La Villita

La Villita is a historic arts district that can be found in the city of San Antonio. The city's first neighborhood, this district started out as a rather primitive settlement for squatters in the 1700s. La Villita has come a long way since then, and a storied history is a big part of its charm. Taking a walking tour through this downtown district is one of the top things to do in San Antonio, and there's plenty to enjoy on the side when you're not admiring the historic edifices.

Proximity to the Mission San Antonio de Valero, which is now known as the Alamo, helped to make La Villita San Antonio an attractive place to live during its earliest days. When the Mission San Antonio de Valero went into decline in the late 1700s, the lands that surrounded it, including La Villita, were distributed to civilians, Spanish soldiers, and even some of the mission Native Americans. This now historic arts village in San Antonio began to grow considerably, as did the city itself. More and more European settlers started to move in during the early 1800s, though by 1835, people started moving out. This was the year that the Texas war for independence erupted, and La Villita was very much at the heart of this fight. Among the district's main attractions is the General Cos House. This house was where the military leader of the Mexican forces surrendered to the revolutionary army of Texas in 1835. The following year, thanks in part to successes such as this, Texas managed to establish its independence from Mexico.

While taking a walking tour of La Villita San Antonio, visitors can check out the exterior of the General Cos House. The interior is generally off limits, though the house can be rented for wedding receptions and other special events. The General Cos House predates 1835, making it one of the oldest structures in the district. One of the other top attractions that can be found in La Villita is the Little Church. Work on this small church began in 1879. Today, it is non-denominational and serves as one of the most popular venues for San Antonio weddings. Both of these buildings and the district's other historic edifices benefited from a major revitalization project in the 1930s. Many artists teamed up with the San Antonio Conservation Society during the revitalization efforts, and today, the majority of the restored buildings are crafts shops, boutiques, or restaurants.

For those who are planning on enjoying a La Villita San Antonio walking tour, maps that highlight the historical attractions are in good supply at various sites. It only takes about 30 minutes to make your way through this historic arts village in San Antonio, though many visitors get distracted and end up lingering longer than expected. Shopping at La Villita can satisfy at least a few hours on its own. Most of the shops in the district double as art galleries and craft shops, so you might keep an eye out for something to decorate the home with. If you're not in the market for art, you can always look to pick up a new handbag or a pair of cowboy boots. Souvenirs are also in good supply, as are a bunch of other knick-knacks that might pique your interest.

There aren't a ton of restaurants in La Villita San Antonio, though the options should be complete enough if you are interested in getting something to eat in this charming district. Whether you are in the mood for a steak, some seafood, some Mexican cuisine, or just a simple sandwich, the four main restaurants that can be found in this historic arts village in San Antonio have you covered. Cold beer and plenty of other beverages are also available should some drinks be all that you're after.

No visit to San Antonio would arguably be complete without some time in La Villita. The district boasts a lovely Spanish and Mexican atmosphere, and its proximity to other great attractions makes it easy to include on an itinerary. Other attractions that are close by include the famed Alamo, the lofty Tower of the Americas, and the Riverwalk, to name a few. In fact, the Riverwalk forms one of the district's borders. The other borders are formed by Alamo Street, Navarro Street, and Durango Street.

Image: Ann Purcell/SACVB

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