Founded in 1691 by Spanish missionaries, San Antonio is an attractive old colonial city that has played a pivotal role in Texan history.
The city became a military garrison in 1718 and, a few years later, 16 families from the Canary Islands arrived to establish the first civil government in Texas. Soon the city grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in the Mexican province of Tejas.
As the Anglo-Americans advanced on the city and occupied the then deserted mission, a series of battles ensued, the most famous of which is the legendary 1836 Battle of the Alamo. The Texan volunteer force was soundly defeated but the action popularised the call for an independent Texas. The dream became reality later that year when the Texans defeated the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto.
In 1845 Texas joined the Union and after the Civil War, San Antonio earned a reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-fighting city, but nevertheless prospered at the centre of Texas's thriving cattle-rearing and oil industries.
The pretty sites of La Villita and River Walk, both beautifully restored after flooding in the 1920s, are well worth visiting. The River Walk is crossed by stone bridges and cobbled paths, and shaded by cypress, oak and willow trees, while La Villita, San Antonio's original settlement, is now a National Historic District. In contrast, the King William Historic District contains the elegant Victorian homes of wealthy German merchants.
Other attractions include the Institute of Texan Cultures, the Mexican Cultural Institute and San Fernando Cathedral. The Plaza de Armas is where the elegantly simple and atmospheric Spanish Governors' Palace is located, whilst market traders and outdoor restaurants create bustle and colour in Market Square.
Visitors may also wish to visit the McNay Art Museum, housed in an exquisite Moorish style villa, but the undoubted highlight of the city is the Alamo Mission itself. Located right in the heart of the city, all that is left of the original mission is the chapel and the Long Barracks. Among the tranquil remains visitors can almost hear the battle cry, "Victory or Death!"
Map of San Antonio
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