Mission San Diego de Alcala

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10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
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Daily 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Experience the first Mission in California. The Mission San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley offers visitors history, archaeology, architecture, and faith.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Mission San Diego de Alcala
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A Thriving Mix of History, Faith, and Culture in Mission Valley

Priest Living Quarters at the Mission Basilica San Diego De AlcalaMission Basilica San Diego De Alcala with Statue in Front

San Diego's Mission Valley is home to the first Mission in California, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. The history is evident from the moment you arrive.

The Founding & Early Days

The Roman Catholic Mission was established by a Spanish Franciscan friar, Junípero Serra, on July 16, 1769. It was created as a part of a colonization plan from Spain's King Philip V, aiming to bring the Christian religion to the area's native Kumeyaay people and establish a claim on the Pacific Coast.

The first structure of this San Diego Mission was actually located a few miles west of the current compound on Presidio Hill. Five years after it was established, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was relocated to its current spot in Mission Valley by lead pastor Father Luis Jayme.

A few years later, the conflict between the Spanish colonizers and the native Kumeyaay society led to the Mission being raided and set on fire in 1775. Father Jayme perished in the fire and was laid to rest in the sanctuary.

Sign for Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
Sign for Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

The Mission’s Rebuild and Place in the 1800’s

Father Junipero Serra helped rebuild the Mission and erected a protective wall around the compound. By the 1800s, the Mission was thriving, complete with crops and livestock.

In 1846, the Mission, which was now part of Mexico, was sold by the government to a private landowner, Santiago Argüello. When the United States annexed California, the property became a strategic base for the U.S. military until 1862.

After the end of the Civil War, the Mission was given back to the Roman Catholic Church, but over the years it had fallen into disrepair. Soon after, members of the clergy began a restoration of the building and grounds.

Circa 1932 Photo of the Mission San Diego De Alcala After Restoration
Circa 1932 Photo of the Mission San Diego De Alcala After Restoration

The Mission in the 1900’s

The remodeling stopped and started a few times until the Mission was finally rebuilt in 1931. In 1941, the Mission once again became a parish church for the community.

Pope Paul VI named the Mission a basilica in 1976.

The Garden at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
The Garden at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

The Mission Today – A National Historical Landmark

As it stands currently, the Mission is part of a thriving community in San Diego, with busy restaurants and other top San Diego spots close by. It is a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors a glimpse of California's colonial and religious history, all while gazing up at the impressive 46 foot tall companario bell tower.

When you visit, you’ll get to experience the world of California before it became part of the U.S. and a state. It’s an opportunity to reflect on history, colonial architecture, and art while surrounded by a sense of calm and relaxation as you stroll through the serene gardens and peaceful setting.

The architecture, gorgeous grounds, art, culture and information about faith attract visitors, scholars and religious pilgrims from around the world.

It’s a national historic landmark that’s uniquely San Diego!

Local Tips
National Historic
The original mission was burned in 1775 during an uprising by local natives. The current church, built in the early 19th century, is the fifth to stand on this location. The mission site is a National Historic.

What to Expect When Visiting Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Main Chapel Alter at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
Main Chapel Alter at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

The Mission is an active parish church, but it is also open to visitors. It's conveniently located in the San Diego Central Inland area and close to major freeways, I-15 and I-8.

Tourists exploring this attraction should expect to walk around the Mission's interior buildings and extensive outdoor gardens and grounds. The Mission also offers special events, both centered around religious celebrations and California's historical heritage, throughout the year.

Visitor Prices

The current visitor prices are as follows, but be aware that they are subject to change without notice.

  • Adult: $8
  • 55+, Active Military, & Students: $5
  • Children (6 - 12): $3

Allow yourself at least 1-2 hours to fully tour and visit the mission church. Give yourself time to not only see the mission-era recreations and artwork, but to spend time in quiet reflection as you stroll through the gardens.

Celebrating mass at the Minor Basilica is always free!

Pews Insdie the Main Chapel at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
Pews Insdie the Main Chapel at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

Tours

While the mission is an active church and community-based cultural center, tours are available for visitors.

The Mission, grounds and museum offer self-guided tours or guided tours led by one of the staff members on site.

Visitors on the self-guided tour get a map and a brochure to help them navigate their way around the Mission's grounds. School groups and other tour groups get an expert to lead them through the Mission's different sites.

Tours are offered Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 4 PM.

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The Church Buildings, Mass and Much More

The Mission features several different points of interest among its grounds for visitors. The attractions are focused on the site's 250-year history and its religious significance in the Roman Catholic church.

To be honest, there’s a lot to see and experience with a visit to this historical mission from the church, chapel, bell tower and artwork to the museum, archeological site and gift shop!

The Parish Church

The Mission is centered around its parish church, which is currently active in the San Diego archdiocese. The church offers the holy sacraments to its community and church members, including baptism, confirmation, holy eucharist, matrimony, holy orders, anointing of the sick and penance.

Celebrating Mass

As an active church, the Mission holds mass several times a week. On weekdays and on Saturdays, mass is held twice daily at 7:00 am and 5:30 pm. On Sundays, there is a mass in the morning, folk music, congregational singing and a Spanish mass.

Statue of Jesus Crucifixion at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
Statue of Jesus Crucifixion at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

The Chapel

The Saint Francis Chapel houses mass a few times a week in Spanish. The chapel was built in the 1970s and donated to the Mission. Inside, visitors can see a set of historic choir stalls that date back to the 15th century.

Father Luis Jayme & Father Junípero Serra

While in the church, visitors can view the burial marker honoring Fr. Luis Jayme. He is entombed beneath the altar.

When outside, visitors can find the statue honoring Fr. Junípero Serra on the private road to the far left from the small parking lot.

Artwork

Inside of the Mission church, visitors can see examples of religious paintings and sculptures. Some of the pieces date back to the 15th century.

The Bell Tower

The iconic bell tower of the Mission's white façade is another big attraction to see. It's a 46-foot Campanaro or bell tower wall featuring five bells.

One bell is original, dating back to 1802. Another one of the larger bells was recast from parts of the original Mission bells.

The Festival of the Bells

The Blessing of the Bells and the Blessing of the Animals is a veritable feast featuring traditional music, food, and dancing.

The star of the event? The ringing of the 5 bells - including the original 1802 bell.

There is currently no date set for the 2024 celebration - the 255th anniversary of the founding of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá - but you can expect for the festival to once again take place in mid-July, close to the founding date - July 16th.

Archaeological Site: El Convento

The southern region of the Mission grounds contains what is left of the original convent that stood here in the early 19th century. There is an ongoing archaeological dig here that has yielded artifacts like clothing, tools, weapons and pottery. Items excavated are displayed in the museum.

Casa de los Padres

The Casa de los Padres is a historical display of how the Mission looked when it was first constructed in the late 18th century. Visitors can see an interpretive layout of the rooms of the early founders, complete with historically-accurate furnishings.

The Museum

The Mission provides its collection of historical artifacts on display. There are also Kumeyaay artifacts to see, including a hut and a cooking oven.

The Meditation Garden

In the center courtyard is a serene meditation garden. It features gorgeous palm trees, a quiet path and colorful flowers.

The Gift Shop

The gift shop sells a variety of souvenirs. It also has brochures, maps and other pieces of information that are helpful when navigating the grounds.

One personal tip is to ask questions and get information from the staff at the Mission's gift shop. The clerks working there often are eager to answer visitors' questions and tell them more stories about the Mission.

San Diego Mission Church Educational Programs

The Mission supports the California state educational social studies curriculum. All fourth-grade students complete a project on California's missions, and students can access aspects of the Mission to help them understand its historical and religious significance.

Go see San Diego's Missions is actually featured in our article about Unique Things to Do in San Diego.

Educators can book class tours through the Mission's coordinators and support the social studies unit. The educational tours primarily focus on the history of the Mission. It also gives information about the culture of the native people and the early Spanish settlers.

The price for a dedicated School Tour is $25 per class of 32 students. Be aware, this could change without notice.

Fountain at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
Fountain at the Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala

Religious Education

The parish church offers religious education programs for young people. There are religious classes offered to children from ages four to 8th grade.

High school students can enroll in the church's two-year Sacrament of Confirmation program.

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Helpful Things to Know Before You Arrive

Before heading to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, here are some tips and interesting facts that you might like to know.

Mass Schedules Vary

Be sure to check the mass schedule before visiting, especially if there is a holiday coming up. During the Christmas and Easter season, the Mission may hold more mass celebrations, religious music concerts and other special events for visitors and church parishioners.

Getting to the Mission and Parking

Driving to the mission is always an option. The Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá is located at 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108-2429.

To avoid climbing the length of stairs at the entrance, drive up to the Mission's driveway. There may be some parking available if visitors get there early.

Another option is to take the San Diego Trolley which makes a stop nearby. Simply take the trolley to the Mission San Diego stop and walk a few blocks to the Mission.

Firepits Patio at DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego Mission Valley
Firepits Patio at DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego Mission Valley

Where to Stay Near the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá

There is no shortage of hotels we love in Mission Valley, but only one is tops for making the most of your visit and that’s the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Diego - Mission Valley.

The hotel isn’t far from the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego, plus iconic neighborhoods like the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town San Diego.

When staying in San Diego county, it’s all about location, convenience, and comfort, and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Diego - Mission Valley is the family and couple friendly option we’d recommend in the area.

El Camino Real

The Mission is the first stop of the El Camino Real self-guided pathway of California Missions. There are 20 other Missions to see on the historical tour.

The Royal Road, also translated as The King’s Highway, is the 600 mile route that connects California’s 21 missions, beginning with Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego and ending with Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma.

Each mission was placed strategically 30 miles apart, so pilgrims could reach each mission after a day’s travel via horseback.

It continued the Spaniard’s Baja California mission trail as they moved northwards from Mexico City, the capital of New Spain, to Alta California, as the area was then known.

El Camino Real has been recognized by the state as a California historical landmark #784.

Today, the California Mission Walkers continue the traditions by following the route from San Diego to Los Angeles and then to Sonoma.

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