Tampa / Fla

Tampa / Fla

Before starting a cruise from the starting port of Port Everglades, we have a few days left for a tour in a rental car through the south of the US state of Florida. Tampa is on the way. The city is one of the most underestimated American cities. When it comes to Florida, Tampa ranks third in terms of population after Jacksonville and Miami.

Tampa - tram in front of high-rise buildings

Tampa - tram in front of high-rise buildings

Official estimates put the population at 1 as of July 2022, 398.000. Nearly 3,2 million people live on Tampa Bay and in the metropolitan region.

Tampa's History

Spanish conquistadors discovered the Tampa region in the 1520s. Led by Hernando do Soto, they searched for gold and precious stones as well as space for permanent settlements. The project initially met with little luck. The search for gemstones and gold failed, the indigenous population was wiped out due to diseases introduced by the Europeans, and settlement conditions were initially so poor that permanent settlement in the region only became possible at the beginning of the 18th century.

Three centuries later, in July 1821, the Kingdom of Spain ceded its former colony of Florida to the United States. In March 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States. In January 1849, Tampa, which had just 200 residents at the time, was given the status of a “village”. And after six more years, the Village became a “City”.

Interesting facts about Tampa

After the discovery of large phosphate deposits in the region, the connection to the rail network and the expansion of the port, the city became increasingly important and prosperous. There was a real surge in the decade between 1950 and 1960. During this time the population rose from around 125.000 to 275.000.

Tampa is the capital of Hillsborough County, a university town and a major economic center. The residents and their guests are offered a wide range of cultural offerings.

About the climate: Tampa and the surrounding area have a subtropical climate. The best time to visit Tampa is November to May.

Tampa - subtropical plants in front of high-rise buildingsTampa - subtropical plants in front of high-rise buildings

Sights and attractions in Tampa and the surrounding area

Given Florida's many attractions, it can be assumed that visitors arriving from Europe in particular use their time in Tampa to discover the greater Tampa area.

The beaches, bridges, amusement parks and museums undoubtedly justify a stay of several days in the region. In our opinion, the following attractions are suitable for trips on your own.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is within sight of the cruise terminal. The modern building is dedicated to the marine worlds of Florida and other parts of the world. Themed areas such as “Wetlands Trail” or “Bays and Beaches” bring visitors vividly closer to the animals’ habitats.

Tampa's AquariumTampa's Aquarium

The aquarium is a non-profit organization. It ranks among the best aquariums in the United States.

  Address: 701 Channelside Drive

Mariner's Museum

Next to the aquarium is the Mariners Museum with the American Victory Ship. It is one of four still seagoing US ships from the Second World War. The Navy transport ship can be fully visited. Tours start twice a year.

Ybor City

Downtown Tampa is home to the historic Ybor City district. It emerged in the 1880s when thousands of immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy moved to Tampa. The development of Ybor City came from the Cuban Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who, together with others, founded cigar production in Tampa. Over time, the multi-ethnic district has developed into a trendy residential and business location. Apart from one production facility, the industrial production of cigars has long been history. The JC Newman Cigar Co. Museum provides information about cigar production in times gone by.

 Address: 2701 North 16th St

Historic tram cars shuttle between the cruise terminal and Ybor City.

Tampa - historic tram with destination Ybor CityTampa - historic tram with destination Ybor City

Orlando's amusement parks

Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando are extremely attractive to visitors thanks to their attractions. Within one to one and a half hours you can drive from Tampa to Orlando to the destinations scattered throughout the city.

Dali Museum

In neighboring Saint Petersburg, Florida's fifth largest city, 40 kilometers away, the Dalí Museum attracts visitors with the largest collection of works by the brilliant Spanish artist outside of Europe.

Saint Petersburg - Dali Museum
Saint Petersburg - Dali Museum
Saint Petersburg - Dalí Museum - side view
Saint Petersburg - Dali's beard

The collection includes 2.140 works, including 96 oil paintings, 100 watercolors and drawings, and 1.300 other objects. The initiator of the museum was the industrialist couple Morse from Cleveland / Ohio.

 Address: 1 Dalí Blvd, St. Petersburg / Florida

State Art Museum of Florida and the Ringling Circus Museum

Nearly one hundred kilometers separate Tampa and Sarasota, further south. There lies the great legacy of circus entrepreneur John Ringling. In 1927, he made Sarasota the winter home of his world-famous circus company. At the same time, he created a palatial residential complex. The exquisite exhibitions of the State Art Museum of Florida, the Ringling Circus Museum and the Ringling Historic Asola Theater are located in this and neighboring buildings. The theater was built in 1798 in Asolo, Italy and was moved brick by brick to Sarasota in the early 1950s .

Sarasota - The State Art Museum of Florida
Sarasota - The State Art Museum of Florida
Sculpture Lygia and the Bull at the State Art Museum of Florida
Sarasota - Asolo Theater

Recommended beaches

The wide, seemingly endless and fine sandy beaches in Tampa's surrounding area are always worth a visit. Our favorites include the beaches of Siesta Key near Sarasota, Anna Maria Island near Bradenton or the beaches on the Gulf Coast off Saint Petersburg.

Sarasota skyline
Bridge on Siesta Drive
Siesta Key
Saint Petersburg - Baithouse with onlookers

We particularly recommend Madeira Beach with its busy 335 meter long boardwalk. Madeira Beach is located in western Saint Petersburg

Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach - Boardwalk

Madeira Beach - Boardwalk 

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

There are only a few outstanding bridge buildings in the world. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge falls into this category. If at all possible, you should drive on the bridge structure. The four-lane bridge is almost 8,9 kilometers long. Interstate Highway 275 and US Route 19 run over it. The huge bridge with the cable-stayed central opening spans Tampa Bay. It connects Terra Caia with Saint Petersburg.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On the way on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On the way on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge 

Tampa for cruise ship guests

Cruises departing from Port Tampa Bay primarily head to Caribbean destinations. In direct comparison to the world's three largest American cruise ports, Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Tampa's cruise activities seem rather modest.

Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal

Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal

Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal

Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal

Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International offer 4-, 5-, 7- and 14-day cruises from Tampa. German cruise ships such as the AIDAmar, AIDAvita and Phoenix' Amadea have also visited. In 2018 and 2019, the port reported more than a million passengers and well over 200 ship visits. In comparison, the numbers for 2022 were down sharply with 418.200 passengers and 184 ship calls.

Cruise ship guests and Tampa residents have access to an attractive center with bars, shops, restaurants and event venues in the Channelside complex adjacent to the cruise terminals.

Tampa-Channelside PlazaTampa-Channelside Plaza

In contrast to passenger shipping, the volume of freight is astonishingly high, at more than 33 million tonnes. Nearly a third of all cargo to and from Florida passes through the Port of Tampa.

Update September 2023