Art Basel Miami Beach isn’t just an art fair; it’s a multi-day, over-the-top, hyphenated-phrase-inducing feast for the senses. As the biggest fete of the year takes over one of America’s top cities, pop-ups and parties rage across town, restaurants overflow, hotels book up months in advance and chaos ensues. Ok -- so it’s really not so bad once you know how to navigate it all. Just follow our ultimate guide to the fair for every place you need to eat, party and be seen.
Which satellite fairs to attend
Art Basel does not stand alone, but exists in an ecosystem of satellite fairs all across the city. Get away from the main drag in Miami Beach for a bit and visit one of the countless other locations boasting world class art. Art Miami in downtown is undoubtedly one of the most popular, along with its sister fairs Context Art Miami and Aqua Art Miami. Design Miami, which accompanies Art Basel around the world, offers curated exhibitions and artist-made objects. The long-running Scope Art Fair and the Latin-focused Pinta Miami are also worth your time.
Where to stay
The Freehand Hotel in Miami beach buzzes 365 days a year but it’s especially abuzz in December for Art Basel. The Faena Hotel Miami Beach boasts year-round artsy vibes as well, and has long played host to exhibitions and pop-ups around Art Basel, including the Faena Festival launched in 2018. If you prefer to escape the chaos when you retire each night, book a room in the Mandarin Oriental, which sits on the tiny Brickell Key island, providing a relatively secluded respite in a five-star, super-luxe hotel environment.
Where to eat
Art Basel Miami will always win in our hearts over the original fair in Switzerland, not only because it’s right here in the good ol’ USA, but also because of the insane culinary offerings around Miami. Restaurants of all stripes fuel fair attendees, but you can’t leave Miami without trying Jewish Wynwood bakery Zak the Baker, Little Havana mainstay Versailles, chic izakaya Zuma, and the crustacean temple Joe’s Stone Crab.
Where to get some work done
Not everyone can afford to take a few days off just to wander around art galleries and devour Miami’s best dishes. The Magic City essentially runs on Panther Coffee, so stop by any of the local chain’s locations to get caffeinated. Even if you aren’t staying at The Standard in Miami Beach you can pick up a day pass and tap away at your laptop while sitting by the pool or lounging in a patio hammock. Or go old school and stop by the Miami Beach Regional Library.
What to see outside the fairs
There’s tons of art on the walls during Art Basel, but those walls themselves are considered art the rest of the year. Take a tour of Miami’s historic architecture from the pastel art deco buildings of Miami Beach to the mediterranean revival homes in Coral Gables, where you’ll also find the epic, historic Biltmore Hotel. Meanwhile the Wynwood Walls, another year-round draw, turn up during Art Basel.
Where to party
Even if you can’t snag a room at The Freehand, the hotel is worth checking out for its eternal, cocktail-studded backyard pool party at the Broken Shaker bar. Just north of the Freehand there’s the sense-throttling club LIV at the luxury Fontainebleau hotel. For an entirely different (though equally popular) mood, head to uber-hip Gramps in Wynwood where you’ll find pizza and beer and cocktails.