San Jose (California)

An aerial view of downtown San Jose

Often known as "The Capital of Silicon Valley," San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, 3rd largest in California, and the 10th largest city in the United States. It was named the 4th safest big city in the US for 2008–2009. This clean, sprawling metropolis has sports, beautiful vistas, ethnic enclaves, and bleeds into the greater Bay Area for travelers who want to take their time in Northern California.


El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (literally, The Town of Saint Joseph of Guadalupe) was founded by José Joaquín Moraga in 1777 near the present day intersection of Guadalupe Parkway and West Taylor Street. In 1797, the pueblo was moved to the Plaza Pueblo (now Plaza de César Chávez), around which San Jose grew. And the rest is, as they say, history.

True to its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is now home to the headquarters of many "tech" companies such as Cisco Systems, eBay, and Adobe Systems, just to name a few.

There are so many different neighborhoods in the large geographic area of San Jose that, depending on where you are, you might not know if you're still in the same city. Like most Bay Area towns and cities, San Jose is an expensive place to live (many basic houses easily top $1M in price). Some of the hip areas to live these days are in San Jose's downtown area, for those who prefer urban living, or Santana Row for a mixed living, shopping and dining community. You can find vintage California charm in the neighborhoods of Willow Glen and Rose Garden. The woodsy area of Almaden Valley is known for its excellent schools, and Silver Creek is known for its subdivisions of sprawling "McMansions." Evergreen is in East San Jose, right at the foothills of the city. Evergreen has some more affordable housing and is very residential. Since it is at the foothills, east San Jose is not as accessible as the other neighborhoods. Evergreen has excellent views of the foothills and many parks and recreational areas. Groseprick Park is located right in the heart of Evergreen and offers a mile long loop, basketball courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, and hiking trails.

Get in

People who ask, "Do you know the way to San Jose?" (in reference to the 1968 hit song recorded by Dionne Warwick) will be glared at.

By plane

San Jose is home to one of the Bay Area's three international airports. The Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (IATA: SJC) is located about 2 miles northwest of the downtown area. There are direct flights from many US destinations into SJC.

The two other options are San Francisco International Airport (IATA: SFO), located 35 miles northwest of San Jose off US Route 101 on the peninsula, or Oakland International Airport (IATA: OAK), which is 35 miles north off I-880 in the East Bay.

From SJC to Downtown

From SFO to Downtown

From OAK to Downtown

By train

San Jose has three commuter rail lines:

All the above rail lines stop at Diridon Station, San Jose's central train station. It is located downtown, at 65 Cahill Street, just across West Santa Clara Street from the SAP Center (also known as the Shark Tank).

Capitol and Tamien stations serve the southern part of the city.

By bus

Amtrak California runs a bus from Gilroy, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. Santa Cruz Metro provides a bus line (Highway 17 Express) to and from Santa Cruz. Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) runs bus lines (Routes 180 and 181) to Fremont and its BART station. These services leave from Diridon Station, although VTA Routes 180, 181 and the Highway 17 Express also serve Downtown San Jose directly. Greyhound runs from San Jose to several destinations. The Greyhound station is at Almaden Avenue and Post Street (70 S Almaden Avenue, not to be confused with Almaden Boulevard one block parallel).

By car

San Jose is connected to San Francisco by two major freeways, US-101 and Interstate 280. From Los Angeles, take I-5 North to CA-152 West to US-101 North. From the East Bay, use either I-880 or I-680 South.

Travel time from San Francisco and Oakland is about an hour, but the trip is much longer during rush hour on US-101 and Interstate 880. Taking Interstate 280 from San Francisco is a scenic alternative, and consider a detour westward on Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay and the coastal Highway 1, which leads north to San Francisco and south to Santa Cruz. From Santa Cruz, take Highway 17 through the mountains.

Get around

On foot

The downtown area is compact and rather easy to get around on foot. Most of the streets are arranged in a grid, but the grid is not strictly aligned with north (more like north–northwest). Street address numbers increase (by 100 every 2 or 3 blocks) radiating from Santa Clara Street (an east/west street) or First Street (a north/south street). Furthermore, Santa Clara Street (and other east/west streets) carry the prefix East or West radiating from First Street; and First Street (and other north/south streets) carry the prefix North or South radiating from Santa Clara Street. This makes it somewhat easy to locate a downtown facility given its street address.

Downtown Willow Glen, Campbell and Japantown are also easy to navigate on foot. Going from one neighborhood to the other on foot is not easily feasible except for some neighborhoods directly adjacent to Downtown (such as Japantown and the Alameda area).

By car

Outside downtown, things are spread out in San Jose, so a car is the most convenient mode of transportation. Interstate 280 is the fastest route East–West, for example from the Valley Fair Mall or Santana Row, to the West, to Downtown, or from Downtown to Alum Rock Park. California 87 (to and from the airport) and Interstate 280/California 17 (from Rose Garden to Campbell and vice versa) offers fast North-South travel.

Public transit

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, VTA, does offer serviceable transit around town. The frequency and hours of buses vary depending on the route and your location, so it's best to check a schedule beforehand. The Light Rail system (primarily the Mountain View-Winchester route and the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa route) provides quick service to, from and around downtown; a single fare, $2 for 2014, is good for 2 hours.

It's a trolley, it's a train... it's Light Rail!

A VTA day pass lets you use buses and Light Rail lines all day and costs $6 for an adult, and $5 for a youth as of 2014. VTA Route #10 serves as a free shuttle between the SJC airport, Caltrain Santa Clara Station, and Light Rail – Metro/Airport Station. DASH (Downtown Area SHuttle), VTA Route #201, another free service connects downtown San Jose and the Light Rail with the San Jose Diridon Transit Center.

The website is a wonderful resource for trip planning, whether by car or public transit (or a combination of both). Its Trip Planner spans all Bay Area transit systems. On the go, you can call VTA Customer Service at +1 408 321-2300 and listen to bus schedules on their automated system.

By bike

Many roads in San Jose have designated bike lanes and/or wide shoulders. A map of the city's bikeways is available on VTA's website. This, along with typically favorable local weather, makes biking a viable means of transportation within the city. Bus lines, Light Rail and Caltrain all accommodate bikes, making mixed-mode travel a simple affair.

There are a limited but growing number of Bay Area Bike Share stations around Downtown and Japantown (but, as of 2014, not in other neighborhoods) which allow anyone to rent city bikes for 30 minutes (time above that costs extra). As of 2014, a 24 hours pass costs $9 while a 3 day pass costs $22. If you are staying longer than 10 days, an annual pass, at $88, might make financial sense.



Downtown San Jose is a mix of offices, shopping, hotels, numerous restaurants as well as a convention center and the SoFA (South of First Area) nightclub district. Check out the San Pedro Square Farmer's Market on Fridays for local and organic produce, or visit the new City Hall (2005) and the nearby San Jose State University campus. The new main Library (2003) is a prestigious, award-winning, joint-use Library combining resources of the City and San Jose State University. Get outdoors and take advantage of San Jose's invariably sunny weather on the Guadalupe River Trail or in one of the many city parks. You'll always find a wealth of cultural events at theaters, art galleries, and museums.

Check out contemporary West Coast artists at the San Jose Museum of Art
This self-cleaning automatic toilet, at the corner of S Market & W Santa Clara Streets, is free and a welcome conveniece for pedestrians.

Outside Downtown


San Jose has two major professional sports teams, some fantastic amusement parks and a variety of theater and comedy venues to entertain you throughout the year. The city also hosts a colorful array of festivals and conventions and offers plenty of shopping options.

You're on their ice when the San Jose sharkhead is lowered from the ceiling of the arena, affectionately known as "The Shark Tank."



Amusement parks


Performing arts









One of many taquerias on First Street in San Jose


With the second-largest Vietnamese-American community living in San Jose, Vietnamese restaurants have proliferated here in the past few decades. Vietnamese cuisine features fresh herbs, often added to the meal at the table. The signature dish of Vietnamese cuisine is phở, a beef soup with rice noodles, usually with a choice of cuts of meat available. Bánh mì (sandwiches), noodle bowls, and rice plates are also common choices.


Try some sushi in San Jose's Japantown.


In addition to the several Korean restaurants in San Jose, numerous Korean restaurants are concentrated in the "Koreatown" neighborhood on El Camino Real in neighboring Santa Clara.





East African and Middle eastern


Nightlife in the Downtown area is a mix of lounges, clubs, and bars which, according to locals, have either greatly improved the scene or marked the beginning of its decline. Santana Row has a number of upscale clubs and bars and has been the new hotspot since 2005.

Think outside the olive! Choose from oodles of creative martinis at the Fairmont's Lobby Lounge.


Hotels in Downtown

Hotels outside Downtown




Go next

Just east of the city lies Alum Rock Park, a canyon through which Penitencia Creek flows, which is lined by sulfurous mineral springs and several small waterfalls. Above the park stands Mount Hamilton, one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area at 4,213 feet. The telescopes of Lick Observatory, operated by the University of California, crown the summit and are open to the public during daytime hours.

Other places to see in San Jose's backyard are the Scenic Drive in Saratoga Hills, the quaint and classy town of Los Gatos, and Mission Santa Clara at Santa Clara University. Palo Alto and Stanford University are about half an hour's drive to the north. About 45 minutes northeast, you can visit Fremont's Mission San Jose and the Ardenwood Historic Farm.

Less than an hour away over the scenic Santa Cruz Mountains, the small coastal city of Santa Cruz is a nice day trip out San Jose. Spend the day enjoying the beaches and Boardwalk, or make it the first stop on a longer coastal drive. From Santa Cruz, you can take Route 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) south to Capitola, Monterey, and the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The Pacific Coast Highway is a nationally famous highway. It goes along the whole coast of California giving off spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Many movies have shown this highway in scenes that take place in California, and it is also a main tourist attraction to drive along the coast. Route 1 can take you up to Pacifica which is about 30 minutes north of San Jose. Pacifica is an ocean side residential town that has affordable housing and sit's on hills that overlook the Pacific. The beach here is typical to the Bay Area and has a very rough current.

Less than an hour away is Half Moon Bay beach. This beach sits on the bottom of cliffs with a very rough current. During most the summer months the water is closed to swimmers because of rip tides and massive waves. The Pacific ocean is typically cold and in half moon bay this is still very true. The sunsets here have been know to lure in travelers and those wanting to rent beach houses. Since Half Moon Bay sits on cliffs, the sunset goes down over the water and seems to create perfect scenery.

Only about an hour and fifteen minutes north, taking highway 101, is the city of San Francisco. San Francisco is the heart of the Bay Area and is the proud owner of the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco has may neighborhoods with all kinds of restaurants, shopping, parks, beaches, and views of the bridge.

The rolling hills of San Jose surround the city creating a valley. See the top of these hills by driving into East San Jose. The houses on the hills are spread out and ranch from ranches, farms, and even mansions. These houses can be seen from the valley and the picturesque drive leads to the top of the hills where you can see the entire landscape of San Jose. On the Fourth of July, many San Jose natives come up to the hills to watch the spectacular firework show over the city.

Routes through San Jose

San Francisco Cupertino  N  S  END
Concord Milpitas  N  S  END
Oakland Milpitas  N  S  Becomes
San Francisco Santa Clara  NW  SE  Morgan Hill Salinas
Becomes  N  S  Campbell Santa Cruz
Mountain View Los Gatos  N  S  END
Oakland Santa Clara  N  S  END

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.