The concierges’ guide to Miami

The Telegraph


A travel guide to Miami’s best attractions, bars, beaches and experiences, as judged by concierges from the city’s best hotels


On the southern tip of Florida, cosmopolitan and culturally diverse Miami offers much more than reliable warm weather and exceptional beaches. A thriving arts scene that supports events such as Art Basel Miami (this year taking place from December 5-8) and various world-class galleries and museums has allowed the city to assert itself as a cultural capital; an established and hedonistic drinking and dining scene means after-hours entertainment is also to hand. Here concierges from three of Miami’s best hotels give their guides to the city’s standout destinations and experiences.

Sharing their knowledge are:
Pedro Alvarez, head concierge at Delano
Noel Lanza, head concierge at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach
Maite Foriasky, chef concierge at The Setai

 I’m new here. Tell me something people don’t know about Miami.

Pedro: Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by America’s National Register of Historic Places. It includes 800 structures of historical significance, most built between 1923 and 1943.
Maite: When built, Miami’s Art Deco buildings were painted in pastel colours so their features would show up as different tones of grey in the black and white advertisement photographs of the time.

Which attraction should I definitely make time to see?
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. It was James Deering’s subtropical winter home in the 1910s and now is a beautifully restored museum and gardens.
Noel: Fairchild Tropical Garden which you may get to by heading south on Old Cutler road. It is home to some of the most unique trees and flowers in the world.
Maite: The famous Wynwood Walls in the Wynwood Art District. The idea of showcasing street art in the area was conceived in 2009 by Tony Goldman, who suggested using the windowless walls of Wynwood’s warehouses as canvases.

Which of the “must-visit” attractions should I avoid?
Ocean Drive at night. The traffic ruins the experience.
Noel: The Bayside district is full of corporate chain restaurants and shops. If you want a nice coffee mug or T shirt, it is a good “attraction”.
Maite: Any and all tours sold on the street; most of these vendors are not licensed guides and a positive, memorable experience is not guaranteed.

Which cultural attraction would you most recommend?
The much anticipated Perez Art Museum Miami.  It should open in a few weeks and it promises to be a great addition to Miami’s cultural life.
Noel: The New World Symphony, Little Havana and its restaurants and Cuban-influenced art galleries. Little Haiti is also a hidden gem.
Maite: I particularly like all the contemporary architecture in Miami; our buildings now have the touch of so many well-known international architects and designers, such as the 1111 Lincoln Road which is a garage by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. I also appreciate The Adrienne Arscht Center for Performing Arts designed by famed Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli.

How can I best experience Art Basel Miami Beach?
The best way is to try to get a hold of a VIP Pass to see all of the best exhibits at speed and in comfort.
Noel: Have a strategy with regards to how you will fit all in four days.
Maite: Allocate one full day to spend at the Miami Beach Convention Center to enjoy the monumental collection of cutting-edge pieces and rare works of art. It’s located two blocks west of The Setai, Miami Beach. Take your time perusing through all the aisles of art. Then, be sure to wander through the public areas of Miami Beach where unusual large-scale art pieces dominate and fascinate.

Where can I take the best picture of Miami?
In the Shore Club Penthouse. The view of the water is unforgettable.
Noel: Standing at the precipice of the Rickenbacker Causeway, which is the bridge leading from Brickell to Key Biscayne. If you face north, you can capture downtown, Biscayne Bay, the Port of Miami and South Beach.
Maite: From South Point Park on Miami Beach, where one can see the hotels of South Beach, the Atlantic Ocean, Fisher Island, The Port of Miami and the sun setting behind Miami’s ever-expanding skyline.

I’d like to try something new here – what should I do?
Visit the state’s Everglades National Park. It’s not uncommon to see alligators out sunbathing.
Noel: Yoga at the Wyndwood Walls, a new an upcoming artistic area of Miami. The other participants and yogis are most interesting.
Maite: Many don’t associate Miami with wineries, but a favourite, off-the-beaten-path experience we recommend is tasting the refreshing fruit wine at Schnebly Redland’s Winery in Homestead, which is 50 miles southwest of Miami Beach (on the way to the Florida Everglades). Guests may enjoy wines flavoured with mango, coconut, and guava—the signature fruits of South Florida; or if you prefer beer, they brew coco ale beer. The lush courtyard and natural coral waterfalls will provide a great backdrop for a peaceful afternoon wine tasting.

What’s the most glamorous experience you can have in Miami?
Spend a day in Fisher Island and a night at the Delano Hotel. You’re sure to rub elbows with other glamorous people.
Noel: To attend a gala at the classic and luxurious Biltmore hotel, followed by drinks at Swine in the Coral Gables district.
Maite: Indulge yourself with a ride on a Porsche high-speed boat or spend a leisure day on a luxury yacht, with a massage therapist, yoga instructor or even a private chef on board.

I’d like to buy an unusual souvenir – what do you recommend?
Britto Gallery has really interesting pop art souvenirs. Grab an umbrella to remember the fickle Miami weather.
Noel: A guayab which is a type of shirt that’s popular in Latin America.
Maite: Since Miami is home to the everglades, you could pick up some unique alligator souvenirs or visit the Little Havana area for some Cuban collectables.

Tell me a phrase or piece of slang I can use to fit in around here.
“Cafecito”. It’s a Cuban coffee that’s small but strong and you should try ordering it from any of the city’s numerous coffee shops.
Noel: “Dale”, pronounced “dah-lay”. It means “let’s go” in Spanish.
Maite: Don’t be confused if you’re addressed as Mama, Mami or Papi; these are typical South Floridian terms of endearment.

What’s the best restaurant in the city right now?
Zuma is delicious. It’s a modern Japanese restaurant in the Epic hotel.
Noel: After dining at DiLido, here at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach – the only oceanfront restaurant in South Beach – Ola is a very nice dining establishment with delicious Latin food.
Maite: I’d recommend The Restaurant at The Setai, recently reopened with a new Mediterranean “Sun Coast” cuisine concept, and the popular Setai Grill.

And where’s best for drinks? I don’t want somewhere touristy.
Delano’s pool bar is the perfect place to enjoy a drink during the day.
Noel: The Foxhole on South Beach, which can be hard to find as there are absolutely no signs on the exterior of the building. Also try Blackbird in Brickell, Bardot in Mid-town, and The Local in Coral Gables.
Maite: There’s a hidden gem on Miami Beach called the Broken Shaker, which is a garden lounge featuring specialty handcrafted cocktails with elixirs, syrups, and infusions made from herbs and spices from their garden. It is modestly located in the Free Hand Hostel but offers great ambiance whether you’re on a romantic date or out with a group of friends.

What is Miami’s best nightclub?
 Story is newest club in town and brings the best DJ’s to Miami.
Noel: LIV in the Fontainebleau is one of the best nightclubs in the US. It has the most vibrant and beautiful partygoers five days a week days a week. The most famous DJs in the world regularly play there and it’s open until 5am.
Maite: It depends what type of night clubs you are looking for: the most popular are Story and LIV, which are famous for bringing DJs such as Tiesto and David Guetta to Miami. However, you can also experience more intimate nightclubs such as SET and Mynt Lounge, famous for their resident DJs.

What’s the best beach in Miami?
 Delano’s beach and the beach from 17th street to 20th street are both pristine and beautiful.
Noel: South Beach stretches nearly 25 blocks. The sand is white, the water is clear and you will see the best and most well-sculpted bodies in the world.
Maite: Miami Beach was originally a mangrove swamp. In its place now stand 15 miles of sparkling white-sand beaches—from upscale Golden Beach right down to upbeat South Beach. Several large beachfront parks are accessible to the public, though the rest of the beach is hemmed in by hotels and condos. I vote South Beach as the best beach – for its magnificent transformation and unbeatable people-watching.

Any beach rules or etiquette I should be aware of?
 Don’t bring glass bottles on the beach.
Noel: You can sunbathe topless on South Beach. As long as it’s legal, it’s ok on South Beach.
Maite: The beach rules are quite simple: no glass containers; no dogs; no camping; no guns or explosives; no cooking. Beach patrols usually turn a blind eye to fishing, as long as it is not inconveniencing fellow beachgoers. Nudity is prohibited except at the north section of Haulover Beach.

I’m going to propose to my partner while I’m here – where should I do it?
 I would take advantage of Miami’s beautiful scenery and propose at sunset on the beach when the moon is rising.
Noel: You could charter a yacht and drift along in Biscayne Bay as the sun sets and the moon shines over South Beach. For the actual proposal, you could arrange for a plane to fly over with a banner asking the question.
Maite: Miami has so many romantic proposal spots, including the luscious gardens and parks like Matheson Hammock Park, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden and historic venues like the Ancient Spanish Monastery, the Vizcaya Museum and Garden, which offer breathtaking backdrops.



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