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

California's San Jose is where vintage and ultra-modern come to live in a perfect harmony. The city's architecture partially reflects Spanish Colonial heritage and the influence of the nearby Silicon Valley, a major technological hub in Bay Area. The key landmarks making up downtown San Jose include the San Jose Museum of Art, Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, Circle of Palms Plaza, San Jose City Hall and more. To see what else downtown San Jose has to offer, follow this orientation walk.
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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: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: AlexanderA
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza de Cesar Chavez
  • California Theatre
  • Circle of Palms Plaza
  • San Jose Museum of Art
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
  • San Jose City Hall
  • St. James Park
  • San Pedro Square
Plaza de Cesar Chavez

1) Plaza de Cesar Chavez (must see)

Plaza de Cesar Chavez, established in the center of San Jose in 1797, is California’s oldest public park. From 1849 to 1851 it was the site of California's capitol building. This park is currently used for a variety of events, including cultural festivals, food shows, and arts and crafts fairs. It is also the site of the city’s official Christmas tree and the San Jose Jazz Festival. During summertime outdoor concerts can be found here and wintertime offers Christmas shows.
California Theatre

2) California Theatre (must see)

The California Theatre, opened in 1927, is considered an architectural masterpiece. Neglected for many years, the theater was reopened after restoration in 2004. Throughout its history it has been used for theatrical performances, motion picture screenings, concerts, meetings, receptions, private parties and even weddings. This historic theater houses Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley.
Circle of Palms Plaza

3) Circle of Palms Plaza (must see)

The Circle of Palms Plaza, located on California Historical Marker 461, the site of California’s first capital city, is a ring of palm trees around a California State Seal. Sometimes used to host events, it can hold approximately 2,000 standing or 1,000 seated guests. During the winter months it is used as an ice skating rink.
San Jose Museum of Art

4) San Jose Museum of Art (must see)

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.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

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

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is a large Roman Catholic church located in Downtown San Jose. The minor basilica is the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California. The basilica is named for Saint Joseph, patron saint of the universal church. The original St. Joseph's Church was built on the site of the current basilica in 1803, and was the first non-mission parish built in California. The original adobe structure was damaged by earthquakes in 1818 and 1822, and a new adobe church was built from 1835 to 1846. The second church was severely damaged by the 1868 Hayward earthquake, and work on the third church began in 1869. The third church was destroyed by fire in 1875, and a temporary fourth church was built a few blocks away while the fifth and current church was being constructed. The fifth church was dedicated by Joseph Alemany, Archbishop of San Francisco, in 1877 while construction continued. The current portico was completed in 1884, and the large dome was finished in 1885.

In 1981, a major renovation project was begun at the church, which was to become the cathedral for the new Roman Catholic Bishop of San Jose. In 1985, the church was elevated to a cathedral, pending completion of the restoration in 1990. It replaced Saint Patrick Proto-Cathedral Parish, located a few blocks away, as the cathedral of the diocese. The cathedral was made a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Jose City Hall

6) San Jose City Hall

San Jose City Hall, opened in 2005, was designed by Richard Meier, the same architect responsible for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art in Spain and other important buildings. At a cost of 382 million dollars, this 18-story building was designed to be environmentally friendly, making use of natural light to conserve electricity.
St. James Park

7) St. James Park (must see)

St. James Park, a beautiful area in downtown San Jose where locals go for walks, is notorious as the scene where two men were lynched for the kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart, son of the owner of L. Hart and Son Department Store. A statue of William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, is also located in this park. McKinley is known for the Spanish-American War, which happened during his presidency, when the United States annexed Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
San Pedro Square

8) San Pedro Square (must see)

San Pedro Square contains several restaurants. Opened in 1972, the Old Spaghetti Factory was the first restaurant established here. Peralta Adobe, built in 1797, is the oldest building on this square, the last remaining structure of El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe. On the other side of the street Thomas Fallon, a former mayor of San Jose, built an impressive adobe in 1855. The Tabard Theater Company can be found here and the HP Pavilion is located nearby, making the restaurants on this square quite busy following events.

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.
Cultural Venues

Cultural Venues

San Jose offers numerous art galleries, museums and theaters with unique exhibits and performances. You will be amazed at how much San Jose has to offer in this respect. Many of its venues boast beauty and function in their architecture. Take the following tour to discover San Jose’s rich cultural scene.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Museums and Art Galleries in San Jose

Museums and Art Galleries in San Jose

San Jose has a rich history when it comes to culture, education and recreation. It is home to several museums and art galleries. Take the following tour to visit some of the most fascinating ones San Jose has to offer.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles