Villa Zorayda Museum in St. Augustine, FL

83 King StreetSt. Augustine, FL 32084
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Overview

Located just across from Flagler College and a few blocks from The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, the Villa Zorayda Museum lets guests get an up-close view of the architectural work of art created in 1883 by Franklin Smith. The museum offers state-of-the-art self-guided audio tours that are available throughout the day, as well as special behind-the-scenes tours on select Tuesdays.

Description

from Villa Zorayda Museum
After several years of historical renovation, the Villa Zorayda with its collection of unique antiquities is a must see on your visit to our nations oldest city!

Closed for several years the Villa Zorayda Museum has undergone an extensive renovation and is once again open to the public as a museum. On the National Register of Historic Places it was built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin Smith utilizing his method of construction of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. It is built 1/10th the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. This building set a precedence for St. Augustine and began the Moorish Spanish revival of architecture that is seen throughout the city today. In 1904 it became the Zorayda Club.

On display for the first time ever is the custom made bone china made exclusively for the Zorayda Club. In 1913 it was purchased by Abraham S. Mussallem, an authority on Oriental rugs, fine arts and Egyptian artifacts. In 1922 it became one of the most fashionable places for casino gambling. In the mid 1930's it was opened as a museum featuring the priceless antique collections of both Franklin Smith and A.S. Mussallem which are still on display today. The 45-60 minute tour gives an in depth look at the historical significance of the building to the City of St. Augustine, the magnificent architecture as well as descriptions of the many exquisite pieces you will see. On display is the "Sacred Cat Rug" over 2400 years old and made from the hairs of ancient cats that roamed the Nile River. Taken from a pyramid in Egypt it is said to possess a curse for anyone that walks on it!

VILLA ZORAYDA "BEHIND THE SCENES'/AUDIO GUIDED TOUR AVAILABLE
Visitors will be taken to rarely seen areas of the museum where we will give an explanation of what the area was used for in the past and what future plans may be coming. Highlight of the tour is the never seen before "Tower of the Princesses" located on the third floor which was a bedroom in the original house and where time has virtually stood still. *Stairs are steep and narrow and visitors must be in good physical condition to make the climb. Approximate time will be about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Tripster Customer Reviews

Teekeela Aranda
Hahira, GA
2 Reviews
Verified Traveler
"Great museum"
April 2018
Loved all the beautiful detail. The history was interesting, with a little bit of a ghost story.
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TripAdvisor Reviews
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EasyTravelskf
"Very interesting place, Audio tour needs to be redone"
TripAdvisor user rating 2 out of 5
Reviewed September 07, 2020
I’m torn between rating this poor or average. It’s expensive for the self-guided audio tour to be done so poorly. The place itself is very interesting but the audio needs a lot of improvement and ruined it for me. I was happy to see that I could connect my old EarPods to the audio device, but it only allows an aux connection so I was lucky that I happened to still have an ancient pair of EarPods on me. I’m probably the only one waking around with them so this would not be helpful to any one else. They provide you an audio device and you select the number to hear the history behind the item or room you are looking at. It starts off great by giving you history of the residence. Then it quickly goes off the rails. The narrator goes so quickly and doesn’t explain well as to what item he is talking about that you quickly lose him. There is not much of an indication that he has moved onto another item in the room either. For example Audio 9 is the Sultan’s Den and it covers the entire room. Improvement would be to break the room into more, shorter audios so we can follow along better. Audio 18- the dining room was the same. My traveling partner gave up by that room and stopped using the audio. I also realized we both missed a lot that maybe the other heard during the long audios because neither of us could keep up. I was trying to go back and re-listen but that was frustrating. Then you have other areas where it’s a whole audio number for something so simple like “Tapestry” and it would proceed to depict the picture in the tapestry and state it was from Damascus and that’s it- 5 seconds. So something like, “Tapestry: A happy family on a boat, from Damascus.” I would have enjoyed to learn more history regarding the tapestry: how did this tapestry get here? Was it a part of the original collection? What makes this tapestry important? The Villa is not very big but I noticed that many people came in after us and left pretty quickly. They tried the audio but you could tell they couldn’t keep up and gave up. Lastly, there were a lot of things that we saw that seemed interesting and they were not noted in the audio or on any written note. For example, the red window in the den is beautiful and seems very interesting, I’m sure something can be noted about it. Other ideas- paint me a picture what it might have looked like as a casino/social club. What was life there like as a residence? We only saw one bedroom and no bathroom- how many people could live there at a time? Where did the staff stay? The place seems like it’s always been very cluttered with decorations, how did that impact having visitors during its time as a residence? I happened to read the website but my partner didn’t so I had to explain a few things to him.
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pennyd859
Naples, Florida
"Vacation"
TripAdvisor user rating 2 out of 5
Reviewed July 11, 2020
Vacation So much history so many interesting things I had never seen or even heard of before. I would recommend it to anyone it is really a great place
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patandjamie
"Interesting change of pace"
TripAdvisor user rating 3 out of 5
Reviewed May 25, 2020
I am not enthralled by middle eastern art and design. My fault. I appreciated the different flavor. Self tour with portable audio to tell you what was what. It was ok.
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sonnienegroso
Tampa, Florida
"a beauty"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 11, 2020
Well the audio is very good and a step up from the "I dream of Genie" tour guides from yesteryear !!! What you are really looking at is the dream home of 2 men-- Mr. Smith and Mr. Mussalem. Just chocked full of interesting personal artifacts. Well done in a different sort of way. Tacky is way too strong a word. I enjoyed it . Very relaxing. Good A/C.
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Sharon P
Boonton
"Worthwhile Stop"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 02, 2020
Having been to the real Alhambra and to Morocco, this house was a pleasant reminder of these visits. There were many beautiful artifacts throughout the house. The audio tour was a great way to view the house because you could stay in a room as long as you liked before moving on. Just one negative comment -- they should have found someone to narrate who could pronounce the French and Spanish phrases correctly.
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Villa Zorayda Museum is located at 83 King StreetSt. Augustine, FL 32084
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Frequently Asked Questions about Villa Zorayda Museum

Do you offer audio tours?
Yes, self guided audio tours are available in English, Spanish and French. Prices for the audio tours are $10.

Is there parking?
Yes, located in St. Augustine’s Historic District visitors receive FREE PARKING while visiting the museum (one vehicle maximum).

When is the last admission time?
From Monday through Saturday, the last admission time is 4:30pm; the museum closes at 5pm. On Sunday, the museum closes at 4pm.