Travel Guide: Luxury culture and arts trip to Miami

Miami is known for its sun, beaches and relaxed vibe. We put together something different for you

11:14 December 7, 2017

This guide to Miami is for art connoisseurs and art lovers who want to see a different side to the beach city, while enjoying everything it has to offer.

Story Unheard contributed to this travel guide. They create custom itineraries for trips including places to stay, eat and visit and updated recommendations for signed up travellers. Prices start at Dh250 per trip.

Getting there

The average cost of a round-trip flight to Miami at this time of the year is around Dh2,800 or more per person. Owing to the long distance (around 16 hours), only Emirates has a non-stop flight from Dubai which at the time of writing this guide was priced at Dh5,485 (round-trip). If you're ready for a long flight and a stop or two, Miami is an ideal December destination to try for a change of scene.

Here are the most popular festive destinations for travellers from the Middle East

Where to Stay

South Beach

Design lovers, stay at the stylish boutique The Betsy South Beach tucked away in the heart of the Art Deco District on Ocean Drive. This deco dame has two wings to choose from, the Colonial or Art Deco, joined by the ‘Orb’ bridge.

Mid Beach

1 Hotel South Beach has the best of both beach worlds. Found at the nexus of two Miami beaches: mid-Beach and South Beach, the hotel is all about swim, sun and recharge. 


If you’re looking to steer clear of South Beach, look to EAST, Miami. Nestled in the centre of buzzy Brickell and near the popular districts Design District and Wynwood, this design hotel oozes contemporary cool. The Miami Beach Edition is another popular place to stay at.


Looking to go all out? The dazzling beachfront luxury pad, Faena Hotel Miami, pulls out all the stops when it comes to impressing its guests. Animal print furnishings, gold-leafed columns, exposed bulb chandeliers, rich ruby fabrics and splashes of turquoise - it’s wonderfully wacky.

Where to eat

Brekkie and coffee

Get your coffee fix at Blue Bottle Coffee in Design District or Panther Coffee hideaway in Wynwood. Start the day the healthy way at DIRT in South of Fifth where clean eating and great taste can actually coexist. Or get yourself a table at Chef Henry Hané’s idyllic breakfast spot B Bistro + Bakery. 


Enjoy lunch the Mediterranean way at Mandolin Aegean Bistro in Design District serving delicious fresh seasonal fare in an inviting 1940s bungalow or at the beautiful Le Sirenuse Miami up in Bal Harbour.

You’ve also got the familiar French bistro La Petite Maison in Brickell and modern day Italian restaurant Cecconi’s, nestled in the verdant courtyard of Soho Beach House where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or an indulgent brunch. For unforgettable seafood, head to Stiltsville Fish Bar in Sunset Harbour and soak up those city views.

If the exotic flavours of Asia are what you’re after, Sushi Garage serves innovative Japanese classics within a former auto body and paint shop. Don’t miss out Ghee Indian Kitchen’s Gujarat-inspired dishes. Here the menu changes daily depending on the harvest from the restaurant-owned farm, Rancho Patel, as well as produce from their local fishermen and farms.

For authentic eats in Miami, it’s got to be one of the many Cuban ventanitas. First timers, we advise to make your way to the Little Havana landmark Versailles – one of Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurants. Just down the road pick up a handmade ice cream at Azucar, and stroll down to Domino Park to watch the Cuban abuelos play.

The retro 11th Street Diner is housed in a chrome-plated railroad-style car where you can expect all day (and night!) hearty American comfort food. The awesome Coyo Taco in Wynwood should be on your list for insanely good fresh Mexican street food. For an eclectic American feast, Chef Andrew Carmellini’s chic bistro The Dutch won’t disappoint. If you go at lunch ask to sit in the garden.

For good vibes and a seriously good city view, just look atop a designer parking garage. South Beach’s rooftop bar Juvia’s menu is a trinity of innovative French, Japanese and Peruvian cooking.  


Discover new flavours at homegrown Miami Chef José Mendín and Spanish star-chef Angel Palacios’s gastronomic restaurant Habitat at 1 Hotel South Beach. This casual, chef-driven American restaurant in Wynwood focuses on locally sourced ingredients highlighting the rich seafood, fruits, vegetables and meats of Florida.

The romantic Casa Tua restaurant nestled in a cute enclave in the heart of South Beach in the Mediterranean villa or in the twinkling garden is a must-try. Another one to try is Alter.

Things to do

For first timers exploring Miami, we would strongly advise taking each district one day at a time as it can be a little overwhelming.

Around South Beach

Hit South Beach for some much needed R&R and people-watching – trust us, that barefoot stroll on the beach could easily last for hours.

Rent a Jet Ski on South Beach or if you’re up for a little adventure head to Biscayne Bay and take out a kayak or canoe to explore the mangrove fringed shorelines and shallow bay waters of the National Park.

While you’re there, check out the opulent Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an Italian mansion on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove. Marvel at the 1930s to 1950s 'art deco' glamour in South Beach and Mid-Beach or head to Little Havana – a melting pot of Latin heritage.

Ocean Drive

To get to know the lay of the land rent a bike and cycle down Ocean Drive. You can even pop into one of its many seaside locales for a well-deserved pick me up. If you’re a keen runner, one of our favourite routes is along the Miami Beach Boardwalk where you can enjoy endless vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. Lounge around one of the city’s many pool clubs, such as the beloved one at the oceanfront The Raleigh Miami Beach.


Window-shop in the cutting-edge Design District home to high-end fashion, jewellery and interior stores as well as art galleries and boutiques. Other noteworthy places to shop are the Bal Harbour Shops, Lincoln Road Mall and the Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive Shopping District. One of our favourite fashion hotspots is Alchemist, a giant glass box located on the 5th level of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure. 

Visit these art hubs

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) – Miami's newest museum dedicated to innovative and experimental contemporary art – opened on the 1st December 2017.  The institution aims to showcase works from unrecognised, emerging, and local artists.

A stroll through this outdoor street art park is must on the list! Wynwood Walls is easily one of the most snapped locales in Miami. Developer Tony Goldman – renowned for reviving New York’s SoHo – transformed this warehouse-filled ghost town into a hipster paradise and with it he brought graffiti artists including Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, Ron English and Jeff Soto who were commissioned to paint iconic colossal murals.

Wind down after a busy travel day

One of our favourite places to wind down the day is at the Art Deco Freehand Miami’s chilled backyard oasis where you’ll discover the most charming spot in Miami: Broken Shaker. And if you’re feeling a little ravenous, all you have to do is walk a few steps to 27 Restaurant. Following very closely on the list are, South Beach’s speakeasy Employees Only, Downtown’s hip The Corner and Wynwood’s trendy hangout Gramps. 

Attending Art Basel 2017?

What is it?

The Super Bowl of art fairs, Art Basel is at the heart of this week’s events. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center from 7to 10 December, this is a must-attend for art lovers.

In its 16th edition, this year the show will welcome over 250 of the world's leading art galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa will display works of art by over 4,000 artists, including paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video, and digital art.

What else can we see?

  1. In its 13th year, the global forum for design, Design Miami is presenting 34 galleries from around the world as well as an extensive series of collaborations, satellites, events, retail and hospitality offerings as well as site-specific design commissions for visitors to enjoy throughout the fair week.
  2. In collaboration with Muller Van Severen, Airbnb puts on ‘A Wild Thing’ – an interactive installation that explores the concept of home where each object has been meticulously chosen by the designers, which allows viewers to discover the lives. This is at Meridian Avenue and 19th Street from 6 to 10 December, opposite Art Basel.
  3. RAW is a 10 day multisensory, three-floor, immersive pop-up experience at the Historic Post Office Building in Downtown Miami. Presented by Young Artist Initiative, Raw brings together 15 visual artists working in various media, plus 15 musicians, all of whom will create and coexist in an organic, interactive space.
  4. PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, where you can discover and collect some of the most compelling contemporary art being produced today.
  5. SCOPE Miami Beach features 140 international exhibitors from 25 countries for its 17th edition that features emerging contemporary artists
  6. Mana Wynwood – a vast former tobacco warehouse on the outskirts of Wynwood – becomes the ultimate cultural space hosting shows, concerts and creative experiences.
  7. Catch the work of artists from Africa and global African Diaspora, who reflect global trends in contemporary at PRIZM
  8. Join Miami's own Dawn B for a unique yoga practice just outside of PAMM, YogArt Basel: Take a Breather. The class will feature musical performances by Guara Vani and the Mayapuris, healthy bites and drinks. After the class you can check out one of the museum’s latest exhibitions (9 December, 9:30am – 12pm)

Read more about Art Basel here

Disclaimer: These restaurants, fairs and other venues are functional and all details are correct as of published date. Gulf News is not responsible for any changes or complaints arising from such changes in the details mentioned herein.