Miami – where to sleep, what to eat and the best attractions of the city – the practical guide

If you asked me some time ago, where I could live for longer, I would answer without hesitation: ‘Australia’. Although it’s been already a few years since I’ve worked and lived there, I still feel that it could be my second home after Poland. But three years ago something changed. I visited Miami and I felt in love with this place. From that time I return here every year for winter.

I realized that every time I say ‘Miami’ in a conversation, everyone gets excited and wants to go there. We have an idea about this city imprinted in our mind by movies and TV series. But frankly speaking, it’s exactly what they show – beautiful beaches, palm trees, tall hotels with heavenly views and in Miami Beach – clubs, restaurants, crowds of people hungry for entertainment, movie-like boulevards and artistic, colorful districts. You can’t be bored in Miami!  However, if you drive a few miles away from the downtown, you can find peace and calmness, allowing you to live, work and relax normally. 

The best time to visit Miami

Miami is situated in Florida, so in a tropical monsoon climate, meaning that it’s always hot there. During the summer you can expect storms and the hurricane season lasts there from June to November. But winter is the perfect time for sightseeing and chilling out!

How long to stay in Miami?

The most interesting attractions of Miami Beach can be visited in 3 or 4 days but if you want to enjoy these extraordinary beaches, you should plan at least a week. But think about it – if you’re already travelling to the other side of the world, I would definitely recommend combining your stay in Miami with a touring trip of Florida, because it also has a lot to offer. 

Is Miami safe?

Contrary to what you may see in the movies, Miami is pretty safe. Just like any other huge town, it also has some districts with high crime rates, which should be definitely avoided by the tourists, which are: Biscayne Boulevard, Liberty City, Opa-Locka and Overtown. In contrast to these districts, downtown Miami is all right but, like in every other place, you should not sniff around dark alleys in the night. Nothing bad happened to me in Miami and I do not feel in any kind of danger there. 

Where to stay Miami – the best hotels

Miami is famous of its luxurious hotels, resorts and suites in skyscrapers, which guarantee amazing views over the city. I don’t associate it with boutique hotels and quietness. It should be urban, a lot of it, high and luxurious. Of course, there are always options to rent an apartment or a whole house – if you want to take this approach, you should search through Airbnb. The closer to the ocean and the more hip and touristic the district is, like South Beach or Downtown, the higher the prices, of course. While spending my third winter in Miami, I keep away from crowded places swarmed with tourists. There is a huge difference between living and working somewhere for months and staying for a short while just to do some sightseeing. If you’re thinking about a longer stay or simply living in Miami, I recommend you my favorite Hollywood Beach – especially along the edge of Broadwalk – it’s quiet, peaceful, the beach is wide and it gives lots of space.

But if you’re coming to Miami strictly for tourism, I would choose a hotel or an apartment downtown – in Miami Beach. First of all, getting there from other districts is a huge waste of time because the traffic jams are enormous. Second of all, it’s more comfortable to be closer to all the most interesting attractions, even if you won’t rent a car – you can use public transportation, bikes or take an Uber.

Here are some of the most famous and best rated hotels in Miami:

Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida

EAST, Miami

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami

Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove

Where to eat – the best restaurants in Miami

When it comes to eating out, I have my favorite places:

  • Longhorn steak house – chain of my fav steak houses – the best New York steak and baked sweet potatoes.
  • El Vez – sensational Mexican cuisine with modern twist and the restaurant has a terrace with view over the ocean.
  • Under the Mango Tree – the best acai bowl, avocado tosts and almond milk latte.
  • 1-800 lucky – perfect place for Asian lunch.
  • Coyo Taco – yes, tacos again.
  • Pura Vida Miami – healthy, organic food. 
  • Pachamanka – Peruvian restaurant with awesome ceviche made of the most fresh seafood.
  • Humus House – fresh hummus, which is absolutely bonkers (I recommend the one with grilled eggplant).
  • B square burgers – tasty burgers and the best sweet potato fries.
  • Lilikoi Organic Living – all the dishes are organic and beautifully plated. Best place to have a breakfast like acai bowl or avo toast.
  • MIAMI Cafe – Wynwood – perfect place for a breakfast in the center of an artistic district of Wynwood
  • La Mar – very exclusive place for an exclusive meal. Eating brunch there is a whole experience. You can expect exquisite service and amazing dishes that look like pieces of art.
  • Phuc Yua – Vietnamese restaurant in the center of Little Haiti district. For lunch I definitely recommend delicious pho, bao buns and Bánh mì ch sandwiches.
  • B Bistro + Bakery – located in the heart of Miami and it always delights me, among others, with its beautiful design and wonderful plating. Perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because they have a menu for every time of day.
  • Rosetta Bakery – Italian bakery and cafe – absolutely delicious coffee and cookies.

Miami – the best attractions you have to try

1. The most colorful Wynwood District

The eclectic district of Wynwood in the center of the city. It is known mostly for its huge murals but it’s a home for lots of art galleries, shops with handmade accessories and antiques or bars and restaurants with out of the ordinary design. To put it shortly – it’s one of the biggest open air artistic places in the world. It is really worth to take a walk in here, get inspired by street art, which is absolutely unique there. I wrote more about Wynwood here: Wynwood – the most colorful district in Miami

2. Movie-like South Beach

The famous South Beach, which is associated with clips’ background, fast cars and nightclubs. It’s very crowded but it has its charm. Beautiful wide beach, on which there are colorful lifeguard shacks and in the background you can see palm trees and tall hotels. Just the kind of Miami you’d see in a postcard. I like this place for its beach boulevard; it is throbbing with life, swarming with smiling people, all riding bikes, roller blading, jogging or working out in outdoor gyms. It’s super motivating. And in the nearby bars you can get one liter margaritas. Welcome to Miami Beach!

3. Cuban vibes in The Little Havana

This is the center of social, cultural and political activities in Miami. Many festivals take place there, including: Carnival Miami, Cultural Fridays, the Three Kings Parade. If you like the Latino vibe, you should visit this place and see the Miami Walk of Fame (for such famous Latino personalities like Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan), the Cuban Memorial Boulevard, Plaza de la CubanidadDomino Park, the Tower Theater or Jose Marti Park.

4. NBA game at American Airlines Arena

While being in Miami, you can’t deny yourself the pleasure of going to NBA match at American Airlines Arena. Even if you are not a huge sports fan, seeing a real NBA game and feeling the energy of the fans is indeed priceless. The emotions are unbelievable and before you even notice, you’ll shout your head off, scream at the players to pull themselves together after missing a three-pointer or they will screw it up again. Pure life. You can buy game tickets online HERE.

5. Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

Hollywood Beach is one of my favorite places near Miami. I have a sentimental attachment to it, because this is the place where I’ve lived, when I’ve gone there for the first time (the whole story here: I’ve moved to Miami!) and I returned there after three years. It’s famous for its incredible, wide beach and beautiful boulevard at the ocean, which is perfect for riding a bike and jogging. It’s much more cozy than touristic South Beach or crowded Fort Laurdeldale. Broadwalk stretches for miles but except for the main part, where you can find the biggest hotels, it’s quiet there, nothing disturbs the humming ocean, you can really relax and the beach is never crowded. Along the Broadwalk there are small restaurants, Pachamanka is my favorite, they serve fresh ceviche there. 

6. Oceanside Fort Laurdeldale

I lived in Fort Laurdeldale in the last year. It’s much more dynamic and much more happens there, compared to Hollywood Beach. Here are the tall hotels, really nice boulevard at the ocean and dozens of restaurants and bars, if you are looking for night life. It’s also the most popular place for students’ Spring Breaks, so in March the beaches are really crowded. It is worth to drop by for a walk or go to one of the fantastic restaurants with view over the ocean, like El Vez.

7. Taking a water taxi and watching the celebrities’ mansions

An absolutely unique experience. Water taxis are just small ships sailing the Miami canals and letting you see, among others, incredible mansions of the wealthiest citizens and their yachts (some of them worth a few dozens of USD millions), moored next to their houses. Gloria Estefan, Don Johnson or Shaquille O’Neill and many others. Water taxis sail regularly every 30 minutes from 10:30 AM to 7 PM and the whole cruise with a guide, who tells you amazing stories about the mansions you’d be sailing by, lasts about 90 minutes. You can buy tickets directly at the water taxi or online HERE (you’ll spare 5 bucks then). I recommend it because of the views and the opportunity to get to know the city from a different perspective. 

8. Bike ride at the coast

Bike rentals are literally everywhere and the bicycle lanes along the coast are developed incredibly well. If I was to choose the coolest day in Miami, I would say that it was a day-long bike trip (over 60 km!) along the coast, from Hollywood Beach to Miami Beach and back. The weather was excellent and I’ve fixed a radio in the basket, so it played all the Latino hits (it fits the Miami climate so well). It was such a perfect day! Palm trees, ocean, people smiling at you and Miami you always dream of – sunny, cool and throbbing with life.

9. The biggest Latino festival – Calle Ocho

Once a year The Little Havana has the biggest Latino culture festival in Miami – Calle Ocho. The area changes into one huge market square with food stands, everywhere there are stages with Latino music and in the evening, at the main square, there is a huge concert of reggeaton stars. In the last year it was Gente de Zona. Let me put it this way, it was a craaaazy good :)

10. Light aircraft lesson over Miami

It turned out that being a pilot is not only for the chosen ones anymore, because in the last year I found a school, in which you can have your first flying lesson (which is later included in the full pilot course). Little by little, they tell you how to take off, how to fly and you learn how to do it all by yourself, with a support of a pilot, who is sitting next to you. Amazing experience. And the views over Miami and South Beach you fly over are unforgettable. You just have to watch the movie about my first flight lesson: My first flying lesson – I was flying a plane over Miami!

11.  Interactive Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is famous of its interactivity. The Planetarium offers an educational journey through the space with a huge high-resolution screen. You can find there also a three-level aquarium, which takes you into the depth of the Atlantic Ocean. The Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is situated about 1 mile north of the Miami center. The Park Metromover subway station is on the other side of the street, opposite the museum. If you’d get there by car, you can park in museum’s garage, which costs 8 USD for the first hour and then 4 USD for every next hour but the maximum daily fee is 40 USD. The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 6 PM on the weekdays and to 7:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for adults cost 29.95 USD, 20.95 USD for kid aged between 3 and 11, while younger kids can enter free of charge. Buying tickets online in advance lets you save 2 USD per every ticket! More info and online ticket office on their website HERE

12. Chill out in the Crandon Park

Crandon Park is located in the northern part of Key Biscayne. Previously it was a plantation of coconut palms but it was handed over to the Miami-Dade County, provided that a municipal park would be created there. Apart from that, there is also a tennis center, comprised of 26 tennis courts, a golf field, a marina and a beautiful beach. Crandon Park is located about 6 miles southeast from Miami center, opposite of William M. Powell bridge and Bear Cut bridge. You can easily get there by bus no. 102.  If you’re planning to go there by car, parking fee costs 5 USD on weekdays and 7 USD on weekends. Park is opened at sunrise and closed at sunset. You can find more details about the park HERE

13. Tropical walk around Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden covers the surface of 85 acres and it’s one of the biggest in the whole United States. It’s a marvelous place for a calm walk, surrounded by tropical plants. The Garden claims also that it possesses one of the biggest collections of palm trees and cycads in the world. This is a perfect place to escape from the city noise and just commune with nature. But remember to take a mosquito repellent because – just like in any other tropics – they bite mercilessly. You can take a 45-minutes tour with a guide, by streetcar. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located in Coral Gables, about 9 miles south from Miami center. The Garden is open every day from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (except for Christmas). Tickets for adults cost 25 USD, 18 USD for senior citizens and 12 USD for kid aged between 6 and 17 (5 and younger can enter for free). Except for the gardens there are also some cafes there and a store. If you’re looking for more info about the Garden, you should check out their website HERE. 

14. Cuban art Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center

Pre-revolution Cuban art dated between 1800 and 1960 is exhibited in Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center but you can find there works of art of modern Cuban artists as well. Being a center of stagecraft, Cubaocho presents also Cuban music and dance. Moreover, Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center is also a store, in which lots of exhibits are purchasable. You can also drink mojito there or smoke a Cuban cigar. Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center is proud of its location in Little Havana, at the antique street of Calle Ocho. You can get there by bus – no. 8 and 207. The entrance to Museum Cubaocho & Performing Arts Center is free. It’s open every day except Mondays. More details can be found on the museum’s website HERE

15. Shopping in the Miami Design District 

Miami Design District is famous of its exclusive boutiques of famous brands, elegant restaurants and art galleries. Even if you’re not planning to buy at Prada’s or Gucci’s stores, you can still go for a walk there! This district is full of modern architecture and interesting design, so it’s a perfect training ground for your photographical skills. This place is often compared to the famous Rodea Drive in Beverly Hills, California. This district is situated about 3 miles north of Miami center, while Miami Beach is playing in the water on the opposite shore of the Biscayne Bay. If not by a car, you can get there by a streetcar, which stops in the center of Miami Design District or by a bus (no. 3, 9 and 93). More about the district and the events HERE

16. Salsa in Ball&Chain

Ball & Chain is a bar well known around the world – and there’s a good reason for that. It was founded in the 30s in the 20th century and during its many years of work it was visited by such legends of music like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker. This bar is famous of its unique cocktails, created by the best mixologists in Regent Cocktail Club. You should definitely try cocktails inspired by those served on Cuba: Mojito Criollo (classic but for better aroma it’s served with intact mint leafs), Canita (white rum, lime, homemade honey syrup, guarapo or sugar cane juice) i Pastelito Daiquiri (aged rum with addition of pastelito, lime and guava). At 6 PM live jazz sessions start, while on Saturdays at 9 PM begins wild Cuban fiesta La Pachanga.

17. Original craft beer in Wynwood Brewing Company

The first craft brewery in Miami started a whole boom in the city, causing lots of other breweries to open around the Wynwood but not only there. However, visiting this place at the edge of the colorful district, is a total must. Wynwood Brewing is famous of its light beer La Rubia (Spanish for a blonde), which is so fresh and invigorating. You can buy it in various stores but it tastes the best right at the spring, right? From noon till 1 PM beer costs only half of the regular price. On Wednesdays happy hours are additionally also between 5 and 6 PM. 

18. Wild nights with top stars in LIV

LIV is one of these megaclubs that are known all around the world. It’s visited regularly by world class music stars like Kanye West or Drake, as well as crowds of celebrities. LIV is located in a hall of an antique hotel Fontainebleau, in which many films were filmed. Recently, the club went through a makeover worth 10 million dollars, thanks to which it’s even more modern and suited for performances of the stars. But it’s not one of these places you can drop in right from the street. You have to book a table and include table service. 

19. Walking around the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located in the Coconut Grove district, were originally built as a winter villa for a businessman, James Deering, in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, it’s a museum with a wide variety of works of arts dated from 15th to 19th century. The mansion has been designed after the fasion of the European courts. The cherry on top are the gorgeous gardens, surrounding the buildings. No other place in Miami is as European as this one. You can explore the mansion alone or with a guide – 45-minutes-long tour of the second floor in the main building and the gardens costs 5 USD. Tours start every day at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM. Concerts are also organized there, as well as yoga lessons, right where you can get the best view over the waters. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are located a mile southwest from the Miami center. At the entrance there is a free parking lot. Tickets for adults cost 22 USD, 10 USD for kids aged between 6 and 12. The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM from Wednesday to Monday. More details can be found on the museum’s website HERE

20. Cruising a private yacht around Miami

I think that everyone saw all these yacht parties scenes in the movies or TV-series. If you wanted to spend such a day on the deck, throw an amazing birthday party or bachelorette party, you can easily rent a private yacht. In the price you’d have personal service of the crew, grill on board and special decorations, suitable for the occasion. A private cruise is suited to your needs.  If you want more details, you should check websites of companies, which organize such cruises HERE

21. Modern art in Pérez Art Museum 

Pérez Art Museum is the most important modern art museum in Miami, possessing works of art of such artists like Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Ana Mendieta. It’s also beautifully situated in the paradisal area of Biscayne Bay. In the Museum there is also a great Verde restaurant, with terrace and view over the bay, making it a perfect place for lunch.  More information about the exhibitions and the up-to-date ticket prices are available on the museum’s website HERE 

22.  The most famous fruit stand in Miami – Robert is Here

The history of Robert is Here begun in 1959, when a certain Robert, aged only 6, began selling cucumbers from his family farm at just a roadside table. For many years this family business grew to a huge fruit empire and it’s a massive tourist attraction. Except for the opportunity to buy almost any exotic fruit there, you can also buy an awesome fruit shakes. There’s also a small petting zoo for the kids and a store with local honey, crafted bread and other delicious treats of Miami. The market is located south of Miami Beach, about 40 minutes car drive and it’s open every day from 9 AM to 4 PM. If you need more details and info, here’s their website HERE