Mission San Diego de Alcalá: Visiting California’s First Mission

Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded by Father Junipero Serra and was the first of the 21 California missions founded. Because of that, it is a place of significant historical value to visit in the state of California. The mission was established in its original location (near the Presidio) in 1769, but it was moved to its current location in 1774. It was then burned to the ground during an Indian attack, in which the first Christian martyr was killed, Padre Luis Jayme. This mission is the start of a great road trip to visit all of the California Missions, which you can read about here, or just a unique spot to explore on its own to get a good understanding of California history. Read on for all the information.

Mission San Diego-1215

Details

  • Cost: $5
  • Location: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd, San Diego, CA 92108

Getting There

The mission is located off the same exit as Qualcomm Stadium in the north part of San Diego. There is a small parking lot below it and a few street spots near the mission as well.

The Mission

Mission San Diego-1216

The mission facade is the first thing you will notice as it has a commanding presence with its large bell tower and beautiful, clean white style.

Mission San Diego-1199

There is a plaque below it that signifies the start of the mission trail and that it is the first of the California missions. From here you can enter the gift shop to pay your fee and visit the mission proper.

The Courtyard

Mission San Diego-1200

The first area you will enter is the courtyard which is large but not as beautiful as the groomed ones at other missions. It does have a few spots to see though.

Mission San Diego-1196

First is the large stone fountain that sits right in the middle of the courtyard. It didn’t have any water in it when I was there, but it was still pretty.

Mission San Diego-1191

Next, there are a few statues that decorate the courtyard that you can view.

Mission San Diego-1195

On the Southwest corner, there is a gate that blocks you from entering the cemetery, but you can see it through the gate.

Mission San Diego-1201

On the southeast end, there is an example room from when the Padres lived here. It is well kept and is a great way to get a better understanding of what life for the Padres was like.

Mission San Diego-1205

Along the wall in the Padres room, there are a few paintings dedicated to Padre Jayme who was the first martyr and who died here.

Mission San Diego-1193

After leaving the courtyard, you will enter the chapel.

The Chapel

Mission San Diego-1121

The chapel itself is not as ornate as other missions, but it has a calm beauty that you will see when you visit. It was very dark when I entered, and I was the only one there on a Monday morning.

Mission San Diego-1123

The altarpiece is beautiful as well with a few scattered statues and gold pillars.

Mission San Diego-1134

In the back, there is a baptismal.

Mission San Diego-1139

After exiting the chapel, you will reach my favorite part of the mission, the garden.

The Garden

Mission San Diego-1164

The garden at Mission San Diego is immaculate with tons of well kept colored flowers and rows of pathways all looking up at the bell tower.

Mission San Diego-1161

This is one of those spots you will want to take your time is as it is serene and peaceful.

Mission San Diego-1160

There is a statue of Father Serra here that you will see at every one of the California missions as well.

Mission San Diego-1173

In the middle of the garden, there is a fountain that adds to the area’s appeal.

After exiting the garden, you will head into the Pieta Garden, which is full of massive cacti. I think some of them may have reached 20 feet tall; it was crazy.

Mission San Diego-1174

From here you head into the museum which is a small, one room area but which has a lot of great visuals. There is an area dedicated to the Indians in the area.

Mission San Diego-1177

There is also an area that shows some of the sacred relics from when the mission was actually in use.

Mission San Diego-1182

The museum is nice to see, but there isn’t a lot there.

Mission San Diego-1190

On the way out don’t forget to stop by La Camilla which is the smaller chapel off to the side and which has immaculate old choir stands which are unique to see.

Mission San Diego-1186

When you are done, you can head back out the gift shop and back to your car. All in all, this is a beautiful mission and a great one to visit for the history it provides. If you want to visit all of the California missions then check out the guide I wrote here. Be sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts on the mission as well.

Interested in supporting this blog?

This blog is simply a hobby and labor of love for me. If you have enjoyed the posts consider sharing it with your friends. I want as many people as possible to explore this state and you can help by letting them know about all of the great spots!

Subscribe to the mailing list for a weekly posts recap!

About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.