San Antonio looms large in the cultural imagination, mostly due in part to the legendary Alamo and the River Walk, a network of pathways along the San Antonio River that’s full of restaurants and bars. Most notably, Texas’s second-biggest city is a celebration of Mexican culture, which is evident in the city’s cuisine, artistic output, and historical sites. It’d be a crime to only stick to well-known downtown neighborhoods during your travels since there’s so much to see and do here. Explore the best that San Antonio has to offer by visiting all the need-to-know neighborhoods, from the Pearl to the Deco District to Southtown and back again.
Downtown, you'll find San Antonio’s original Spanish settlements as well as the city’s most noteworthy architecture, bars, restaurants, and shops. Sure, the River Walk and the Alamo are go-to destinations, but there’s so much more to explore. The bustling, colorful Mercado (also known as Market Square) is home to three blocks of historic boutiques and galleries, while the San Antonio Museum of Art boasts a fantastic collection of Latin American Art. The San Fernando Cathedral houses the oldest, continuously-running religious community, which has been around since 1731. Stop by the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum or The Esquire Tavern for liquid fuel and Texas-sized adventures—the Buckhorn is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders and where Pancho Villa is said to have planned the Mexican Revolution.
Just north of downtown, Alamo Heights oozes old money and creaky, antique-y charm. This wealthy neighborhood is brimming with ornate mansions, centuries-old trees, high-end boutiques and gift shops, and a host of upscale eateries. Pay a visit to the McNay Art Museum, the first museum of modern art in Texas, or if it’s not blisteringly hot outside, go for a hike in scenic Olmos Basin Park. Hard-core shoppers will delight in the cool vintage shops that abound in Alamo Heights.
A visit to the Mission Parkway National Register District is a must-do when you’re in San Antonio. This famed district encompasses most of the Mission Trails hike-and-bike trail alignment, where visitors can tour the beautiful, UNESCO-status San Antonio Missions and their corresponding Catholic parishes. If you’re up for a little physical activity, we highly recommend exploring the missions by bike—the trail is easy to navigate and offers lovely views of the dense woodland landscape. The first-ever bike share in the state of Texas, SWell Cycle has hundreds of self-serve bikes available at more than 60 stations around the city.
Centered along the northern stretch of the San Antonio River, the Pearl is one of San Antonio’s coolest, most culturally vibrant neighborhoods. It's anchored by the former Pearl Brewery, which has been repurposed into a conglomeration of shops, restaurants, apartments, and the gorgeous, stately Hotel Emma. Check out the weekend farmers’ market on Saturdays and Sundays, where all produce and other offerings come from within a 150-mile radius of San Antonio.
Southtown is San Antonio’s self-described arts district. There’s a lot to see and do here, from exploring the restored Victorian mansions in the King William Historic District to browsing galleries and studios, like those at the Blue Star Art Complex. Soak up the local flavor and public art at the San Antonio Art League & Museum, check out Dorćol Distilling Co., and indulge in tasty margaritas at Rosario’s.
Located on the northwest side of San Antonio, Helotes is bursting with small-town charms—heck, there’s even a main street with a general store, a post office, and a feed store here. This quiet enclave is where locals move to get away from the street noise and traffic of the city. Formerly a dance hall, the John T. Floore Country Store is now a live music venue that’s hosted the likes of Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. And the Helotes Creek Winery offers over 30 wines, all of which are made on the premises.
San Antonio’s Eastside is marked by diversity and rich African American influence. Here you'll find Ellis Alley, one of the city’s first Black American settlements, and St. Paul Square, named after one of the oldest African American churches in town. There’s plenty to eat, drink, and do here, from sampling local brews at Alamo Beer Company to chowing down on BBQ sandwiches at Dignowity Meats.
Especially if you have kiddos, Brackenridge Park is a fabulous area to visit. This popular park is home to a stretch of the San Antonio River, the Japanese Tea Garden, Sunken Garden Theater, and The Witte Museum (which features giant exhibits of dinosaurs and other nature-and-science-themed exhibits). Kids will also love The DoSeum, a highly interactive, STEM-focused children’s museum.
Monte Vista/Olmos Park
Immediately north of downtown, Monte Vista is the biggest historic district in the country, and one of the oldest. It's also home to several new shops and restaurants that are well worth checking out, including Taco Taco Cafe. The residences here represent a swath of architectural styles, including Victorian, Queen Anne, Antebellum, and Moorish. Nearby Olmos Park has a rich history that dates back to the 1920s, along with lush landscaping and unique architecture.
If you want an in-depth look into the city’s rich art, culture, and food scene, a visit to the Westside is in order. This is where Tex-Mex cuisine emerged, and it’s where you’ll find some of the city’s most authentic restaurants (don’t miss out on El Siete Mares). Part of the historic Old Spanish Trail, the area’s Deco District boasts old Art Deco architecture and vibrant, large-scale murals by local artists.