Downtown Miami neighborhood guide

Get to know downtown Miami with our guide to the neighborhood’s best blocks, attractions and things to do

Bayside Marketplace, Downtown Miami

The formerly faded city center is on the up. Downtown Miami's once-modest gathering of skyscrapers continues to multiply, as the architecture evolves from colorful, campy 1980s to post-millennium sleek. Not long ago, the scene at ground level was largely characterised by an assortment of tacky discount electronics stores, pawn shops, seedy immigration lawyers and 99¢ emporiums. However, the past decade has seen a major residential migration and today more than 70,000 people call the neighborhood home—almost twice as many as in 2000.

Around Flagler Street
Flagler Street is the main drag, lined with shops catering mainly to Spanish-speakers. About the only one without a 'Todo Ten Dollars' sign is Macy's, which occupies a fine 1936 streamline Depression Moderne building at 22 E Flagler. A little way east, the Seybold Building (36 NE 1st Street, at N Miami Avenue) is the heart of one of the largest jewellery districts in the country: there are more than 280 jewellers here. If you need a glittery rock, this is the place.

Further along Flagler is the 1926 Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, easily recognisable by the restored marquee and charming box office kiosk at the front. Both Rudy Vallee and Elvis Presley played this Mediterranean Revival stunner, which features extravagant plaster details, twinkling ceiling lights and 12-foot crystal chandeliers.

Despite the recent residential influx, the area is still mostly known as a business district, but it's also home to a thriving college campus. Some 27,000 students dodge the vagrants on NE 2nd Avenue to attend Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus (300 NE 2nd Avenue, at NE 3rd Street). Art enthusiasts will be more interested in the campus's third-floor Centre Gallery; the annual book fair is a delight, drawing literary names to Miami from far and wide.

A large nouveau Mediterranean complex comprises the Miami-Dade Public Library and HistoryMiami, all set around an elegant courtyard. The finest way to experience Downtown is a night view from either the Rickenbacker or MacArthur Causeways. Seen from one of these vantage points, it's one of the finest illuminated skylines in the US.

Biscayne Boulevard
Biscayne Boulevard divides Downtown from the waterfront green of Bayfront Park, a busy venue for concerts, ethnic festivals and huge Independence Day, New Year's Eve and Winter Holiday celebrations. North is a plaza marked by the JFK Torch of Friendship and adorned with statues of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León, along with plaques representing Caribbean, South and Central American countries (except Cuba, naturally). Close by is touristy Bayside Marketplace and its often-packed marina. A pedestrian bridge conveniently links Bayside to the AmericanAirlines Arena, home of local pro basketball team Miami Heat.

North of NE 5th Street
Some of the dodgier bits of Downtown lie north of NE 5th Street. The best way to visit may be via the Omni extension of the Metromover. As the Metromover crosses the Miami Beach-bound MacArthur Causeway, to the right lies the bayfront Miami Herald Building, and to the left, the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts.

South of the river
Despite its brevity, the four-mile Miami River is swampy south-east Florida's main stream. South of the river is an area known as Brickell: this is Miami's financial district, home to some of the city's 120-odd national and international banks. Conveniently enough, some of the newest and most upscale business hotels are located here, including the Mandarin Oriental and the 70-storey Four Seasons, which became the tallest building south of Atlanta when it was completed in 2002.

Dubbed Mary Brickell Village, the area has a lively after-hours scene, particularly around S Miami Avenue and SE 10th Street, which is home to several popular after-work hangouts such as Oceanaire and Perricone's. Also not to be missed are the riverside ambience and great seafood at Garcia's.

Downtown restaurants and bars

Tobacco Road

Critics' pick

Al Capone once drank and gambled at the century-old Road, which holds the oldest liquor license in Miami-Dade County. These days it’s renowned as a live music venue—blues legends such as John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy have played here. But even when the stages are silent, the former speakeasy still qualifies as one of the finest—and grittiest—drinking establishments around. The food’s good, too: stop by on Tuesday for the $13 lobster special. Patrons are advised to heed the management’s advice and drink responsibly… using both hands.

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Downtown

Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish

Critics' pick

Down by the river, tucked behind a maze of downtown freeways and bridges, this seafood shack is a hidden gem. From the nautical interior and rustic waterfront deck to the fishing boats that chug by, this place oozes character. Conch fritters, gorgeous ceviche and Florida stone crab are warm-ups for the entrées: juicy grilled jumbo shrimp, say, or grilled yellowtail, grouper or lobster, served alongside buttery parsley potatoes, green plantains, Caesar salads or fries. The Key lime pie is one of the best in town. Tricky to find, but worth the effort.

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Area 31

Even if it didn’t boast one of the city’s most spectacular views—the Miami skyline is laid out in front of you from the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel—chef E. Michael Reidt’s innovative seafood, much of it sourced from the waters you can gaze out upon, would surely be packing in the patrons. Reidt was recently named one of Ocean Drive Magazine’s "hot new chefs," and fresh ingredients are his culinary weapon of choice—he’s got his very own patio garden to prove it. The menu changes regularly, but expect fresh ceviche and tartares. Reidt gets experimental with a section of the menu labelled Chefie Things; on a recent visit it yielded crispy fish collar, smoked shrimp guacamole and pork cheek with a chilli graham cracker crumble.

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Things to do Downtown

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Critics' pick

After many delays, a budget overrun and a few name changes, this spectacular $500 million César Pelli creation opened in 2006. The striking postmodern architecture alone makes it worth a visit. But the fact that it’s home to the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet, and occasionally hosts the New World Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, doesn’t hurt either. Touring Broadway shows, musicals, world music and children’s shows also feature. 

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Downtown

Bayfront Park

A busy venue for concerts, ethnic festivals and huge Independence Day, New Year's Eve and Winter Holiday celebrations. A 100-foot white metal pipe tower commemorates the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, in which all seven crew members died following the shuttle's explosion 73 seconds after takeoff. North is a plaza marked by the JFK Torch of Friendship and adorned with statues of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León, along with plaques representing Caribbean, South and Central American countries (except Cuba, naturally).

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HistoryMiami

It’s young, but south Florida does have a past and a lively one at that. Tracing the history of the region, from early Indians to rafting Cubans, HistoryMiami succeeds in educating while entertaining. The exhibits on the wreckers of Key West and Henry Flagler both merit an extended look, as does the section on photographer Ralph Middleton Munroe.

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More things to do in Downtown Miami

Cultural highlights in Downtown Miami

HistoryMiami

It’s young, but south Florida does have a past and a lively one at that. Tracing the history of the region, from early Indians to rafting Cubans, HistoryMiami succeeds in educating while entertaining. The exhibits on the wreckers of Key West and Henry Flagler both merit an extended look, as does the section on photographer Ralph Middleton Munroe.

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Downtown

Pérez Art Museum

With a collection of works from such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Ana Mendieta, not to mention some high-caliber traveling exhibitions, this relatively young museum (formerly Miami Art Museum) is worth a look. Family-friendly interactive programs bring art home: during free Second Saturday (of the month) programs, museum teachers lead families in hands-on activities inspired by the works on display, while Third Thursdays play host to evenings of music and entertainment.

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Biscayne Boulevard Historic District

Miami Dade College Centre Gallery

Of the handful of public galleries maintained by the community college, the Centre Gallery on the Downtown campus is the most frequented. Shows are invariably interesting, focusing exclusively on contemporary art by international artists and covering a broad range of timely themes, from performance art to new technological works.

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Downtown Free
More museums and galleries in Downtown Miami

Hotels in Downtown Miami

Shamrock Rentals of South Florida - Gables

Offering all of the comforts of home, this apartment-style property offers both extended-stay and short term accommodations, within walking distance of the cultural, recreational and business areas of Miami. Free WiFi is provided in all apartments.Shamrock Corporate Housing features spacious and furnished 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms accommodations. Guests can enjoy fully-equipped kitchens and separate living and dining rooms. Apartments also feature private balconies or patios.Many of the area's popular attractions are situated only steps from the Shamrock Housing. The historic Miracle Mile, the shops at Sunset Place and a number of hospitals are nearby. Guests can also take advantage of the on-site fitness center or state-of-the-art business room.

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Hotel Aladdin

Located just 5 minutes’ drive from Miami International Airport, this hotel features a daily continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi in public areas of the hotel. Miami city centre is less than 15 minutes’ drive away.A flat-screen cable TV, iPod docking station, and work desk are found in each room at Hotel Aladdin. A minibar is also included.The reception desk of the Aladdin Hotel is open 24 hours to serve guests. Free parking is also available.The Miami Art Museum is 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Miami Beach is 20 minutes’ drive away.

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Gables Inn

The Gables Inn is located in Coral Gables and is less than 1 mile from the University of Miami. This hotel offers free Wi-Fi and guests can enjoy a continental breakfast.Cable TV is featured in every guest room of this Coral Cables hotel. Bedding features dark coloured patterns and all rooms have tile flooring.A business centre is available near the reception at the Gables Inn. Guests will also be able to relax outside at the sun terrace, located on site.Matheson Hammock Park is 10 minutes’ drive from this hotel. The shores of Miami Beach and the Art Deco Historic District are 12 miles away.

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Downtown music and nightlife

Tobacco Road

Critics' pick

Al Capone once drank and gambled at the century-old Road, which holds the oldest liquor license in Miami-Dade County. These days it’s renowned as a live music venue—blues legends such as John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy have played here. But even when the stages are silent, the former speakeasy still qualifies as one of the finest—and grittiest—drinking establishments around. The food’s good, too: stop by on Tuesday for the $13 lobster special. Patrons are advised to heed the management’s advice and drink responsibly… using both hands.

Read more
Downtown

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Critics' pick

After many delays, a budget overrun and a few name changes, this spectacular $500 million César Pelli creation opened in 2006. The striking postmodern architecture alone makes it worth a visit. But the fact that it’s home to the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet, and occasionally hosts the New World Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, doesn’t hurt either. Touring Broadway shows, musicals, world music and children’s shows also feature. 

Read more
Downtown

Grand Central

Critics' pick

This hipster enclave boasts an open, warehouse-like space in what was formerly a railroad station (it’s actually still situated on the tracks). A state-of-the-art sound system and accompanying light show set the sensory tone for Grand Central’s Friday and Saturday night parties, where you’ll see everything from indie punk bands such as Suicidal Tendencies to progressive rockers UK. At Grand Central’s club-within-a-club, the Garret (which has its own entrance on 7th Street), DJs prefer to keep it old school, spinning everything from early Michael Jackson to Usher.

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Downtown
More clubs and music venues in Downtown Miami

Shopping in Downtown

Julien Farel Salon & Spa

Hairstylist to the stars Julien Farel (who counts Gywneth Paltrow, Kate Moss and Salma Hayek among his clients) chose Downtown Miami for his first freestanding venture outside NYC, offering a full menu of cutting, coloring and spa services.

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Mark the Shark

Presenting itself as "the most recognized name in shark fishing in the world," Mark the Shark certainly provides a good service for all would-be fishers visiting the area. When not hosting bachelor parties or producing highly kinetic shows on shark fishing, the company organizes half-day and full-day deep-sea fishing trips for groups of up to ten. One of the best charter services in town.

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Morays

The oldest jewelers in Downtown, fiftysomething Morays stocks every conceivable watch brand. It’s in Miami’s so-called Little Switzerland (oh, please), near the Seybold Building arcade, which houses ten floors of jewelers, engravers and watchmakers. Speaking Spanish can help you get a better deal.

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