A Culture Lover’s Ultimate Weekend Guide to Art Basel Miami

When Art Basel descends on Miami in early December, it brings the splashiest event of the year to an already splashy city. As North America’s largest international contemporary art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach attracts collectors, celebrities, socialites and the glitterati for both serious art and serious parties.

It’s a magical time in the 305 as satellite art fairs pop up across the city, public parks transform with site-specific installations, and Miami’s local museums and galleries produce their most provocative exhibits of the year.

Pro Tip: As a general rule of thumb, enjoying Art Basel is all about pacing yourself. Don’t attempt more than one or two fairs in a day and try to organize your itinerary by neighborhood to minimize traffic and parking challenges. Happy Baseling!

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Day 1: South Beach

The festivities surrounding Art Basel are collectively known as Miami Art Week, but the main event takes place in the heart of South Beach at the newly redesigned Miami Beach Convention Center in early December.

Art Basel Miami Beach has been a mainstay since 2002, and it’s a sister fair to the original, held annually in Basel, Switzerland, since 1970. This is where you’ll wander through booths of more than 260 galleries from 35 countries showcasing works by more than 4,000 artists — and all with a glass of Champagne in hand.

Design Miami/ is Basel’s official sister fair with a focus on modern collectible design. Located within a block of the convention center and at a much smaller scale, it makes for the perfect complement to a day at Art Basel.

With a swell of more than 80,000 visitors, Art Basel has sparked dozens of satellite fairs, and Scope Miami Beach also makes for an excellent addition to your itinerary.

art basel miami
Public art abounds. (Photo: Getty Images)

When hunger strikes, the newly opened Time Out Market near Lincoln Road is the perfect post-Basel pit stop, with 20-plus stalls representing the best of Miami cuisine, from Southern-inspired Korean fare by “Top Chef” winner Jeremy Ford to Cuban sandwiches topped with a mustard seed and caviar spread at the Local Cuban. For a fine dining experience in South Beach, classics like Joe’s Stone Crab or Red, the Steakhouse never disappoint.

Of course, nightlife in South Beach is unparalleled, and while there will be pop-up nightclubs and invite-only dinners galore, you’ll always find a party at megaclubs LIV and Story, where you can expect headliners like David Guetta and Tiësto. For a more intimate lounge experience that’s nonetheless high energy, hit Basement, and for a local’s scene, check out Sweet Liberty for killer cocktails and a fun dance floor.

art basel miami
Explore the Institute of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Getty Images)

Day 2: Downtown and Wynwood

From downtown’s landmark Peréz Art Museum Miami to the contemporary gallery scene in Wynwood, there’s plenty to explore in the core of mainland Miami. This is also where you’ll find Miami’s longest-running art fair that actually predates Art Basel.

Situated in a prime waterfront location on Biscayne Bay, Art Miami and its sister fair Context are must-do’s on the satellite circuit. The former showcases blue-chip modern artists like Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha, while the latter is dedicated to cutting-edge emerging and mid-career artists.

art basel miami
Roasted cauliflower at KYU. (Photo: KYU)

When it comes to a sophisticated dinner, Wynwood’s award-winning KYU is a paean of pan-Asian wood-fired cuisine where your best strategy is to order one of everything.

The nightlife scene in downtown Miami is heating up with locally owned hot spots like Lost Boy and Mama Tried, as well as Margot Natural Wine Bar by the team behind the celebrated South Beach cocktail bar Broken Shaker.

Day 3: Design District

The Design District has developed into Miami’s chicest neighborhood for public art, architecture, luxury shopping and trendy cuisine. Start your visit at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Miami, where admission is always free, and explore cutting-edge works by local, emerging and under-recognized artists.

Owned by Pharrell Williams and nightlife impresario David Grutman, Swan and its rooftop lounge Bar Bevy promise to be celebrity hot spots during Art Basel. Snag a reservation and enjoy favorites like Hamachi Tartare and Crab Tagliolini on the gorgeous, jungle-like patio. Don’t skip Pharrell’s favorite dish: Corn Corn Corn, made with creamy polenta, popcorn and brown butter.

As part of the Card Member experience, Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card Members enjoy the benefit of receiving reoccurring invitations to world class domestic and international events and experiences. Learn more about exclusive Card Member experiences offered by Marriott and American Express >