Situated on a series of hills sloping gently towards the Pacific, and flanked by the steep Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara boasts both an enviable, idyllic setting and Mediterranean climate. Many of the city's permanent foundations began to take shape with the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1780s. The Santa Barbara Mission, often referred to as "the queen of the missions", was founded in 1786. In 1822 the city was taken over by Mexico, who forced secularisation on the area. This was short lived; in 1846 Santa Barbara fell to American soldiers, and two years later it was absorbed into the United States.
The city's population then doubled in the next decade, though it managed to retain a considerable amount of its pretty Spanish architecture. Even today, the red-tiled roofs and white stucco walls are apparent through much of Santa Barbara. With the discovery of oil just offshore, Santa Barbara remained wealthy and affluent from the late 19th century onwards, and today there are a number of appealing attractions to be seen.