Exploring Ybor City with J + T

Ybor City, located in Tampa, Florida, is a vibrant and historic neighborhood known for its rich cultural heritage and lively atmosphere.

One of my favorite activities with couples is organizing a pre or post-wedding day session to capture their wedding celebration weekend in a more laid-back setting. After our editorial wedding at Hotel Haya in Ybor, J & T explored Ybor with me. I wanted to share how much fun one of these sessions is, plus show off a little of the Ybor City charm.

Graffiti wall in Hotel Haya Ybor City Tampa

A Quiet Start

The first part of our session was the quiet time before the editorial, where J + T hung out in their room at Hotel Haya. They shared coffee, read together, and were playful. I cannot get over these two together, they share the best bond and so joyful even just in the quiet moments. Pretty sure my cheeks were hurting from smiling before we even headed down to the café!

gay couple snuggle in bed in graffiti room at Hotel Haya
Man kisses his partner's forehead while they cuddle in their hotel bed
married couple laugh at each other while cuddling
gay husbands have a pillow fight on their hotel bed in front of graffiti wall
gay husbands have a pillow fight on their hotel bed in front of graffiti wall
gay husbands have a pillow fight and laugh on their hotel bed in front of graffiti wall
gay married couple stand on their hotel bed and share a kiss
gay partners play joyfully in their hotel room
gay husbands share a quiet moment cuddled in their hotel bed in front of graffiti wall
black and white image of husbands sharing a quiet moment together
man reads to his husband while sitting together on their hotel bed
man leans back against his husband while reading a book together
married gay couple share coffee together in their hotel room

Cafe Quiquiriqui

After a quiet morning in the room we headed down to the cutest café right on the property at Hotel Haya, Café Quiquiriqui. J + T shared coffee and chatted for a few before they changed and we headed out into the neighborhood.

cafe quiquiriqui in Ybor city tampa
hanging plants in the cafe entrance at cafe quiquiriqui
wooden sign in front of cafe quiquiriqui in Ybor city Tampa
Gay couple holds hands and walks into cafe quiquiriqui
plants hang from the ceiling in cafe quiquiriqui
yellow cup and saucer with latte and foam flower on marble top table
married couple laugh together sitting in red chairs at cafe quiquiriqui
customers enjoy coffee at cafe quiquiriqui
paper cafe menu and hanging plant
man sits and enjoys a latte with his partner at a cafe table
sugar packets and a "we love you a latte" sign

History of Ybor City

Ybor City boasts a rich history deeply intertwined with the cigar industry and immigrant culture. Founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor, a prominent cigar manufacturer, the neighborhood became a hub for cigar production, attracting thousands of immigrants from Spain, Cuba, and Italy. The historic brick buildings and charming streetscapes still bear the mark of this influential past, transporting visitors to a bygone era.

Chickens in downtown Ybor City Tampa neighborhood
couple walk down the sidewalk holding hands
Gay couple holding hands and smiling across the street
iron work balconies at Hotel Haya
couple laugh together in front of Hotel Haya in Ybor
Black and white image of Hotel Haya in Ybor City Tampa
Couple stand face to face on the corner in front of hotel haya in ybor
Portrait of a gay couple hugging each other and smiling at the camera
Husbands hold hands and walk down the sidewalk in Ybor

Cultural Landmarks and Architecture

As we explored Ybor City we saw just a few of the landmarks the area boasts. The Ybor City Museum State Park is an excellent starting point if you’re visiting, providing insight into the area’s history. The Cuban Club, an iconic building constructed in 1917, showcases elaborate Moorish-style architecture and hosts various cultural events.

Ybor City’s Vibrant Nightlife

When the sun sets in Ybor City, the neighborhood truly comes alive. We didn’t stay out after dark for this session, but if you’re visiting the area (and a nightlife person) it’s worth it. The historic Seventh Avenue, often referred to as “Cigar City’s main street,” offers an array of bars, clubs, and live music venues.

Culinary Experiences

The neighborhood is renowned for its diverse gastronomic offerings, from traditional Cuban dishes to fusion cuisines. After J + T’s editorial I actually went over to the iconic Columbia Restaurant with my friend (who designed the editorial) and we indulged in flavorful tapas and delicious entrées. There was also fabulous food at Hotel Haya itself, so make sure and give yourself plenty of time.

Exploring the Streets of Ybor City

Wandering through the streets of Ybor City, J + T and I saw a few of the hidden gems that make this neighborhood truly special. From boutique shops and vintage stores to quaint cafes and charming bookstores, every corner offered a new and exciting experience. We meandered through the historic brick streets, rode the trolley, and absorbed the vibrant ambiance and the captivating sights and sounds of Ybor City.

The sky and Centro Ybor sign photographed by Kelsey Halm Photography
partners hold hands and cross a brick street in Ybor City
man giving his partner a piggy back ride photographed in black and white
red brick building The Attic in Ybor
Historic brick city street in Ybor City neighborhood
woman crossing the street under the Centro Ybor sign
Men holding hands and smiling at each other under the centro ybor sign
Married couple holding hands as they cross the street and smile at each other
gay couple hold hands and laugh together while waiting for the trolley
gay couple share a kiss under the centro ybor sign
trolley sign ybor city centennial park
couple look at each other and get onto trolley
black and white portrait of couple hugging while riding the trolley
couple sitting together and laughing on the trolley
intricate tile and lattice outside Columbia restaurant
married couple lean on each other in front of tile wall
couple holds hands and walk together past tile wall
portrait of a man in a colorful shirt in front of bright tile wall and wood door
portrait of a man in a colorful shirt and sunglasses in front of bright tile wall and wood door
couple lean against a historic wood door together in Ybor
Intricate tile wall and eight panel wood door
blue and yellow tile on a wall with birds and flowers
couple lean against intricate wood door
looking down the street at buildings in ybor city
brick buildings and palm trees in Ybor City Tampa Florida
Couple holds hands and cross the street in Ybor
Couple smile back at the camera in front of red brick building
W T Grant building in Ybor City Tampa Florida
La herencia de ybor sign
Couple walks into the sunset on the ybor sidewalk

Ybor City as a Wedding Destination

With its unique blend of history, culture, and charm, Ybor City has become a sought-after wedding destination. Couples seeking an unconventional and enchanting setting for their special day are drawn to the neighborhood’s distinctive character. The ornate venues, picturesque backdrops, and the area’s vibrant atmosphere create a memorable backdrop for wedding celebrations.


  1. Is Ybor City safe to explore at night?
    • Yes, Ybor City has a significant police presence, making it generally safe to explore at night. However, it’s always wise to remain aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions.
  2. What is the best time to visit Ybor City?
    • Ybor City is lively year-round, but if you prefer pleasant weather and fewer crowds, consider visiting during spring or fall.
  3. Can I tour the cigar factories in Ybor City?
    • While cigar manufacturing has declined, you can still visit some of the historic buildings and learn about the area’s cigar-making heritage.
  4. Are there accommodations in Ybor City?
    • Yes, Ybor City offers a range of accommodations, including boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals.
  5. Is parking easily available in Ybor City?
    • Yes, Ybor City has several parking options, including street parking, parking garages, and private lots. However, it’s advisable to check for any parking restrictions or fees.