Aviles Street: The Quaint Shopping District of St. Augustine, Florida

There is a place many visitors to St. Augustine, Florida, aren’t familiar with; it’s not as big or impressive as St. George Street, and doesn’t outwardly have much historical value. But Aviles Street (named for the home city of St. Augustine’s founder, Aviles, Spain) holds much more interest when its story comes to light. Many of the homes scattered along both sides of this narrow cobble stoned street are well over two hundred years of age, and the shopping is simply wonderful.

How DO You Say It?
First of all, a word about pronunciation. People can say the name of the street however they like, but it’s usually pronounced one of two ways: AV-ee-lace, or ah-VEE-lace (I usually use the second). Be prepared to be stared at by the locals if you don’t know exactly how they say their words!

How Do I Get There?

Aviles Street is located in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district, seemingly far away from the bustle of traffic and glowing lights. Just about the only noise you are likely to hear is the bumping and clanging of various tour trolleys are they carry passengers over the uneven road. If you’re walking to Aviles from your hotel or parking spot, you will need a good map and sturdy walking shoes (not to mention places to carry all your purchases). The street itself isn’t hard to navigate, but you may do a lot of walking if you visit each store individually.

Historical Homes Abound

The first thing you’ll notice if you’re starting from the main entrance is the huge wooden archway quaintly stating the name of the street. To your left will be a huge pink (yes, pink, no matter what color the original inhabitants chose to call it) house with wooden balconies. This is the Seth Wakeman House, a historical home easily noticed along the main thoroughfare. The Wakeman House is just one of the old homes you will see along Aviles Street. The Father Miguel O’Reilly House, completely restored and filled with period furnishings, is a great stop.

Visit the O’Reilly House

Proprietors of the house have proof that a structure has existed on this site since the late 1600s, but the house as it looks now was probably completed in the 1800s. Visitors who decide to stop by the O’Reilly House will discover that they are about to embark on a fantastic tour. The first thing you will see will be the garden, accessible from Aviles Street. Once inside the house, you will see museum-quality anecdotal areas that explain the history of the O’Reilly House and its religious connections. Once upstairs, you will see the personal rooms of Father O’Reilly in their preserved elegance. Even the fireplace is adorned with a simple white cross, attesting to the faith of the Catholic colonists of St. Augustine.

You will easily be able to find the O’Reilly House because of its unique architecture: It is a beautiful two-story home with pale yellow paint and dark green balconies. You will see many flags flying out front, indicating the different nations that the residents of this home have lived under throughout the years.

Want To Put Your Wallet To Good Use?

Perhaps you’d like to hear about some of the shopping on Aviles Street. The only real problem will be where to start! From artgalleries to food to rubber stamp art, you’ll have a pleasant afternoon poking through the many quaint stores that make Aviles Street special. For shopping where you don’t have to max out your credit card, this is one of the best places to browse for unique souvenirs in St. Augustine.

Here’s Where To Quench Your Hunger

Are you hungry? Aviles Street can take care of that, too. Being less visited than other areas of town has its advantage; crowd traffic isn’t severe here, and you won’t need to worry about being mowed down by twenty cars when you cross the road. Although there is not an abundance of restaurants, you will find small places like Azalea’s Cafe nearby. These are great little pit-stops to get a bite to eat.

Historical Memories At the Ximenez-Fatio House

If you want to visit another lovely historical home during your exploration of Aviles Street, don’t forget the Ximenez-Fatio House. This is one of St. Augustine’s most lovingly restored homes, both exterior and interior. When you arrive, you will see a large two-story green-balconied home. The house was built in the late 1790s by a man named Andres Ximenez. During the years, a succession of women took over the building and turned it into a respectable inn where any weary traveler could take a load off and stay awhile.

The exquisite care that inn keepers gave their customers is evident in the different rooms you will see upstairs; there is a room specifically for a weak or ill person coming to St. Augustine to heal; a captain’s room; a room suitable for families traveling with children, and more. Each room is small but lovingly restored to take visitors back to the days just before the American Civil War, a time period known in St. Augustine as American Territorial.

Before you exit the Ximenez-Fatio House, don’t forget to visit the detached kitchen, part of the house complex. In the 1700s, fires were a constant threat to homes with attached kitchens, so clever Spanish architects constructed separate buildings for their cookery. You can see the restored Ximenez kitchen as part of the tour. Recently, a brand new visitor center was added to the tour as well. It was even created in the style of the 18th century so it would seem to be a twin to the main house. You can find places to watch a video, see information, and take advantage of other technological advances inside. And you can’t forget the museum gift shop! Every good St. Augustine attraction has a bountiful store.

One huge historical home you will notice is on the right side of Aviles Street (if you’re coming in from the main entrance). It is a very large whitewashed home with seemingly endless windows, round archways, and many oddly-shaped cape windows rising from the roof. This impressive structure is the Segui-Kirby-Smith house, where a Confederate general (Edmund KirbySmith) made his entrance into the world.

Up-Close and Personal All the Way

If you’ve only ever seen Aviles Street from the comfort of a tour trolley (all right, so maybe bouncing all over the seats isn’t seen by many to be a comforting experience) you know that everything goes by in a bit of a blur. All of St. Augustine is like this; if you can see the city from a moving trolley, you won’t see very much. St. Augustine is the kind of place you have to explore on foot, stopping to touch each old home, to sample the many restaurants, and hunt for unique souvenirs. Aviles Street is best experienced close-up; it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

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