We’ve all been there: Someone’s trying to give you directions by describing 10 lefts, 20 rights, and a jumble of cardinal directions. Isn’t it easier to just point out a landmark?
That’s exactly what we’re doing. We have 15 of the most recognizable San Jose landmarks — from the Winchester Mystery House to the oldest building in San Jose. Not only are these local icons easy to remember, but they’ll also get you where you need to go in a jiffy.
Address: 200 E. Santa Clara St.
Nearby: San Jose State University, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
The giant, glass dome was not always our city’s civic center. This building is actually the third City Hall that San Jose has seen, with the first being built in 1893. The second was built in 1958, and the current one has sat on Santa Clara Street since 2005.
Children’s Discovery Museum
Address: 180 Woz Way
Nearby: Monopoly in the Park, San Jose McEnery Convention Center
Incorporated as a 501(c) tax-exempt organization in 1983, this museum officially opened in the summer of 1990. It serves 400,000+ visitors each year and hosts a multitude of events and exhibits for the community to enjoy.
Address: 525 W. Santa Clara St.
Nearby: San Jose Diridon Station, Arena Green West
Since opening in 1993, the SAP — better known as “The Tank” to Sharks fans — has welcomed more than 35 million visitors. The push for a downtown indoor arena began in the mid-1980s, and by a slim margin, San Jose residents voted to allocate tax dollars to building the SAP. It is now one of the main entertainment hubs in San Jose, hosting sporting events, concerts, an indoor football team, and more.
San Jose Museum of Art
Address: 110 S. Market St.
Nearby: Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Signia by Hilton Hotel, Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
The original building this museum lives in was actually the first federal building in San Jose. Built in 1892, this Romanesque-style building was the town’s post office. Now, SJMA stakes claim in the middle of downtown, hosting 9-12 new exhibits each year + First Friday events every month.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Address: 1660 Park Ave.
Nearby: Historic Hoover Theatre, Park Station Hashery
The museum got its start in 1928, when Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC) founder Harvey Spencer Lewis presented a collection of artifacts to the public at the San Jose AMORC building. With more than 4,000 artifacts, the Rosicrucian continues to house the largest collection of authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts on display in Western North America.
SJSU Tower Hall
Address: 1 Washington Sq.
Nearby: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Provident Credit Union Event Center
Built in 1910, the tower — sitting in the center of the university — is the oldest building on the campus. It was designated a historic landmark in 1949, and currently operates as an auditorium and lecture hall.
Winchester Mystery House
Address: 525 S. Winchester Blvd.
Nearby: Santana Row, Valley Fair Mall
One of the most well known landmarks in San Jose, and definitely one of the quirkiest. Sarah Winchester’s architectural wonder contains dizzying hallways, cramped, sloping stairwells, and more than a few lingering questions.
Address: 1123 Coleman Ave.
Nearby: SJ Mineta Airport, Santa Clara University
Home to the San Jose Earthquakes, this local stadium officially opened in 2015. With the largest outdoor bar in North America, the stadium also holds the record for largest soccer lesson.
San Jose Civic
Address: 135 W. San Carlos St.
Nearby: Montgomery Theater, San Jose Marriott, Plaza de Cesar Chavez
This Spanish California Mission-style building originally opened in 1936 as San Jose’s premier entertainment destination. After an $11 million dollar renovation in 2012, the venue reopened + has remained a stalwart part of San Jose’s entertainment scene.
Municipal Rose Garden
Address: 1649 Naglee Ave.
Nearby: Hester Park, Abraham Lincoln High School, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
A popular spot for San Joseans to tie the knot since 1937, the Santa Clara County Rose Society lobbied the city to set aside the land for public use. The garden’s many iconic features —including the fountain + reflection pool — were donated by community members.
Five Wounds Portuguese National Parish
Address: 1375 E. Santa Clara St.
Nearby: Roosevelt Park
Built from the remains of the Portuguese Pavilion in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition building in San Francisco, the parish was dedicated in 1914. It officially opened in 1919, with strong roots in San Jose’s Little Portugal neighborhood.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
Address: 150 E. San Fernando St.
Nearby: Park SJ Fourth Street Garage, SJSU Hal Todd Studio Theater
Housing both the San Jose State University library and San Jose Public Library’s main branch, this center has a history as long and storied as the university itself. While the current building was constructed in 2003, the contents date back to the institution’s founding in 1862.
Mexican Heritage Plaza
Address: 1700 Alum Rock Ave.
Nearby: Teatro Vision, Mariscos La Costa
Before this cultural hub staked its claim on Alum Rock Avenue, this site was formerly a Safeway grocery store. It was that exact store that César Chavez held one of his first strikes to boycott the poor pay and working conditions faced by grape growers. Today, you can walk through its peaceful garden, catch a show at the School of Arts and Culture, and learn more about local Chicano culture.
Address: 3636 Gurdwara Ave.
A recent addition to landmarks in San Jose, the Gurdwara was founded in 1984 to support the growing South Bay Sikh community. Within a decade, the organization had purchased the surrounding property to build up the domes, with plans to continue improving the space over time.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
Address: 80 S. Market St.
Nearby: San Jose Museum of Art, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Mezcal
Originally built on the corner of San Fernando + Market streets in 1803, this Basilica was rebuilt and restored in its current location in 1875, and received basilica status from the Vatican in 1997.
The Peralta Adobe
Address: 175 W. Saint John St.
Nearby: San Pedro Square, Plaza de Cesar Chavez
The oldest remaining structure in San Jose, this house dates back to El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe, which was the first municipal government in California. The adobe was built in 1797 by José Manuel Gonzalez, the first resident + second mayor of what would later become San Jose.
What did we miss? If you know a landmark that’s not on the list, let us know.