The Most Beautiful Mission in California: A Ranking of Divine Architectural Gems

Choose the mission you think is the most beautiful!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 20, 2024 06:24
Welcome to StrawPoll, where your opinion truly matters! Today, we invite you to embark on a virtual journey through the breathtaking beauty of California's missions and cast your vote for the most stunning gem among them. With a rich history and unique charm, these architectural marvels have captivated the hearts of millions. So, whether you're a history enthusiast, an architecture aficionado, or just someone who appreciates the fusion of natural and man-made beauty, this is your chance to have a say in the ultimate ranking of California's most beautiful missions. Join our ever-growing community of passionate voters, and if you feel we've missed a mission that should be on our list, don't hesitate to suggest it. Let the quest for California's finest mission begin!

What Is the Most Beautiful Mission in California?

  1. 1

    Mission San Juan Capistrano

    Father Junipero Serra
    Mission San Juan Capistrano - known for its stunning gardens, historic buildings, and religious art. It is also famous for its yearly swallows' migration.
    Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historic Spanish mission located in San Juan Capistrano, California. Often referred to as the 'Jewel of the Missions', it is known for its picturesque beauty and architectural excellence. The mission was founded on November 1, 1776, by Spanish Franciscan padre - Father Junipero Serra. It serves as a symbol of California's early history and the Spanish colonization of the region. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and a functioning parish church within the Catholic Diocese of Orange.
    • Location: San Juan Capistrano, California
    • Year Founded: 1776
    • Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial
    • Size: Approximately 7.2 acres
    • Bell Tower: Home to the oldest building in California still in use
    Mission San Juan Capistrano in other rankings
  2. 2
    Mission Santa Barbara
    Bernard Gagnon · CC BY-SA 3.0
    Mission Santa Barbara is a classic example of Spanish colonial architecture, with beautifully landscaped grounds and a museum.
  3. 3

    Mission Santa Cruz

    Fermín Lasuén
    Mission Santa Cruz is features a mixture of Spanish and Native American architectural styles, and is located in a beautiful setting near the coast.
    Mission Santa Cruz is a historic Spanish mission located in Santa Cruz, California. It was founded on August 28, 1791, by Fermín Lasuén.
    • Location: Santa Cruz, California
    • Founded: August 28, 1791
    • Architectural style: Spanish Colonial
    • Current status: Active parish
    • Primary patron: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
  4. 4

    Mission San Buenaventura

    Father Junipero Serra
    Mission San Buenaventura - known for its distinctive bell tower and peaceful gardens.
    Mission San Buenaventura, also known as San Buenaventura Mission, is a Spanish mission located in Ventura, California. It was founded on March 31, 1782, by Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest. The mission is situated near the Pacific Ocean and has a unique charm with its picturesque setting and architectural style.
    • Location: Ventura, California
    • Founding Date: March 31, 1782
    • Founder: Father Junipero Serra
    • Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial
    • Mission Number: 9th out of 21 California missions
  5. 5

    Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

    Father Junipero Serra
    Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is a charming mission with a peaceful courtyard and beautiful stained glass windows.
    Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is a historic Spanish mission located in the city of San Luis Obispo, California. It was founded on September 1, 1772, and is the fifth mission established in California by Father Junipero Serra. The mission serves as both a parish church and a museum, showcasing the rich history and cultural heritage of the area.
    • Location: San Luis Obispo, California
    • Founded: September 1, 1772
    • Mission Number: 5th mission in California
    • Function: Parish church and museum
    • Architecture: Spanish Colonial architecture
  6. 6

    Mission San Antonio de Padua

    Father Junipero Serra
    Mission San Antonio de Padua is situated in a remote location, this mission offers a serene and peaceful experience, with beautiful views of the surrounding hills.
    Mission San Antonio de Padua is a Spanish mission located in Jolon, California. It was the third mission founded in Alta California and is considered one of the most beautiful missions in the state. The mission is situated in a serene setting surrounded by rolling hills and offers a glimpse into the rich history of California's mission era. The architecture of Mission San Antonio de Padua features a blend of Spanish colonial and Moorish influences, with a stunning stone facade and a bell tower that rises above the main building. The mission's interior is adorned with beautiful frescoes and colorful tiles, showcasing the artistic and cultural beauty of the period. The mission grounds also include a tranquil garden and a cemetery where many early settlers are buried.
    • Location: Jolon, California
    • Foundation Year: 1771
    • Architecture Style: Spanish Colonial and Moorish
    • Main Building Features: Stone facade, Bell tower
    • Interior Features: Frescoes, Colorful tiles
  7. 7

    Mission San Francisco Solano

    Padre José Altimira
    Mission San Francisco Solano is located in the heart of Sonoma wine country, this mission offers beautiful gardens and historic buildings.
    Mission San Francisco Solano is the last and northernmost of the 21 Spanish missions established in California. Located in Sonoma, it holds historical significance as the only mission built during Mexican rule. The mission is renowned for its architectural beauty and picturesque setting, nestled in the heart of wine country.
    • Founder: Padre José Altimira
    • Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial
    • Location: Sonoma, California
    • Established: July 4, 1823
    • Designated California Historical Landmark: 1933
    Mission San Francisco Solano in other rankings
  8. 8
    Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
    Burkhard Mücke · CC BY-SA 4.0
    Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo - located in the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, this mission offers beautiful architecture and historic artifacts.
    Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, also known as Carmel Mission, is a historic Spanish mission located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. It was founded on June 3, 1770, by Father Junípero Serra, who was the founder of the California Mission system.
    • Location: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
    • Foundation date: June 3, 1770
    • Founder: Father Junípero Serra
    • Architectural style: Spanish Colonial
    • Church capacity: Approximately 250 people
  9. 9

    Mission San Gabriel Arcangel

    Father Junipero Serra
    Mission San Gabriel Arcangel - known for its stunning architecture and beautiful gardens, this mission is also the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles.
    Mission San Gabriel Arcangel is a historic Spanish mission located in San Gabriel, California. It was founded on September 8, 1771, by Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan friar. The mission is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful surroundings, making it one of the most picturesque missions in California. With its rich history and cultural importance, Mission San Gabriel Arcangel serves as a significant landmark in the region.
    • Location: San Gabriel, California
    • Foundation Date: September 8, 1771
    • Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial
    • Construction Material: Adobe
    • Bell Tower Height: 42 feet
  10. 10
    Mission Santa Ines
    Ymblanter · CC BY-SA 4.0

    Mission Santa Ines

    Father Estévan Tapís
    Mission Santa Ines is located in the charming town of Solvang, this mission offers beautiful gardens and historic artifacts, as well as a museum and gift shop.
    Mission Santa Ines is a historic Spanish mission located in Solvang, California. It was founded in 1804 by Father Estévan Tapís and is renowned for its picturesque setting and architectural beauty. The mission's unique blend of Spanish colonial and Chumash Native American influences makes it a captivating cultural landmark in California.
    • Location: Solvang, California
    • Year Founded: 1804
    • Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial
    • Influences: Spanish and Chumash Native American
    • Church Size: 63 feet by 27 feet

Missing your favorite mission?


Ranking factors for beautiful mission

  1. Architecture and Design
    Assess the style, intricacy, and grandeur of the mission's architectural design. Consider the layout, craftsmanship of the buildings, and the overall aesthetic appeal.
  2. Historical Significance
    Consider the role the mission played in California's history, such as its impact on the local community, indigenous population, and its contribution to the development of the region.
  3. Preservation and Restoration
    Evaluate the current state of the mission's preservation and the quality of any restoration work done to maintain the mission's original appearance and integrity.
  4. Natural Beauty
    Take into account the mission's surroundings, including the landscape, gardens, and overall natural setting that enhance the mission's overall beauty.
  5. Cultural and Artistic Elements
    Consider the interior and exterior artwork, such as paintings, sculptures, and decorative elements, as well as any traditional cultural practices or events associated with the mission.
  6. Visitor Experience
    Evaluate the mission's facilities, accessibility, educational opportunities, and any other aspects that contribute to a positive experience for visitors.
  7. Spirituality and Atmosphere
    Assess the overall ambiance and the spiritual significance of the mission, including its historical and current role in religious practices and the sense of peace and tranquility it exudes.
  8. Uniqueness
    Consider the aspects of the mission that set it apart from others, such as its distinct architectural features, historical events, or special cultural elements.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most beautiful mission in California. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or mission is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 198 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each mission once every 24 hours. The rank of each mission is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


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More information on most beautiful mission in california

California is a state that is known for its stunning natural landscapes, rich history, and diverse culture. It is home to many beautiful missions that have been preserved over the years, providing a glimpse into the state's past. The missions were founded by Spanish colonizers in the 18th century, and many of them remain popular tourist attractions today. These missions are not only beautiful to look at, but they also serve as important landmarks that help to tell the story of California's history and cultural heritage. In this article, we will explore the most beautiful missions in California, and why they are worth visiting.

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