This historic city, often regarded as the birthplace of Hispanic influence in the United States, maintains its connection to Hispanic heritage year-round. Remarkably, St. Augustine planted the seeds of Spanish influence in what would eventually become the U.S. a full four decades before the establishment of the first English settlement in continental North America.
St. Augustine continues to embrace its Hispanic heritage as an integral part of its identity. The city's rich history echoes the tales of Spanish explorers, notably Juan Ponce de Leon, who laid claim to this land on April 3, 1513, and Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who founded the town in 1565. These stories are woven into the fabric of the community. Moreover, St. Augustine's architectural landscape, reminiscent of 16th-century Spanish design with its charming narrow, brick-paved streets, mirrors the historic charm found in other renowned cities of the same era, such as San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, Cartagena in Colombia, and San Juan in Puerto Rico, the oldest city in the United States besides St. Augustine.
Visitors to St. Augustine will quickly discover that this city's Hispanic culture and history are deeply ingrained in its daily life. Iconic landmarks include the legendary Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the Mission Nombre de Dios where the first Mass and Thanksgiving in the U.S. took place, and the Castillo de San Marcos, the country's first masonry fortress. Another extraordinary site is Fort Mose, where freed slaves established the first legally sanctioned free black settlement in the U.S. in 1738. This settlement, known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose, eventually relocated to Cuba when Florida was transferred to British control in 1763.
The living Hispanic culture thrives within the St. Augustine community, with the city's flavors deeply rooted in Latin American traditions. Some of the city's most iconic and beloved restaurants draw their culinary inspiration from Hispanic kitchens. For instance, the Columbia Restaurant, with over a century of history, offers a traditional Spanish dining experience in the heart of the historic district, featuring award-winning Spanish and Cuban cuisine.
Other top Latin American restaurants in St. Augustine include Asado Life, specializing in Argentinian meats; La Cocina International Restaurant, serving a diverse range of Latin, Colombian, Spanish, and South American dishes; Casa Maya Restaurant for authentic Mexican cuisine; Llama Restaurant, highlighting Peruvian flavors; and Casa Reina Taqueria & Tequila, where Mexican, Latin, and Cuban influences converge. Don't miss Michael's, offering a modern twist on Latin American staples.