San Jose Downtown Walking Tour, San Jose

San Jose Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), San Jose

San Jose is California's third-largest city and the second-largest city in Northern California. From 1849 to 1851, San Jose served as the state's first capital, which is still a local source of pride. The city has formally incorporated in 1850 and has been a center of innovation from the late 19th century, starting with agriculture and food processing.

During World War II, several military contractors set up operations in the city, and the 1950s and 1960s saw expansion into the suburbs. Some of the most popular Silicon Valley companies have their headquarters here, including Apple, Adobe, Roku, Paypal, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. The technology business drives much of San Jose's economy.

Popular outdoor areas include Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Circle of Palms Plaza, and St. James Park. Check out the Tech Museum of Innovation for fun exhibits on science and technology or the San Jose Museum of Art to get a look at some of the city's most noteworthy artwork.

San Jose is also famous for its impressive historic buildings. Stop by Peralta Adobe to see the city's oldest building, preserved in Spanish style. Don't forget to stop by San Pedro Square, which has an assortment of contemporary restaurants and bars in one the city's oldest squares.

To see the most important attractions in downtown San Jose, follow this self-guided walking tour!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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San Jose Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: San Jose Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » San Jose (See other walking tours in San Jose)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: AlexanderA
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza de Cesar Chavez
  • Tech Museum of Innovation
  • Circle of Palms Plaza
  • San Jose Museum of Art
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
  • St. James Park
  • Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
  • Peralta Adobe
  • San Pedro Square and Market
Plaza de Cesar Chavez

1) Plaza de Cesar Chavez

Plaza de Cesar Chavez, with its origin going back to 1797, is Northern California's oldest public space. The square is located in the heart of the Downtown area and named in honor of Cesar Chavez, one of California's most important civil rights activists.

Landscaped flower beds and beautiful water fountains make the plaza a lovely place to enjoy the sunshine. Museums and other attractions of interest to visitors are adjacent to the plaza, giving you even more to see.

A fun feature that visitors enjoy is an open-air theater. Live concerts and similar events are regular features at this theater. You may even have the chance to see unique performances that only take place in this setting. The theater's seating is perfect for you to just drop in if something's going on while you're touring the plaza.

This plaza is also the perfect setting for festivals. Food and music festivals are some of the most popular types of events. When one of these types of events is going on, you'll be able to enjoy a unique atmosphere that encourages plenty of fun.
Tech Museum of Innovation

2) Tech Museum of Innovation (must see)

The Tech Interactive is a science and technology center perfect for all ages, with lots of hands-on activities. Some of the exhibits include exhibitions dedicated to biology, computer technology, and robotics. Many have hands-on features to help make learning even more engaging.

Experiences include a VR experience based on bird flight and a genetics-related experience courtesy of Stanford Tech. These experiences help visitors get the most from their encounters. One of the most significant advantages that these experiences offer is an easy way to appeal to visitors of all ages and making learning more fun.

This science center has an IMAX theater where you can see films in an unforgettable experience. Some of the companies that feature their films here include MacGillivray Freeman and National Geographic, with genres ranging from wildlife to space. There is also a cafe featuring sandwiches to go and offering indoor and patio seating.
Circle of Palms Plaza

3) Circle of Palms Plaza

Circle of Palms Plaza is one of the more iconic locations in Downtown San Jose. This plaza is in the location where the state's first capital stood from 1849 to 1851. You can see a California state seal on the pavement, with a circle of palm trees surrounding the seal.

The concrete set around the seal contains quotes from the state constitutional convention in 1849. You can also see the Museum of Art at one end of the plaza. Other interesting adjacent locations include the Silicon Valley Financial Center, as well as the Fairmont Hotel, which are interesting landmarks in their own right.

There are lights illuminating the plaza at night that make a very interesting sight. If you visit this area during the winter months, you'll be able to take advantage of an ice rink. Even if you are not a skater, spending time watching people on the rink is always worth it.
San Jose Museum of Art

4) San Jose Museum of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art is an art museum in Downtown San Jose founded in 1969. It hosts a large permanent collection emphasizing West Coast artists of the 20th- and 21st-century. The museum's historic wing was originally designed by architect Willoughby J. Edbrooke and built as the San Jose post office in 1892, then served as the city's library from 1937 to 1969. The "New Wing", comprising the majority of the current exhibition space, opened in 1991. Many of the changing exhibitions at the San Jose Museum of Art focus on the West Coast and California.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, a great many exhibitions are centered on the intersection of art and technology. Exhibitions and individual installations typically remain on view between 4 to 6 months. The collection includes more than 2,000 works in a variety of media, including sculpture, paintings, prints, digital media, photographs, and drawings by artists such as Robert Arneson, Milton Avery, Gregory Barsamian, Joan Brown, and many more.

In 2007 the San Jose Museum of Art won the prestigious MUSE award from the American Association of Museums Technology Committee.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

5) Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph (must see)

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is the cathedral for the Diocese of San Jose. This church is the oldest non-mission congregation in California, with the current building dating to 1876. Besides being an active worshipping community and ministry location, the church has some beautiful architecture you must see.

Stained glass windows are some of the most popular features, with 39 windows commemorating saints including St. Aloysius and St. Claude de la Colombiere, both of Italian construction. Some of the windows are made from hand-blown Bavarian glass, representing a lost art in stained glass window-making.

The Odell Tracker pipe organ dates to 1886 and was designed specifically for this church. Only four organs of this style were made in the United States. Of these organs, this one is the only one on the West Coast that has survived in its original condition. In total there are 60 pipes with 27 ranks.
St. James Park

6) St. James Park

St. James Park spans 6.8 acres in Downtown San Jose and dates to 1848. One of the park's oldest landmarks is a monument to president William McKinley, dating back to 1903. The sculpture stands on a granite pedestal and is crafted of bronze. There is also a brass cannon that stands at the monument's foot.

There are memorials to Robert F. Kennedy and Henry Morris Naglee within the park as well. A replica of a fountain that originally stood in the park in 1885 is also here. Although this fountain is non-functional, it features the design of the original structure.

The st. James Square Historic District that this park is part of received National Register of Historic Places status in 1979. Some of the adjacent properties include St. James Episcopal Church, dating to 1863. Other noteworthy buildings nearby include the Old Courthouse, the Post Office, and the Eagles Club.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

7) Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is located in downtown San Jose, California. It is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. As the oldest church structure in continuous use in the city it has been named a San Jose Historic City Landmark.

The present church building was completed in 1863 and was consecrated by Bishop Kip four years later. Over the years ten Episcopal congregations were formed from Trinity. The Diocese of El Camino Real was created from the Diocese of California in 1980 and Trinity was elevated to a cathedral church. Trinity Cathedral houses the oldest Episcopal congregation in San Jose, it is the oldest church building in continuous use in the city and is the oldest Episcopal cathedral church in California.

The present church was designed by James W. Hammond, who was a retired sea captain and shipbuilder. He was also a member of Trinity's vestry. The building was rectangular in shape with a steep hipped roof. It was constructed of redwood that was logged in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

As the congregation grew it became necessary to expand the building. Hammond devised a plan by which the church building was cut in half and pulled apart by a team of horses. The front was shifted to face North Second Street and additional arms were added to create a structure in the form of a cross. The bell tower was added at the same time. A spire was added to the tower in 1884. Renovations in 1958 brought the church to its present appearance.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Peralta Adobe

8) Peralta Adobe

The Peralta Adobe is the oldest building in San Jose, northern California, still standing today. The adobe was built in 1797, and is named after Luis María Peralta, its most famous resident. The original builder was probably Manuel González.

Manuel González (an Apache Indian), his wife, and their five children accompanied the Spanish Anza Party to California in 1776. He was one of the founders of the Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, the first municipal government in California, established in 1777. This was the second house that González lived in, the first site was untenable due to winter flooding.

In 1804, González died and the adobe went to Luís María Peralta in 1808. Peralta was a sergeant in the Spanish Army, commissioner of the Pueblo of San José, and owner of Rancho San Antonio of the East Bay, one of the largest ranchos in Alta California. Peralta divided the house into two rooms, built a porch, a kitchen and a chimney. He died in August 1851, leaving the adobe to his two daughters.

Purchased by the City of San Jose in 1966, the adobe building was restored, and the surrounding park completed in 1976. The Peralta Adobe is San Jose's Historic Landmark #1, California Historical Landmark #866, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the adobe was the first site certified as a component of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
San Pedro Square and Market

9) San Pedro Square and Market (must see)

San Pedro Square and Market is one of San Jose's most popular spots for dining, drinks, and live entertainment. The square itself has been one of the city's most popular hubs for over 200 years. Some of the dining selections include seafood restaurants, gourmet sandwiches and crepes, pub food like Philly cheesesteaks, and sushi.

You can take advantage of craft coffee, as well as a range of alcoholic beverages. The bar scene includes bars specializing in beer, as well as craft cocktail bars. You'll also find bars that specialize in California wines and cocktails made with ingredients representing different cultures.

Live performances featuring popular local bands are popular here, on a regular basis. San Jose Sharks fans also have a special treat awaiting them when home games are played. Fans can take part in a pre-game party and enjoy all the excitement that will be in the air leading up to the game.

Walking Tours in San Jose, California

Create Your Own Walk in San Jose

Create Your Own Walk in San Jose

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Jose is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
San Jose Public Art Walking Tour

San Jose Public Art Walking Tour

This walking tour, “Public Art as Resistance in San José,” highlights the history of resistance and public art in downtown San José and begins on the urban university campus, San José State University. Starting from the first two works of art on campus, you’ll find that these 12 works of public art are among many in this area. However, this particular walking tour considers how San...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 Km or 3.7 Miles