The Raleigh, Miami South Beach, FL, USA **

Q: What is it? A: One of the classic SoBe hotels, playing heavily on its heritage. And sure, the pool IS spectacular. Not so sure about the rest…

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the exterior
Because first impressions last. Architectural buffs with a weak spot for ɑrt ˈdɛkoʊ will create little somersaults upon arrival at this L. Murray Dixon masterpiece from 1947. It is strikingly attractive, if you ask me. Not over-the-top like some of its neighbors, just… attractive.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the bedroom
Here’s where I start to wonder about design and function and all. The room is at least two sizes too small for two queen beds. And it honestly felt like entering a room at an old Best Western, albeit with a larger minibar. Not strikingly attractive. Not impressed.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the bathroom
Pictured above: the most attractive part of this room. Floor heating would have been a welcome addition, but I guess that is not on the map of Miami hoteliers. Didn’t express my concerns about the bathroom design as I did here (hashtag: annoying guest).

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the fruit plate
What the heck is this photo doing in a review of the Raleigh? I decided to include this because it’s a resumé of everything I wanted to write about this hotel: See the key? Nicely designed enamel key ring. See the fruit? Yaa, there’s plenty of it, but honestly, how fresh does it look?

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the breakfast
The breakfast at the Michael Schwartz was interesting. The setting is fabulous on the patio, under the trees. The hotel won’t stop going on about his James Beard Award (Best chef: South – which he won in 2010). The delivery is… well, this morning it was just slow. And staff members openly criticizing each other in front of guests… Uncool. Not worthy a nomination for any awards. A pity as it could have been so good.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the lobby
Part of the great first impression. But I left with the feeling that it was more for show than genuine. Front desk were not exactly working their butts off to help their guests. A question for being put on the guest list at Hyde Beach – a nightclub that is under the same management as the hotel – fell flat. Sorry, guys. You need to do better than that.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the lobby with grand piano and all
It’s a nice place but I wouldn’t recommend eating here, as there’s a constant flow of people heading to and from the patio and the pool area. For drinks, the Martini Bar is just a few steps away. It has earned icon status by doing its thing for 70 years.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA –  the pool warning
No, just don’t. You’ll get a headache. I think the need for this little sign was greater during the years when the Raleigh was owned by André Balazs, the man behind The Standard hotel chain as well as the Mercer Hotel in NYC and Hollywood’s Chateau Marmot. During the Balazs days the music was entertaining/disturbing guests at neighboring properties.

The Raleigh, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA – the pool area
Esther Williams reportedly entered this pool with a stylish splash, leaping from the waterfall in a sequined bonnet. No, you can’t do the same. The stair leading up to the waterfall has been chained off. Life magazine dubbed this pool ”the most beautiful in America” in 1947, and yes it still has that iconic look.

A classic hotel in need of an overhaul.
I had the photos of that pool firmly embedded in my memory when I made the booking. From what I remembered, it was one of the busier party spots in Miami South Beach. During those days, the craziness going on around the pool could be heard by everyone who didn’t carry a hearing aid. It was essentially a lot of untz-untz-untz. Since then, the hotel has been sold by André Balazs and then sold again at least two times. If you ask me, these changes of ownership is part of the reason for it not being the crazy, bikini-clad mosh pit it used to be.

A facelift wouldn’t hurt.
First impression is by no means bad. The façade is strikingly attractive and the lobby is not painful to the eye. But the rooms are just not good enough. My impression was that no matter how much time they would spend on cleaning, it would still feel jaded and… not fresh. Mind you, we are not talking design here. We’re talking appearance, maintenance and cleanliness. The public spaces have been undergoing renovations since 2012 and, yes – you do feel the difference.

Does it offer world-class luxury hotel service?
No. It simply doesn’t. I’m sad to say that when a hotel website says that you, as a guest, will have ”…exclusive access to the award-winning sbe Miami Collection” and the concierge is unable to make a booking at one of the Miami nightclubs belonging to the SLS group, then my crappy service-alarm goes off. Dear Raleigh friends, you simply need to do m-u-c-h better than that. A hotel only has about six opportunities per day to impress their guests. The Raleigh missed out on too many of those. Also, having breakfast in the middle of a low-intensity conflict among the members of the staff is not cool.

At the moment, it’s pretty hard to recommend The Raleigh.
I arrived with great expectations. Finally, a hotel stay that I had really been looking forward to. Therefore it gives me a sour feeling having to write this rather lukewarm review. Go there for the art deco nostalgia and the iconic pool but you may have to keep track of how their renovations are proceeding. And in my book, this hotel doesn’t have to return to its untz-untz-untz days, but a dash of fun and a nice attitude sprinkled on top of all the nostalgia would certainly not hurt. Next time I’ll bring a collection of fashion models and we’ll see if it helps. Or… no. I don’t think there will be a next time. We’ll see.

The Raleigh South Beach
1775 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
United States


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