From the colorful walls of Wynwood to the glittering seascapes of Sunny Isles Beach, Miami is known for its collection of diverse neighborhoods, each one with its own unique flavor and personality. And for those seeking luxury in an urban, artsy setting, there may be no spot better than the Miami Design District (at least, aside from Acqualina Resort & Spa).
A crossroads of art, fashion, and architecture, the Design District is one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, offering an upscale mix of culture and style. As its name suggests, the borough is a hub for design, both of the sartorial and the interior variety, as well as a hotspot for galleries and exhibitions showcasing the most famous names in art.
In fact, that was the idea when the idea for the district was born more than 20 years ago — conceptualized by Miami developer Craig Robins, what once was an 18-square-block stretch of abandoned warehouses became a high-end destination for art and design, rooted in Robins’ personal passion (he even co-founded the Art Basel sister fair Design Miami/). His vision has continued to come to life over the past several years, and today, it boasts more than 120 flagship luxury stores, many of the city’s hottest dining outposts, and, of course, a thriving gallery scene.
Here’s a definitive guide to the Miami Design District for the discerning traveler.
Home to some of the world’s most renowned luxury brands, the Miami Design District is a veritable shopper’s paradise. Wander among its streets to shop glass-encased designer outposts including Dior, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels, Annie Bing, Cartier, Balenciaga, Cos, Lanvin, and many more.
Aside from big-name brands, the district also has several notable high-end boutiques. The ultra-chic MRKT Deux purveys high-end street style from Vetements, Midnight Studios, and Garçons Infidèles, while the charming Mrs. Mandolin blends a lifestyle shop with a café, so you can sip an expertly crafted cappuccino as you browse breezy Miami fashions and gifts.
Fashion lovers can make the most of a trip to the Miami Design District with Acqualina’s Miami Fashion Extravaganza AcquaExperience. Curated by Myriam Angulo and Suzie Martinez of Couturista Travel, the tour includes guided experiences in three of the city’s top shopping districts (including the Design District), complete with private chauffeured transportation and a “ladies who lunch”-worthy mid-day meal.
Perhaps the most recognizable Miami Design District icon is the Fly’s Eye Dome, designed by architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller, which sits in the bustling, sleek Palm Court. But that’s just the beginning of the district’s design prowess.
Just a few blocks away is the de la Cruz Collection, a 30,000-square-foot museum housing the international contemporary art belonging to Cuban collectors Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz. (Before the museum’s opening in 2009, they displayed their art for the public in their Key Biscayne home.)
The famed Institute of Contemporary Art also houses an impressive collection of modern art in the area, both in rotating and permanent exhibitions. It’s complete with a verdant sculpture garden for enjoying those balmy Miami days, too. Right now, fall aficionados will delight in Yayoi Kusama’s immersive All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins, designed to be experienced individually for one minute.
While the latter two galleries offer a look at some of the art world’s most well-respected creators (both local and international), the nearby Locust Projects brands itself as an “incubator of new art and ideas.” The city’s longest-running alternative art space offers a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work, and the installations rotate to give new artists visibility regularly.
After a day of shopping and perusing high-end modern art, the fine-dining restaurants of the Design District beckon. Helmed by chef Bradley Kilgore and mixologist Nico de Soto, the Japanese-inspired cocktail lounge and restaurant Kaido is a highly-regarded favorite in a luxe setting. For a taste of vibrant, fresh flavors set to the tunes of live Cuban music, head to Estefan Kitchen. And at Mandolin Aegean Bistro, bright Mediterranean flavors mingle in a welcoming, airy setting.
If you can’t decide, pop into St. Roch Market for inspiration. The second edition of the New Orleans-based food hall encompasses chef-focused dining establishments including Itamae, known for its Peruvian-style sushi, and Jaffa, a go-to for expertly crafted Israeli cuisine.
If you’re just searching for a light bite and a glass of vino, sidle up to the bar and order a charcuterie board at Abaco Premium Wine, well-regarded as one of Miami’s top wine shops thanks to its diverse list of bottles.
Finally, savvy visitors know that a day in the Miami Design District isn’t complete without a visit to Aubi & Ramsa. This 21-and-up ice cream shop crafts boozy creations with wine and spirits, including smoky, chocolate-y mezcal ice cream and champagne sorbet — think of it as a toast you can eat.