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Introducing St Augustine

The oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US, St Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565. Today, tourists flock here to saunter along cobbled roads, linger at cute cafes, browse endearing shops, learn about the city's rich history at countless museums – and cap it all off with snug dinners at lamp-lit restaurants and brews at quaint pubs. Meanwhile, horse-drawn carriages clip-clop past townsfolk dressed in period costume wandering this 144-block National Historic Landmark District.

It could all add up to a theme park–style experience at best – traveler hell at worst – but for the most part, St Augustine eclipses tourist trappings and retains charm and integrity. Why? Many reasons. First, unlike theme parks, these centuries-old buildings, monuments and narrow lanes are authentic. Second, the charming, one-off cafes and restaurants are the real deal, too: there's plenty of good eating in this small town. Third, even though they may not be required to, many people dress in period costume for work, emphasizing the town's historic character – some settle here purely for this lifestyle. And fourth, there are still many gems to discover off the well-trodden trail.