Main Plaza is a great place to get a sense of San Antonio’s rich culture and history. Known as the heart of San Antonio, the charming, European-style square is home to significant landmarks. It’s just a short stroll west from the famous River Walk via East Commerce Street.

This central spot in downtown San Antonio is made up of 2 plazas, so it’s collectively called the Main and Military Plaza Historic District. Another name for Main Plaza is Plaza de Las Islas Canarias as it was established as the market square for the city’s Canary Island founders.

Notable landmarks include the 18th-century Spanish Governor's Palace, the 1738 San Fernando Cathedral, and Courthouse Bexar County to its south. The vibrant hub also plays host to cultural events and local festivities. A free video art projection show is among its coolest evening highlights.

Main Plaza in San Antonio - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Streets in San Antonio (Read all about San Antonio here)

A brief history of Main Plaza in San Antonio

The 3-acre trapezoidal plaza was where old San Antonio saw its beginnings. Military Plaza, established back in 1722, was a parade ground and market for Spanish soldiers. Settlers from the Canary Islands then founded the civic centre – the first civilian Spanish settlement in Texas in 1731.

Main Plaza was settled by Canarian families with their Spanish colonial-styled homes. Both plazas were ringed by small residences, and they played silent witness to daily business and social gatherings as well as battles throughout the 18th century. The post-Civil War boom replaced the buildings with governmental buildings.

After the turn of the millennium in 2007, the city closed some portions of the main streets at Main Plaza’s east and west sides. An urban park was built over it which you can see today, restoring it as a central public space and gathering spot for San Antonians and visitors to enjoy.

What are the highlights and features of Main Plaza?

You can see many of the architectural styles around Main Plaza which went through changes in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some exemplify San Antonio's growth and diversity over 2 centuries. Many buildings also bear their original facades that can help you figure how it was in their early days.

Among the best examples is the Spanish Governor's Palace. Another is the Melchoir de la Garza House – the only remaining example of a colonial home that once dotted the plazas. Of course, there’s the landmark San Fernando Cathedral as well as the Italian Renaissance Revival City Hall.

The cathedral in particular is among the oldest in the United States. Its original colonial-era church had its neo-Gothic addition enlarged by the mid-to-late 19th century. You can find the statue of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego in the cathedral’s western part.

Today, you can get a glimpse of San Antonio's rich history through the spectacular video art installation known as San Antonio – The Saga. The captivating video sequence is projected onto the facade of San Fernando Cathedral 4 nights a week. It’s a free show with food trucks available.

photo by Paul Sableman (CC BY 2.0) modified

Good to know about Main Plaza in San Antonio

On your visit to San Antonio’s Main Plaza, you can set out on a fun ‘treasure hunt’ on your walking tours. Try to find all the 30 pavers embedded into the plaza’s floor that each mark a historical event.

One particular paver marked the end of the long war with the Apache nation and the establishment of peace. In a grand ceremony, various items that were deemed as instruments of war, including a live horse, were buried under it.

The San Antonio – The Saga light show is held on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9.30 pm. Seating is available for you to comfortably enjoy the 20-minute-long narrated sequences.

photo by grantlairdjr (CC BY 2.0) modified

Main Plaza in San Antonio

Location: San Antonio, TX 78205, USA

Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller