A historic neighborhood in San Diego, Old Town is most well known for its old-world charm and modern recreation opportunities. It’s remarkable as the site of the first European settlement in what is today California. Old Town is also the home of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park. There are large parks that are both are part of the National Register of Historic Places. Old Town San Diego is among the most frequently explored neighborhoods in the city. It should be at the top of the list for any vacation to sunny California. Brimming with indie shops, restaurants, art galleries, and historic locales, it’s a tourist’s dream. If you want to see a lot of the area without the hassle of driving, take an Old Town Trolley Tour. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and listen to your knowledgeable guide! To help you make the most of your time in Old Town, we’ve put together this handy guide. It covers top historic spots, shops, and restaurants. When you're done reading this guide, check out our guide to the Gaslamp Quarter, which is another great San Diego neighborhood.
Historic Buildings and Sites in Old Town San Diego
- Whaley House Museum. Rumored to be the most haunted house in the country, this 150-year-old Victorian mansion is attractive to history buffs of all kinds. You can tour the main buildings, explore the beautiful gardens, and hunt for ghosts along the way.
- Junipero Serra Museum. Originally the site of the first-ever Mission in California, this museum in Presidio Park includes informative exhibits and a tower from which you can get stellar views of the whole neighborhood.
- Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Founded in the mid-eighteenth century by Spanish missionaries, this venue is both an active Catholic parish and a museum dedicated to the history of missionary work in the region.
- Mason Street Schoolhouse. Established c. 1865, the Mason Street Schoolhouse was the first such building in San Diego. It’s free to tour the school and sit at the historic desks, and many educators enjoy a visit here.
- Seeley Stable Museum. An old stagecoach stop that’s been reconstructed to look as it might have in the nineteenth century, the Seeley Stable Museum also houses several historic carriages inside.
- La Casa de Estudillo. Built during the first decades of the nineteenth century, this adobo-brick townhouse is a marvelous example of local period architecture. It’s part of the California State Park system and operates as a small museum.
Restaurants in Old Town San Diego
- Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant. This historic hotel offers a delightful on-site restaurant amidst the Victorian charm and lovingly-curated landscaping.
- Barra Barra. Our favorite among the many Mexican eateries in this neighborhood, you’ll find specialty margaritas and tacos galore here.
- Pizza Bella Italian Bistro. Evocative of classic Italy, you’ll enjoy the vintage artwork as you savor their pasta and thin-crust pizza.
- Rockin' Baja Lobster - Old Town. An immensely popular fish and lobster taco joint.
- New Orleans Creole Café. Housed in a late-nineteenth-century home, this café serves up delicious NOLA cuisine.
- Harney Sushi. A local favorite, this sushi shop sells creative rolls and unique cocktails.
Shops in Old Town San Diego
- Old Town Market. This historic marketplace features a wide variety of specialty shops and indie goods in a festive atmosphere. There is frequently live entertainment, too.
- Fashion Valley. A massive modern mall, you’ll find more almost 200 stores and restaurants here, including department stores.
- Cousin's Candy Shop. A favorite local candy store, they make their taffy on-site.
- Fiesta de Reyes. A collection of shops and restaurants that offers kids’ activities and free entertainment.
- Racine and Laramie. A modern revision of San Diego’s first tobacco store, this shop features an extensive variety of historical gifts and accessories alongside tobacco and pipes.