quarters, and the ruins of the mission’s adobe walls accurately depict what was one of the most isolated of the California missions. 

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San Jose

San José

San José was founded on June 11, 1797. This successful, prosperous mission was destroyed in an earthquake in 1869. The Mission San Jose church was carefully restored between 1982-1985 and is considered one of the most authentic mission structures in California. There is a gift shop and museum in the former padre’s quarters.

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San Juan Bautista

San Juan Bautista

San Juan Bautista was founded on June 24, 1797. This mission sits on the edge of the only remaining Spanish Plaza in California. Mission San Juan Bautista’s historic church (built in 1812), well-landscaped grounds and setting offers a unique opportunity to see and appreciate the California of two centuries ago.

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Mission San Miguel

San Miguel Arcángel

San Miguel Arcángel was founded on July 25, 1797. This mission’s historic church (completed in 1818) has rich vibrantly painted fresco murals. A picturesque colonnade leads to the church. San Miguel’s spacious grounds with ancient gate ways and dilapidated adobe walls make this one of the most authentic-looking of the California missions.

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San Fernando

San Fernando Rey de España

San Fernando Rey de España. was founded on September 8, 1797.  This mission is organized around a large quadrangle, with a simple adobe church located in one corner. A convento (the padre’s quarters and a guest house), branches off the quadrangle. The Convento has a stunning colonnade with 19 arches, bordering the full length of the building.

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San Luis Rey de Francia Side View

San Luis Rey Francia

San Luis Rey de Francia was founded on June 13, 1798.  This eighteenth mission quickly became the most prosperous of the California missions. San Luis Rey’s stately church and long corridor with 32 Roman arches spanning the front of the convento, has been carefully restored. The mission has a modern museum and many unique attractions.

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Santa Ines Mission

Santa Inés Virgen y Martír

Santa Inés Virgen y Martír, located in Solvang, California, in the Santa Ynez Valley, was founded on September 17, 1804. Also known as Santa Inés, this mission was named after Saint Agnes of Rome, a thirteen year-old Roman girl martyred in A.D. 304. This mission was never totally abandoned after secularization.

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San Rafael Arcángel Mission

San Rafael Arcángel

San Rafael Archangel was founded as a hospital asistencia (sub-mission) on December 14, 1817, and given full mission status on October 19, 1822. A replica of the original chapel was built in 1919, close to Parish church of Saint Raphael. The gift shop/museum has several interesting artifacts.

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San Francisco Solano

San Francisco Solano

San Francisco Solano, the last California mission, was founded on July 4, 1823. The 1840 church was restored  in 1913. The restored mission complex includes the church, the padre’s quarters (now a museum), and a large quadrangle. There is a commemorative wall with the names of the Indian neophytes, located on the west side of the mission. 

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