The San Diego missions are the best places to explore San Diego's history, including its Spanish, Indian and Mexican heritage. In 1769, Spanish missionaries built the first permanent settlement including San Diego Mission, near where Old Town San Diego and Presidio Park are currently located. The Mission San Diego was the first non-Indian settlement in California. Led by Father Junipero Serra, the missionaries went on to establish eight more missions along the California coast.
The Junipero Serra Museum is located in Presidio Park at 2727 Presidio Drive and contains historic artifacts and information about Father Junipero Serra, early San Diego history and the San Diego Mission.
Five years later, in 1774, the missionaries built a smaller mission in Mission Valley. Located at 10818 San Diego Mission Road, Mission San Diego de Alcala was named in honor of Saint Didacus of Alcala.
The largest of California's 21 missions is Mission San Luis Rey, founded in 1798 by Father Fermin Lasuen. Located at 4050 Mission Avenue in Oceanside, the "King of the Missions" was once home to approximately 3,000 Indians. Today, Mission San Luis Rey is still used as a seminary and church.