San Diego

What do to in San Diego, California

SAN DIEGO: AS CALIFORNIAN AS IT GETS

Here’s a list to help planning your San Diego visit: all the tourist sites not to be missed as well as the beautiful places to recharge your batteries.

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter
The best known area of the city is definitely the Gaslamp Quarter, a historical district in Downtown San Diego with bars and nightlife venues.
The restaurants and bars are already pretty busy at 6 pm-ish, which would be the best time to sit at a restaurant’s patio, try one of the local beers and watch the streets of the famous Gaslamp Quarter change into a busy nightlife district.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park with gardens, museums, walking paths, cafés and tourist shops (don’t miss visiting Balboa Park’s Botanical Building, and have a look inside).

Hotel del Coronado

The Del (Hotel del Coronado)
The Hotel del Coronado is probably the most popular and most photographed spot in the area. Nicknamed “The Del”, the iconic Victorian-style beachfront hotel was built in 1888 and is even a National Historic Landmark.
The hotel with its unique architecture is far from being just another apartment tower hotel you find in all the touristy places around the world. The building is full of nooks and crannies and little towers.
Take a walk along the beach behind the hotel Del (marvel at the hotel’s beautiful façade) and have a look inside to see the famous lobby.

Coronado

Coronado
The resort city itself is already worth a visit, not to mention the bridge which takes you there: The Coronado Bridge links San Diego with Coronado and offers the best skyline views on the city. It is 3.4 km/2.1 mi long, so you can really enjoy the view.
The real California feel – apart from the beach and the palm trees – you can soak in by just taking a stroll through the quiet town of Coronado. We Europeans will be amazed by the very wide roads (self-driving cars make sense here in California, but try to imagine one in the narrow streets of an old town in Italy…), but particularly by all the charming, individually designed houses – from the big estates to the cute little beach cottages. You will find the most beautifully decorated front porches there and start picking your very own dream house, only to find a cuter house around the next corner. Walking through Coronado is definitely like browsing Pinterest: you will come home with the best new gardening and decoration ideas.

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach
If you love palm trees and beaches and surfing, California is the place to go. If you also want GLITTERY WHITE SAND and GOLDEN GLITTER IN THE OCEAN – come to Coronado Beach. No kidding, the sand here really does sparkle like gold! ♥
Take a surf lesson, bring your bodyboard, or just stroll along the beach promenade.

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church in Coronado
If you’re Catholic (or if you’re interested in a Catholic church service), visit the church on the park, Coronado’s Sacred Heart church. Very simple – for Catholic standards – interior, but impressively beautiful from the outside; a great photo opportunity especially with the sunshiny and blue sky background.
Their Sunday mass times are 9 & 11 am (as of Oct. 2017); I really loved pastor Rev. Murphy’s sermon when I visited.
As Catholic churches are usually open during the day, you also can also just pop in…and maybe light an (electric!) candle for someone.

Point Loma

Point Loma
The best view of downtown San Diego, San Diego Bay, Coronado (including Hotel del Coronado), and the Pacific Ocean, you can catch from the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula.
Here you find the Cabrillo National Monument as well as the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (climb up the tower and learn a bit about the lighthouse keepers’ lives back then).
Note that the area is a national park and they charge a fee ($10 when we visited, as of Oct. 2017). A good starting point to explore Point Loma is the Visitor Center (free wifi!) – the lighthouse and monument are only short walks away.
If you plan spending a little more time here, there is also a little bayside hiking trail (about 3 km/1.9 mi).

St. Rose of Lima

St. Rose of Lima, Chula Vista
Another beautiful church façade not to be missed: The catholic St. Rose of Lima church in Chula Vista.

Fashion Valley Mall

Fashion Valley Mall
If you want to shop till you drop, you definitely need to check out Fashion Valley Mall – if you REALLY want to shop, plan a day there. There are really that many shops! This open-air shopping mall in Mission Valley is the largest mall in San Diego.
There is a True Food Kitchen restaurant with very tasty vegan options available for shopping breaks (Side note: I expected vegan heaven in San Diego, just like it is in L.A., but I was pretty disappointed. You really have to search for vegan options and not even organic food is very common. That’s at least my impression, if you’re a local or have any vegan tipps, I am grateful for your comments.) But back to shopping paradise – Fashion Valley has pretty much every store you want: J.Crew, Banana Republic, 7 fam, Kate Spade, Francesca’s, Lululemon, Victoria’s Secret, Apple Store, Aveda, Sur La Table… ❤ And it’s America, they have discounts all the time…plus great service. Enjoy the fashion galore!

Enjoy your time in San Diego! Please leave a comment if you have more to add.

My guidebook recommendations for San Diego and California:

This post is also available in French and German. //
Ce post est également disponible en français. // Diesen Post gibt’s auch auf Deutsch.

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