Time was when South Beach ruled the roost. Now, downtown Miami has been spruced up, and it’s the place to be for those in the know. Here we list 10 of our favourite hangouts in the Magic City.
- EAST hotel
Dubbed the ‘Manhattan of the South’, Brickell – Miami’s financial district – was once an all-work-and-no-play kind of jam. Now, there’s a decent post-work scene, with new bars and restaurants popping up all the time, plus excellent hotels for those who prefer to stay in the heart of things.
The brand-new EAST – Swire hotels’ first US opening – is situated on top of Brickell City Centre – the $1.05-billion development that counts Saks Fifth Avenue and Valentino amongst its names.
Designed by award-winning, Miami-based Arquitectonica – together with New York’s Clodagh Designs – EAST has a relaxed yet glamorous vibe, fusing modern Miami minimalism with Asian Feng Shui and bio-geometry.
All rooms have spacious outdoor terraces with views over the city and bay. And its 40th-floor rooftop bar, Sugar – designed by Los Angeles-based Studio Collective – is one of our favourite spots in the city for sunset cocktails and sushi.
Even if you’re not staying here, we highly recommend a trip up there in the futuristic lifts, plus (if you have room) a taste of the incredible wood-fired pizza and parrilla at fifth-floorQuinto La Huella – an outpost of Uruguay’s Parador La Huella.
EAST, 788 Brickell Plaza, www.east-miami.com. Rooms from $259
- El Tucán
Founded by Michael Ridard and Mathieu Massa (who also own Bâoli in South Beach), El Tucán is a Parisian-Cuban-themed cabaret. Twice nightly shows entertain guests, and the Latin-inspired food and cocktails keep everyone in the mood.Order the El Tucán, which comes in an ornamental brass receptacle, or splash out on a mega mojito for the table, which comes with as many straws as you dare to share. Word is that Will Smith was once spotted here once tearing up the dance floor. So, you know, dress to impress.
1111 SW 1st Ave, eltucanmiami.com
You can’t go wrong with Cipriani’s. They have restaurants in all the best places, and their Miami outpost is no exception. Perched on Brickell point, which is full of historical significance as the site where one of Florida’s early peoples – the Tequesta Indians – once dwelled, Cipriani’s has panoramic views over Biscayne Bay, and serves Italian and Japanese dishes, such as seared beef with yuzu ponzu sauce and veal milanese. Booking advised.465 Brickell Avenue, www.cipriani.com
If you like your nightlife served al fresco with plenty of hipster vibe, this is the place for you. Located under the interstate highway, within spitting distance of Little Havana, Sidebar has plenty of downtown Miami atmos. DJs and live bands play regularly so keep an eye on the events list.
337 SW 8th St, http://www.sidebarmiami.com/
Award-winning elcielo is one of our favourite spots in Miami for fine dining. Run by Colombian chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, the food is imaginative, playful, and full of flavour. Book ahead to guarantee a table.
31 SE 5th St, http://www.elcielorestaurant.com/
- Blackbird Ordinary
For inventive, handcrafted cocktails such as the London Sparrow – a heady mix of gin, Aperol, passion fruit and cayenne – you can’t beat Blackbird Ordinary. It’s the sort of local joint we wish we had round the corner of our own homes. Though maybe for our livers it’s best not. Open 365 days a year until 5am. Now that is commitment.
729 SW 1st Ave. http://www.blackbirdordinary.com/
- Brickell City Centre Farmers’ Market
Every Friday and Saturday, close to the Metromover at 8th St, the farmers’ market occupies a little patch of land where local makers such as La Provence bakery and Pappardelle Pasta sell their wares. Check the Facebook page to see who will be there each week.
Between 7th St and 8th St, directly beneath the Metromover track.
- Cantina La Veinte
With a superb waterside setting, this upmarket cantina is a solid bet for excellent Mexican food. Ex-NOBU chef, Santiago Gomez, knows exactly how to create dishes for modern Miami customers – think delicate tuna ceviche and rib-eye Chicharrón. Happy hour runs from 5-7pm Monday to Friday.
495 Brickell Ave, www.cantinala20.com
Just north of Downtown is the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) – a must-visit on any trip to Miami. As well as its permanent collection of 20th and 21st-century artwork, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions from international contemporary artists.
After your visit, be sure to stop in at Verde – the museum’s modern-casual restaurant – which has outdoor seating, excellent pizza and wine, and sweeping views of the bay.
1103 Biscayne Blvd, pamm.org
- Wynwood Walls
What used to be a fairly uneventful warehouse district is now a colourful outdoor gallery and trendy neighbourhood, full of murals, street art, shops and cafes. The urban landscape is a canvas for dozens of international artists, and spans the few blocks west of North Miami Ave and NW20th.
While you’re here, make time for Panther Coffee, Zak the Baker and Wynwood Brewing Company for all-important refreshments.
Direct flights from London can be booked with Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Norwegian Air, American Airlines and Iberia.
By Katie Monk, katiemonk.com