Downtown Coral Gables: Miami’s Neighborhood for Cultural Encounters

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In charming downtown Coral Gables, Miami’s grown-up, cultural side truly shines. This elegant, historic enclave features Mediterranean fountains and tree-lined streets, where you and your significant other can savor a romantic afternoon and evening—all in a single walk. Miracle Mile, designed in the 1920s by Coral Gables’ urban planner George Merrick, lies at the very heart of this city within a city; you window-shop here before exploring nearby Aragon Avenue and Ponce de Leon Boulevard.

Your first destination is Miami’s most beloved bookstore, Books & Books. Situated in a graceful Spanish-style building with a courtyard, this isn’t any ordinary shop, but a social hub and literary hangout. First you browse the gorgeous art books, then find a novel recommended by the knowledgeable staff. Next, photographs of famous authors who have read here catch your eye. Apparently, there are always interesting events happening. Outside in the courtyard under wide umbrellas, regulars are enjoying a bite of lunch, so the two of you take a table and join in. The cafe serves tasty, light meals as well as coffees and seductive desserts. The homemade cake with a cappuccino tastes like the perfect way to savor the atmosphere.

Now you’re ready for a cultural experience of a different kind: the Coral Gables Museum. The first thing that strikes you is how stunningly the Art Deco building, formerly a firehouse, has been restored. The exhibition inside gives you insight into Coral Gables’ distinctive architectural heritage, based on the “City Beautiful” philosophy, of which residents are understandably proud. Although the museum is modest in size, the galleries provide thought-provoking background and impress you with their attractive displays. After popping into the museum gift shop, it’s time to head just up the block, because you have a special movie date.

Just steps from the museum, the Coral Gables Art Cinema awaits. This art-house movie theater features independent films and European releases that aren’t available everywhere. Popcorn with wine seems like a perfectly reasonable treat to accompany an early-evening flick in the screening room. As you settle back into a comfortable seat, the lights dim and the previews roll. What a pleasurable way to relax and absorb a new work of cinema.

What’s the best way to round out this sophisticated day? By plunging into Coral Gables’ dining scene. A few blocks from the cinema you find Bulla Gastrobar, a trendy restaurant with modern Spanish flair. Inside, the warm, contemporary decor feels welcoming, as you notice the attractive crowd of locals chatting over cocktails. With glasses of rioja, you and your significant other look over the appealing menu. The gazpacho, which you order as your starter, is one of the best you’ve ever tasted. Meanwhile, your date enjoys tender slices of jamon serrano, which has a delicate flavor perfectly accentuated by the glass of Viña Alberdi. By the time your main dish, Arroz a Banda, arrives, you both feel absolutely enchanted by the cuisine and the bubbling conversation that brims from every table. With each delicious bite of clams and shrimp with saffron-seasoned rice, you remember the sights and sounds of a favorite Costa del Sol holiday.

After coffee and dessert, it’s time to return to your hotel. Fortunately, it’s only a few blocks from Bulla Gastrobar. Slim palm trees wave their fronds at you as the evening breezes rustle through. The streetlights of Miracle Mile glow softly in the darkness. Walking arm-in-arm, you both agree that in Coral Gables, Miami truly does enjoy a perfect mix of history, culture, and cuisine.

  • Coral Gables Museum

    285 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134

    305-603-8067

  • Coral Gables Art Cinema

    260 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134

    786-385-9689

  • Bulla Gastrobar

    2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134

    305-441-0107

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