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A visitor walking their bike along South Beach in Miami

The Original Guide to Miami

The Magic City is where palm-lined streets meet Latin beats and sun-drenched escapades are never far away. We’ve explored this iconic Floridian hub of culture and diversity to uncover the hidden narratives and offbeat corners that define the soul of Miami


READ: Delve into the funny, often riotous works of Carl Hiaasen, who captures the abundant eccentricities of Miami better than anyone. Grab a copy of Tourist Season but be sure to keep your tongue firmly in your cheek as you flick through the pages. Alternatively, check out the heartfelt, often tragic memoir Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. 

LISTEN: No one artist could ever capture the true soul of Miami, but Gloria Estefan has perhaps got the closest. ‘Conga’, ‘Get on Your Feet’ and ‘Mi Tierra’ are three tracks guaranteed to have you reaching for those dancing shoes and get you dreaming of nights spent twirling through the streets of Little Havana.

WATCH: Moonlight, Best Picture winner at the 2017 Academy Awards, paints a harrowing, yet undoubtedly beautiful portrayal of Miami. It’s a movie that demands and deserves your attention. However, if you’re after something a little lighter, try Ballers, a show that’s ostensibly about running a football team, but is really a vehicle to showcase the city’s opulent side.

Views across the beach in Miami

A local’s view

“I grew up in the coastal town of Pinamar, Argentina, so the ocean has always been my place of solitude and meditation. I’m grateful that while Miami offers a vibrant city life, one can still be very much in contact with nature, especially the sea. My favourite place is Stiltsville. It’s a series of wooden houses on stilts on the edge of Biscayne Bay. Many of the houses were built in the 1930s, during the Prohibition era, and were designed to facilitate offshore gambling. They are now owned and protected by the National Park Service. When I’m showing visitors around, I take them to places where you can experience art. I love the Rubell Museum, the Margulies Collection, the de la Cruz Collection and El Espacio 23. All are incredible private collections that are open to the public. A more hidden gem is Collective 62, an artist-run space hosting 14 women artists in the heart of Liberty City, where I have my studio.”

New view

South Beach (above and opening image) is a tourist magnet. Its beautiful blond sands are recognisable the world over, and it attracts millions of sun worshippers every year. Yet, while spending a day soaking up the rays holds undeniable appeal, South Beach is arguably more impressive when viewed from above. If you have a head for heights, consider venturing into the cloudless skies by taking part in a spot of parasailing and experiencing Miami from a very different perspective.

Aerial view of a sandy beach in Miami

Miami Beach from above

Bird’s-eye view

As your plane begins its descent into Miami International, gaze out of the window and you’ll be rewarded with glorious views of Miami Beach, Biscayne Bay and Miami’s shimmering waterfront skyline. Keep an eye out for Star Island and the Venetian Islands, a collection of artificial islands in Biscayne Bay, and the huge cruise ships docked at PortMiami.

Rainy day saviours

Miami sees more precipitation every year than practically any other city in the States. But, should your visit coincide with a spate of poor weather, fear not, as it has a dazzling array of museums and galleries, including the Frost Museum of Science, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Haitian Heritage Museum. If food is more your scene, wind your way over to the Aventura Farmers Market, a hive of artisanal delicacies, or MIA Market, a chef-driven food hall in the aesthetically gratifying Design District.

The original Burger King

The forerunner of Burger King was established just up the road in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953, under the name Instant Burger King. However, the brand owes its longevity and legacy to Miami. After initial success, the company faltered during the late 1950s, and was purchased by two Miami-based entrepreneurs, James McLamore (who also invented the iconic Whopper) and David R Edgerton, in 1959. The duo transformed the operation’s fortunes, dropped the word Instant from its name, and opened 250 outlets nationwide over the subsequent eight years. Today, there are close to 20,000 Burger King restaurants worldwide.

A still from the film Scarface

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in Miami Vice

As seen on screen

Given the city’s wealth of vibrant neighbourhoods, distinctive Art Deco architecture and plentiful supply of warm weather, it’s wholly unsurprising that Miami has been used as a central character in any number of movies and TV shows. Miami Vice – both the classic TV series and Michael Mann’s 2006 big screen adaptation – presents a potent cocktail of the stylish and the gritty, while cult classic Scarface, starring Al Pacino, follows the rise of a Cuban immigrant in the Miami drug trade, and harks back to a time when the city was a little more lawless. If you’re looking for something with a light-hearted bent, then why not try Jane the Virgin or Burn Notice, both of which portray a palatable and altogether more beguiling side of the city. 

A boat touring around Everglade National Park

The Everglades is an hour from the city

Access all areas

Accessibility is prioritised at a great number of Miami’s most popular spots – Bayside Marketplace being a prime example. This twin-level, open-air market is stacked with boutique shops, wonderful restaurants and eclectic bars, and has been carefully designed to be accessible. But what truly sets Miami apart is the accessibility of its natural attractions. Miami Zoo, Biscayne National Park, Bayfront Park and Big Cypress National Preserve offer an array of multi-sensory experiences, while the Everglades National Park, about an hour outside the city, has accessible one-hour airboat tours, getting you up close and personal with alligators, turtles and river otters.

The sensory six

The tempting causa limeña dish served at La Mer

Causa limeña by Gaston Acurio at La Mar

The one thing

Miami has a lot to offer – too much for one visit, certainly. However, if you only have the opportunity to eat in one spot, you can’t go wrong with La Mar, a Peruvian restaurant with a curated cocktail list and gorgeous views. In terms of a must-see sight, we cannot recommend The Kampong, Miami’s best-kept secret, highly enough. A trip to this irresistible nine-acre botanical garden will live long in the memory. And no trip to Miami is truly complete without stopping at Café La Trova, a Cuban cocktail club recently voted one of the top 25 bars in the world.

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro with Urca and Sugar Loaf Cable Car and Corcovado mountain

Where next?

If you love Miami, you’ll fall head over heels for Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro. Revered for its lively music scene and colourful, effervescent Carnival celebrations, Rio is also famous for its stunning natural charm and wonderful beaches, including the world-renowned Copacabana. Rio’s warm and welcoming locals, as well as its diverse neighbourhoods and unbeatable nightlife, contribute to the city’s allure, creating an atmosphere that oozes joy, vivacity and euphoria.