Year-round sunshine, yacht-studded marinas and sparkling beaches make Miami an ever-popular choice for a glam getaway. Infused with a fascinating blend of Cuban, Spanish and Caribbean influences, the original South Florida metropolis is a veritable melting pot of cultures with a network of neighbourhoods reflecting its uniquely eclectic heritage.
Want to know what makes the Magic City tick? Beyond the postcard-perfect sands of South Beach lies the city’s true appeal – a patchwork of diverse districts, each totally unique from the last. We’ve rounded up our pick of the city’s hippest ‘hoods – so don your shades, grab a margarita and dive head first into the only Miami neighbourhoods you need on your radar.
For a quintessential Miami experience, look no further than Coconut Grove. Sandwiched between the sparkling Biscayne Bay shoreline and the lavish homes of Coral Gables, this eclectic area might be Miami’s oldest – dating back to 1873 – but its collection of sidewalk cafes, dimly-lit bars and boutique shops brings it bang up-to-date. At its core sits the upscale CocoWalk mall, due to re-open this summer, where glass-fronted offices give way to designer stores and a suite of brand-new entertainment venues are sure to attract a hip crowd. Sustainably-minded travelers are also catered for here, with a range of organic and vegan treasures on offer at the weekly open-air Farmers’ Market.
Don’t let its slick new look fool you, though – Coconut Grove isn’t all just shopping sprees and sun-soaked fiestas. Just a short stroll along the waterfront sits the palm-fringed David T. Kennedy Park, where you’ll find a sprinkling of shady walking trails and an outdoor gym and volleyball court, should you fancy a workout. For a slice of Italy in the heart of Miami, architecture buffs will adore Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, with its swoon-worthy Renaissance-style architecture set against beautifully manicured gardens and shimmering mangroves.
Lesser known but infinitely more glamorous than its urban counterparts, Coral Gables is a charming corner of the city where grand Mediterranean architecture jostles for position with upscale boutiques and restaurants, as miles of sparkling waterways drift through the (impeccably coiffed) landscape. Set in Miami-Dade county, just a 20-minute drive west of South Beach, this upscale suburb, nicknamed ‘The City Beautiful’, offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lifestyles of Miami’s rich and famous. Housing the impressive Lowe Art museum, set within the sprawling University of Miami campus, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, you’ll find reams of culture sitting alongside the city’s trademark gated communities. The jewel in its glittering crown is the Venetian Pool, a 1920s-era swimming bath constructed from a coral rock quarry and fed with 820,000 gallons of fresh spring water – the perfect spot to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Until recently, Brickell had all but cemented its status as the crux of the city’s suit-heavy Financial District, complete with its trademark swarm of glossy high-rises. Now, this industrial-chic metropolis has finally shed its Wall Street-esque reputation, having elegantly transformed into the city’s coolest hangout spot, luring swarming crowds of worker bees and visitors alike. Between the skyscraper-speckled cityscape and luxury waterfront condos, you’ll find an enticing mix of trendy rooftop bars, designer shopping complexes and some of the very best restaurants in the city, from swish sushi spot NAOE, helmed by Kevin Cory, to a glossy Cipriani outpost. Just north of the area sits the futuristic Museum Park where you’ll find the Pérez Art Museum and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, while Mary Brickell Village is the go-to place if you fancy a designer shopping spree.
Soak up a little Latin flavour in the heart of Miami’s original Cuban community, Little Havana. This inner city enclave is a 24/7 riot of colour, cuisine and creativity – where live music, street art and spice-laden cuisine collide with the leathery scent of cigar smoke, creating a sensory experience like no other. Start your visit at Calle Ocho, the area’s main drag, where politically-charged art installations, leafy parkland and Cuban coffee stalls pepper the sidewalk. Catch a glimpse of the neighbourhood’s senior citizen crowd upholding a decades-long tradition of competitive dominoes at aptly named Domino Park as you stroll past lively bars playing foot-tapping mambo and rumba beats. Hungry? You won’t want to pass up a chance to eat at Versailles, a huge, bustling dining hall that’s been serving up classic Cuban staples like Cuban sandwiches, croquettes and cafecito since the 1970’s. Time your visit to coincide with the annual Calle Ocho festival in March to watch the streets come alive with parades, performances and tantalizing street food.
Having shaken off its sketchy reputation, Wynwood has quickly grown into one of the most sought-after areas of the city, thanks to its world-famous collection of street art murals known as the Wynwood Walls. This former warehouse district has morphed into a scintillating jumble of art galleries, bars and boutiques, with a colourful maze of walls providing an urban chic backdrop. Now a fully-fledged graffiti playground, Wynwood Walls and the surrounding streets are littered with vibrantly decorated walls-turned-artist-canvases, each stamped with its own uniquely eye-catching artwork. Most of the pieces are painted during the annual Art Basel fair in December, where the best street artists in the biz are invited to work their magic with a spray can. If you’re not sure where to start, book a tour with one of the knowledgeable guides to learn more about the artists and the inspiration behind their creations.