Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a fine place to spend an hour marveling at how uncomfortable furniture used to be.

It’s the former estate of James Deering—the robber baron-era manufacturer outshone by his peers Carnegie and Rockefeller—and home to some ultra-photogenic gardens, Renaissance-style architecture, and at least one very racy figurine (try and find it!). It hosts equal parts tourists and teen girls in ball gowns, so do your best to get out of the shot unless you want to end up in the background of a quinceañera invitation. Audio and in-person tours are $5 each and a guidebook is $3, but standing on the balcony and shouting things like “Fire the bastards!” and “Get me Tokyo on the line!” is absolutely free.

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Best things to see at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

The gardens

The overall landscaping design presents itself as a series of rooms, allowing you to get lost in each floral-scented oasis awash with brilliant flowers, elaborate fountains, antique art sculptures, and exquisite architecture. These European-inspired gardens are reminiscent of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France—you’d half expect to see King Louis himself enjoying his own little stroll through the grounds.

 

The Main House

Set among the extraordinary gardens sits the Main House, the winter residence of James Deering. Construction ran from 1914 until 1922, with the main goal of designing the house’s architecture around the stunning water views of Biscayne Bay. Although the overall style screams Baroque, Vizcaya was conceived and designed to be a modern and technologically-advanced piece of art, built mostly of reinforced concert and boasting a state-of-the-art (at the time) water filtration system and generators. As you explore each room, keep your eyes peeled for artifacts and objects brought over from Italy, each meticulously and carefully placed to lend a specific decorative context to each room.

 

The collections

From ancient Roman sculptures and Chinese ceramics, to Neoclassical furniture and early 20th-century paintings, Vizcaya’s collections are an eclectic mishmash of pieces, mostly acquired in Italy between 1912 and 1914, that blend together to create a true work of art. The Main House and gardens were designed and decorated at the hands of Deering’s artistic director, Paul Chalfin, known for his penchant for collecting and using his finds to decorate each room with eagle-eye precision, right down to the last detail. As you roam, keep your eyes peeled for the ground’s living collections, including critically endangered native plants, national champion trees, and orchids (so. many. orchids.).

Best places to eat & drink near Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

The Vizcaya Café and Shop

Grab-and-go sandwiches and cold beverages are available for purchase at the little café on the grounds—a quick and convenient option if you’ve got a busy day of sightseeing ahead of you.

 

Little Havana’s authentic Cuban fare

If you’re in the mood to sample some authentic Cuban food, head over to Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood to nosh on a frita (a traditional Cuban sandwich topped with potato sticks), chicken tamarind, and crispy fried shrimp. Wash it down with a Cuban coffee for an extra jolt to beat that afternoon slump.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens directions and parking

Best way to get to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

If you’re driving, take Exit 1A off of I-95 and turn onto South Miami Avenue before turning into Vizcaya. If you’re arriving by Metrorail, get off at Vizcaya station, cross over US 1 towards SW 32nd Road, turn right onto S Miami Avenue and continue until you reach the Vizcaya Entrance.

 

Best parking near Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

The grounds offer free parking in the main lot. Parking is also available across the street at  Vizcaya Village.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens FAQs

What are the museum’s hours of admission?

Wednesday-Monday: 9:30am-4:30pm

Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

 

What does Vizcaya mean?

Vizcaya refers to a Biscay, a province in Spain.

 

How much did it cost to build Vizcaya?

It’s thought to have cost $26 million to build between 1914-1922. That’s the equivalent to between $388 million and $8.7 billion in today’s dollars. 

 

How many rooms are in the Main House? 

The Main House has a total of 54 rooms (34 are open to the public).

 

What’s that smell?

A mangrove shore ecosystem runs along the southeastern edge of the property, and the sulfurous smell is the result of the healthy mangrove forest.

 

 

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