Tampa wouldn’t be Tampa without Ybor City. The Latin neighborhood that helped shape Tampa as much as any other area influence, remains a flavorful, integral part of Tampa life today.
From food and music, to architecture and industry, Ybor City has contributed heavily to Tampa traditions. If you’re new to the area, or considering a move here, a visit to Ybor City should be on your to-do list. Odds are you’ll return frequently!
Here’s our quick guide for exploring Ybor City.
A little history
Ybor City is located just north of downtown Tampa. A Spanish entrepreneur named Vicente Martinez-Ybor founded the city in 1886 when he decided to move his cigar factory here from Key West. Guess how the new neighborhood got its name?
Ybor was a pivotal figure in both the new Latin community and Tampa’s burgeoning one. The cigar factories became a leading industry as Cuban, Spanish, Italian and other immigrants from other countries began new lives in the United States, which attracted more residents, businesses and growth.
Like many in-town neighborhoods, Ybor City has experienced ups and downs through the decades as founding generations waned and younger generations moved away. Thankfully, the neighborhood is enjoying revitalization as Tampa’s “cool” place to be, with its rich trove of historic buildings, restaurants, new businesses and still-easy convenience to downtown Tampa.
If you love Latin cuisine, you can easily eat your way through Ybor City. If you’re unfamiliar with local staples such as Cafe con Leche and creamy flan, dig in. You’ll be glad you did.
Start with the legends — La Segunda Central Bakery and the Columbia Restaurant. The founding families of each operation still own and oversee it, which ensures enduring tradition.
Founded in 1915, La Segunda Central Bakery still churns out authentic Cuban bread (addictive, trust us), pastries, coffee, breakfast and lunch each day. The bread is even shipped all over the United States.
The Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 and today occupies an entire Ybor City block. Go for the Cuban and Spanish cuisine, nightly Flamenco dancing (except on Sunday) and pose for a selfie by the original courtyard fountain; it’s one of the Columbia’s flagship images.
On second thought, have a Cuban sandwich for lunch at LaSegunda and another for dinner at the Columbia!
The social life
One of Ybor City’s historic strengths is its entertainment options. Good news! Nothing’s changed. Bars, craft breweries and nightclubs of every stripe, promise party after party. Add annual parades, concerts and the like, and your calendar can be filled every night.
Centro Ybor is a complex that consolidates shopping, dining and clubbing venues. Or, try a craft-brew or wine-bar tour.
Another Ybor City tradition? The neighborhood’s historic social clubs that cater to resident immigrant communities. Many still operate and offer an authentic slice of Ybor City after dark.
The narrow streets and century-old buildings of Ybor City are charming, so you must schedule time to simply look around. Visit neighborhood museums (plenty of those) and tour historic cigar factories. Follow the yummy restaurant smells that drift onto sidewalks. Take a walking tour to learn about Ybor’s late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture.
How nice to know you can return any time, from your new Tampa-area home!
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