For a firsthand look at one of the country’s most beautiful public buildings, look no further than the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Designed in the Spanish-Colonial style and completed in 1929, the fully operational Courthouse is an iconic Santa Barbara landmark with its distinctive four-faced clock tower, red tile roofs, elegant arches and verdant sunken garden and grounds. Through the self-guided tours, you can get a visual history lesson from the elaborate hand-painted murals, marvel at ornate wrought-iron chandeliers and climb to the top of the clock tower for an incredible panoramic view of Santa Barbara and beyond.
Courthouse Hours and Free Tours
Due to COVID-19, the interior of the Courthouse is currently closed to the public and docent-led tours are currently unavailable. Self-guided tours are available of the exterior and you can digitally visit the Mural Room through this virtual tour, where you will learn more about the history, architecture and artists who created this iconic Santa Barbara centerpiece.
Tips for Your Visit
The Courthouse is located in downtown Santa Barbara, close to shopping, dining and other interesting cultural attractions. There is a parking lot conveniently located across from the Courthouse on Anacapa Street where the first 75 minutes are free.
Bring along a picnic to enjoy beneath the palms in the lovely and meticulously maintained sunken garden.
When open to the public, the Clock Tower closes a bit earlier than the rest of the complex at around 4:45 p.m., so be sure to plan for enough time to see it—the 360°-degree view of Santa Barbara is a can’t-miss. The top of the Tower is accessible by both stairs and elevator.
As you tour the various rooms of the Courthouse, don’t forget to look up! Gorgeous details are everywhere, including the ceiling in the Mural Room, which is just as intricately painted as the walls. In the Clock Gallery, the ceiling is decorated with the exact constellations from the night sky when Santa Barbara was named in 1602, complete with sparkling fiber optics.
If possible, plan to stop by when you can get a literal inside look at the Clock Tower in the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery. Climb the tower stairs to see the mechanism of the huge clock, installed in 1929 and is still ticking. Surrounding the clock is an impressive 60-foot mural depicting the history of timekeeping.