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Visiting Old Town in San Diego

History, Restaurants, Shopping and more!

Old Town San Diego marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast and features 12 acres of Mexican heritage and historical sites, colorful shops, early-California-style restaurants, museums, a theater and the restored Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Go Back in Time

Witness the living legacy of California's birthplace in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Its many preserved historic buildings and museums commemorate the early days of the town of San Diego from the period 1820 to 1870, allowing you to visit California's history firsthand.

Restaurants in Old Town

Known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, Old Town's dining is lively and vibrant. For traditional flavors and techniques in an upscale atmosphere, head to El Agave. This second-floor hacienda-style hideaway boasts a mind-blowing tequila collection and a menu specializing in upscale dishes that celebrate indigenous Mexican ingredients. Café Coyote enchants with its festive décor, massive margaritas, strolling mariachis and open-air atmosphere. You’ll also find authentic fare at Old Town Mexican Cafe y Cantina or any of the other local cantinas. Beyond the excellent Mexican cuisine, Harney Sushi offers creative Japanese dishes and sushi roll concoctions, such as the "Mike Check" roll featuring lobster, cilantro, garlic ponzu and wonton chips, as well as expertly prepared traditional nigiri.

Historical Buildings

The Old Town State Historical Park maintains a collection of 19th-century homes and businesses that provide a glimpse into colonial life in San Diego. Seek out the old adobe ranch homes, schoolhouse and graveyard spread among the occupied areas of the neighborhood. Kit Carson was among the first pioneers to raise the American flag here in 1846. There are also numerous rumors of ghost sightings in the area—most persistently at the old Whaley House Museum on San Diego Avenue.

The Whaley House Museum is one of only two officially designated haunted houses in California. Constructed in 1856 on a former gallows' site, the house was once home to the Whaley family as well as San Diego's first theater and county courthouse.

Constructed in 1825, Casa de Estudillo unveils the lifestyle of a prominent San Diego family. Standing as the most famous of the original adobe buildings in Old Town, it’s furnished with representative items from the 16th to 20th centuries within its 13 rooms.

The Junípero Serra Museum in Old Town's Presidio Park is one of the most familiar landmarks in San Diego, recognized as the site where California began. Neighboring Heritage Park showcases San Diego's Victorian era with six restored houses from the 1800s and the city's first synagogue.

Shopping in Old Town

Shopping in Old Town State Historic Park reflects the history of the 1800s and captures the essence of San Diego's colorful past. A diverse selection of stores can be found in Old Town like Cousin's Candy for fresh homemade taffy, Toby's Candle Shop where you can make your own candles and the Johnson House specializing in millinery. Old Town Market Place, an open-air courtyard, is home to a variety of carts and shops that sell handcrafted trinkets, clothing and accessories traditional to the Mexican culture.

Nestled in the heart of Old Town State Historic Park, Bazaar del Mundo, a San Diego shopping and dining institution, is popular for food, folklore and fun. Translated as "marketplace of the world," Bazaar del Mundo features award-winning restaurants and international shops with a dazzling array of ethnic clothing, jewelry, pottery, furnishings and many other treasures. Countless special events also make Bazaar del Mundo an attraction year-round.

Entertainment

Live mariachi performers can be seen every day in old town as well as seasonal and special event shows throughout the year. View the calendar of events for the Fiesta de Reyes stage in Old Town State Park for when the Ballet Folklórico dancers perform, a wonderful spectacle of Mexican heritage that’s not to be missed.

California's Missions

On the hillside overlooking Old Town is Presidio Park where Father Junipero Serra founded the first California Spanish Mission in 1769. The museums here and at the current Mission site, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley, have excellent exhibits about the area's early history.


With more than 100 distinct neighborhoods in San Diego, you're always just blocks away from a new experience. Discover other nearby San Diego neighborhoods such as Mission Valley, Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.

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