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The Most Beautiful Spanish Architecture in California to Look Out For

The Most Beautiful Spanish Architecture in California to Look Out For

Spanish architecture is a big part of the Golden State’s history. Let’s dive into the most beautiful buildings to look out for.

Natasha Kouyoumjian


5 min read

November 11, 2022

Wait a minute. Why are we talking about Spanish architecture in California? Well, everyone has a history – people, countries, even cities. Some kinds of history are visibly traceable, and in the case of California, there’s nothing more vivid than the Spanish Colonial Period. Alta California was steeped in Spanish culture and you can easily detect it through the architecture. Although some places were more impacted by the colonization, the vestiges are traceable throughout the entire expanse of California. Spanish architecture, also known as Mediterranean Revival architecture, is adored by many for its warm hues and accessorization of plants, being a large inspiration for home designs in sunny California. If you’re into discovering old architecture, or just amazed by the ability to literally witness history, you’re in for a treat. 

Let’s not beat around the bush, California is a big place. Northern, southern, central - lots to see and experience, and big decisions to make before you take the plunge. Different interests drive us to different places and we go wherever we believe will quench our thirst. And if your curiosity has led you here, get ready to embrace that tingling in your tummy.

Spanish architecture is most famous for its arcades – a series of arches.

Elements of spanish colonial revival architecture

Culture is a fascinating concept - embodied in food, language, hand gestures, body language, dances, traditions, and architecture - the list runs long. The way we see it, it's a unique amalgamation of elements coming together to form what we identify as culture. Similar to many other prominent cultures, Spanish culture carries a strong aroma. White stucco houses with curves and arches, painted tiles, and golden yellow doors, you’ll be able to point out Spanish architecture like the back of your hand. 

Shades are what govern Spanish design and architecture. With the tones and hues inspired by mother nature, the Spanish style is proudly characterized by not-so-subtle Earth tones. Terracotta roof tiles, tinges of deep brown, and perma-tanned flavors of the soil are what siphon those Mediterranean vibes. 

Whether newly built or dating back to ancient times, there are plenty of buildings inspired by the Spanish culture standing tall all around the Golden State. The Mediterranean Revival – or as modern engineers call it, the Spanish Colonial revival – has left significant marks, many of which are now tourist attractions. So if you’re looking to explore California’s coolest architecture, we’ve summed up the best ones for you!

Spanish Architecture Tourist Landmarks and Destinations

Also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel, the El Presidio Real is a National Historic Landmark, fully constructed of stone in the 1790’s.

El Presidio Real de Santa Barbara

Location: 123 E Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara

How did Santa Barbara get its Spanish accent? Influenced by colonial times, the white stucco houses and the red roof tiles in this city share the most vivid glance into Spanish colonial architecture in California. On your Santa Barbara getaway, be sure to check out the last mission ever made. Lush green gardens and double bell towers await at El Presidio Real de Santa Barbara - also referred to as the “Queen Mission”. Be sure to check out the Padre quarters and the chapel kitchen to sulk in the tangible history. If this doesn’t cover enough grounds for you to visit, we can think of 11 more reasons to visit Santa Barbara.

The terracotta tiles of Carmel Mission Basilica towers are a staple of Spanish architecture.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo

Locatoin: 3080 Rio Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea

If we’re talking about Southern California Missions, we cannot forget this gorgeous antique stationed in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Being the relic that it already is, this city’s architecture lifts visitors to cloud nine. And as if it needed any more reasons to attract visitors, the city is home to one of the most ancient Missions of the Spanish Colonial Period. The Carmel Mission Basilica is the ultimate presentation of the Spanish revival style. The mission is still a place of worship for its community, and a museum for visitors. Unlike other missions in California, this historic location charges a small entrance fee to tour the museum.

Casa de Balboa, is the dulce de leche of Spanish architecture, perfectly balancing golden hues and the incorporation of nature into its style.

Casa de Balboa

Location: 1549 El Prado, San Diego

Mi casa es su casa. And Casa de Balboa has been home to many things. If you’re looking for the best California Spanish revival architecture, this is it. Located in San Diego’s Balboa Park, this majestic formation was originally structured for the purpose of commerce and working industries. After being repurposed into many industrial grounds, this echo of Spanish architecture finally settled into an Art Conservation Center. If you’re ever in California's famous Balboa Park, you’ll find this remnant towering over…just about everything. 

One of the largest imprints of Spanish culture was on the city of Santa Barbara, where you can still enjoy the romance of Spanish architecture.

Neighborhoods Full of Spanish Architecture

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a lofty town boasting beaches, lakes, and hikes like sugar and spice and everything nice. But often, a city’s energy is a direct reflection of its architecture and history. So if you’re visiting this town, make sure not to overlook the finest neighborhoods adorned with gorgeous architecture which is a sheer reflection of the revival era. If you’re looking to discover, we’ve collected a list of the best of California’s Spanish revival architecture worth exploring. So recharge your batteries, and let’s hit the road!

In Glendale's Rossmoyne district, terracotta roof tiles and stucco white houses are a pure reflection of Spanish architecture in California.

Rossmoyne Historic District 

From downtown Glendale, drive north for about eight miles and you’ll wind up in this historic district. Touring Rossmoyne Avenue, you’ll get the absolute sense of the Spanish colonial vibes. Check out the eccentric colors on the doors of the houses accentuating the Spanish architecture. For the best starting point, try the corner of Mountain Street, and we recommend walking so you can enjoy a quiet stroll while fully taking in the awe-inspiring homes of the Glendale hills. From an architectural enthusiast’s POV, this will be a truly fascinating experience – an artistic renaissance of Mediterranean Revival architecture.

Spanish Revival style homes fit right into the California vibe considering how complementary they are to crystal blue pools.

Mid-Wilshire District

Neighboring downtown LA, six miles west, sits Mid-Wilshire district. Whether it's the famous Museum of Art – LACMA or the Peterson Automotive, this neighborhood encloses a vast variety of historic energy. Taking part in Spanish colonial history, Spanish architecture has found its way into the district and even into the hearts of the people. Walking down the San Vicente, Olympic, and La Cienega Boulevards, check out a series of houses with the coolest Mediterranean Revival aesthetics. Check out the patios and the balconies, leaving you romanticizing about how you’d make use of your palm-tree adorned Spanish-style home.

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