Miami may be a fairly new city, but it’s not without its share of historical treasures. Here’s our guide to the best historic gems to put on your itinerary.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Standing out like a sore thumb in Miami’s modern landscape, this historic villa features decadent European interiors that are a nod to the Old World. The former winter estate of business magnate James Deering, Vizcaya is a national historic landmark dating back to 1922. Now a museum, visitors can wander through its richly decorated interiors with marble columns and stained glass windows overlooking the spectacular patio, or stroll in the vast gardens decorated with statues and geometric-styled shrubs reminiscent of the gardens of Versailles in France.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL, USA +1 305-250-9133
The Barnacle Historic State Park
Built in 1891, The Barnacle lays claim to being the oldest house in Miami. It was the home of one of Coconut Grove’s most influential pioneers, Ralph Middleton Munroe, and an American yacht designer who also founded the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club which is still in use today. The estate lies nestled along the scenic Biscayne Bay offering a glimpse of frontier life of “The Era of the Bay” when all travel to the city was done by boat.
The Barnacle Historic State Park, 3485 Main Hwy, Miami, FL, USA +1 305-442-6866
Known as the “Ellis Island of the South,” the Freedom Tower is a historic landmark for its role in the Cuban refugee crisis. Formerly the headquarters of newspaper The Miami News, the building was used as a government facility to process the documents of the incoming Cuban immigrants who sought refuge in the city after Fidel Castro’s communist regime took power of Cuba in 1959. Standing in the busy Biscayne Bay Boulevard in Downtown Miami, the building is now used as a museum for contemporary art.
The oldest Roman Catholic Church in Miami, Gesù rests in the heart of Downtown, clad in beautiful architecture and stained glass windows. Just a few blocks away from the Metromover, it’s easy to access by public transportation, and also a perfect stop while strolling the old streets of the city.
Gesù Church, 118 NE 2nd St, Miami, FL 305-379-1424
When famed horticulturist Dr. David Fairchild traveled the world in search of suitable plants to bring back to the U.S., he brought a collection of tropical species and planted many in his land which he named Kampong – the Malaysian word for village. The nine-acre historic garden was later transformed into the botanical garden it is today equipped with a laboratory, herbarium and education center on site. It was also here that Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Ernest Coe set the plans to establish the Everglades National Park. Visitors can view historic photographs and documents detailing the plans, and enjoy the exotic fruit and flower trees of the garden. For a brief history of The Kampong, read our guide here.
The Kampong, 6840, 4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL, USA +1 305-442-7169
Coral Gables’ most famed watering hole, Venetian Pool is a public pool made entirely of coral rock quarry. Built in 1924, the pool was designed in a Venetian style with details such as loggios, porticos and an Italian-style bridge. The 820,000 gallon pool is fed with spring water from an underground aquifer and has two waterfalls and cave-like grottos for swimmers to enjoy.
Venetian Pool, 2701 De Soto Blvd, Coral Gables, FL, USA +1 305-460-5306
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
The lighthouse at Bill Bags Cape Florida State Park is the oldest standing structure in the city dating back to 1825. Perched on the edge of the island of Key Biscayne, visitors can enjoy swimming and kayaking on the beach. Guided tours of the lighthouse are offered daily.
Ancient Spanish Monastery
The Ancient Spanish Monastery was originally built in 1141 in Segovia, Spain, and was used as a monastery for Cistercian monks for almost 700 years. After a social revolution, it was seized and eventually purchased by an American in 1925, who dismantled it stone by stone and packed it to the United States. It was later put together, and purchased by multimillionaire banker Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr. who gifted the monastery to the Bishop of Florida. It is now the parish Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, part of a growing Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Visitors can attend mass on the weekends, or stop by for a free tour of the historic grounds.