Would you like to experience a little bit of Europe while in Miami? Then, you should definitely visit Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a Renaissance-inspired villa overlooking Biscayne Bay. In a moment, you’ll feel like you have suddenly been teleported to a 16th-century European estate, but with a tropical background. The stark contrast between this architecture and what you are used to seeing anywhere else in Miami will surely impress you!
A bit of history on Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Once the winter estate of Chicago businessman James Deering, Vizcaya and its beautiful gardens were built between 1914 and 1922. The complex originally consisted of 180 acres, including the Main House, the gardens and Vizcaya Village, a group of buildings across what is today South Miami Avenue, which, back then, housed the staff. Today, the remaining 50 acres of the compound have been turned into a museum and National Historic Landmark.
The Main House
The Main House was designed in Mediterranean Revival Architecture Style and particularly inspired after estates in the Veneto and Tuscany regions of Italy. The interior is decorated with fine antiques, canvases, paintings, and furnishings directly imported from several parts of Europe. Some of these treasures date back to the 15th century! Compared with most villas in Europe, Vizcaya is relatively recent. Even so, when setting foot into the complex, it feels like the house is centuries old, like your jumping back into a long lost past.
Beyond fine decorations and antique artworks, the house offers a stunning view over Biscayne Bay. While visiting the many bedrooms, I wondered how different the panorama from Deerling’s balcony might have been in the 1920s.
A walk through the beautiful Gardens
The gardens, once again European-inspired, were completed in 1922, following the style prevalent in 17th/18th century France and Italy. Low bushes create elaborate geometric patterns. Classical columns, sculptures, and fountains adorn the gardens, creating a Mediterranean oasis in a tropical surrounding.
The use of local porous coral stone also gives the place an aged look, making it seem once again that it has been around forever. No need to say that the gardens offer several photogenic and picturesque spots. So, it was not surprising then to see that many choose it as a location for photo-shoots (either for their quinceañera or probably for fashion magazines).
A nice walk admiring the art treasures scattered in the many corners of the gardens is definitely a magical experience. One of my favorite sites was the Secret Garden. This hidden spot was inspired after Italy’s Villa Gamberaia near Florence, and was once known as the Orchid Garden. What I loved about it was the feeling of peaceful solitude that I enjoyed there. It kind of feels like you can hide in-between its walls and immerse yourself in your own thoughts without having to worry about what’s going on outside of this secluded space.
The Barge is another outstanding part of the complex. This boat-shaped breakwater is decorated with statues, representing mythical Caribbean creatures. It also originally included a pavilion, fountains, and trees. The Barge could be accessed by a short boat ride and it was certainly a pleasant place where to entertain guests. Who wouldn’t have loved to spend his/her afternoons reading a good book there!
Some useful information
Location: Coconut Grove Neighborhood
3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129
Admission hours: Wednesday to Monday, 9:30 -16:30
Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
For more info visit Vizcaya’s official website here.