I love these four for their graceful architecture and their fascinating stories. For example, many of the missions were originally chartered in East Texas, but that location proved to be too remote to supply easily, and the mission communities were vulnerable to attack. They remembered those lessons when they rebuilt along the San Antonio River. In order to support one another, they built each new mission within the sound of the bells of an established mission. That way they could call for help if needed. If you drive the mission route, you’ll notice even today that the mission churches are spaced evenly along the river.
All of the missions are unique and remarkably well preserved, and each highlights a different aspect of colonial Spanish life. Mission San Jose has a very interesting museum, including a 23-minute video presentation about the life of the Indians who lived in the missions. They also have a wonderful book and gift shop.
All of the missions are active church communities. They still celebrate mass on Sundays as well as occasional weddings, so please be quiet and considerate if you visit during worship times.