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“A Collectors Paradise”

Villa Zorayda Museum
Ranked #44 of 201 things to do in St. Augustine
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: Take a step back in time as you enter this Grand Gilded Age home, built by Franklin W. Smith in 1883. Franklin Smith, an eclectic world traveler, was originally from Boston, and he built the Villa Zorayda as his winter home in St. Augustine, FL. Smith was the innovator of poured concrete and crushed coquina construction that is seen throughout St. Augustine today. On the "National Register of Historic Places", the Villa Zorayda is a 1/10th scale reproduction of a portion of the Moorish Castle, the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. View the elegant traceries on the walls made of alabaster and plaster which were made in Spain using the same molds that the Moors used for the walls of the Alhambra Palace! In addition to the magnificent architecture of the building is the original art and antique collection: hand pierced brass lamps, hand carved and exquisite inlaid furniture, an Egyptian rug over 2400 years old, and much more! You will also see beautiful hand painted Spanish & Egyptian tiles, Moorish horseshoe arches, and the beautiful architectural details from the Alhambra Palace. Learn the 133 year history of the Villa Zorayda as you take a state-of-the-art audio guided tour, which run continuously throughout the day. The audio guided tour is available in English, Spanish and French. Free parking while visiting the Museum.
Reviewed 22 March 2018

The Villa Zorayda built as a hotel has a history both as a private home, a casino and restaurant before it became a museum of collectables from around the world by Franklin W. Smith. The Villa is a partial Moorish reproduction of Alhambra Palace in Spain. Tours are via audio and no pictures are allowed to be taken of the collectables contained within it's rooms and walls.

Thank radar643
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Marcia B, Manager at Villa Zorayda Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 26 March 2018

Hello radar643, thank you for visiting the Villa Zorayda Museum! We hope that you enjoyed your visit. The Villa Zorayda was originally built in 1883 by Franklin W. Smith as his winter residence. It has had a lively past, and became a museum in 1933.

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"audio tour"
in 66 reviews
"cat rug"
in 36 reviews
"candlelight tour"
in 21 reviews
"alhambra palace"
in 12 reviews
"egyptian room"
in 7 reviews
"moorish style"
in 7 reviews
"summer home"
in 6 reviews
"own pace"
in 20 reviews
"from spain"
in 6 reviews
"takes about an hour"
in 7 reviews
"interesting collection"
in 5 reviews
"self guided"
in 10 reviews
"interesting items"
in 5 reviews
"on display"
in 10 reviews
"gilded age"
in 5 reviews
"well worth the visit"
in 4 reviews
"flagler college"
in 10 reviews
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29 - 33 of 377 reviews

Reviewed 7 March 2018 via mobile

Having seen the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain, which was the highlight of my trip to that country, I was beyond excited to discover that there was a home fashioned after it in St. Augustine! My husband and I had an absolutely wonderful afternoon touring this magnificent mansion. The self-guided audio tour was a real plus!

Thank Soozi13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Marcia B, Manager at Villa Zorayda Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 7 March 2018

Hello Soozi13, it is wonderful to hear that you have been to both the Alhambra Palace and the Villa Zorayda Museum! We are so happy that you enjoyed your visit of the Zorayda along with our audio guided tour.

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Reviewed 5 March 2018

Villa Zorayda Museum was built as a private residence one hundred thirty five years ago by a Boston businessman with really, really deep pockets and a fascination with Moorish architecture and decor. He designed the structure himself, patterning it after the Alhambra he had seen on a visit to Spain.

His love of the style must have been extraordinary. Ben would venture to say few Americans could have lived with the frankly bizarre atmosphere in the villa on a day by day basis for the thirty years he spent his winters here. A second fan of things Moorish purchased it and also lived here for another nine years, before seeing it turned to a gambling casino.

The tour, guided robotically via audio, is definitely a gem to be experienced by any traveler with an appreciation of sites both unique and beautiful. A mesmerizing sequence of antiquities from the Semitic head of the front door knocker to a sacred cat rug stretches through room after room and two floors. Beautiful, absorbing and spellbinding to be sure, BUT day after day, all day for thirty years?

Ben and Mrs Too truly enjoyed our tour. We are glad we had the chance, and hope you do as well. Nevertheless, if invited to spend a summer here as a guest, we are fairly certain that, after a week or so, we would have suddenly remembered an important issue to be dealt with at home.

Enjoy it for two or three hours, by which time there will be no place like home for you.

Thank Ben_Theretoo406
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Marcia B, Manager at Villa Zorayda Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 7 March 2018

Hello Ben! Thank you so much for your wonderful review of the Villa Zorayda Museum! We are so happy that you enjoyed your visit and spent time to appreciate all of the details of the former home. The Zorayda is no longer set up as a residence, it now displays the large and unique art and antique collection of both Mr. Smith and Mr. Mussallem, the previous owners. It is visually overwhelming now, but remember that back in the 1800s it would have looked a lot different and would have been an exotic "getaway" for the Smith family. Thank you for visiting us at the VIlla Zorayda Museum, please come again soon!

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Reviewed 6 February 2018

This was one of the most unusual museums I have ever visited... the structure, the construction techniques, the contents, the history and the story of lives lived in this unique home can hardly be believed. It's a testament to what wealth combined with focused and eccentric tastes can create. The audio tour explains how this unique home was created along with the history of both the contents and owners. Brace yourself for sensory overload and enjoy an adventure through this one-of-a-kind home.

1  Thank BohemianBarfly
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Marcia B, Manager at Villa Zorayda Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 7 February 2018

Hello BohemianBarfly, we are happy to hear how much you enjoyed your visit of the beautiful Villa Zorayda Museum! The architecture of the buliding and the antique collection inside are incredible!

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Reviewed 24 January 2018

This museum is amazing. It was originally built as a residence and is just stunning. The furnishings and fittings have been maintained, along with displays of original photos and memorabilia. Hubby and I spent nearly 2 hours just wandering around admiring the architecture and everything inside. Definitely a "must-do" when in St Augustine!

Thank amsfromaus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Marcia B, Manager at Villa Zorayda Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 28 January 2018

Hello amsfromaus, we are so happy to hear about your recent trip to the Villa Zorayda Museum. Thank you for your review and for mentioning that we are a "must do" attraction in St. Augustine!

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