The Miami area includes a number of districts but the most famous is Miami Beach, which is known for its iconic Art Deco architecture, one of the world’s best white-sand beaches and fashionable restaurants and nightlife. But Miami isn’t all about glitz and glamor — Miami has a burgeoning art scene, including a new art museum, Art Basel in Miami Beach held each December and the vibrant and hip, fashion-driven scene in Wynwood.
You will find numerous hotels options in Miami – from small luxury boutique hotels to hip eco-chic hotels to glitzy non-stop party palaces. For this Ultimate Weekend Getaway, we recommend The Setai Miami Beach hotel, which is one of the most sophisticated and luxurious hotels in Miami. The hotel has two parts — a beautiful Art Deco building that was originally the famed Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel and a 40-story high-rise glass tower with balconies overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach in the northern (and quieter) portion of South Beach. The Setai Miami Beach is elegant and intimate, with a zen-like feel and Asian influence in its décor and design aesthetic. For this weekend, we recommend one of the Ocean Suites, which are located in the high-rise tower and offer spectacular views of the entire Miami Beach area and include a dedicated valet and concierge. As can be expected of the Setai brand, the service is exceptional.
The Setai Miami Beach // 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach // website
As an alternative to the Setai, consider the recently-opened Faena Hotel. This new hotel, which is the best of the new hotels in Miami, is located in an area of Mid-Beach being developed by Alan Faena, a successful Argentinian hotelier and real estate developer. In late 2015, Alan Faena completed the conversion of the 1940s Saxony hotel into a high-style 169-room luxury hotel. Faena is known for his dramatic style and this hotel is no exception – with bright tropical color schemes throughout the hotel, enormous tropical murals by Argentine painter Jaun Gatti filling the lobby and the two Damian Hirst installations — a large unicorn sculpture placed in the center of the restaurant dining room and an enormous gilded skeleton of woolly mammoth enclosed in a glass display in the center courtyard. The service is exceptional, with a 24-hour butler on each floor. We recommend the large suites on a high-floor with ocean facing balconies.
Faena Hotel Miami Beach // 3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach // website
After getting settled in your hotel, your first stop should be Miami’s extraordinary beaches. Miami is best known for its world famous beach, Miami Beach, which is a perfect place to begin your Ultimate Luxury Weekend. Here you will find one of the world’s best beaches with miles of gleaming white sand, gently swaying palm trees and bronzed bodies playing in the surf. Miami Beach is actually made up of a series of interconnected islands, with its famous white sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean side and the Inter-coastal waterway on the other side. You can wander down the pathway that runs the entire length of the beach, stopping along the way for people watching or grabbing a mid-afternoon coffee or snack at the many sidewalk cafes along the stylish and chic Ocean Drive.
Before heading to dinner, stop by the Martini Bar at The Raleigh hotel for a pre-dinner drink. The intimate bar, with only eight seats at its beautiful mahogany bar, terrazzo floor and a handful of tables, has preserved the classic elegance of the 1940s. Here you will find a perfect martini or other classic cocktail made by exceptionally skilled bartenders.
The Raleigh Hotel // 1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach // website
Our favorite restaurant in Miami is Mandolin Aegean Bistro, a rustically chic Greek/Turkish restaurant located in a white-washed house with blue trimmed windows in Miami’s burgeoning Design District. It has nothing in common with the glitzy restaurants of South Beach; instead, you will feel as if you have been transported to the Greek Islands as you enter through the painted blue gate into the back garden brimming with bougainvillea and shaded by an old oak tree. We love dining in the large canopied garden patio filled with lantern-lit tables and traditional taverna chairs. The restaurant uses the freshest seasonal ingredients to create simple, rustic and authentic Greek and Turkish dishes. Their lamb dishes, whether roasted or grilled, are exceptional, as are their home-made breads and grilled fish. For dessert, don’t miss their baklava. The food and the atmosphere make for a memorable dining experience.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro // 4312 NE 2nd Ave., Miami // website
After a leisurely al fresco breakfast at your hotel, we suggest spending the morning exploring the Miami Beach area. The best way to explore the area is on foot, which allows you to appreciate the Art Deco architecture, shop at trendy boutiques and enjoy the parade of beautiful people. Don’t miss exploring the Art Deco District, where you will find some of the best Art Deco buildings in the United States, and the street scenes of Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue lined with trendy hotels, chic restaurants, designer boutiques and outdoor cafes.
When visiting Miami, dining at Joe’s Stone Crab is a must. Joe’s has become an institution in Miami, serving stone crabs to Miami residents and visitors for decades. Go for their stone crab platters with mustard sauce (the season runs from October 15 to May 15) and their excellent key lime pie. Note that they don’t take reservations so come early or order from take-out next door and sit at the outdoor tables in the patio adjacent to the restaurant.
Joe’s Stone Crab // 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach // website
What better way to spend the afternoon than lounging with a cool drink next to one of Miami Beach’s most luxurious pools or on your own private expanse of beach? The pools at The Setai — three identical infinity pools each set at a different temperature (75F, 85F and 95F degrees) — are among the best in Miami. The hotel also has its own private expansive beach with day-beds along the water and a solar-powered culinary station for ordering food and drinks from your beach lounger. Have an pool attendant to set up a lounger by one of the pools or on the beach and spend the afternoon enjoying the perfect Miami weather and refreshing ocean breeze.
After an afternoon of sun and beach, we love to book a soothing massage at the excellent spa at The Setai or the Faena Hotel. Both hotels have fabulous spas facilities, including a traditional Hamman at the Faena Hotel, and are highly regarded for their signature massage treatments. If you are feeling more active, consider a jog or bike ride along the pathway that runs along the entire length of Miami Beach.
One of our favorite spots for a pre-dinner cocktail is Bar Centro, which is located in the Phillipe Starke designed SLS South Beach Hotel. The hotel’s public area is dominated by the elegant restaurant and beautiful bar and attracts a very stylish crowd. The bar is known for its very creative cocktail menu, including their famous Ultimate Gin & Tonic with Hendricks gin, juniper berries, lemon and makrut leaves and its liquid nitrogen chilled caipirinhas.
SLS South Beach // 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach // website
For dinner, we love Casa Tua, arguably the most romantic restaurant in Miami. Casa Tua is located in a boutique hotel on a quiet block of South Beach surrounded by a high ivy-covered wall. You will enter through an iron gate that opens up to an elegant Mediterranean-style villa with a romantic courtyard garden lit with lanterns hanging from the trees, strings of small bulbs and small candles. The restaurant has a small bar and an indoor dining room (as well as a chef’s table in the kitchen), though we prefer to dine in the romantic outdoor garden. Some of our favorite dishes from the restaurant’s northern Italian inspired cuisine include fettuccine with wild mushrooms, grilled bronzino and a delicious veal chop. Save room for their decedent desserts.
Casa Tua // 1700 James Ave., Miami Beach // website
Love great coffee? If so, head to Panther Coffee, a Miami-based micro-roaster with shops in Miami Beach and Wynwood that offers coffee-lovers the ability to choose the beans and the brewing method. For the best coffee, we always have it brewed in a Cona vacuum pot, an intricate process that produce an exceptionally clear and vibrant cup of coffee.
Panther Coffee // website
A couple of the more important art and cultural developments in Miami have been the opening of the Perez Art Museum Miami (known as “PAMM”), the development of the creative and dynamic Wynwood Arts District and the arrival of Art Basel Miami Beach each December.
The Perez Art Museum Miami is one of the best new modern and contemporary art museums. The museum commissioned Pritzker prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron to design the contemporary building overlooking Biscayne Bay. One of the outstanding features of the building are the hanging gardens in the courtyard with over 54,000 plants and 77 plant species. The museum is also home to the Verde, an excellent modern casual restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining among the hanging gardens.
Pérez Art Museum Miami // 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami // website
One of the most dynamic and creative areas of Miami is the Wynwood Arts District, which is home to over 70 art galleries, clothing boutiques, eclectic restaurants and bars, and the famous Wynwood Walls, one of the world’s largest open-air installations of urban graffiti art painted by renowned artists. This area grew out of the warehouse and manufacturing district of Miami as developers have rehabilitated neglected warehouses and shuttered factories and transformed them into the numerous art complexes, galleries, performing art spaces, restaurants, cafes, and creative businesses that you find today. While in Wynwood, visit the Rubbell Family Collection, a excellent collection of contemporary artists, including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Keith Haring.
Just north of the Wynwood area is the new Miami Design District, a once-overlooked area filled with warehouses that has been transformed into a high-end luxury retail shopping area, filled with contemporary design and home furnishing stores, fashion boutiques and excellent restaurants.
One of the best restaurants in the Design District and, for that matter, all of Miami, is Michael’s Genuine. Michael’s Genuine is a neighborhood bistro with a casual atmosphere and a delicious seasonal menu. For brunch, the restaurant offers a selection of classic and original brunch dishes, including pastrami hash and lemon ricotta pancakes.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink // 130 NE 40th St., Miami // website
After lunch, prepare yourself for some serious shopping in the Miami Design District. Here you will find the boutiques of the top luxury fashion designers, including Zadig & Voltaire, Versace, Valentino, Tom Ford, Rick Owens, Prada, Miu Miu, Hermes, and Pucci. You will also find a number of destination restaurants, including Jean-George Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and the ever-popular macaroons of Ladurée. The notable design showrooms include Armani Casa, Fendi Casa, Holly Hunt, Luminaire and Vitra.
Miami Design District // website
Start the evening with a drink at the Living Room bar or intimate Saxony bar at the Faena Hotel. The Living Room, a sexy, vibrant and opulent lounge featuring animal print sofas and a rich red and gold color scheme, offers creative cocktails, like Smoke & Sparks, made with tequila, jalapeño, lime and flaming salt, and an excellent menu of rare liquors.
For dinner, we suggest Los Fuegos at the Faena Hotel, which is the first North American restaurant opened by famed Argentinian chef Francis Mallman, who is known for his open fire cooking and has been featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. His signature dishes include the Wood Oven Empanadas, Octopus “a la Plancha” and the grilled Prime Rib-Eye steak with Chimichurri sauce.
Faena Hotel Miami Beach // 3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach // website
As an alternative, if you want to experience the stylish South Beach scene, consider dining at Prime One Twelve, located in the Browns Hotel on Ocean Drive. Prime 116 draws a very stylish crowd and offers exceptional dry aged Prime steaks and seafood towers, as well as delicious truffled Mac and Cheese. If the night is warm, we enjoy watching the passing scene on Ocean Drive from the tables on the patio facing the street. Even with a reservation, expect to wait a bit for your table…everyone does.
Prime One Twelve // 112 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach // website
Art Basel in Miami Beach
Held in Miami in early December each year, Art Basel in Miami Beach is the most prestigious art faire in the United States, attracting the most important names in the art world. Here you will find world-famous artists, gallerists and collectors mixing with emerging artists and novice collectors during a week of lavish parties and social events. Art Basel in Miami Beach is held at the Miami Convention Center but there are separate exhibitions and events held throughout the Miami Area, including especially the Wynwood District. If you enjoy discovering new artists or want to mingle with the glitterati of the art world, consider visiting Miami during Art Basel in Miami Beach.
Art Basel in Miami Beach // website
To experience Art Basel from an insider’s perspective, we highly recommend scheduling time with Natasha Schlenger of ArtMuse, who can provide an insider’s track to the best of Art Basel.
ArtMuse // website