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Exploring the Historic Sonoma, California

The small town of Sonoma one hour north of San Francisco is the center of the wine-growing valley with the same name. Sonoma’s main attractions are its many wineries and the pretty, historic Sonoma Plaza.

This post is a small photo gallery of the historic Spanish-style town of Sonoma, California.

Sonoma town center, California

The historic town of Sonoma in north California

About Sonoma’s History

It all started when Sonoma Mission fathers came to the area and planted their first vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. That was around the year 1824. Now, years and years later the whole Sonoma Valley area is world-famous for its wine production. Sonoma Valley has become a trendy area for wine tourism.

In addition the small town of Sonoma has always been a popular destination for different kinds of travelers. First came the missionaries, then the gold seekers and now the wine lovers.

For this reason this tiny town has already for centuries offered a choice of hotels, dining options and small shops. All that was needed by the gold seekers who traveled to and from the gold fields nearby.

So I wish you welcome to the historic Sonoma!

The Historic Sonoma on the Map


Sonoma Valley and the historic town of Sonoma on the map

The map shows where the Sonoma Valley win-growing region and the historic town of Sonoma are located. Zoom in the map to get the exact location of the historic Sonoma.

Sonoma Mission

Sonoma Mission

Sonoma Mission, one of the many missions of California

Let’s go and see the town squarre, Sonoma Plaza. On the north side of it is the Sonoma Mission, or Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma as the official name says. The mission got its name from a saint.

Actually there is not much left of the original mission which was a huge complex. The upper photo shows the mission’s remaining whitewashed facade and the photo below shows the only other building that still remains.

At the time Sonoma Mission was built California was under Mexican rule and the Spanish were colonizing the area. That’s why the mission like many other Californian buildings has a Mexican look.

Sonoma Mission buildings

Sonoma Mission side buildings

The mission in Sonoma belongs to a chain of 21 missions built  in California in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The mission chain begins in San Diego in the south and ends with the Mission in Sonoma in the north. The 21 missions form a chain at intervals of a day trip on horseback. The ancient route has a name too, El Camino Real. 

El Camino Real almost exactly follows the San Andreas Fault earthquake line that has caused California’s big earthquakes. Wonder why they wanted to walk on the earthquake line and not somewhere else?

Sonoma town center, California

Sonoma town center, California

Historic Sonoma Buildings: the Blue Wings Inn

In front of the mission runs one of the main streets, Spain Street. Above and below you can see some photos of the many historic buildings in Spain Street.

There are some eateries as well and the traditional, old Blue Wings Inn that your can see here:

Sonoma historic house with balconies

Historic Sonoma: the old Blue Wings Inn building

The Blue Wing Inn was the first hotel that was built north of San Francisco. It gave shelter and accommodation for miners on their way to goldfields and back.

Today the Blue Wing Inn is no more a hotel but instead a remarkable part of the Sonoma State Historic Park.

Restaurants and Shops

Dining in Sonoma, California

A Sonoma restaurant

This blue and white building is right opposite Sonoma Mission. It is a Restaurant, La Casa. A Mexican restaurant in a Mexican house.

Sonoma center street corner

Mexican restaurant in a Mexican house

This old building in the corner of the historic plaza contains much of what is needed in a town: a bar, chocolate shop, wine shop, gallery – and of course an ice cream shop.

Historic Sonoma Plaza, California

The historic Sonoma Plaza, California

Below some more street views of the historic town of Sonoma:


City Hall and Theatre

And then, in the middle of the Plaza stands the City Hall, built to have four identical facades so that merchants on all sides could equally well see it. The City Hall is surrounded by a big grassy town square.

This again is the Sebastiani Theatre on the east side of the Plaza. Today it serves as a beautiful cinema with tasting rooms and bars on both sides. Otherwise the Sonoma Plaza is lined by wine cellars where you can taste local wines from different wineries.

Sebastiani Theatre in the historic Sonoma

Sebastiani Theatre in the historic center of Sonoma

And, to end my Sonoma Plaza photo tour, I still want to show the beautiful grey Griffith Block building dating back to 1921. Like the theater, the Griffith building too is located on the south side of the Plaza. It looks so gorgeous, particularly at sunset:

Sonoma evening view

Sonoma sunset

This was my small photo gallery of the beautiful buildings on the historic Sonoma Plaza, California.

More about Sonoma

The town of Sonoma is a good base for touring the beautiful Sonoma Valley and the equally pretty Napa Valley next to it.

Links for more information on Sonoma:

Read about Napa Valley

If you are planning to visit Napa Valley as well, check out my post on our Napa Valley Day Trip from San Francisco.

More on North California Travel

San Francisco day trips:

Explore San Fransisco:

My all posts on California can be found on the California category page.


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