Ybor City Historic Walking Tour
Ybor City is the former Cigar Capital of the World, thanks to one enterprising businessman, Vincente Martinez-Ybor. He established his cigar-making business in this historic quarter of Tampa in 1885. By 1927, Ybor City had 230 factories and was producing over 6 million cigars per year!
Enjoy a pleasant amble around the quiet cobbled streets on a historic walking tour, learning about the enterprising individual responsible for founding the city which still bears his name and discovering the decorative Spanish-influenced architecture in the area. The tour lasts around 1¾ hours and is led by a long-time local guide and eloquent storyteller, Lonnie Herman. The tour strolls along at an easy pace between shady spots and strategically placed street benches as the fascinating history of Ybor City unfolds before your eyes.
What to Expect on an Ybor City Historic Walking Tour
On arrival in Ybor City, you may be surprised at how quiet this area actually is, particularly outside the winter season which runs from December to April. However, the area is at its liveliest at night, hence so many nightclubs along the street. By day there is the excellent Visitor Center along with cigar shops, tavernas, cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy coffee or lunch. The area certainly has a lot of character with the original cobbled streets, decorative New Orleans-style architecture, fountains, and a beautiful arched entrance to Centro Ybor.
Meet up at the entrance to Centro Ybor with your Cuban-hatted guide, Lonnie, who has been a local resident for over 30 years. He is a friendly walking encyclopedia of local history and experiences!
Lonnie begins to tell the story of Ybor City circa 1885, with the colorful background to Vincente Martinez-Ybor’s life. Born in Spain, he was sent to Cuba where he learned the cigar business before escaping to Key West where he built his cigar-making empire. Better transport connections, financial incentives, his good friend Gavino Gutierrez, and the chance to build his very own city eventually lured him to Tampa where he established “Mr. Ybor City.” Martinez-Ybor’s attempts to secure a reliable workforce led him to build workers’ homes and offer ownership on very favorable terms, especially as he was already in his late 60s!
As your guide recounts the story of cigar-making and the building of Ybor City, the walking tour meanders along the cobbled streets at an easy pace, stopping to view some of the earliest wooden homes, called “casitas”. They are now part of the National Historic Landmark District which covers 10 square blocks. On the wall of each house is…….
Can you guess what it is? No, then solve the mystery by reading this and 14 other great things to do in my book “Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach” available in all formats.
My friends in The Villages will already know the answer as a variation to this chapter, and 14 different adventures can be found in my book – “Favorite Days Out in Central Florida from “The Villages’ Residents”