September 18, 2020

Where to stay in Miami: a neighbourhood guide

“Welcome to the city where the heat is on”. These iconic words have come to sum up the party loving, culture obsessed city of Miami, where fast and furious fun is the aim of the game. Read on for the scoop on where to stay in Miami.

Dubbed the ‘Magic City’ for its rapid expansion in just over a century, there’s definitely something fantastical in the air in Miami. Cultures, cuisines, languages and collagen enhanced bodies collide in South Florida’s largest city, creating a mixture of diversity that provides endless entertainment for locals and travellers alike. Home to the largest Latin American population outside of the continent itself, 70% of Miami’s locals are Latino or Hispanic, the influences of which can be felt at every turn. Where else in America can you chew the fat with Cuban old timers over a game of dominos, devour succulent taco al pastor for lunch, then salsa till the sun comes up? Miami is a city in a class of its own, and anyone who’s anyone wants a slice of the pie. Perhaps that’s why the likes of Matt Damon, LeBron James, the Beckhams and Will Smith (of course) all own luxury pads here.

All of this, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Miami boasts some of the finest stretches of coastline in all of America. Mile after mile of perfect white sand makes for the ultimate beach getaway, framed by swaying palm trees, art deco buildings and a crowd that look like they’ve walked straight out of a 90’s R&B video. Hit up South Beach and leave those body hang ups at home because in Miami, more is more. Come nightfall, as the sun goes down the parties heat up, bringing out celebs and music aficionados. Miami’s club scene doesn’t come cheap, but it definitely ensures a night you’ll never forget.

where to stay in miami - skyscrapers in miami

?:@dryanparker

So, you’ve got beaches, clubs and the bright lights of South Beach, but what else does the city have in store? Well a whole lot, as it turns out. Miami’s art scene is second to none, with exhibitions and galleries featuring the works of some of the world’s most revered creators. Wynwood is the city’s official art district, home to the ever so Instagrammable Wynwood Walls, whilst a trip Downtown will reward you with culture and history in spades, not to mention a seriously impressive skyline. Here, swing by the Design District for a spot of high-end shopping coupled with Zaha Hadid installation, then head to Little Havana for a big old dose of Cuban culture. Hungry? The under the radar, new cool kid on the block neighbourhood of Brickell should help with that.

So, you’ve got amazing food, culture, beaches and nightlife, but how do you hit them all up? Miami’s transport system is a little niggly to get your head around given the sprawling size of the city, but if you’re planning to stay for a while or keep to a budget, it’s worth the effort. Public buses offer the most comprehensive coverage of the city, but the schedules can often be unreliable. Fares start from $2.25 and you can pay using the transit pass straight from your phone. The Trolley system is another option, and even better it’s free. Operating in key areas including Miami Beach, Downtown, Brickell, Little Havana and Wynwood, these distinctive orange and green vehicles are easy to spot, and you can track their routes and timings online. For those in town for a shorter time (or if the public transport system is giving you a headache), ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are by far the easiest options, or you could try out Freebee – small electric cars that offer a ride sharing service for free, although you do need to tip.

Ready to discover which Miami neighbourhood ticks all your boxes? Let’s go…

Jump straight to:

Miami Beach: the best area to stay in Miami for beach time and nightlife

  1. What to do in Miami Beach
  2. Places to eat in Miami Beach
  3. Best hostels in Miami Beach

Little Havana: the best area to stay in Miami for experiencing a taste of Cuba

  1. What to do in Little Havana
  2. Places to eat in Little Havana
  3. Best hostels in Little Havana

Wynwood: the best area to stay in Miami for art and hipster hangouts

  1. What to do in Wynwood
  2. Places to eat in Wynwood
  3. Best hostels in Wynwood

Downtown: the best area to stay in Miami for culture

  1. What to do in Downtown
  2. Places to eat in Downtown
  3. Best hostels in Downtown

Brickell: the best area to stay in Miami for food and shopping

  1. What to do in Brickell
  2. Places to eat in Brickell
  3. Best hostels in Brickell

 

1. Miami Beach: the best area to stay in Miami for beach time and nightlife

All pure white sands, multicoloured beach huts, old American muscle cars and model types roller blading in barely-there bikinis, Miami Beach is the movie style Miami you’ve been imagining. You’ve likely heard of South Beach, or SoBe as it’s commonly known – the most famous hood in all of Miami thanks to its winning combination of beaches, clubs, art deco buildings and rich clientele. Well South Beach is actually a part of Miami Beach, an area which lies on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and dreamy Biscayne Bay. The dividing line between the two beaches is 23rd Street – North of this lies Miami Beach, and South lies South Beach.

Why the distinction? Well for the budget conscious traveller, it actually makes all the difference. SoBe is where you go to flash cash and live like a baller. You can hit the beach and party till dawn at the clubs, but if you want to save a few pennies, get more for your money and have a slightly more authentic experience, Miami Beach is the best area to stay. This guide will include things to do in both regions, but it’s worth being aware of the difference.

where to stay in miami - girl walking down ocean drive

Ocean Drive ?:@giuliciu

What to do in Miami Beach

 In a city where the sun shines all year round, it would be a sin not to enjoy the great outdoors. Miami locals are a fit looking bunch, so follow the trend and kick start your day with a walk, jog or cycle along the Miami Beach Boardwalk. This elevated walkway extends for nearly 2 miles and takes in some of the city’s most iconic properties as well as gorgeous swathes of beach, dunes and sparking blue ocean.

With sun worshippers and ocean devotees, of course this hood is also your natural playground. The gorgeous sands of SoBe and Miami Beach seem to stretch on forever, although SoBe in particular can get busy, so be sure to claim your patch of sand early in the day. And once you have? Welcome to the people watching capital of the world, amigos. Baywatch ain’t got nothing on the crowd that stretch, strut and run slow mo into the ocean, and that’s exactly what makes SoBe so great. The beach is the place to see and be seen, so prepare to flaunt what your Mama gave you and roll with it.

Looking for those classic Miami pics for your ‘Gram? Ocean Drive, Collins Ave and Washington Ave are where it’s at. Boasting the largest collection of Art Deco buildings anywhere in the world, these pretty pastel coloured buildings epitomise the Art Deco style; all geometric shapes, intricate details and bright colours that are set off perfectly by the deep blue sky and towering palm trees. The Clevelander night club, The Carlyle hotel and the McAlpin are some of the best examples of the distinctive style, whilst you can also visit Villa Casa Casaurina, the luxurious property where fashion legend Gianni Versace lived and died.

Come sun down there’s only one place to be, and that’s on a dance floor. Miami’s nightlife scene is a huge part of the city’s identity and for good reason – this place knows how to party. Good times don’t always come cheap with expensive cover charges and beers easily costing $15 a pop, so for those watching the pennies it’s maybe best to stick to just one big night out or mix it up with clubs and cocktail bars that offer free entry. That said, this IS Miami, so if you’re gonna do it right, you might as well go big. Basement is a regular crowd pleaser thanks to a bowling alley, indoor ice rink and packed dance floor, whilst LIV is Miami Beach’s most exclusive club where celeb spotting is a guarantee. Looking for a night that’s a little extra? Twist is the city’s most iconic gay club where anything and everything goes down, whilst STORY is the place likely to make all music types happy. The little sister to LIV but more affordable and less exclusive, the club regularly attracts major hip hop artists and keeps party goers dancing till dawn most nights of the week.

where to stay in miami - road at night in Miami beach

Miami Beach ?:@zombience

Places to eat in Miami Beach

Finding affordable places to eat in Miami Beach can sometimes be a bit of a mission, but fortunately we’ve done the hard work for you. First up, La Sandwicherie, located on Collins near Lincoln Road. This place specialises in ginormous sandwiches (seriously, one will easily feed two), and is open from noon till 5am so doubles up as a late-night eating haunt. All regular sandwiches come in at under $10 and are super tasty, but for the ultimate crowd pleaser go for the Alaskan, crammed full of smoked salmon and mozzarella.

Love eating fresh seafood with a view of the ocean? Look no further than My Ceviche, which originally started as a small SoBe seafood shack and has since expanded across town to Brickell and Midtown. A ceviche bowl here will set you back $10, whilst salads are around $7 and can be topped with charred octopus or seared tuna. Can’t resist a poke bowl? This place won’t disappoint.

For an all-American retro diner experience, they don’t come much better than Big Pink. American size portions are the vibe here and just one dish will fill you up for days, so come hungry. Another late-night joint that stays open till 5.30am, Big Pink makes for the ultimate drunk food feast, where the post club crowd regularly chow down chicken and waffles, Philly cheese steak sandwiches or the legendary Big Pink Burger.

In town for the weekend? Combine food with bottomless booze and Miami’s finest queens at Palace Bar’s infamous Drag Brunch. Taking place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at one of SoBe’s most legendary LGBT venues, for $45 you’ll be treated to bottomless mimosas and fabulous drag acts who leave ALL inhibitions at the door. Known to stop the traffic on Ocean Drive with their bend and snaps, these queens know how to work a crowd and ensure everyone leaves with a smile on their face.

 Best hostels in Miami Beach

where to stay in miami - pool at generator hostel miami

Generator Miami ?:@savvybackpacker

Stylish touches, an incredible Miami Beach location just 100 yards from the ocean and a hint of wow factor all come together at Generator Miami. The first US opening from this reputable hostel chain has spared no expense, with an indoor and outdoor restaurant, outdoor terrace with a pool and tons of social spaces ticking all the right boxes. Large airy dorms come complete with lockers and crisp sheets, whilst the private rooms emulate a chic hotel vibe. A games room, free bike rental, speedy Wi-Fi and gorgeous bar complete the experience, making this hostel an ideal hangout for couples, digital nomads and solo travellers alike. And the best part? Dorm prices start from around $17, whilst doubles ring in from around $80.

For those on a mission to party, the fun never stops at Miami Beach International Hostel. Holding the title of Miami’s longest running hostel, this place has just undergone a facelift and is looking better than ever. Claiming enviable sidewalk space on Collins Ave, just a hop, skip and jump from the ocean, MBIH is the perfect launch pad for exploring all of Miami’s Beach’s must-see sites and clubs. Dorms are well equipped with private bathrooms, personal reading lights and that all important air con, and start from around $20. But the main draw of MBIH, are the perks. We’re talking free breakfast and dinner (yes, really), free drinks at hostel parties, VIP club entry, free keg nights, all day happy hour and loads more. So basically, fun, fun and more fun!

2. Little Havana: the best area to stay in Miami for a taste of Cuba

From the plumes of cigar smoke drifting out of darkly lit bars, to the sounds of dominos clack clack clacking as they fall, there’s no other place quite like Little Havana. Located directly west of Downtown, this Cuban neighbourhood is the spot where Miami’s heart beats the loudest, and the best area to stay to understand what the city is really all about.

Little Havana’s history dates back to the 1950’s and 60’s, when hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants arrived in Miami by plane, boat and rickety raft, seeking to escape the Cuban revolution taking over their home nation. Settling along 8th street (Calle Ocho), this first wave of immigrants bought with them the sounds, cuisines, art and culture of home, and ever since then Little Havana has bloomed into a celebration of all things Cuba. Today, Miami’s population is 54% Cuban, with Spanish as an official second language spoken by over 60% of the population. This multiculturalism is what makes the city so unique, and is the reason why so many more Latino individuals have since moved here to live and work.

where to stay in miami - Yisell Bakery, Little Havana

Yisell Bakery, Little Havana ?:@giuliciu

What to do in Little Havana

All roads in Little Havana lead to Calle Ocho, the beating heart of the neighbourhood, so it would only be right to begin your explorations here. As well as scoping out colourful street art and retro architecture, you’ll also come across the Latin Walk of Fame, which runs between 12th and 17th Avenues. The Hispanic equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, here you’ll find stars dedicated to legendary Latin celebrities including the undisputed queen of salsa, Celia Cruz. Calle Ocho is also where you’ll find Maximo Gomez Park, or Domino Park as it’s more commonly known. For over 35 years this park has been the meeting point for local Cubans and Latinos, and still today you’ll find old timers gathering to play dominos whilst they sip cafecitos and trash talk their neighbours. Extra charm points go to those who visit armed with a few words of Spanglish – they go a long way.

Of course Little Havana wouldn’t be a true representation of Cuba without cigars, and the best place to get the 411 is the El Credito Cigar Factory. An interesting visit for cigar pros and non-smokers alike, this is the oldest cigar factory in the US and a good spot to watch artisans hand rolling their creations. Prices range from affordable to crazy, and should you be inclined you can even kick back in one of the retro lounge chairs and feel like something of a Cuban legend.

For those interested in Cuban art, culture and food, try to line up your visit around Viernes Culturales, or Cultural Fridays. Taking place every third Friday of the month, this event sees local artists opening their studios to the public, whilst a live music stage is also set up next to the Tower Theatre. Salsa, Spanish and the smells of incredible food are the backdrop to this monthly event that has been going strong for over 19 years, with no signs of slowing down.

 Places to eat in Little Havana

 If you’re keen to get a taste of all things Little Havana, it might be worth signing up for a food tour with Miami Culinary Tours. At $58 this 2.5 hour foodie activity doesn’t come cheap, but for this price you get 7 included food and drink tastings at some of the neighbourhood’s best loved eateries. What’s on the menu? Freshly made Cuban sandwiches, guava pastries, empanadas and tropical fruit juices are just some of the treats you can expect, accompanied by stories told by those creating the food that share the history of the dishes.

where to stay in Miami - Azucar Ice Cream, Little Havana

Azucar Ice Cream, Little Havana ?:@snavjivan

One spot included in the food tour but equally worth a visit in its own right is Azucar Ice Cream, something of a local institution. This family owned store sits in a prime Calle Ocho position opposite the Tower Theatre and serves up Cuban inspired ice creams and sorbets that locals simply can’t get enough of. All ingredients here are locally sourced and of the highest quality, creating a menu that changes regularly with the seasons. If it’s available, try the Abuela Maria, a mix of vanilla ice cream, red guava, cream cheese and cookies… and yes, it tastes even better than it sounds.

Want to taste a bite of history? Then it has to be Versailles, a restaurant that is almost as old as Little Havana itself. First opening its doors way back in 1971, Versailles has long established itself as the place where local Cubans gather for a taste of home. Their famous Cuban sandwich is the stuff of legend, filled with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles and that all important crunchy Cuban roll. If you can, try to squeeze in a post sandwich cup of joe, as this spot also doubles up as one of the best in the neighbourhood for a traditional Cuban coffee. Strong, sweet and flavour packed, Cuban coffee delivers a caffeine punch that could take you by surprise. Novices should perhaps opt for a cafe con leche, whilst hardened coffee drinkers should follow local tradition with a cafecito, a sweet espresso with a devilish rush.

 Best hostels in Little Havana

 Miami’s hostels are pretty much exclusively based around the Miami Beach area, so chances are you’ll be staying on the beach but filling your days exploring the hoods that pique your interests. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Even better, Little Havana is just a 20-minute drive from Miami Beach (in good traffic), whilst taking public transport will take you just over an hour through a combo of bus, metro mover and trolley. All public transport journeys can be easily planned out on Google Maps.

where to stay in miami - group of men sitting together in Little Havana

Little Havana?:@giuliciu

Solo or budget travellers, Miami Hostel could be a good option for you. This dorm only place offers rooms for 6, 8, 10 or 12 people and whilst it’s a little basic, it comes with all the essentials like lockers and personal power outlets. If you’re looking to keep costs down by cooking your own meals, the big communal kitchen will be more than sufficient, plus there’s a Wholefoods next door promising a whole range of healthy ingredients. The games area with pool table creates a social, fun vibe, whilst added perks include free nachos and salsa every Friday night, free hotdogs every Saturday and free bike rental.

Another good option for those on a budget, Rock Hostel boasts a great location just 1 block from the beach with dorms starting from $15 a night. The big rooms, communal kitchen, nightly events and lively bar are all major brownie points for the hostel, whilst their free brekkie of bagels, fruit, yogurt and coffee is especially good.

 3. Wynwood – the best area to stay in Miami for art & hipster hangouts

 A world away from salsa and cigars, if Little Havana is Miami’s heart, Wynwood is its artsy, creative side. A former industrial neighbourhood filled with auto shops and decrepit warehouses, stay in this neighbourhood for young, cool crowds and jump easily between modern galleries, bars, artisanal coffee shops and restaurants.

Credit for the rebirth of the area goes to one man; real estate developer and art enthusiast Tony Goldman. Called on to breathe new life into this forgotten part of town, Goldman came up with the idea for Wynwood Walls, the neighbourhood’s crowning glory. In the 10 years since, Wynwood has been transformed into an art hub, so much so it is now known as the city’s official art district. Aside from Wynwood Walls, over 200 murals bring colour and creativity to the streets of the neighbourhood, creating the world’s largest outdoor museum. Add to this a collection of contemporary galleries, regular farmers markets, breweries run by friendly dudes with beards and a seriously major donut shop, and you’ve got one hella cool place to spend a sunny day.

where to stay in miami - man standing by graffiti in Wynwood

Wynwood ?:@giuliciu

What to do in Wynwood

 If you haven’t already spied Wynwood Walls all over Instagram, where have you been? This masterfully curated indoor / outdoor gallery space first opened in 2009 and dominates 6 massive buildings on 25th & 26th Street. Across the walls, vast colourful murals display geometric shapes, portraits and political messages, perfectly blending the graffiti and street art genres. To date, over 50 artists from 16 different countries have created works of art at Wynwood Walls, including the likes of Shepard Fairy, Maya Hayuk and Eduardo Kobra. Oh, and best of all admission is free.

Not done with free art just yet? That’s just as well, as a wander round the colourful streets of Wynwood will reveal new surprises at every turn. Look up, look down, look left and right, as art is literally everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. No other city in the world has as many murals as Wynwood, a neighbourhood where street art isn’t just celebrated but actively encouraged. The murals are ever changing but keep your eyes peeled for a few personal favourites including a swimming elephant, a flying kitten and an impossibly vast polar bear.

Once you’re done with street art, make a beeline for the fascinating Locust Projects, Miami’s longest running non-profit alternative art and exhibition space. Open since 1998, the gallery acts as an incubator project offering opportunities for artists at every stage of their career. The installations here are created free of rules and restrictions, resulting in creations that are often abstract, risk taking and experimental.

Gallery hopping is thirsty work, so in the afternoon head down to the Wynwood Brewing Company. This craft beer venture is hailed for pioneering the neighbourhood’s craft beer obsession, with their speciality being Belgian style Golden Ales. Cold drinks, communal tables and warm afternoon sunshine are a bit of a winning combination, so prepare to settle in for some well deserved day drinking.

where to stay in miami - a person's face painted at Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls ?:@brucebmax

Places to eat in Wynwood

 If you love tacos, we have good news; Wynwood is home to the place known for serving some of the best tacos in all of Miami, Coyo Taco. Mexican classics like al pastor and conchinita pibil are served up on soft warm tortillas for under $10, and are best washed down with an icy margarita (or a plate of churros, whichever works best). But the food is only one part of the Coyo Taco experience. Once you’re done eating, follow the corridor behind the bathrooms and here you’ll discover a hidden bar lit by candles. Dark, windowless and cramped, the parties here are the kind where you lose all track of time and don’t care one bit.

Remember that major donut shop we mentioned? It’s called the Salty Donut, and it may just be the best place in Miami for a sugar rush. A family owned venture, the small batch artisan donuts are decorated with edible flowers and look almost too pretty to eat. Almost. If you can resist the maple and bacon, guava and cheese or white chocolate offerings washed down with a fresh coffee, you’re stronger than most.

Asian food obsessives, we have a big old treat for you in the form of 1-800 LUCKY. This 10,000 square foot food hall is decked out like a bustling Asian market and set to the soundtrack of booming hip hop. 7 vendors have set up shop here offering a choice of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese BBQ, poke bowls, bubble tea, ice cream and more, and the fun doesn’t stop at the food. Two bars, karaoke booths and an open dining room all contribute to the infectious vibe, which starts as soon as you enter the market through the doors of the record shop.

Finally, if you just can’t get enough of Cuban sandwiches, plan a visit to Enriqueta’s. This no frills, hole-in-the-wall shop is said by some to make the city’s best sandwiches. What makes it so special? Well aside from the classic Cubano ingredients of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, Enriqueta’s adds a unique twist in the form of crispy golden croquettas which pack a comfort food punch.

Best hostels in Wynwood

 

where to stay in miami - freehand miami hostel social area

Freehand Miami

From Miami Beach, Wynwood is a 20-minute drive in light traffic so another easy day excursion. And since you’re filling your days with artistic beauty, perhaps your nights should be spent somewhere equally creative. In this sense, Freehand Miami won’t disappoint. Freehand is another Miami Beach slice of boutique luxury. Ideal for couples or travellers with a little more cash to splurge, this design dream comes complete with an oh-so-tempting pool and terrace, seasonal restaurant and two craft cocktail bars, including the much-loved Broken Shaker bar. Boasting a great location close to all the Miami Beach action, choose from dorms, doubles or private rooms that sleep up to 4. All rooms are equipped with private bathrooms and lockers, whilst the sunrise yoga class, complimentary breakfast and speedy Wi-Fi are the cherries on top.

Just 2 blocks from South Beach’s pure white sands, SoBe is a great value for money option with a super social vibe. Clean and simple but offering all the necessities like free brekkie, discounted dinners, laundry and a communal kitchen, SoBe offers some of the cheapest private rooms in this part of town (starting at around $65), with dorms coming in from $15. Don’t expect luxury, but given the location you can’t argue with the value.

 4. Downtown – the best area to stay in Miami for culture

 Where Downtown was once a collection of modest skyscrapers, pawn shops and tacky discount stores, the past decade has seen it undergo a major renaissance. Today, Miami’s commercial heart is America’s third largest skyline; all shimmering glass high rises, envelope pushing museums, cool bars and some of the city’s best live music venues. But this skyline has one additional advantage over most – its spectacular waterfront location offering gorgeous views over the shimmering Biscayne Bay and Port of Miami.

By day, Downtown is flooded with smartly dressed business types, but the good times here aren’t restricted to office hours. The American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, is a must visit for any basketball fan, whilst the nearby Design District is one of the coolest areas in the entire city, boasting high end designer boutiques, cool design installations and countless yummy restaurants. Old and new co-exist in harmony in this neighbourhood, with reminders of the past most present in the Historic District. Foodies, culture enthusiasts, architecture geeks and shopaholics alike are well satisfied here, so hop on board the free Metromover and discover Downtown for yourselves.

where to stay in miami - girl standing by an old american car outside avalon

?:@giuliciu

What to do in Downtown

Just a short distance from Downtown, the Design District is technically a neighbourhood within itself, although a small one. Home to 130 art galleries, high end shopping, antique dealers and culinary superstars, this is the place where art, fashion, music, food and design all collide in sleek Miami style. But just because this part of town is a playground for the city’s elite, there’s still plenty to keep you busy. Take a peek at the late Zaha Hadid’s mind bending installation Elastika, treat yourself to a boozy ice cream at Aubi & Ramsa, or perhaps take advantage of the twice monthly free guided art tours hosted by local art critic Margery Gordon.

 Looking up at the glistening skyscrapers that characterise Downtown, you could be forgiven for thinking this neighbourhood is all about the future, but you’d be wrong. Some of Miami’s most important historical buildings can be found here, most notably the Freedom Tower. This 1925 Mediterranean Revival style skyscraper was the spot where Cuban immigrants first came to get their documents processed and was later the home of the Miami News. Now an education and culture centre, take a peek around before heading on to either the Haitian Heritage Museum, or History Miami (both are good). Finally, finish up the history lesson with a wander through the Historic District, which is bordered by North Third Street, South Second Street, West Third Avenue and Miami Court and houses 60 historical buildings dating back to the 1920s.

Feeling a little cultured out? Enjoy the sunshine with a stroll along the waterfront at Bayfront Park. This 32-acre public park overlooks Biscayne Bay and is the perfect antidote to the buzz of Downtown, should you need a break. For bendy types amongst you, choose to join the daily donation-based yoga classes that take place here, or head down for sunset with a couple of beers to enjoy the view.

where to stay in miami - american airlines arena

American Airlines Arena ?:@aluengo91

Places to eat in Downtown

 For a taste of Southern Italy in the heart of Downtown, there’s no better spot than Soya e Pomodoro. Founded and managed by Italians Rosario and Christian, everything here is created to transport you to Italy, from the grand Romanesque pillars, to the washing line strung up and decorated with dirty socks (it works, trust us). The no frills food focuses on perfect flavours and quality ingredients, whilst the live jazz band creates an unbeatable ambience. Come for the pasta but don’t be surprised to find yourself lingering over wine and olives until the early hours.

Miami is a hub for culinary superstars, with Michelle Bernstein ranking high amongst them. Yet whilst this award winning chef is usually known for whipping up creations far out of our budget, you can sample a taste of her handiwork at her Latin inspired cafe Crumb on Parchment. Located in the Design District, treat yourself to the lunch speciality ‘The Southener’, or indulge your sweet tooth with a cake, cookie or muffin baked fresh by Bernstein’s Mum.

Sparky’s Roadside BBQ is the kind of place meataholics can just never get enough of. Mountainous platters of beef brisket, grilled pork chops and Southern Fried Chicken are flavoured to perfection with secret rubs and spices crafted by co-owners Kevin Kehoe and Hans Seitz, whilst sides include mac and cheese, sweet potato fries or homemade baked beans. Want something extra special? Give the guava habanero baby back ribs a go, and don’t forget the napkins.

Best hostels in Downtown

where to stay in miami - pool at posh south beach hostel

Posh South Beach Hostel

Just 16 minutes in a cab from South Beach to Downtown, Posh South Beach is everything the name suggests. The latest offering from the South Beach Group Hotel, this decked out (almost) beach front hostel aims to give a bit of affordable luxury to tourists and backpackers alike. Built around a shared living concept, instead of offering individual dorms Posh has just one cavernous room fitted out with 54 beds. But if you’re worried about lack of privacy, don’t be. Each bed comes with privacy dividers so you can shut out your neighbours, whilst the memory foam beds will have you sleeping like a baby. Other ‘posh’ touches include the sleek rooftop pool and sunbathing deck, modern bathrooms and a vast, space age looking communal kitchen.

The name says it all really, but Beds & Drinks does both to great effect. Located on the beach in a fully renovated art deco building, this hostel goes all out in terms of sociability, offering nightly events like movie nights and hot dog parties (both free) as well as VIP entry to some of the city’s most prestigious clubs. The bar is particularly impressive here and unsurprisingly always busy, whilst dorms are clean, cosy and all equipped with en-suites.

5. Brickell – the best area to stay in Miami for food and shopping

Quiz any local about Miami’s hottest new neighbourhood and they will likely say Brickell. Tucked away just south of Downtown, this city within a city is still holding on to its ‘under the radar’ status, but not for long. For many, the secret of Miami’s trendiest new neighbourhood is officially out, evidence of which can be seen in the rapid population rise in the area; from 2000 – 2016, Brickell’s population tripled in size, with the boom showing little sign of slowing down any time soon.

So why the buzz? An area that formerly housed a collection of unremarkable office buildings, today Brickell is the city’s financial district. Vast skyscrapers, luxury condos and an ultra-modern shopping complex all clamour for space overlooking Biscaye Bay, whilst in between chic bistros, cool rooftop bars and independent boutiques pull in a cosmopolitan crowd. Many say the area is more New York than Miami, and it’s easy to see why – a fast paced way of life, everything within walking distance and a certain edge of cool all emulate the NYC vibe. Couple this with the free Metromover and the Miami sunshine, and you’ve got us hooked.

where to stay in miami - tram line through buildings in miami

?:@giuliciu

What to do in Brickell

The self-proclaimed savour of the neighbourhood, Brickell City Centre is the kind of place where you could easily spend your life savings in an afternoon. Opened in 2016, this $1.05 billion-dollar retail monster comprises 500,000 square feet of outdoor shopping space, not to mention some of the area’s best restaurants. High street giants including Bath & Body Works, Lululemon, Zara, Reiss and Apple have all set up shop here, plus a Saks Fifth Avenue Department store that claims over 107,000 square feet. Even if you haven’t got cash to spare it’s pretty fun to just wander around this ultra-modern space, which has a special focus on sustainable design.

Still got more shopping willpower in the tank? Then your next port of call should be Mary Brickell Village, otherwise known as the ‘Manhattan of Miami’. This spot may not boast the size or sophisticated elegance of BCC, but that’s not to say its shops, restaurants, bars or karaoke booths aren’t excellent. Visit in the day for shopping or chilled day time drinks.

Sometimes you just need to escape the intensity of the Miami midday heat or spend a chilled evening with a good movie, and for those times you’ve got CMX Cinema. Located in Brickell City Centre, this luxury movie theatre is an experience in itself, and that’s before the film has even begun. Ever ordered a craft beer or cappuccino mid-way through a movie before? At CMX you can. Tickets don’t come cheap at $25 a go, but for that price you get reclining seats, blankets, a tasty food and drinks menu (with drinks already included), plus service throughout the screening. If that’s not worth it, what is?

Finally, for those after dark vibes it has to be El Tucan. Brickell’s only nightclub (for now), the fun and lively atmosphere at this legendary club will keep you dancing well into the wee hours thanks to an ever-changing roster of international DJs. Come dressed to impress, heels and all, and be sure to save room for the tasty Asian inspired menu.

where to stay in miami - miami skyline at night

?:@mustangjoe

Places to eat in Brickell

Craving Italian food? Look no further than La Centrale, Brickell City Centre’s (worthy) equivalent to NYC’s Eataly. Prepare to die and go to a heaven of cured meats, juicy olives and pasta as you explore the 40,000 square feet of space dedicated to all things Italian. Head to the market area for a DIY picnic of imported groceries or try out one of the several themed restaurants specialising in seafood, pizza, pasta and more.

Whilst we’re on the topic of Italian food, Stanzione 87 is another must-visit. Run by husband and wife team Franco and Ashely, this is the spot to find thin crusted Neapolitan style pizzas in Brickell. The house made sauce, fresh toppings and crispy bases pull in the crowds from far and wide, and better still you can even perfect your own culinary skills thanks to the intimate pizza making classes (accompanied by wine, of course).

Taco obsessed? Brickell won’t let you down. Coming in hot from Mexico City, Cantina La Veinte offers up the kinds of flavours you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere outside of Mexico’s culinary capital. The homemade corn tortillas are as authentic as they come, whilst the soft shell crab taco will have you reminiscing for weeks to come. For the ladies out there, swing by on a Wednesday between 5 and 10pm and enjoy the free margaritas waiting for you.

Best hostels in Brickell

Roughly a 20 minute drive from Miami Beach to Brickell, Collins Hotel is the spot to go if you’re looking to escape the mayhem of South Beach. Tucked away just 1 block behind the sands of North Miami Beach, this little gem makes for the perfect couple’s retreat. As the name suggests, this is a hotel and not a hostel so only double or twin rooms are available, decked out with all the usual hotel perks like squishy pillows, soft beds and powerful AC. Need more persuading? The delightful pool out front is oh-so-tempting for an early morning or evening dip. Rooms ring in from around $90 per night.

Ready to discover all that Miami has in store? Whether you’re looking for beach hangs and all-night parties, Cuban culture and huge sandwiches, artsy Insta opps or envelope pushing museums and galleries, this city has you covered. So, what are you waiting for? Discover your perfect Miami hostel and let’s get this party started…

where to stay in miami - girl standing on the beach at sunset looking out to sea

?:@giuliciu

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About the author:

A freelance travel writer and content strategist, I’m currently travelling through Latin America in search of stories, cultures and tacos. Favourite country in the world (so far) > Colombia. Favourite travel experience to date > Swimming with whale sharks in Tanzania. Favourite Hostel > Barbara’s Boutique Hostel in Antigua, Guatemala. Stalk me on Instagram @ginnycopestake, or hire me for words, strategy and cups of tea (I make a mean brew) at www.ginnysmithcreates.com.

Keep reading:

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The best hostels in Miami

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