Historical Places to Check Out in San Jose

While San Jose is often associated with computer technology and Silicon Valley today, it has a surprisingly rich history, which started thousands of years before European settlers arrived in the late 18th-century. In 1770, Spanish explorers came to what’s now San Jose, and in 1777, the first white settlement in the state was established here, El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe as Lonely Planet’s ArrivalGuides notes.

History buffs who visit may even want to consider purchasing San Jose real estate to experience a slice of the state’s interesting past, but in the meantime, there are a number of places that can be explored with just a few days here.

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is one of the most popular attractions in the area. World-famous, it’s been featured in many travel and “most haunted” shows, as well as being the basis for the 2018 horror film Winchester. Construction on the massive Victorian mansion began in 1884, at the bequest of Winchester rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. The plans of William Winchester’s very wealthy widow were said to so grandiose that its construction took over the lives of carpenters and craftsmen for nearly 40 years until she died in 1922. It was filled with countless oddities, all left unexplained, eventually leading to its name today, the Winchester Mystery House.

The 160-room mansion wasn’t like any other homes during its time – it had sewer systems, gas lighting, modern heating, multiple working elevators, and nearly 50 fireplaces. The bizarre design of the house as well as rumors of ghosts that include Sarah herself, has attracted visitors from around the world, including quite a few paranormal experts. There are several tour options for those who want to explore it.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

For those fascinated by ancient history, Egyptian in particular,  San Jose is home to one of the best Egyptian museums in the country. It showcases the western United States’ most extensive collections of Egyptian treasures, with the grounds it sits on also featuring a temple, peace garden, planetarium and research library. Visitors can learn all about the lifestyles of ancient Egyptians, their culture, the gods and goddesses, as well as marvel at artifacts, art and discover pre-dynastic rituals. The highlight, of course, is the mummies. The underground tomb can be explored to learn about the funerary practices of these ancient people, housing more than 30 tombs, of few of which are open to the public.

The de Saisset Museum

Located at Santa Clara University just a few miles west of downtown, the de Saisset Museum is free to visit and features almost 10,000 historical artifacts and works of art, which includes the works of university alumnus and early California artist Ernest de Saisset. It opened when the last member of a pioneering French family, Isabel de Saisset, donated the family art collection and real estate for the purpose of establishing the museum and gallery. The donation included many of her personal items, such as jewels, silver, and tapestries. The museum has expanded significantly since the opening nearly 60 years ago, and now also features a wide range of California mission artifacts.

Peralta Adobe and Fallon House

The Peralta Adobe, built in 1797, is the last structure that remains from  El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe. It’s open to the public and includes two furnished rooms, as they were when occupied by the Peralta and Gonzales families, The magnificent Fallon House sits across the street, built in 1855 by one of the city’s early mayors. It contains 15 rooms that are fully furnished form the Victorian era with exhibits featuring Thomas and Carmel Fallon, the latter being a frontiersman in the famous John C. Fremont exhibition.