Enjoy FREE tours of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. Tours are held every Sunday and they go over the amazing history of this iconic hotel.

Free Tours Of The Biltmore Hotel In Miami

Enjoy FREE tours of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. Tours are held every Sunday and they go over the amazing history of this iconic hotel and National Historic Landmark.

The Biltmore Hotel In Miami

Imagine walking under barrel-vaulted ceilings, passing through marble columns, or gazing at hand-painted frescoes. If you think you’re somewhere in the Mediterranean, think again. Just a short drive southwest of downtown Miami is the city of Coral Gables, known as “The City Beautiful.” This city is renowned for its aesthetic charm and beauty. And in this city is the Biltmore Hotel, a National Historic Landmark.

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Exploring the lobby before our free tour of the Biltmore in Miami
Exploring the lobby of the Biltmore in Miami

History Of The Biltmore Hotel

In 1925, George Merrick set off to create a hotel for the people of Coral Gables; a luxury hotel that would also serve as “a center of sports and fashion.” Merrick teamed up with John Bowman, the Biltmore hotel mogul, and together they contracted Leonard Schultze and S. Fullerton Weaver.

This pair had already been responsible for the Atlanta and Los Angeles Biltmore’s, New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, and the Miami Daily News Tower (also known as Freedom Tower).

The Biltmore’s grand opening was on January 15, 1926. In less than 1 year, the 400+ room hotel had been built, along with a country club, golf course, and enormous swimming pool (the largest hotel pool in the continental US).

Many athletes, musicians, movie stars, politicians, and even gangsters frequently stayed at the Biltmore to enjoy fashion shows, galas, and aquatic shows. People such as Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Johnny Weissmuller, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Capone.

That all changed with the start of World War II, however. The hotel was seized by the government and converted into a military hospital. The beautiful ceilings were covered, the windows were sealed, and the floors were overlaid with linoleum. Even after the war, it remained a hospital for veterans until 1968.

Although the city of Coral Gables was eventually able to get the property back, the building remained empty for almost a decade. In fact, it was almost torn down! Then in 1983, restoration began. It took nearly 4 years and $55 million to return the Biltmore to its former glory. Everything now is as it once was, with only slight modifications.

The Biltmore is home to the largest hotel pool in the continental US
The Biltmore is home to the largest hotel pool in the continental US
The pool is surrounded by beautiful sculptures
The pool is surrounded by beautiful sculptures
The Biltmore's award-winning golf course
The Biltmore’s award-winning golf course

Free Tours Of The Biltmore Hotel

For those that would like to see the magnificent hotel and learn more about it, free tours of the Biltmore Hotel are given every Sunday from 2 PM to 3 PM. You have to register beforehand on Eventbrite; just search for “Biltmore Hotel Tour” and it will come up.

The tour starts at the fireplace at the east end of the Main Lobby. It is given by a volunteer of the Dade Heritage Trust, an organization whose mission is to preserve Miami’s culture. When we visited the Biltmore, Judy was giving the tour. She has been giving these tours for years, simply because she loves to do it.

As we walked around the property, Judy gave us insight into George Merrick’s world upon arriving in desolate South Florida. We learned about his family and the history of Coral Gables. Something we hadn’t realized was that Merrick had named the city streets after names he’d read in Spanish books.

We also learned interesting tidbits about the hotel itself. For example, the inspiration for the design of the hotel was the Giralda bell tower from the cathedral in Seville, Spain. We also learned that the carpet in the Alhambra ballroom was created to match the ceiling. And since some of the original decorative tiles can no longer be manufactured if they are damaged, they’ve had an artist come and hand-paint new ones.

Gargoyle inside the Biltmore
Did this gargoyle help save the Biltmore from destruction?

After The Tour

Once the tour was over, we continued to walk around the hotel. We could not get enough of the Mediterranean style and felt like we could have spent hours photographing every small detail. We loved that there was so much history there. As we walked around the main and lower lobbies, we stopped to look at old photographs and read their descriptions.

Important women at the ground breaking of the hotel, including Mrs. Merrick in the center
Important women at the ground breaking of the hotel, including Mrs. Merrick in the center

Dining At The Biltmore

If you have time after your tour of the Biltmore, we also recommend getting something to eat while you’re there. The Biltmore has multiple dining options, with Fontana being a favorite. They offer award-winning Italian cuisine which you can enjoy indoors or outside on the terrace, surrounded by palm trees. Reservations are highly recommended.

Lunch at Fontana
Lunch at Fontana

Final Thoughts On The Biltmore Hotel

Most people have a misconception of Miami and we want to reiterate that there is so much more to the city than beaches and booze. There is culture and there are endless stories of men and women who have persevered against strong odds to build what has become one of the most important cities in the world.

So if you’re traveling to Miami, or even if you’re a local, we would highly recommend visiting and taking advantage of the free tours of the Biltmore Hotel. We guarantee you’ll leave as captivated and mesmerized as we were.

Have you been to the Biltmore Hotel? What did you think of it? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂

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Enjoy FREE tours of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. Tours are held every Sunday and they go over the amazing history of this iconic hotel.

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  1. Whoa! Some seriously stunning pics, Vicky! I had forgotten how amazing the Biltmore is. And how cool they have free tour days. Now I want to go back! I’m dragging you with me to do a girl’s brunch there when I return to MIA 🙂 Love the post!

    1. Haha! I don’t think you’ll need to drag me though!

  2. Very interesting – you’re right most people just view Miami as party and beach but I’m sure there’s much more like the Biltmore hotel

  3. The detail of the architecture is astounding! What a great tip to check out something free to do. I’ve been dying to see Miami during Art Basel. Have you been to that?

    1. Not to any of the official things, but have walked around the Wynwood area plenty of times and the art is amazing!

  4. Is it super strange that this place reminds me of Hogwarts? I mean look at the lobby!!! 😀

  5. I’d love to see this! Will be visiting Miami in a month and I’ll definitely check the Biltmore out.

    1. Great Elaine! If you have any questions or need help with anything please let me know 🙂

  6. This is pretty awesome. I love being in spots that transcends you back in time!

  7. Never thought of Miami that way – it looks very interesting! Like your article 🙂

  8. That is awesome. I didn’t know they gave free tours. Such a beautiful hotel. It always seems like these beautiful places just sit and become run down and then finally someone decides to restore it to is former glory and then some.

    1. I’m glad it was restored; it would have been a shame to lose such a beautiful building.

  9. Wow, this place is stunning! Those chandeliers are breathtaking! I’ve added this to my list of places I MUST see, as I’m always obsessed with historical architecture! Thanks for sharing this gorgeous place!

  10. I would definitely sign up for this tour. I absolutely love the inside of this building. It looks so classic, so epic…

  11. I am a fan of free tours and this one sounds quite interesting. I have passed by this hotel before and noticed its style but I did not know anything about it. It’s unfortunate that it was seized for so long but I’m happy to learn that the city got it back. I am shocked that anyone even considered tearing this grand building down. Classic hotels are an asset to any community and present style often lost in current architectural trends.

  12. Thanks for alerting me to the tour of the Biltmore. We drove by it when we were in Miami a few years ago, but didn’t have time to stop in. Would love to take the tour. It definitely reminds me of the Hotel Hershey in PA from what I have seen on your post.

    1. I hope next time you’re in town you’re able to visit. It really is a gorgeous building with so much history. 🙂

  13. It sounds like the tour would make up for another Miami highlight now that you have driven me by the hotel. We will have to call to see if they can arrange a tour with an ASL interpreter so I can enjoy the full experience. The photos look pretty awesome.

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