Miami is called the 'Magic City' for a reason. Credit: Shutterstock

An expert guide to Miami

Author: Melissa Moody

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Florida’s sun-kissed mega city is an Art Deco dream land with a multi-cultural culinary scene, world-class shopping and one of the most famous beaches on the planet. What’s not to love?

Bewitchingly beautiful, with palm trees swaying in the breeze and those famous pastel-hued Art Deco hotels sparkling in the sun, Miami is many people’s dream cruise destination.

And that’s just Miami Beach. Cross Biscayne Bay to mainland Miami and you’ll discover a dazzling city with a hugely diverse population,where a whole range of distinct neighbourhoods offer something for every kind of visitor. The Wynwood, Little River and Little Haiti districts are fast-rising hotbeds for contemporary art and the local foodie scene, while Little Havana is a must for lovers of latin night-life, and the galleries and museums of the Design District are a global draw for culture vultures.

The shopping is something else, too. Miami and Miami Beach are actually two separate cities (most visitors don’t realise this, so you’ll earn cred points with the locals if you do). Handily, the cruise terminal is exactly between the two, with great connections in both directions (buses are the cheapest and easiest way to go). As for the best time to visit, summer – May to October –is hot and wet but winter is dry and delightfully warm, with temperatures regularly in the 20s. Here’s what not to miss when you’re there...

The Miami Institute of Contemporary Art is a must for cutting-edge contemporary art.


South Beach

Feel like you’ve been here before?Because it’s been a backdrop for just about every movie and TV show set in Miami, the city’s famous stretch of sand will seem strangely familiar – especially the lifeguard stations and those kiosks where you rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. The beach itself is free and easily accessible on foot, with the most scenic part accessed via Lummus Park, which runs along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th streets. But don’t forget to pack your best beach wear – this where the beautiful people go to see and be seen.

The Institute of Contemporary Art
Miami is keen to rebrand itself as a cultural hotspot, and this extraordinary building leads the way. Located in the Design District, its eye-catching metallic shell (by Spanish architects Aranguren & Gallegos) houses an impressive permanent collection of works by twentieth-century greats such as Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as temporary exhibitions by local and emerging artists. Admission is free but it’s best to reserve your tickets online in advance (the Institute is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

The Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Encompassing an aquarium, a planetarium and two science galleries, this vast site can swallow up even the largest rainy-day crowds. The exhibits are arranged very much with younger visitors in mind butt here’s plenty to enthral adults too. When museum legs set in ,take the elevator to the rooftop observation deck for city view sand a charming urban garden.

The Deering Estate

Once the home of a wealthy industrialist, this 444-acre property on Biscayne Bay is now a public nature reserve. Offering eco-tours and canoe trips, it’s a great day out, as well as a fascinating glimpse into Miami’s past. The estate is open every day from 10 till 5, admission $15 (children half price). deeringestate.or

One of the 36 distinctive lifeguard towers on South Beach.

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Art Deco Museum
Located on Ocean Drive, right in the heart of the Art Deco District, the Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center is the place to learn all about the iconic, candy-coloured buildings that give this area its unique personality. If you’re looking for the ultimate photo op, a 90-minute expert-guided walking tour can be booked online.

Spanish Monastery
This lovely building began life in 1133 in northern Spain, but in 1926 it was bought by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had it taken down stone-by-stone, packed into more than 11,000 crates and shipped to New York. After many years in storage, the crates were eventually brought to Florida, where the building was faithfully re-erected and now provides a tranquil haven't from the bustle of downtown Miami.

Little Havana
Home to the largest Cuban population in the US, Miami’s Little Havana is richly atmospheric and a great place to buy coffee and cigars. See those old boys arguing politics over a game of dominos in Maximo Gomez Park? Ask nicely and they’ll let you get a selfie.

Savour a sundowner at colourful Serena Rooftop.


Serena Rooftop

Pretty pink flowers and fairy lights wrap round the wrought-iron canopy of Serena Rooftop, where the alfresco sharing dishes include sushi-style tuna on crunchy corn tostadas, shredded chicken enchiladas and marinated braised short rib. It’s also a great place to sip a cocktail or two, created by acclaimed mixologist Christian Rubio.

Broken Shaker
One of the liveliest spots on Miami Beach, this bar is a must-visit if you’re looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours ashore. On offer is a multinational menu of small bites, plus beers from as far afield as Milwaukee and Mexico – but a glass of the house punch with star fruit, orange slices and rum will soon have you dancing the night away.

La Traila Barbecue

A cab ride from downtown but worth the trip, this Texas-style ‘craft barbecue’ has been a huge hit since setting up shop in 2020.Serving succulent cuts smoked over traditional wood fires, it’s carnivore heaven – but they also do the best mac-n-cheese in Miami.

Shop til you drop at Upper Buena Vista.


Upper Buena Vista
A luxury mall with an unexpected boho twist, Upper Buena Vista is a one-stop shop for global eats, pampering treats, alternative therapies and ‘micro-boutiques’s elling clothes and crafts. At the centre of it all is the ‘Bodhi wishtree’, a 120-year-old banyan that is said to possess spiritual powers. Even if you take that with a pinch of artisan salt, this is a delightful place to stroll and look for unusual gifts.

Lincoln Road Mall
Running the width of South Beach, this is a mile-long shopping nirvana. Designed in breezy mid-century style by the same hand as Miami’s iconic Fontainebleau Hotel (familiar from the 007 classic Goldfinger), it’s home to more than 200 shops and cafes.Retail options range from mall mainstays like Gap and American Eagle to high-end names such as All Saints and John Varvatos.

Kith Miami
Not so much a shop, more a temple to the (once) humble training shoe, this is a must-visit for sneaker-heads and all lovers of street wear. The choice on offer is amazing – just don’t expect to bag a bargain.

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