The first European settlement in California, Old Town San Diego dates back to 1769 when a Catholic priest, Father Junipero Serra, founded a Spanish mission there. By the 1860s, though, the majority of settlers moved to what’s now known as Gaslamp Quarter, leaving Old Town behind to be closer to the water and all of the goods and services water access brings.
These days, taking a trip to Old Town is to journey back in time. The charming neighborhood is rife with historic architecture, shops that sell Mexican-inspired artisan goods, and a bevy of free museums celebrating the region’s history. Not to mention a haunted house or two. If you’re looking to make the most of your visit to Old Town, check out our favorite things to do in the area.
If you’re venturing to Old Town, be sure to come with a little extra space in your bag for the goods that you’ll surely be compelled to buy. Old Town is filled to the brim with shopping opportunities. If you have some little ones with you (or you simply want to satisfy your sweet tooth with some nostalgia) head to Cousin’s Candy Shop where you’ll find barrels of old-timey candy like salt water taffy, Whirly Pops, and all of the jelly beans you could possibly want.
Once you’ve gotten your candy fix, check out the Bazaar del Mundo, which is an open-air shopping square complete with a central restaurant. Here, you’ll find all kinds of shops that pay homage to the region’s Latin American roots with folk art, crafts, jewelry, and fair trade merch in high supply. You should also be sure to check out Old Town Market. Adjacent to Old Town State Historic Park, the market features more than 40 stores that include specialty items like Mexican ceramics, vibrant artwork, and hand-blown glass goods.
One of the greatest aspects of this neighborhood is that you don’t need to have an agenda in mind to see historic architecture; historic architecture is always all around you. For instance, the Whaley House, which is more than 160 years old, was once a general store, courthouse, residence, and theater nestled in the heart of Old Town. These days, it’s one of two certified haunted houses in California, likely due to the fact that it was built atop a former graveyard and its backyard used to be the site of public hangings.
For less haunted history, head to the Casa de Estudillo, which is a vintage adobe home designed to showcase how people lived in this region more than 150 years ago. You can tour the rooms, which are meticulously restored with vintage furnishings, and if you come at the right time, you’ll be greeted by people in period attire performing the common household tasks that took place during the neighborhood’s inception.
While the shopping is stellar and the sights are compelling, Old Town really shines with its food offerings. For an oversized margarita and endless chips and salsa, head to the Casa de Reyes, located at the aforementioned Bazaar del Mundo. The open-air gem features a backdrop of beautiful fountains and vibrant hues, and serves up reliably tasty Americanized Mexican food. It’s the perfect casual dining destination for an afternoon of shopping.
If you’re in the market for a more upscale and authentic experience, then be sure to check out the Cosmopolitan. Located inside of a painstakingly restored 1870s hotel, the multi-million dollar restoration project complete with 19th-century decor is now home to some of Old Town’s most delicious grub. Enjoy authentic Mexican dishes like Overstuffed Chili Relleno and Seafood Enchiladas, then head next door to the Cygnet Theater to take in a show.
Homes for Sale in Old Town San Diego
Interested in living near this historic gem of a neighborhood? Then check out the homes we have for sale in the area.
Location, View & Adu? The Possibility Is Endless...location-between Old Town/bay Park/usd & Minutes To Point Loma. View-southwest View Of Point Loma, Mission Bay & Northwest View Of Pb. Backyard-big Enough For Adu/pool/deck. Bedroom Downstairs H...
San Diego, CA
Rarely Available Detached Home In The Heart Of Old Town! This Remodeled Charmer Has Hardwood Floors, Cove Ceilings, Upgraded Kitchen With Custom Cabinets, Upgraded Baths, Central Heat & A/c, Security System. Laundry Room- Washer/dryer Included. P...
San Diego, CA
Incredible Views! Beautiful Top Floor Condo In A Gated Complex, Located On A Cul-de-sac And In A Perched Above Old Town. Large Balcony To Enjoy The Amazing View. The Unit Is Very Well Kept, And Features Open Floor Plan, Ss Appliances, Dual Pane Wi...
San Diego, CA
Enjoy This Spacious And Upgraded Condo In A Prime Location In Old Town, Walking Distance To Shops And Restaurants. The Recent Remodel Features New Flooring, Bathroom And Fixtures, Refurbished And Modern Gas Fireplace, Led Lighting With Dimmable Sw...