Long weekend: our essential travel guide to Miami

Words by
Daisy Palmer

30th December 2016

A hotspot for sun, sea, art and fashion, we reveal Miami’s best sandy beaches and achingly cool design hotels, as well as restaurants, bars and gyms

Miami is in flux. With its Art Basel Miami Beach fair (December 1-4) now as much a feature of the fashion scene as it is of the art world, the city is ripe with both. The new design district is welcoming in the big brands such as Burberry, Cartier and Bulgari and this year sees the completion of the area’s transformation.

But it is also a city for enjoying simple pleasures — a beachside stroll, ceviche and cold beer or dancing until dawn in one of the city’s legendary nightclubs.

Sleep for those whose idea of heaven is pink flamingoed murals, lashings of sage-green velvet, a butler on call and spectacular views, then the Faena hits the spot (faena.com; rooms from $745). One of the most sensational openings of the year, decorous it is not. This is luxe skirting the boundaries of good taste, courtesy of the fedora-wearing Alan Faena, whose Buenos Aires hotel is already a Mecca for the most stylish Argentina-bound voyagers.

Add in a collaboration with film director Baz Luhrmann and you have the hottest place in town. The 169-room hotel, situated in the Miami Beach area, has rooms with gold-leafed bespoke biscuits on arrival, marble bathrooms, hi-tech Japanese loos and bespoke scent wafting through the corridors. The pool is worth upgrading the swimwear for.  

Nearby, for the eco-conscious well-shod traveller, is 1 Hotel South Beach (1hotels.com/south-beach; rooms from $450). The philosophy here is green with comfort. In the rooms, natural tones prevail, coat hangers are made from recycled maps, there is note paper containing seeds to plant in your garden on your return home and yoga mats in the wardrobe.

Downstairs, a Nativ Made outlet delivers tasty raw juices while whacky floral arrangements and terrariums can be bought at the in-house Plant the Future shop. A SoulCycle studio next door allows bikini bodies to be honed. 

For stylish minimalism, The Miami Beach Edition (editionhotels.com/miami-beach; rooms from $629) is the place to go. Harking back to 1950s Havana, fern trees provide arboreal warmth and the gold mosaic columns offer a decadent welcome. Rooms are simply designed with an inviting bronze and oatmeal palette and Le Labo products in the bathrooms.

The pool has a party atmosphere or escape to the Sandbox, a hammocked inglenook to snuggle down and watch films under the stars. 

For something altogether more accessible but still stylish, the Nautilus (sixtyhotels.com/nautilus-south-beach) on South Beach has rooms with a soft maritime design. Comfort comes in the form of bespoke Sferra linens, a well-stocked vintage trunk minibar and cosy hooded bathrobes. The communal areas excel, as does the art deco pool area. 

Eat in Miami you can go old school with a Cuban carb fest, such as Puerto Sagua (700 Collins Avenue), where punters feast on Cuban sandwiches and shrimp enchiladas.  At the most waist-conscious end of the scale, Ola (olamiami.com) serves up cobia infused with sour orange, which comes with a jalapeño kick.

Faena Hotel pool photo by Todd Eberle

Faena Hotel pool photo by Todd Eberle

Wash down with chilli mojitos. As far as hotel restaurants go, Faena’s Pao is one of the best — the 72-hour wagyu beef short rib asado is nothing short of epic — but its Los Fuegos steakhouse, under the watchful guidance of Francis Mallmann, is also a standout. Try the chargrilled ribeye with kale and endive salad (faena.com/miami-beach/restaurants-and-bars). 

Soho Beach House (sohobeachhouse.com) is heaving at brunch, but head to its newly opened Mandolin Beach restaurant in the beach and pool area. With sand beneath your toes, cocktails such as the rosemary and tequila Lavanta Smash are a great accompaniment to the lamb chops over pilaf rice. At Edition (editionhotels.com/miami-beach), try out its stone-baked sausage and kale sourdough pizza or tuna tartare with spicy radish. 

Pao by Paul Qui - Dining Room

Pao by Paul Qui - dining room

1 Hotel South Beach’s Beachcraft (craftrestaurantsinc.com/beachcraft), meanwhile, is a stylish restaurant serving small plates such as octopus with avocado and black chilli, and queen snapper with Swiss chard. 

Drink bar hounds make a beeline for The Broken Shaker at the Freehand Miami (thefreehand.com). Squeeze your way through the crowd in this Lilliputian space and grab a cocktail such as The Dip (vodka shaken with carrot, Campari and ginger) before sitting under the twinkling lanterns outside.

The Rose Bar at Delano South Beach (morganshotelgroup.com/delano/delano-south-beach/eat-drink/rose-bar) is still pulling in the punters. Fit in with espresso Martinis and Margaritas.

Party end the night with some partying at the Rec Room (recroomies.com); the dress code may be casual, but this is where some of the highest rollers come to drink shots of tequila añejo. Continue the night at Story (storymiami.com), where some of the best DJs in the world play, but don’t forget to leave some room in your tank for Club Space (clubspace.com), where the beautiful set dances till dawn.

Do play hard — and workout hard — as they do in Miami. The Faena and 1 Hotel have spectacular gyms, or take a beachside jog along the boardwalk. 

Luxury mall fiends should make a pedicured beeline for Bal Harbour (balharbourshops.com), which showcases brands such as Trina Turk swimwear and Saks Fifth Avenue, but it is also great for a bite (try Asian fusion eatery Makoto) or a blow dry. 

Matador room

Matador room

The Wynwood art district (wynwoodmiami.com) is a popular venue for street art. A guided Wynwood Art Walk (wynwoodartwalk.com) provides an interesting insight into new talent. Pick up some chic writing ephemera at Wynwood Letterpress (wynwoodletterpress.com). A cab ride away is the Pérez Art Museum Miami (pamm.org), where you should look out for the Ulla von Brandenburg exhibition (Nov 4-June 25). 
British Airways (ba.com) has twice daily flights direct from London to Miami, with prices starting at £435 return.