Santana Row: A Taste of Europe in San Jose

Growing up in Cupertino/San Jose, there wasn’t much to do. As a teenager, the only places we could really “hang out” in the ‘burbs were boba tea spots, the mall, and parks. Not the most interesting of places, I’ll admit. Then, in 2002, it all changed. Santana Row in San Jose opened.

Dubbed “a village within a city,” the architects of Santana Row took inspiration from Europe, with its cobblestone streets, plethora of outdoor seating, and fountains. It’s the perfect escape from the everyday mundane of the suburbs. Not only is it a luxury outdoor mall, featuring stores like Gucci, Tesla, Urban Outfitters, and Madewell, it has a large variety of restaurants to suit all taste palates. And of course, not only is it fun during the day, it also has a pretty bumpin’ night life, with several bars and lounges open late into the evening. Also conveniently located on the center of the row is Hotel Valencia, which means you can just head upstairs after late night out and pass out on the bed ;).

To celebrate its 15 year anniversary (that makes me feel old), I’m sharing some of my favorite must-try spots in Santana Row. Whether you have some out-of-towners visiting or just want to enjoy a nice day outdoors, there’s something for you at Santana Row! (Also to note, it’s very family friendly and dog friendly)

To Eat

Tacolicious is a MUST when in Santana Row. Though there are three locations in San Francisco, I still haven’t had Tacolicious in the seven years I’ve lived in the city. Only when it opened in San Jose did I finally have the chance to try it. Mainly because the wait in the city has been so long, but we were able to (finally) snag a seat in the Santana Row location. And boy, was it worth the wait.

Must-try’s include the queso (I literally couldn’t get enough), the horchata coffee, albondigas, brussel sprouts, and of course, the tacos! My favorite tacos include the fried calamari and chorizo tacos. Then, top it off with their classic churros con chocolate— you can’t go wrong.

Pizza Antica is also another popular spot, and for good reason. They offer classic Italian food with a Californian twist and New York-style ambiance. It is a super popular place, so I’d recommend trying to go at an off-time.

While you can’t go wrong with pizza here, there are a few hidden gems. Start off with the warm brussels sprouts salad (I know, I know, again), and definitely give the fried chicken a try. The chicken has a perfectly crispy skin, juicy inside, and spicy honey drizzled all over it. Drool.

I am also SUPER excited to try EMC Seafood & Raw Bar when it opens in the summer! Other notable eats in the Row include The Counter, Yard House, Consuelo, and Smitten Ice Cream.

To Stay

For lodging, Santana Row offers a few different options. You can stay at Hotel Valencia, or you can LIVE at The Row! Imagine living in a piece of Europe, but in San Jose! There are a few different options, and they also offer short term leases (as short as three months). I can see this being a great option for people coming here to work for a few months and want to maximize their Californian experience as much as they can. I took a tour of some of their apartments as I was always curious to see what they’re like.

Like Santana Row, they are elegant but understated, and provide the comforts of a home and the amenities of a luxury hotel. Check out that rooftop lounge area!

Bonus! If you live in Santana Row, you get discounts at most, if not all, the shops downstairs!

To Do

SO. MUCH. SHOPPING. It’s dangerous really. Be prepared to spend a lot of time perusing everything The Row has to offer. However, below are a few of my favorites.

Maker’s Market

Maker’s Market originally started up as a pop-up store in San Francisco and now has its own store in Santana Row. Shop all the carefully curated, American-made goods sourced from local makers. It’s definitely the spot to go when you’re looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift for a friend or for yourself!


Whenever I see Aēsop at a hotel or even a restaurant, I immediately get excited to wash my hands. How nerdy, right?! Hailing from our friends in Melbourne, this skincare brand sources the highest quality ingredients to ensure that your skin gets the best treatments out there. What I love about Aēsop is their attention to detail and the care that goes into everything they do, from skincare to service to the design of their stores.

That copper wall installation is amazing! All Aēsop stores are designed differently, and worth a visit even if you’ve been to Aēsop before. They make shopping there a truly peaceful and enjoyable experience.

Dry Bar

In the mood to treat yo’self? Schedule a blow out at Dry Bar to make sure your look is on point before a night out on The Row.

Other go-to stores include Kit & Ace, Madewell, Lululemon, Urban Outfitters, and there’s even a Warby Parker!

Santana Row
377 Santana Row
San Jose, CA 95128

What are your other favorite spots in the South Bay? Let us know in the comments below!


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