St. Augustine’s history was a push-and-pull between Spain, France and the US, yet the Spanish influence endured. Ponce de Leon’s landing in 1513 inspired the Bridge of Lions four centuries later. In Spanish, león means lion.
Follow the lions’ gaze to the Plaza and the Cathedral Basilica completed in 1797. St. Augustine is the only urban center in the US whose architecture and street plan mirror its Spanish origins.
Citrus plantings were nurtured by Spanish settlers and became the basis of Florida’s citrus industry, which moved south after freezes in 1894-95. When it comes to cuisine, look for traditional dishes seasoned with sweet-hot Datil peppers. The seeds were brought here by Minorcan families who worked on early plantations. From Valencia came paella, a luscious dish combining saffron, rice, vegetables and tender bits of meat or shellfish. Pair it with sangria—a blend of red wine, brandy, fruit and citrus slices—for a classic Spanish meal. For dessert order flan, a divine egg custard that tastes like the nectar of angels.