Villa Zorayda by Candlelight
You’ve seen the colorful outside, now see the lavish interior — Villa Zorayda, St Augustine’s own Moorish castle, is open for Candlelight Tours during the holidays. On certain dates, visitors can take a guided tour and see the Villa in its Christmas finery.
Villa Zorayda Candlelight Tours will be held December 17, December 27, and December 30. Admission for the tour is $18, and you can make your reservations at (904) 829-9887. Refreshments, including homemade Christmas cookies and punch, will be served at 6. At 6:30, docents will lead guests on a 90 minute tour through the castle.
Villa Zorayda is on the US National Register of Historic Places, and the architecture alone is worth the price of admission. A scale replica of Grenada, Spain’s Alhambra Palace, Villa Zorayda was built in 1883, one of the first examples of the Spanish Moorish architecture you’ll see throughout St Augustine today. The Boston-based architect Franklin Smith, who also built the Casa Monica, built Villa Zorayda as his winter home, using his pioneering technique of mixing poured concrete with crushed coquina shell. Two years before beginning construction on the Ponce de Leon hotel, Henry Flagler offered to buy Villa Zorayda. Smith famously refused to sell.
In 1913, the building and some of Franklin Smith’s art and antiques were sold to Abraham Mussallem. Over the years, Villa Zorayda has been used as a nightclub, a speakeasy, and a movie set. These days, the museum is run by Mr. Mussallem’s family. 98% of the collection is original to Franklin Smith or Abraham Mussallem.
Inside you’ll see objects from Egypt and the Middle East, sculptures, Oriental rugs, and ornately carved furniture. As you tour, keep your eyes open for details such as plaster and alabaster arabesques, hand painted tiles, and stained glass. The Villa Zorayda is also known for its windows in an astonishing variety of geometric shapes.
More than a hundred candles will light your way on this special tour. Wherever you look you’ll see intricate Christmas decorations in Villa Zorayda colors of red and gold, and a show-stopping Christmas tree stands central in the Court of Lions.
We have a Christmas tree at Carriage Way, too – and pine boughs, ornaments and lights. The halls are decked, and we have never looked better. We invite you to stay with us and see for yourself — perhaps in the Tanzanite room. Like the gem, it is lovely shades of purple, and it features hardwood floors, a pillow-top king size bed and a walk-in shower you’ll never want to leave. St Augustine is full of treasures you must experience for yourself.