othing puts a city on a map like a celebrity footballer shifting teams, and no one seems to fire up celebrity support quite like Lionel Messi. Since the former Argentine team captain moved to Inter Miami, the matches have become a feverishly star-studded affair, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez, Will Ferrell, Tom Holland and Prince Harry among the ‘notable attendees’ at the Los Angeles FC game.
Just as Beckham’s move to LA swung the spotlight onto the City of Angels’ highway-heavy, lemongrass juice lifestyle, Messi’s arrival in Miami has added some spice to a city already at optimum red pepper count. From Miami Beach’s till-dawn energy to the Design District’s off-beat galleries, Bienvenidos a Miami, where the sun always shines and the mojitos are always flowing.
Faena, Mid Beach
Faena can be found in Mid-Beach – a lively stretch just north of South Beach, where palms tickle vast Art Deco buildings and DJs adorn most rooftops. If Miami is synonymous with kitsch maximalism, the Faena has it in droves. This fantastical hotel is all candy-striped parasols, tiger print cushions and vast gilded rooms that spill onto a private white-sand beach. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and his wife, designer Catherine Martin were drafted in to give the institution it’s due – painting the lobby’s vast pillars in gold, scattering the terraces in red fringe umbrellas and turquoise cushions, and dialling up the volume on the rooms with scarlet accents. Don’t miss Francis Mallmann’s asado-style Los Fuegos restaurants or Damien Hirst’s woolly mammoth skeleton in a glass cage (you’ll be hard-pressed to walk past the latter casually).
Book: Doubles from £407 per night (faeana.com).
The St Regis, Bal. Harbour Resort
It’s big, it’s butlered and it’s expensive, but entering St Regis Bal Habour is stepping into a smoother, minimalist dimension where pools are sliced neatly from slabs of stone, and kingsize cabanas come fitted with aircon (of course). Should cabana fever strike – unlikely with two pools, four remarkably good restaurants and the flawless beachfront Miami dreamers expect – Bal Harbour’s shops sit alongside the hotel.
Book: Doubles from £220 per night (marriott.com).
The Ritz Carlton, South Beach
Worlds away from the thudding party hotels, The Ritz Carlton draws in a chic crowd looking to recalibrate by the pool, possibly with a little lounge music, certainly with a string of top-drawer restaurants to tick off. Here, it’s all about the ocean-front views, slinking off the spa for an afternoon pamper session, and tucking into Latin American plates at Fuego y Mar. The hotel’s eye-wateringly expensive pre-pandemic renovation has zhuzhed up the founding father of ‘Miami Modern,’ architect Morris Lapidus’ ocean liner-style resort rooms with Deco wall panelling, monochrome touches and hefty marble bathrooms.
Book: Doubles from £345 (ritzcarlton.com).
The Setai, Miami Beach
It’s easy to see why this twinkling skyscraper hotel routinely lures in a roll call of celebrities. Beyoncé, Madonna and Paris Hilton have all fallen for its symmetrical poolscape and delectable dim sum, and the loyalists return (as soon as the chill sets in across the rest of America) to the Zen embrace of a dark, elemental lobby and sleep-stealing beds. It’s the ultimate chic party launchpad, or at least somewhere to retreat to in the sophisticated northern stretches of South Beach, whether it’s for a hangover-busting Balinese massage, or a sleep far enough away from that thumping Miami beat.
Book: Doubles from £476 per night (thesetaihotel.com).
The Miami Beach Edition
Americana excess and understated chic rarely share the same sentence, but here, at the Miami Beach Edition, Ian Schrager of Delano 90’s fame has run with the fusion to thrilling effect. It’s at the centre of it all – Collins Avenue and 29th Street – yet feels worlds away from the rather kitsch, va va voom interiors dressing Miami’s hotel scene. With low-slung, contemporary beds, angular blonde wooded rooms and dim lighting, the design is a triumphant blend of mid century modern with contemporary cool. And while the vibe here is more lounge music cocktails and suave, Le Labo scented soirees, it wouldn’t be Miami without a little shameless fun – served up in the form of a basement ice rink and bowling alley. And with knockout views of the Atlantic, pre-revolution-themed al frescoHavana club and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Latin fusion menu, there’s really very little reason to leave.
Book: Doubles from £503 per night (editionhotels.com).
Mandarin Oriental, Brickell Key
In the resort spirit of Miami, Mandarin Oriental draws guests into its East Asian-influenced, better-looking world with a first-rate spa, superb Peruvian restaurant and a powder-soft man-made private beach. In the glossy rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows frame postcard views of Biscayne Bay or the financial district’s skyscrapers, winking in the Florida sunshine. While downtown’s bars and clubs are an easy cab ride away, the Mandarin Oriental feels gloriously cast adrift – a shoulder-lowering pocket of calm hiding in plain sight on Brickell Key.
Book: Doubles from £286 per night (mandarinoriental.com).
Goodtime Hotel, South Beach
Designer Ken Fulk has decked Pharrell William’s high energy hotel in loud tropicana prints, murals and pastels, creating a playful, retro scene where you’re never far from a piña colada or scalloped furniture. Sitting at the very centre of South Beach’s party scene, the hotel’s maximalism feels well-placed and routinely serves as a stellar backdrop for celebrity parties and impromptu Instagram shoots. As its name suggests, there’s typically a celebrity DJ lifting the rooftop poolside scene on the weekends and glamorous groups huddled around small plates of seabass ceviche and burrata.
Book: Doubles from £107 per night (thegoodtimehotel.com).
The Betsy, South Beach
The Betsy cuts an old world figure amid South Beach’s pastels and scalloped Art Deco drama. Its arches, louvred shutters and antique cane sofas transport guests to a Southern scene of oil lamps ushering in the evening on verandas and gin and tonics signalling a midday retreat from the croquet lawn. There’s nothing outdated about this hotel though – rooms feel fresh and relevant, with calming cream and chalk shades contrasting the mahogany polished parquet floors and occasional splash of blue.
Sophisticated types nurse the latest biography and caipirinhas alongside the courtyard or rooftop pool (the hotel is known to attract a more cultured crowd than its happy hour neighbours, with the Writer’s Room hosting various bookish events), and there’s no one judging your LT Steak and Seafood room service order from the sun-trap balcony – very much the form here.
Book: Doubles from £277 per night (thebestsyhotel.com).
Los Fuegos, Miami Beach
Raising the steaks… Francis Mallmann’s Los Fuegos at the nearly-always-star-studded Faena in Mid Beach pulls in a smart crowd. They’re here for Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhremann and his wife Catherine Martin’s zany interiors – leopard prints, red velvets, wildly kitsch chandeliers – as well as the succulent great hunks of grilled meat, charred asado-style to perfection with chimichurri sauce and fresh garlicky salads. Stay a while for the Argentine reds and some first-rate people watching.
Vegans rejoice. This is where to go for bafflingly triumphant meatless takes on sushi, burgers, pizza and the like, all of which have been meticulously constructed using plants and fruit alternatives. It’s the ultimate counterfeit in a low-lit, seriously good looking spot in South of Fifth.
Prime 112, South Beach
If celebrity safari is part of the Miami experience, then Prime 112 in the historic Brown’s Hotel is a safe bet (Kim Kardiashian and Justin Bieber have been spotted here). Bathed in a warm amber glow, its cavernous, airy room is a welcome break from the squashed and rowdy, red leather and racing green banquettes of your classic steakhouse.
Casa Tua, South Beach
That’s amore. Or at least with the high-end Tuscan menu and lantern profusion, it’s as close as Miami can get to it. Casa Tua’s upscale Italian restaurant’s French doors spill out onto a film set-worthy terrace, where well-dressed diners (Leonardi Di Caprio and Bono included) sit in a white table cloth scene, backed by a tangle of creepers and ivy. It’s a Mediterranean oasis of hearty ragu and Tuscan reds amid all the cocktail bars and rooftop shenanigans – the ultimate fancy supper without the overly fussy and frothy tasting menu.
Half of Hollywood has graced this high energy, velveteen restaurant in South of Fifth, which recently had its viral TikTok moment, where an eye-wateringly expensive Wagyu Tomahawk is theatrically served to a table. The challenge? Staying focused on the melt-in-your-mouth steak tartare with caviar truffle and Wagyu pastrami with homemade mustard while celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez are tucking into theirs in a nearby booth.
La Mar, Brickell Key
For a Peruvian small plate feast and generously measured pisco sours, book a table at Gastón Acurio’s La Mar at the brooding Mandarin Oriental. Sat in prime position along the Miami River with skyscrapers reflected on the water, the restaurant is on point for those romantic soirees or candlelit, al fresco group dinners with a knockout view.
Joe’s Stone Crabs
This Miami institution has humble roots dating back to 1913, well before the skyscrapers began to spring up and the party set rolled in. Locals would stop by Joe Weiss’ small lunch counter on Miami Beach for a chat and a deliciously simple fish sandwich and fries. Hearing word of good, honest food, the stylish set soon put the restaurant on the map and today, queues typically form round the corner for New England clam chowder, mahi mahi with grilled shrimp, and of course, stone crab with fries. Queue too long? Head to the takeaway counter instead and then swiftly on to the beach.
Locals fill the makeshift scatter of colourful chairs at this neighbourhood favourite in Miami’s MiMo district. All eye-rollingly delicious Neapolitan-style pizzas are baked in an oven handmade in Naples and the menu keeps things authentic, just using the best of Florida’s coastal bounty, with sautéed peppered mussels, grilled octopus and calamari and the like. Don’t leave without trying the fritto calzoni or the fully-loaded sette nani.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Design District
Low-key and lovely, this restaurant looks blissfully lost amid Miami’s suave steakhouses and pizzerias. Emulating your classic white-washed Greek island taverna with cobalt blue accents, Mandolin Aegean puts on a serious spread of traditional Turkish and Greek small plates, with a focus on seafood, washed down with sangria.
This lively Asian fusion food hall in Wynwood is the antithesis of Miami’s plush, waterfront haunts with waiting lists. Come here (hungry) for life-shifting Banh Mi and dim sum, frozen beer and a buzzing crowd animated by the pink glow of Dēnglóng strewn above them. Use this as a pit stop while exploring the area’s galleries and independent shops, or, if the Art District’s your final destination for the day, stay late for several beers and a boogie.
Drink, Dance — or do both
La Natural, Little River
This hip Little River joint serves sourdough pizza with an intriguing (and genuinely delicious) array of natural wines. By 8pm, the minimalist, white-plastered space is filled with a lively crowd tearing creamy burrata and enjoying sulphate-free wine.
Café La Trova, Little Havana
It’s all about the rum-based cocktails and live music at this buzzing Cuban haunt in Little Havana. Owned by two old friends, esteemed mixologist Julio Cabrera and Chef Michelle Bernstein, there’s an authentic energy to La Trova, particularly with Julio often found shaking up the Old Cubans and Magic City Daiquiris behind the bar. Weekends offer a brief hiatus from the Cuban beat, with an 80’s themed party roaring on till the wee hours in a space just off the main restaurant.
Paradis Books and Bread, North Miami
For a refreshing jolt of antiquity amid all the shiny, skyscraper newness, head North to Paradise where the natural wine is always flowing (any time of day) and the books lining the shelves are comfortingly well-thumbed. The owners are always too happy to discuss the boutique vineyards filling the wine list, or the publisher of the book you’re clutching.
The Wall, South Beach
The W’s knack for a good party is well-documented. So just imagine the scenes at the W Hotel Miami, where a nightclub behind the uplit pool thumps with hip hop and R&B classics. Piercing this dark den of revelry is a DJ booth, which consistently pumps out music you can’t sit down to and sends LED sparkles rippling across the party crowd.
There’s really no rooftop scene quite like Miami’s, particularly at Sugar in Brickell. Shoot up to the 40th floor of EAST Miami for sushi, cocktails and twinkling 360-views over the City of Vice. The evening typically starts with a lounge-style DJ set and small plates, before lifting to a full throttle party, where the Balinese Bar churns out Lychee Blossoms and Chili Paradors like they’re going out of fashion. Make sure you dress up.
Getting into this Fontainebleau Hotel institution is not the easiest task, particularly with a stringent, heels-only dress code that includes a ban on shorts and T-shirts. But once inside and propped up against one of the four bars with a mojito, you’ll soon forget the queue or the diplomacy required to step inside. Brushing shoulders with a celebrity on the always-heaving dance floor wouldn’t be farfetched (Leonardo Di Caprio, George Clooney and Justin Bieber have all graced this Collins Avenue joint). Nights here usually begin in the Fontainebleau’s Bleau Bar – a sceney spot where the pre-game cocktail to order is the Grand Manhattan or a campari-loaded Velvet Rose.
The ScapeGoat, SoFi
This pocket-sized bar in Miami Beach’s SoFi neighbourhood has an all-American tavern-like quality, with punters spilling onto the plush leather barstools for happy hour under flatteringly sultry lighting and mirrored ceiling. Conversations – well-oiled with La Esmeralda mezcal cocktails and Pisco sours – fight against the lively din; it’s a stellar warm-up or date night spot.
Gucci, Prada, Missoni… Fly Boutique is a MiMo emporium of vintage designer for in-the-know Miamians. Whether you’re in the market for a Burberry trench, some gently softened Chanel pumps or some costume jewellery, give yourself at least an hour to rummage through the rails and stumble upon that high-octane choker you never knew you needed.
Find it: Fly Bouique Instagram
Pérez Art Museum Miami
No trip to Miami is complete without a visit to PAMM, to peruse its eyebrow-raising contemporary art collection. The vast, light-filled space is brimming with works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei and Frank Stella. Not only is the building itself an architectural draw – with an intricately criss-crossed roof slicing that pure Miami sunshine – but the Verde cafe perfectly rounds off a cultured afternoon, with Florida snappers and terrace views over the Biscayne Bay.
Find it: pamm.org
Public Art, Design District
This creatively geared neighbourhood offers an artwork-a-minute, often unwittingly, with a mix of offbeat architecture, installations that can stop people in their tracks and fantastical murals. The district may be dotted in galleries, but with works such as ‘Conscious Actions’ by GT2P (a turquoise swing soldered into the tarmac), Virgil Abloh’s ‘Dollar a Gallon’ and Daniel Toole’s ‘Steel Alley’ lining the streets, it’s really a gallery in itself.
Find it: miamidesigndistrict.com
Lummus Park Beach
Miami’s beach menu may be extensive, but a good place to start is Lummus Park Beach. There’s a good time, retro feel on this vast stretch of ivory-white sand that’s hard to beat, and South Beach’s warren of shops and iced coffee joints are an easy saunter away. It doesn’t get more Miami than this.
Find it: Miamibeaches.com
Another arty Miami hotspot, Wynwood Walls is a series of buildings exclusively showcasing the art of emerging street artists, with a series of restaurants sprinkled in for good measure. It’s the aspiring influencer’s paradise – an ever-changing maze of quirky murals to walk off that oversized brunch through.
De La Cruz Collection, Design District
For art with a story, visit the former private collection of Cuban-born businessman Carlos de la Cruz and his wife, Rosa, in a sprawling Design District museum. Featuring works by Isa Genzken, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Salvador Dalí. The museum serves up just the right dose of contemporary art to break up an afternoon zig-zagging between the neighbourhood’s independent coffee shops, its public art and galleries.
Find it: delacruzcollection.org