St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour, St. Augustine

St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), St. Augustine

The charming city of St. Augustine is situated on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida, where two rivers and a lagoon meet at St. Augustine Inlet. Famous as the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is a historical town that boasts plenty of intriguing places to explore.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a Spanish explorer, founded the city in 1565. After first sighting land in Florida on August 28th, the feast day of saint Augustine, he named the new settlement in honor of the saint.

The city served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years, with Pedro Menendez de Aviles as Florida's first governor. It became the capital of British East Florida when the British colony was established in 1763. Great Britain returned Florida to Spain in 1783. Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, and St. Augustine became the capital of the Florida Territory in 1821 under the Adams–Onis Treaty.

Castillo de San Marcos is America's oldest masonry fortification. This solid stone structure was constructed during the late 17th century and offered protection against attacks and pirate invasions. It is the only 17th-century fort that survives in America today.

An important person in the history of St. Augustine was Henry Flagler, an industrialist, railroad magnate, and oil tycoon. The city's beautiful Memorial Presbyterian Church was built by Flagler in memory of his daughter. He also developed several grand hotels during the late 19th century. The Hotel Alcazar is home to the Lightner Museum of collectibles. The luxurious Ponce de Leon Hotel now houses Flagler College.

During the early years of St. Augustine's history, St. George Street was the main thoroughfare through town. Today, it is a lively tourist district offering shops, restaurants, and museums housed in the picturesque historical buildings that line the street. Don't miss a visit to the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S.A., located on St. George Street in the heart of the old town area.

St. Augustine is a city filled with history. You'll love taking this self-guided walking tour offering an exploration of St. Augustine's historical buildings, museums, churches, and picturesque streets.
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St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » St. Augustine (See other walking tours in St. Augustine)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
  • St. George Street
  • St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
  • Castillo de San Marcos (St. Mark's Castle)
  • Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
  • Memorial Presbyterian Church
  • Ponce de Leon Hotel and Flagler College Building
  • Lightner Museum
Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)

1) Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)

In the heart of St. Augustine, you'll find Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución), or simply "The Plaza." This public square has been a central part of life in the city since 1573. It is the oldest public space in the United States.

This beautiful rectangular square is a grassy park filled with lovely mature trees, palms, pathways for exploring, and benches for relaxing. In the center is an outdoor pavilion called "The Gazebo," where city events, entertainment, and summer concerts take place.

While exploring Constitution Square, you'll find several intriguing monuments. The Constitution Monument, inaugurated in 1813, is a prominent obelisk that celebrates the Spanish Constitution of 1812. Erected in 2011, the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument is a bronze sculpture dedicated to civil rights activists of the early 1960s.

At the east end of the square along Charlotte Street, you'll find historical Public Market Place. This open-air pavilion was established in 1598 as St. Augustine's first marketplace. In 1824, the market began selling meat, produce, and other goods. With a dark past, this was also once used as a slave market. The pavilion is still used as a public market today.

Not far from the Public Market Place is the old public well. Around the square, you'll also find several cannons on display that were once used to defend the city. An exploration of this fascinating public square is a must-do on your journey around St. Augustine.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

2) Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is a Catholic church that stands across from the Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución) on Cathedral Place. It was constructed in the 1790s and, after a fire in 1887, was rebuilt with help provided by oil magnate Henry Flagler. The church features gorgeous Spanish Renaissance architecture. Added in the 19th century was a striking six-story bell tower.

The cathedral's grand interior is Spanish in style. It features a stunning open-timbered red ceiling with exquisitely decorated cross beams. Lining the walls are murals depicting missionaries plus the history of the Catholic church and the city of St. Augustine. The murals were painted on individual wood panels by artist Hugo Ohlms.

The high altar is ornately designed in white and gold. Exquisite stained glass windows add color to the beautiful church interior. There are two lovely side chapels to the east and west of the central nave. The cathedral also boasts two organs, including a Casavant Frères pipe organ and a Colby-Walker organ.

This house of worship offers daily Mass and Saturday confession. Visitors can take a guided tour for a behind-the-scenes look at the cathedral and its history. In 1970, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine was designated a National Historic Landmark.
St. George Street

3) St. George Street (must see)

Winding through the heart of St. Augustine's historic district is a long, lovely road called St. George Street. Heading north from Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución) and the Cathedral of St. Augustine are several blocks of this street that are pedestrian-only. Along this part of St. George Street, you'll find a bustling district filled with shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, historical buildings, and museums.

There are several intriguing historical places situated along the palm tree-lined route. The Peña-Peck House dates from 1750 and currently houses the Woman's Exchange of St. Augustine. Tours are available to view this property. The Colonial Quarter building features a living history museum. Don't miss checking out the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S.A.

St. George Street also boasts the Medieval Torture Museum for brave folks! The route ends at Orange Street and the old city gate, built in 1739 and reputed to be haunted. In the city's early years, St. George Street was the main thoroughfare in town. Nowadays, it is a lively and charming spot for taking a stroll, shopping, and enjoying a snack or a meal.
St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

4) St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Across the highway from St. Mark's Castle (Castillo de San Marcos) is a museum devoted to pirates! Visitors to the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum can learn about the history of piracy from the 17th century to now. A treasure map will guide you on a fun scavenger hunt through the museum as you explore the exhibits and hands-on interactive displays.

This fascinating place is home to over 800 authentic pirate artifacts and shipwreck treasures. Intriguing items on display include a rare "Jolly Roger" skull and crossbones flag. There is also a bona fide 400-year-old pirate treasure chest, the only one that survives in the world! Don't miss the display case containing remnants of Sir Francis Drake's actual ship.

The eclectic array of objects on view includes weapons, games, a knot-tying display, a sail sewing kit, books, charts, coins, an ivory compass, a bar of gold, and even Blackbeard memorabilia. Life-size animated models of pirates add to the visual experience of the museum. Also on display are lashes and other devices used to punish captured pirates.

The St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum is designed to emulate a pirate's world — visually, by sound, and by smell (you heard that correctly — one display lets visitors try to identify various cargo smells)! The museum is an active and compelling place to explore while getting an education on a pirate's daily life.
Castillo de San Marcos (St. Mark's Castle)

5) Castillo de San Marcos (St. Mark's Castle) (must see)

Situated at the mouth of the Matanzas River in St. Augustine is a national monument known as St. Mark's Castle (Castillo de San Marcos). Dating from the late 17th century, it is the continental United State's oldest masonry fort.

Construction of this massive stone fortress began after attacks on a series of coastal wooden forts failed to offer adequate protection for the city. Castillo de San Marcos was built from coquina, a sedimentary rock formed from tiny sea shells. Once this fortification was completed, no siege or cannon fire could bring it down!

When the British took control of Florida in 1763, they renamed the fortress Fort St. Mark. In the 1820s, after the United States gained ownership of Florida, the name was changed again — now known as Fort Marion after Revolutionary War patriot and hero General Francis Marion. By 1900, the fort was deactivated and later transferred to the National Park Service.

A self-guided tour around Castillo de San Marcos offers plenty to see. This strong fortification boasts walls that are 14 feet thick. Pathways are there to guide you on a walk around this massive, well-preserved structure and its dry moat. Climb the stairs to the gun deck for a picturesque view of the St. Augustine skyline and the nearby bay.

Inside the fortress are various rooms to explore, including guard rooms, a chapel, storage areas, a treasury room, and a jail. There are also early latrines, museum exhibits, and an interior courtyard. Entry to the inside is accessed via a drawbridge that leads to a "sally port" (a secure gateway or entrance/exit into a fortification).

The fort was declared a National Monument in 1924, and its original Spanish name, Castillo de San Marcos, was restored by Congress in 1942. One bit of trivia is that Florida's first golf course opened on the grounds of Castillo de San Marcos (at the time known as "Fort Marion") in the 1890s. An exploration of this landmark is a must-do on your St. Augustine tour.
Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

6) Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

Situated along St. George Street, a historic road in the old town of St. Augustine, you'll find the oldest wooden schoolhouse in America. The exact construction date of this landmark wood building remains unknown, but the property first appeared on tax records in 1716.

Minorcan immigrant Juan Genopoly bought the property in 1780 and built a homestead there. He turned the main ground floor room into a classroom, inviting local children from the Minorcan Quarter to attend. Juan and his family became their teachers. In 1864, the last class graduated from the school. The building is sometimes called "The Genopoly House."

Now a museum, visitors can tour the old one-room classroom, the kitchen, the gardens, and even ring the school bell. Inside, animatronic mannequins are there to help bring the school to life. A place called "The Dungeon" is on display, used to punish unruly students! This little piece of history is an interesting place to visit during a walk along St. George Street. Rumors say the old schoolhouse is haunted!
Memorial Presbyterian Church

7) Memorial Presbyterian Church

St. Augustine's distinctive Memorial Presbyterian Church stands at the corner of Sevilla and Valencia Street. The church was built in 1889 by industrialist Henry Morrison Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil. Construction reached completion in 1890, and the church was dedicated in memory of Flagler's daughter. It is notable for being the first Presbyterian church in Florida.

Memorial Presbyterian Church boasts an exquisite Venetian Renaissance architectural design that was influenced by Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. It features a decorative white and gold facade plus a magnificent turquoise-colored copper dome topped with an ornate Greek cross. Lush landscaping and palm trees decorate the grounds.

On the south side of the church, steps lead up to a grand entrance featuring a triple-arched portico topped with a rose window. The interior features marble flooring, mahogany pews, and lovely stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes. There is also an Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

Connected to the church is the Flagler family mausoleum; here is where Henry Flagler, his wife, daughter, and infant granddaughter are interred. The church currently offers two worship services on Sunday mornings. There are self-guided and docent-led tours every Friday.
Ponce de Leon Hotel and Flagler College Building

8) Ponce de Leon Hotel and Flagler College Building (must see)

Built by successful industrialist Henry M. Flagler, the Ponce de Leon Hotel was opened in 1888. The building features Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture designed by Carrère and Hastings, a young team of architects. The hotel was seasonal, operating in the winter from January to Easter. It became known by the nickname "The Ponce."

This luxury hotel boasted the latest in modern conveniences of the 19th century. The Edison Electric Company provided 4,000 electric lights to illuminate the hotel. It was one of the earliest buildings in the country to be wired with electricity. They also contributed steam heat. Two towers held large water storage tanks that gave guests running water.

The interior was lavishly decorated with fine furniture and grand murals painted by artists George W. Maynard and Virgilio Tojetti. The renowned designer Louis Comfort Tiffany contributed gorgeous mosaics, chandeliers, and stained glass windows surrounding the hotel dining room. Over the years, many famous politicians, writers, sports figures, and celebrities stayed at the hotel.

During World War II, the hotel served as a training base for the Coast Guard Reserve. But with declining guests in the years that followed, the last gala dinner dance was held at The Ponce before the hotel closed for good in 1967. In 2006, the Ponce de Leon Hotel became recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

In 1968, the building was used to house the newly-founded Flagler College. This small St. Augustine school, named after Henry Flagler, is a private liberal arts college with a 19-acre campus. The opulent former hotel provides a beautiful setting for education and learning.

What was once the hotel's grand parlor for ladies is now called the "Flagler Room," which hosts events. The magnificent hotel dining room became home to the student dining hall. Daily tours of Flagler College are available, where visitors can explore the courtyard, lobby, and main historical rooms of the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
Lightner Museum

9) Lightner Museum (must see)

The Lightner Museum showcases collectibles and antiques. The museum was founded in 1948 by Otto C. Lightner, a Chicago publisher interested in collecting. Originally called the "Lightner Museum of Hobbies," it mainly displayed his collection of decorative art and objects acquired from estate sales at Gilded Age mansions.

The museum is housed in the Hotel Alcazar, a former luxury resort hotel that opened in the late 1880s. Built by oil tycoon Henry Flagler, this grand hotel features gorgeous Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture. The hotel closed in the early 1930s after the stock market crash led to an economic depression. In the 1940s, Lightner purchased the building to convert into his museum.

There are currently three floors of intriguing exhibits to see in the Lightner Museum. The large and varied collection includes many pieces from America's Gilded Age of the late 19th century. Musical instruments, cut-glass crystal, antique furniture, Tiffany lamps, stained glass, oil paintings, sculptures, sea shells, and other curiosities are on display.

The museum also offers temporary exhibitions, special programs, and events. Café Alcazar serves lunch in an elegant setting that was once host to the Hotel Alcazar's huge indoor swimming pool. The Lightner Museum Store offers specialty items and gifts inspired by the museum collections. Don't miss taking a stroll around the beautiful courtyard garden.

Walking Tours in St. Augustine, Florida

Create Your Own Walk in St. Augustine

Create Your Own Walk in St. Augustine

Creating your own self-guided walk in St. Augustine is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
St. Augustine's Historical Houses Tour

St. Augustine's Historical Houses Tour

A great deal of St. Augustine's storied past is set in stone in the form of houses that have been inhabited for over 400 years. The number of historic homes found in the city offer a glimpse into its colorful culture with European roots.

Among the most notable of them is the Ximenez-Fatio House. Built in 1798, originally as a boarding place for wealthy travelers, today this property serves...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
St. Augustine Early Settlements Tour

St. Augustine Early Settlements Tour

The city of St. Augustine on the northeastern coast of Florida is considered the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. It was founded by Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles on September 8, 1565, and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than 200 years.

One of the most significant early European sites in the city is the Castillo de San...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles