Part church, part museum, the Carmel Mission is a US National Historic Landmark in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It draws visitors who are interested in Spanish colonial history and architecture, religious pilgrims who come to worship, and those those who simply stop by while passing through Carmel.
The centerpiece of the Carmel Mission, officially known as Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo, is its basilica church, which features its original bell tower, Spanish colonial liturgical art, arched ceilings, and 30-foot (9-meter) altarpieces. Some day trips from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel include a stop at the mission, or at least the option to go if you’re interested, but if you want time to make the most of your visit, head to the mission on your own.
The courtyard and gardens provide a peaceful spot to stroll or sit down, while the mission’s four museum spaces—the Harry Downie Museum, Munrás Family Heritage Museum, Jo Mora Chapel Gallery, and the Convento Museum—are home to artwork and displays about the history of the area and the mission’s restoration, which began in 1884 and is still going on today.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Carmel Mission is an active church with mass services, weddings, funerals, and other events that may limit your access to the basilica.
The courtyards and basilica are wheelchair accessible.
There is an admission fee to visit the basilica and museum; children 6 years and under are free.
How to Get There
The mission is located at the southern end of Carmel, less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) off State Route 1. For public transportation, take the Carmel Valley Grapevine Express, part of Monterey-Salinas Transit.
When to Get There
The mission and museum store are open every day, except some holidays (call ahead to find out holiday hours). Avoid visiting during mass on Saturday evenings and several times on Sunday, if you want to be able to explore the basilica.
You might not think of shopping at a church, but the Carmel Mission Museum Store sells jewelry, books, home items, food items, and more that make unexpected gifts or souvenirs. Proceeds go toward the upkeep of the mission. Religious items, such as bibles and rosaries, are also available.