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, visitors 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
Enjoy 360-degree views of the Santa Barbara skyline atop the famed Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower, now open and accessible to the public. Tour the iconic mural room during your visit, which highlights Santa Barbara’s rich past and roots in Chumash, Spanish, Mexican and immigrant cultures.
Free one-hour tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10:30 a.m and 2:00 p.m. and weekends and court holidays (except Christmas) at 2:00pm with no reservations required. Tours begin in the beautiful Mural Room on the second floor where a trained docent will guide visitors through the building and gardens highlighting the history of the landmark with a focus on the artisans, architects and community leaders who brought it to life.
Special group tours and guided group visits to the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery are also available by reservation. For more information about Special Tours, email [email protected], and for the Clock Gallery, email [email protected] Visitors are subject to security screening at entrances. Please visit the Docent Council website for additional details.
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.
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 an elevator.
Don’t forget to look up when touring the various rooms of the Courthouse! 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.
Visitors can also get an inside look at the Clock Tower in the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery. Climb the tower stairs to see the mechanisms of the huge clock, installed in 1929, still ticking. Surrounding the clock is an impressive 60-foot mural depicting the history of timekeeping.
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a working courthouse. Be prepared to go through a security checkpoint prior to entering. Please note that selfie sticks are prohibited.