3) Castillo de San Marcos
Nothing in St Augustine survived the dastardly attacks of British freebooting pirates Francis Drake in 1586 and Robert Searle in 1668; only the stone-built Castillo de San Marcos escaped further destruction wrought by Carolina governor James Moore in 1702. Given its current fine state of preservation, it’s difficult to believe that the fortress was established back in 1672. Now operated by the National Park Service, docents in Spanish uniforms carry period muskets and fire cannons from the walls, while inside, there’s a series of exhibits highlighting life in the fort, the British attacks and Native American prisoners of war held here in the 1880s.
4) Colonial Spanish Quarter
Taking up a fair-sized wedge of old St Augustine, the Colonial Spanish Quarter is an enthusiastic effort to portray life during the Spanish period, with reconstructed homes and workshops set up circa the 1740s. This is a living museum; volunteers dressed convincingly as Spanish settlers go about their daily tasks at anvils and foot-driven wood lathes, making candles and the like.
5) Spanish Military Hospital & Museum
Originally built in 1791, the Spanish Military Hospital and Museum re-creates the spartan care wounded soldiers received during Spanish era. Give thanks you weren’t one of them whilst viewing the displays of rusty surgical instruments and the “mourning room”, where the priest administered last rites to doomed patients.
6) Ximenez-Fatio House
Built around 1798 for a Spanish merchant, the Ximenez-Fatio House became a boarding house in the nineteenth century, representing one of the few socially acceptable business ventures for a woman at the time. Don’t miss the rare 1650 Caravaca Cross displayed in the house museum, discovered on the property in 2002.
7) Dow Museum of Historic Houses
This collection of nine handsome buildings has been expertly restored from every period and cultural milieu between 1790 and 1910, not just the Spanish. Particularly fascinating is the Prince Murat House (1790), briefly home to Napoleon’s nephew (for whom it was named), whose main room and upstairs bedroom is graced by ravishing French Empire furniture.
8) The Oldest House
This really is one of the oldest and most atmospheric structures in town, built in the years after the destruction of St Augustine in 1702. The ground floor is furnished in the sparse, rough style of the early 1700s, while the second floor was grafted on during the period of British rule in Florida in the 1770s, a fact evinced by the bone china crockery belonging to a former occupant, one very English-sounding Mary Peavitt.
9) Villa Zorayda Museum
The nineteenth-century inhabitants of St Augustine were fascinated by their Spanish heritage. Eccentric Bostonian architect Franklin W. Smith was especially obsessed, building the Villa Zorayda Museum in 1883 as a homage to the famed Alhambra (at a tenth of the original size). Today the gorgeous, ornate villa is home to a bizarre collection of Smith’s personal belongings and rare antiques: highlights include the “Sacred Cat Rug”, a 2400-year old carpet made from the hairs of ancient Egyptian cats. It was discovered in 1861 as wrapping for the foot of a looted mummy (also on display here).
10) Flagler College
True, the flowing spires, arches and Spanish Revival red-tiled roof of Flagler College have zero to do with colonial Spain, but it’s an astounding work of art packed with treasures nonetheless. Now a liberal arts campus, the confection was completed by Henry Flagler in 1888 as the Ponce de León Hotel. Tours take in the best bits: the mesmerizing 80-foot Rotunda, with its Tiffany sunroof, stunning oak carvings, 14-carat gold gilding and murals by George Maynard; and the incredibly opulent dining room with its precious collection of Tiffany stained glass windows and yet more dramatic murals by Maynard.