Miami’s Wynwood Arts District was high on our list of sights to see and even a tropical storm couldn’t deter us from visiting.
Wynwood is a semi-industrial neighbourhood north of Downtown Miami where derelict warehouses have been given a new lease of life as art galleries, artist studios, restaurants, cafe-bars and shops. It’s become known for its riotously colourful, large-scale street art and is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon discovering local talent.
Wynwood is a huge part of Art Basel, hosted annually in Miami, with a number of gallery events, parties and open studios.
The best time to visit, however, is for the Wynwood Art Walk on the first Saturday evening of each month, when there’s a real party atmosphere. There’s even a direct shuttle bus from South Beach to make getting there even easier.
On Sunday afternoon, we crossed the enormous Julia Tuttle Causeway from our base on South Beach and started from the top at North 36th Street and 2nd Avenue.
Immediately we encountered cool graffiti, vintage clothes stores, coffee shops and a number of Puerto Rican shops and restaurants (Wynwood has been known as ‘Little San Juan’ since the 1950s). If you hadn’t already guessed, Wynwood is Miami’s hipsterville.
At the heart of the district is the Wynwood Walls, a permanent outdoor mural exhibition, featuring work by over 50 artists from around the world including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Aiko, Faith47 and Retna.
Created by the late Tony Goldman in 2009, Wynwood Walls has become a revolutionary platform for street art and the murals now extend far beyond it.
A highlight of our trip to Wynwood was seeking shelter from the storm over lunch at Zak The Baker. I’d read about Miami born and bred baker Zak Stern before our trip and the bakery was just as good as I’d hoped.
Housed in a converted warehouse with a large open-plan kitchen, Zak The Baker is a rustic-urban bakery and cafe that Zak states ‘happens to be kosher’.
Zak has quite an intriguing background – he turned his back on a pharmaceuticals degree to travel the world and learn how to bake bread. His travels took him to an ashram in India and farms in South America, Israel and across Europe.
Zak The Baker is a popular spot for lunch and serves hearty stews, home-made soups, gourmet sandwiches and tempting cakes. I ordered a fantastic sourdough toast topped with sage pesto, roasted calabaza and fontina. The combination of simple flavours was incredible and the ingredients were of such high quality.
Steven went for an equally delicious toast topped with tuna, cranberry, cilantro and grated carrot. If we have the chance to return, we’d try one of the more substantial sandwiches and an indulgent chocolate and almond butter toast.
We finished on a sweet note with a double chocolate cookie and a cup of Earl Grey tea. The heavenly cookie had a rich, fondant-like centre and a delicate, crumbly crust – a perfect way to brighten a rainy day.
Another Wynwood hotspot is Panther Coffee – a Miami-based speciality coffee roaster with a second cafe on Miami Beach. They have some pretty cool coffee-making apparatus and there’s a good selection of bites to choose from. It’s a small cafe and seemingly home to the laptop brigade, but there’s plenty of space on the terrace on brighter days.
Wynwood is such an inspiring, unique creative hub and it should be high on your list of places to visit in Miami. Unfortunately Sunday was our only option on this short stay in Miami, so quite a few galleries and shops were closed.
Then again, Zak The Baker is closed on Saturday – and that’s an experience you won’t want to miss – so perhaps visit midweek and take a closer look on the Saturday evening Wynwood Art Tour.
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All photos by Chérie City