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    Santa Barbara what to see: 6 attractions to visit

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    Martí Micolau

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    Santa Barbara is one of the most interesting destinations to visit on the California coast. It is a typical seaside resort with beautiful beaches, palm trees and a characteristic marina, but the interest of this town goes far beyond the classic one of seaside attractions.

    Here you will also find a lot of history and architecture, with many ancient Hispanic-style buildings emerging on the rolling hills of the Pacific coast.


    • Santa Barbara what to see: the main attractions
      • 1. The pier on the Santa Barbara waterfront
      • 2. State Street
      • 3. County Courthouse
      • 4. The Presidio of Santa Barbara
      • 5. Mission of Santa Barbara: the queen of all missions
      • 6. Visit the museums of Santa Barbara
    • Where to sleep in Santa Barbara?
    • Look for an itinerary ...

    Santa Barbara what to see: the main attractions

    Santa Barbara is a small town but, as with any tourist destination, you need to know how to organize yourself and have precise ideas about things to see and visit. Here is our list:

    1. The pier on the Santa Barbara waterfront

    On Santa Barbara's beautiful palm-fringed waterfront (ideal for a nice afternoon stroll) is the Stearns Wharf, the oldest wooden pier in the entire state of California (dating back to 1872).

    Here, in addition to a beautiful view of the ocean, you will find various restaurants and shops: the advice is to stop and eat at Santa barbara shellfish company, do not be discouraged by the long lines that are created at the entrance, the giant crabs you will eat will repay you for your patience!


    If you are not too heavy you can also make a leap to Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, where you will admire authentic whale skeletons!

    2. State Street

    If you are looking for some nightlife you might be disappointed by the fact that the promenade, at nightfall, becomes almost deserted. There is a reason: young people and anyone who wants to have fun are moving in droves to State Street, the main artery of the city, where clubs, shops, restaurants and nightclubs abound.

    State Street is a charming and well-kept street and it is not a bad idea to take a walk even during the day.

    A tip on where to eat? Al Tupelo Junction, which serves excellent local cuisine to be enjoyed at sidewalk tables.

    3. County Courthouse


    Beautiful building, still in operation, in an old-Hispanic style (although built in 1929) and defined by Charles Moore as "the grandest Spanish Colonial revival structure ever built". Inside you will find many things to see: murals, tiles, elegant furnishings and a whole series of references to the style of the ancient missions, with bright and brilliant colors.

    Take a nice guided tour (it's free!) And don't miss the chance to climb to the top of the clock tower (El Mirador) to admire one of the most beautiful views of Santa Barbara.

    4. The Presidio of Santa Barbara


    Like many other California coastal towns, Santa Barbara was born of one mission, whose remains are still preserved in El Presidio de Santa Barbara, where you can also visit the halls of one of the oldest buildings in California, the old fortress of The barracks.

    The garrison is part of a complex of fortresses built by the Spaniards on the Californian coast in 1782 and visiting it can be an interesting experience especially from a historical point of view.

    5. Mission of Santa Barbara: the queen of all missions

    The old Santa Barbara Mission it is part of the Camino Real and is one of the most beautiful sacred buildings that you can admire on the Californian coast. The mission dates back to 1786, but the Catholic church, with its majestic double-steeple façade, was erected in 1820 and is still the most visited mission in California.

    The church is always active for religious functions and in the communicating building it houses a very interesting museum where you can learn more about the history of the meeting between the Franciscan friars and the natives, complete with historical testimonies and sacred and profane objects of the time.

    6. Visit the museums of Santa Barbara

    Two museums are particularly interesting: the Santa barbara museum of art and Museum of Natural History. The first is not to be missed for art history lovers, with ancient Greek and Egyptian sculptures and two remarkable collections (one dedicated to the Impressionists, the other to American painters); the second houses American Indian artifacts, reconstructions dedicated to various animal species, as well as skeletons of rare or extinct animals.

    Where to sleep in Santa Barbara?

    For the excellent service I found, the value for money and the services available I would recommend Encina Lodge & Suites from the Best Western chain. It is not in the center, but still in a good area: in 5 minutes by car you will be in the center or on the seafront. Alternatively, at the link below you will find a complete list of hotels in the city:

    Santa Barbara hotel list

    Look for an itinerary ...

    Not satisfied yet? Are you looking for a nice itinerary on the coast that contemplates Santa Barbara? Then check out this route from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

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