Miami is best known for its sunny beaches and shiny, high-rise buildings. But, during a long weekend there, I got to discover a few less obvious neighbourhood gems, showing that Miami is a city that’s not just for sun-seekers and business conferences. Here’s my guide to seeing the city like a local…
Soho Beach House – A charming art-deco building houses one of the most intimate and exclusive hotels on Miami Beach, Soho Beach House. There are 49 spacious bedrooms, each featuring vintage furniture and stylish details. Guests can also enjoy the club’s restaurant & bars, pool and Cowshed spa, as well as a library and a screening snug for evening films.
Loews Miami Beach – This grand oceanside hotel has recently undergone a $50m full renovation, making it the perfect time to stay here. The rooms have a fresh marine feel and the dramatic pool is ideal for sun-worshipping and relaxing.
Zak the Baker – This popular Jewish bakery in the Wynwood area was founded by local baker Zak Stern. The expansive industrial space is always full of hungry visitors, who stop by for sweet babka and hearty sandwiches.
La Mar by Gastón Acurio – Peruvian Chef Gastón Acurio has won many awards for his vibrant restaurants all over the world. La Mar is found within the upmarket Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Downtown district of Miami. The kitchen (headed up by Executive Chef Diego Oka) presents colourful and flavour-filled plates of food representing the authentic and diverse ingredients and recipes of Peru. Don’t miss the super fresh classic ceviche, moreish empanadas and high quality grilled meats.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro – Mandolin restaurant is instantly welcoming, a Greek institution where simplicity and authenticity reign. Greek-Turkish couple, Ahmet Erkaya and Anastasia Koutsioukis, opened the sunny bistro in 2009 and it has been a hit ever since. Stop by for healthy and delicious sharing plates, our favourites were the stuffed zucchini and the grilled sirloin kefte meatballs.
Mignonette – Housed in a former 1930s petrol station, Mignonette is a retro-inspired oyster bar and seafood focussed restaurant. Sit at the bar and taste a selection of the freshest oysters in town.
Katsuya South Beach – For a Japanese food fix Katsuya is a great place to satisfy all your cravings. Found in the SLS South Beach Hotel, in a Philippe Starck designed dining room, Chef Katsuya Uechi offers a contemporary take on Japanese specialities. We particularly loved the Wagyu gyoza, the vegetable tempura with yuzu kosho aioli, and the signature Fillet of Beef with foie gras and plum wine reduction. A meal at Katsuya is best paired with a sake from the restaurant’s extensive selection.
Diez y Seis – For the ultimate Mexican weekend brunch, head to the vibrant Diez y Seis restaurant inside the Shore Club South Beach hotel. Sit out on the breezy terrace and enjoy Cuban Tacos, Empanadas & Quesadillas and super indulgent Red Velvet Churros with Pecans and white chocolate for dessert.
Taquiza – Taquiza is taco heaven… found on Collins Avenue in South Beach. The fun venue serves up $3-5 tacos, flavoursome sides and strong cocktails. Our favourites were the Asada taco (grilled hanger steak) and the rich and spicy Barbecoa (braised beef brisket, cumin and chillies). Don’t miss the best side dish, Elote (grilled corn-on-the-cob with coriander, jalapeño and cotija cheese). Visit during happy hour for $5 cocktails.
KYU – While in the bohemian district of Wynwood, Kyu is the place to eat. This modern bistro serves up modern Asian cuisine with a twist. Chef Michael Lewis has created a menu of addictively good recipes, the most memorable plates I tried were: Roasted cauliflower, Pork Belly Buns, Korean Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs and Coconut Cake for pudding.
Panther Coffee – Panther is Miami’s best known speciality coffee company, transforming the coffee scene in Miami when it first opened in 2010. There are five venues across the city, but the original Wynwood branch is perhaps the best. Pick up an indulgent pastry (supplied by True Loaf Bakery) to enjoy with your velvety smooth coffee.
Sweet Liberty – Sweet Liberty has a well deserved place on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. The bar’s late founder John Lermayer was the leader and initiator of the specialist cocktail movement in Miami and at this fun cocktail bar you can see why. Try the delicious Pina Colada (which has a hint of coffee) or go for the Old-Fashioned of the day ($8 during happy hour, 4-7pm every day).
Café Galleria – One of the newest coffee spots to open, Café Galleria is a tiny cafe and retail space in Downtown Miami. Owner Jeremy Sapienza serves Stumptown coffee and a selection of gourmet vegan pastries by local company Bloodless Vegan.
Broken Shaker – This quirky, tiki-style cocktail bar is found at the Freehand Hotel on Miami Beach. Let the experienced barmen guide you through the menu, we tried the seasonal Cranberry Old Fashioned paired with the black bean and queso empanadas.
All Day – Named Miami’s best coffee shop, All Day is a great place to linger over coffee and breakfast. The Scandinavian inspired interiors match the no-fuss neon menu, so customers can order their coffee exactly as they like it.
The Webster – Located in the heart of South Beach Miami, this multi-brand boutique is spread over three floors of the historic Henry Hohauser designed art deco venue. Each floor is carefully curated showcasing the finest pieces from a selection of designer brands, including Chanel, Gucci and other iconic names.
Miami Design District – After a great deal of investment at the start of the century, Miami Design District is now home to over 130 art galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants & bars. In the last 10 years, since Louboutin opened the first luxury retail space, the area has flourished and now includes brands like Fendi, Aesop, Rag & Bone and Hermes.
Faena Bazaar – This multi-storey shopping destination is part of the ever-expanding Faena district in central Miami Beach. Each floor is themed, and you can find unique luxury items, clothing, jewellery and more. This beautiful building is ever-evolving, a wonderful place to wander and explore.
To See & Do
Vizcaya Museum – Vizcaya was built in a leafy corner of Miami in 1916 as a businessman’s holiday home. The grand building was intended to look like a centuries-old European villa, and inside the rooms are suitably ornate and decorative. Vizcaya has been sensitively restored, and guests can wander inside and also admire the surrounding gardens.
Miami Culinary Tour of Little Havana – Miami Culinary Tours organise comprehensive tours of all the major foodie areas of Miami. We booked onto the ‘Little Havana’ tour, with the brilliant guide, Robyn, who was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. After learning about the history of Little Havana we visited a number of stops for speciality Cuban cuisine – particularly memorable were the Cuban sandwich (pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, pickles, potato sticks, Cuban bread), a look around the local cigar factory, and a perfectly mixed mojito at iconic bar Ball & Chain.
South Beach Art Deco District – The Art Deco neighbourhood in South Beach is known for its concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. It’s a great place to wander and dream of the bygone glamorous era.
The Bass Museum – Founded in 1964 this historic art deco space features a diverse range of art & objects, along with a sculpture garden. This small contemporary gallery houses engaging small temporary exhibitions that are always worth a look.
Wynwood Walls – A unique district of Miami which celebrates street art. The colourful area features eye-catching murals and graffiti by artists from around the globe.
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) – Found in downtown Miami, the Pérez Art Museum exhibits contemporary international art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The building is just as impressive as the interesting exhibitions it showcases inside.
Miami Watersports Paradise – In a city where the sea is so much part of the culture, it seems fitting to see the city from the water. We enjoyed a 1-hour private boat ride round the city with Miami Watersports Paradise, a relaxing way to admire the celebrity villas on Star Island. The company also offer a variety of watersports including tubing, jet ski, flyboard, water ski and more.
Many thanks to the Miami tourist board for their help with this trip, find more information here.