Heading to the Lone Star State? Grab your cowboy hat and boots and make the colonial city of San Antonio your first stop. Home to the beautifully preserved Alamo, this south-central Texan city is rich in culture and history. And even in spending just one day in San Antonio, you’ll be able to see a ton of it!
Bisected by the San Antonio River, the eponymous city is lush and green, with plenty of tranquil parks to relax in. The pretty pedestrian promenade, the San Antonio River Walk, is lined with cafés and shops, and the charming La Villita Historic Village is an arts & crafts haven.
To start your San Antonio itinerary, explore the historic Alamo and wander around the beautiful grounds of the Spanish Governor’s Mansion. Head to the top of the Tower of the Americas for unrivaled city views and take a moment to reflect in the resplendent San Fernando Cathedral.
Ready for an unforgettable San Antonio layover? Check out this easy-to-follow travel plan for a 24-hour guide to Alamo City—and get going!
Where to go in San Antonio in one day: A complete itinerary
Begin the day with breakfast on East Houston Street
Fuel up for your day of exploring with a hearty breakfast and some strong coffee! A good place to start is East Houston Street, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of the city’s central business district.
One of the city’s oldest and most famous streets, Houston Street, runs from the Alamo to Santa Rosa. Historic theaters rub shoulders with chic restaurants and high-end boutiques, earning the boulevard its famously eclectic and fashionable reputation.
For delectable pastries and great coffee, head to La Panadería Bakery Café on the corner of Houston and Navaro Streets. This charming Latin American café serves light bites like tortas, eggs Benedict and freshly baked specialty bread.
If you’re a health nut, head to Revolución Coffee + Juice, just across the street from La Panaderia. Tuck into acai, pitaya, matcha bowls, and freshly made cold-pressed juice. Health aside, if you need a caffeine hit, their sustainable coffee is pretty good, too!
Prefer a sit-down brekkie? Wander west along Houston Street to Poblano’s on Houston St. This casual eatery serves delicious Mexican fare for breakfast, like chilaquiles, enchiladas, and tacos.
Soak up some history at The Alamo
Once you’re all fueled up and ready to explore, stroll east along Houston Street to one of the most famous landmarks in Texas: The Alamo. As you wander along, keep an eye out for a series of informational kiosks constructed from old public telephone stands that detail the history of nearby buildings and structures.
Set on a block between East Houston Street and Alamo Plaza in Downtown San Antonio, the Alamo is a historic site renowned for its significance in the Texas Revolution. Originally a Spanish mission, it became a fortress during the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
Spend a few hours exploring this incredible piece of history, from the mission to the museum and the Long Barrack. It’s one of the most popular most popular San Antonio tourist attractions, so visiting earlier in the day is a good idea to avoid crowds.
See the city from above at the Tower of the Americas
When you’re all history-ed out, make your way down Alamo Street to the beautiful Hemisfair Park, home of the iconic Tower of the Americas. The park was created for the 1968 World’s Fair, known as HemisFair ’68. During this time, the iconic Tower of the Americas was built as the centerpiece of the fair.
Designed by architect O’Neil Ford, the tower stands at a height of 750 feet (229 meters) and offers breathtaking panoramic views of San Antonio and its surroundings. Head up to the observation deck on the top of the tower and marvel at the spectacular 360-degree views of the city. Enjoy a virtual tour of Texas, showcasing its rich history and natural wonders on an immersive 4D Theater Ride.
Take a coffee break at the Chart House Restaurant. As you sip your java, you’ll slowly rotate around the tower against a backdrop of ever-changing views.
Discover local arts and crafts at La Villita Historic Village
Next stop is the charming La Villita Historic Village for some cultural heritage. Meander eastwards out of Hemisfair Park, passing the Henry B. González Convention Center on your right and the lovely Magik Theater on your left.
Situated on the banks of the San Antonio River, La Villita Historic Village boasts a rich cultural heritage and serves as a hub for arts, crafts, and cultural events. Dating back to the early 18th century, the vibrant arts and crafts village is home to some beautifully preserved historic buildings and a collection of shops, galleries, restaurants, and artisan studios.
Wander around the narrow, winding streets and discover unique handmade crafts, artworks, jewelry, and clothing by local artists and artisans. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the city’s Fiesta celebration in April, the village comes alive with music, dance performances, culinary delights, and traditional crafts.
Don’t miss seeing the beautiful Arneson River Theatre, an open-air amphitheater that hosts various performances against the backdrop of the scenic San Antonio River.
Eat lunch and shop at Historic Market Square
Time for lunch! The Historic Market Square is the perfect place to enjoy a languid lunch and watch the world go by. Take a leisurely stroll east along Dolorosa Street, admiring the beautiful architecture of the San Fernando Cathedral and the San Antonio City Hall along the way.
The vibrant Historic Market Square, also known as El Mercado, is one of the largest Mexican markets outside of Mexico and a hub for shopping, dining, and culture. Founded in the 1820s as a traditional Mexican market, it has evolved into a bustling marketplace and a special gathering place for locals and tourists.
The market square is a treasure trove of cultural delights, with shops and stalls selling everything from vibrant textiles and handcrafted pottery to traditional Mexican candies and spices. Grab a table at one of the many restaurants around the square and tuck into mouthwatering Mexican cuisine and a refreshing margarita. It’s never too early for a great margarita!
If you really want a lively and authentic dining experience, head to the iconic Mi Tierra Café y Panadería just next to the market square. Brightly decorated with festive décor, this beloved San Antonio institution has been serving delicious Tex-Mex cuisine since 1941 and won’t disappoint!
Admire the magnificent Spanish Governor’s Mansion
And the adventure continues! Work off that lunch by wandering around the museum and gardens of the magnificent Spanish Governor’s Mansion. Head west along Commerce Street to Plaza de Armas, where this historic landmark offers a glimpse into the city’s colonial past.
Originally built in the early 18th century as the residence of the Spanish military captain, the palace stands as one of the oldest remaining structures in Texas. Admire the beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture with its adobe walls and arched doorways.
Head inside and explore the various rooms, including the Governor’s Office, Chapel, and Living Quarters. Take in the exquisitely preserved architectural details like the hand-carved mesquite doors and stone floors.
Take some time out and stroll around picturesque gardens with their native plants and a peaceful atmosphere.
Enjoy a moment of peace in the San Fernando Cathedral
Continue along Commerce Street to the elegant San Fernando Cathedral you passed on the way to Historic Market Square. Even if you aren’t spiritual, the magnificent Gothic Revival cathedral is worth exploring.
Located at the heart of Main Plaza, the cathedral was founded in 1731 as a parish church and is the oldest continuously functioning cathedral in Texas. You can’t help but marvel at the spectacular rose window adorned with intricate stained glass, which adds a touch of beauty to the façade.
Don’t miss the enchanting San Antonio: The Saga light and sound show held in the cathedral. Displayed on the cathedral’s façade, this captivating visual projection narrates the story of San Antonio and its cultural heritage through a breathtaking combination of art and music.
The San Fernando Cathedral is also the final resting place for the victims of the famous Battle of the Alamo. Today, the cathedral serves as a symbol of unity and remembrance for the city.
Unwind over dinner & drinks along the San Antonio River Walk
As the sun begins to sink over the city, it’s time to toast your adventure over dinner and drinks. While there are plenty of great places to eat, one of the loveliest spots to wine and dine is the picturesque San Antonio River Walk. Winding along the banks of the San Antonio River, this bustling 15-mile stretch is lined with bars, restaurants, shops, and beautiful river views.
For an idyllic riverside setting and sublime South Texan cuisine, head to Domingo Restaurant. Expect stylish décor, a sophisticated ambiance, and a menu of modern American cuisine, from fresh seafood to succulent steaks. Sip agave-centric cocktails on the terrace of the adjacent Otro bar before dinner.
Hailed as having the ‘best food on the river,’ Boudro’s on the Riverwalk is an experience to savor. Take a sidewalk table on the San Antonio River Walk or dine on the water in a barge. Tuck into delectable dishes like herb-smoked salmon tacos with wild mushroom polenta, blackened prime rib, and smoked shrimp enchiladas. Pair your plates with superb wines from around the world.
Led by renowned chef Bruce Auden, Biga is one of San Antonio’s culinary institutions. Boasting a sophisticated ambiance and impeccable service, this elegant restaurant showcases seasonal ingredients and global flavors on artfully presented plates. Think Crab and Gulf Shrimp Campechana, Habanero Jerk Scallops, and Blue Corn Meal Crusted American Red Snapper.
If you’re looking for a bar with old-world charm and character, the Esquire Tavern is your go-to! Established in 1933, this historic bar and restaurant serve Texas-inspired comfort food, craft beers, classic cocktails, and an impressive whiskey selection. Kick back to live music and bond with the locals.
Love a good German beer and bratwurst? Bier Garten Riverwalk is a fantastic spot to enjoy a range of local, domestic, and international beers on tap. Tuck into traditional German dishes like bratwurst, pretzels, and schnitzel as you soak up the vibrant Riverwalk atmosphere.
Get those dancing shoes on and hit Howl at the Moon. This dueling piano bar features talented musicians playing an array of crowd-pleasing tunes, and you can sing along and dance the night away. The perfect end to your San Antonio experience!
Where to stay with 24 hours in San Antonio
If you’ve only got a short layover in San Antonio, narrow your accommodation search to the city’s central-most areas. Among the most popular places to stay in San Antonio are the areas around the River Walk, Downtown, La Villita, and Southtown.
Dishing out a chic Southwest vibe, the Canopy By Hilton Riverwalk is one of the most popular options along the River Walk. Relax in the bright, modern rooms, adorned with a hint of Mexican and Southwest flair. After a day of sightseeing, chill out with a cocktail at the on-site Otro with the lights of the River Walk glowing below.
Want central accommodations that won’t break the bank? Saddle up at the Drury Plaza Hotel. One of the top value picks in the area, this hotel charms with distinct South Texas and Art Deco design elements along with host of excellent amenities. Cool down in the hot Texas sun with a quick dip in the outdoor or indoor swimming pool or soothe your joints with a soak in the whirlpool.
Looking for some splurge-worth lodgings on your San Antonio trip? Book yourself into the Thompson Riverwalk. After you’ve taken in all the sights, sip cocktails in a private cabana on the pool terrace with the city lights as your backdrop or enjoy a soothing massage at the on-site spa. The charms don’t stop at the amenities, either. When it’s time to rest your weary head, retire to the sleek and stylish rooms, adorned with rich wooden floors, reclaimed wood furnishings, and cheerful decor.
When to visit San Antonio
The best time to visit San Antonio, TX, is in April and from September to October. These spring and fall months fall within the tourist shoulder season and avoid the busy and extremely hot summer and the cooler winter months.
Located in South Texas, San Antonio remains warm to hot all year round. Although it’s the driest time of year, summers in San Antonio can be swelteringly hot. It’s also the busiest time of year for tourists, leading to higher prices.
If budget is your biggest concern, consider visiting during the winter months. With its southern location, San Antonio avoid the chilly temperatures of most northern destinations. Daytime winter highs hover around the mid-60s to low 70s (18°C to 22°C), making for a pleasant USA winter escape.
More San Antonio itinerary ideas
San Antonio Mission Trail
Got more time to explore? Lace up your walking shoes, and enjoy an afternoon of history and exercise on the historic San Antonio Mission Trail. This 13.9-mile loop connects five iconic missions, each an architectural beauty with its own unique story.
Admire the striking Spanish Colonial architecture of the Mission Concepción that has stood the test of time. Marvel at the intricate details of the stone façade, the beautiful frescoes, and the peaceful courtyard.
Move to the Mission San José, also known as the ‘Queen of the Missions’ with its soaring bell tower and intricate carvings. Explore the grounds and learn about the daily lives of the Native American communities who lived here centuries ago.
Continuing along the trail, you’ll encounter Mission San Juan Capistrano, a charming gem basking nestled in the countryside. As you make your way to Mission Espada, the oldest mission in Texas, you’ll be captivated by its rustic beauty and peaceful surroundings. Take a moment to reflect in the historic chapel and soak in the serene atmosphere.
Lastly, you’ll arrive at the iconic Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as the Alamo. This legendary site played a pivotal role in the fight for Texas independence. Explore the museum, stroll through the beautiful gardens, and pay respects to the brave men who fought here.
How about a spot of shopping followed by a cold beer? Head to the Pearl Brewery on Pearl Parkway, a once-historic brewery complex with a bustling farmers’ market, unique shops, and fantastic restaurants. Dating back to 1883, the Historic Pearl was one of Texas’s largest breweries, brewing one of Texas’s iconic beers: Pearl Beer.
Today, the brewery grounds, also known as the Pearl Brewery District, have been transformed into a vibrant mixed-use development that seamlessly blends the old with the new. The old brewery buildings have been repurposed into stylish shops, trendy restaurants, art galleries, and a boutique hotel.
Browse the unique boutiques and shops, where you’ll find everything from stylish clothing and accessories to one-of-a-kind home decor items. You’ll find a mouthwatering array of places to eat, from farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafés serving artisanal coffee. Don’t forget to check out the famous Pearl Farmers Market, where you can indulge in fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and delectable homemade goodies.
The Pearl Brewery complex is also a hub of cultural experiences too. Catch a performance or art exhibition at one of the galleries or watch street musicians fill the air with their melodies.