Miami city guide

From the cool Art Deco of South Beach to the Cuban buzz of Little Havana, the Florida city boasts outstanding beaches, shopping, restaurants and nightlife, making it fantastic for a pre- or post-cruise stay, says Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis

Probably one of the most laid-back and welcoming cities in the US, Miami has a relaxed vibe. Hang out on South Beach, take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, go shopping at one of the malls, and enjoy cocktails and dinner al fresco.

Originally occupied by the Tequesta Indians, Miami was founded by Julia Tuttle, a local landowner who in 1896 convinced railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to expand his Florida East Coast Railway to the new city she had helped develop on the Miami River, and as a result Miami steadily grew to a metropolis.

Today Miami is an intoxicating, stylish city and well worth exploring for a few days before or after your cruise, and the skyline at sunset as you sail out of the port is one of the most iconic sights at sea.

Must-sees

There are more than 800 Art Deco buildings (many of them hotels) along Ocean Drive from Miami Beach to South Beach, most of them beautifully preserved in fabulous vibrant colours, and you can easily spend half a day strolling along here, enjoying the architecture and stopping for an iced coffee.

In Little Havana you can get a taste of Cuban life – after Castro came to power in 1959 hundreds of thousands of Cubans moved to Miami, and in Calle Ocho you can find houses with rocking chairs on the porch, cigar stores and, of course, the sound of Latin beats everywhere.

Coconut Grove is distinctly tropical, with lush trees and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens; and another interesting place to stroll around is Coral Gables, with its botanical gardens and art museum. If you have enough time, go and see American football team Miami Dolphins in action.

Shopping

Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach has upmarket shops and cafés, plus well-known brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic; tree-lined Miracle Mile in Coral Gables has intriguing boutiques; the Design District, located between Midtown and Wynwood, has high-end shops including Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Slightly further out of town but well worth the trip is Sawgrass Mills, which has a dizzying array of premium outlet (discount) stores, everything from Jimmy Choo to Gucci – you may need to take an extra suitcase.

Where to stay

With a location right on the beach, the Faena Hotel Miami Beach is a truly exceptional luxury hotel; the creative director is film director Baz Luhrmann, and the décor is stylish and fabulous. Service is anticipatory and there are some exquisite design statements, including the splendid Damien Hirst gold mammoth that greets you on your way to the private area of the beach reserved for hotel guests (complete with red-and-white striped loungers and staff dressed in 40s-style uniforms).

Rooms are wonderfully appointed with red velvet accents and Carrara marble bathrooms and Tierra Santa amenities. All the hotel restaurants are of an incredibly high standard, but the Sunday brunch or el asado at the Argentinian restaurant Los Fuegos is an event in itself, with a incredible array of mouthwatering dishes cooked on the open-fire barbecue. Rooms start from $369 a night (faena.com/miami-beach).

GETTING THERE: British Airways has return flights to Miami from £459 (ba.com). Cruise lines that sail from PortMiami include Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

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