Top 7 Must-sees Landmarks in Santa Barbara

The State of California has a long history that amazes not only foreigners but also locals. I want to invite you this time to review and (re)discover Santa Barbara’s history by visiting its most relevant landmarks, ranked on the California State Historical Landmarks list. I have chosen the most important, best ranked historical landmarks in Santa Barbara and I list them below. Hopefully this list is will be an opportunity for you to choose your favorite sites to visit  in your next trip to Santa Barbara.

Gaviota Pass / Gaviota Gorge Tunnel
Far beyond being only a pass, the Gaviota Tunnel witnessed a Mexican-American War episode, dating back from 1846. As it is printed on its descriptive plaque, this pass was used as the perfect place for the local defense to plot an ambush against Lieutenant Colonel Fremont, who was cautioned of the trap. This mission was eventually accomplished with no violence or murders. Visiting the Gaviota Pass is undoubtedly a way to have a flashback of almost two centuries time. It is ranked 248 on the California Historical Landmarks official list.

Burton Mound
Declared to gather some of the foremost archaeological proof in the state of California, this ancient indigenous village was discovered in 1542 by navigator and explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, first European to set foot on current California. It is said that native population died in the early 19th century from several diseases apparently introduced by the Catholic missions in Santa Barbara. Coming to Burton Mound is a great opportunity to visit a Historical Landmark named in 1939 thanks to its precious contribution to Californian history. Burton Mound is officially ranked 306.

Casa de la Guerra
Perhaps this is the most important building in the history of Santa Barbara. Not only did the first official meeting was held here, but also the first city hall and government activities took place at Casa de la Guerra. Also, its big Plaza served as the scenery for several early fiestas and meetings of Santa Barbara in mid 19th century. Previously known as Casa Grande (Big House), this Historical Landmark has suffered the inevitable damages of nature. In fact, the structure was restored after a strong earthquake in 1857. This changes implied modification in the style of the building, though it keeps its original fashion. It is ranked right below Burton Mound, #307.

casa de la guerra_santa barbara
Image courtesy of Raul at

Covarrubias Adobe
Casa Covarrubias, as it is also known, is an ancient brick house built by Indian labor in 1817. Descendants of Don Domingo Carrillo and his daughter, for whom the house was built after wedding, lived in Covarrubias Adobe for over a whole century. Furthermore, many of them were political leaders in Santa Barbara, occupying their respective, honorous places in California history. The adobe was restored in 1924 as part of a civic program of historic preservation, assuring it to last further and to encourage national and international tourist to visit this historical landmark, officially ranked 308.

Mission Santa Barbara
Founded in 1786 by Spanish Catholic Church on the feast day of Saint Barbara, this mission was the tenth mission of religious conversion of native indigenous people in Santa Barbara County. The whole construction was finished by 1925, but an earthquake affected the building in the summer of that same year. It was though eventually restored and rebuilt in 1927. Its extensive waterworks are a filter house, Spanish gristmill, sections of aqueducts, and two reservoirs served as part of Santa Barbara water system. This mission is definitely a must-see in California history, far from being just another church, occupying # 309 place on the California Historical Landmarks list.

mission santa barbara
Image courtesy of Ken Lund at

Mission La Purisima Concepción
If Mission Santa Barbara was not much what you were interested in, then visit Mission La Purisima, considered the most complete mission complex. Mission La Purisima historic park is managed and maintained by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, offering guided tours at a visitors center even though it is not a Catholic chapel anymore. Mission La Purisima was designated a Historical Landmark in 1970, ranked 340 on the official list.

Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara
Also known as El Presidio, it is a former military installation, established under King Carlos III’s orders as a way of expanding government benefits for residents of the Santa Barbara Channel region of California. Visitors can have a tour in the museum as well as get attracted by the building’s archaeological contribution to national history. Ranked 636 on the official California Historical Landmarks, El Presidio is certainly an attraction that visitors can’t left behind when coming to Santa Barbara.


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