As North America’s oldest city permanently settled by Europeans, St. Augustine occupies a unique piece of history. Founded by Spanish conquistadores, sacked by Sir Francis Drake, plundered by pirates, attacked by British forces in the 18th century, St Augustine changed hands several times, first held by the British, and then later by the Spanish, who maintained control of St. Augustine until the Spanish empire crumbled. In 1821, Spain handed St. Augustine and several other Spanish colonies in Florida over to the United States.
The colonial history of St. Augustine is evident throughout the city. The unique architecture style is known as Spanish Colonial, and mansions and grand hotels built in this style are one of St Augustine’s primary attractions. Old St. Augustine Village is a collection of ten buildings on the original 1565 settlement, and can be explored via foot, or with a guided tour should one so choose. In fact, guided tours are available all over the city, many of which are ‘haunted’. The Ponce de Leon is one of several grand hotels built in the 19th century, as a part of industrialist Henry Flagler’s plan to create a ‘winter Newport’ for wealthy Americans. Finally the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, located at the north end of the Old Village, lays claim to Ponce de Leon’s legendary journey for eternal youth.