Located in the heart of colonial Mexico, San Miguel de Allende paints a picture of nostalgic beauty and charm. After World War II, this picturesque city became popular when retired American GIs realized that many U.S. educational institutions accredited Instituto Allende. During the 1950s, San Miguel became a tourist destination for its architecture and its nearby healing water hot springs. Over the years, San Miguel has become a refuge for artists, writers, and musicians, all contributing to its cultural milieu. Today, with a significant expatriate community, the town-like city feels metropolitan and in-the-know, with numerous places for shopping, dining, and drinking. It is most certainly “having a moment.”
San Miguel de Allende was considered one of Mexico’s pueblo mágicos until 2008 when UNESCO named the destination a World Heritage Site. The city is set in the highlands of North-Central Mexico’s Bajío region, and more specifically, it is located in the state of Guanajuato about 159 miles north of Mexico City. The closest airports are Querétaro (QRO) and Bajío (BJX), approximately 45 and 70 miles away, respectively. If taking a bus or car from Mexico City, the journey is more or less four hours; most buses make a stop in Querétaro. San Miguel retains a mystical air about it. Strolling around its cobblestone streets you can easily feel transported back 200 years.
In terms of the climate, the city benefits from fairly moderate temperatures year-round (between max. 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and min. around 45). The afternoon rain during the summer months transforms the area into a green desert.
Things to do
Stroll. The “jardín,” that in reality is the central plaza, is the place to sit and people watch. The 18th century architectural marvel, La Parroquia, is a wild mixture between a gothic cathedral and a Disney castle. The story goes that the architect, an indigenous master mason by the name of Zeferino Gutiérrez, inspired by postcards of his favorite churches in France, drew the outline of the cathedral in the dirt for his workers to copy.
There is also Parque Benito Juárez, created from a fruit orchard that once belonged to the city’s founding families, and the beautiful Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, a temple with a splendid façade made with shells laid over bright pink stone. Another site that can’t be missed is La Aurora, a previous coarse cloth factory, that after being exquisitely restored is now home to various galleries and antique stores.
In the outskirts of the city, you can find multiple hot springs ideal for unwinding; La Presa Allende where you can enjoy the outdoors and horseback riding; El Charco del Ingenio, a 100-hectaere botanical garden featuring plant species from the entire country; and a number of vineyards, such as Viñedos San Lucas, where you can go for wine tastings and a relaxing afternoon.
Where to eat
In San Miguel de Allende, breakfast is a religion. Finding that perfect spot to sit, sip your coffee, and start the day off right is crucial. At Le Petit Four, you can taste exquisite French pastries accompanied by an espresso or cappuccino and leave with a mouth-watering bag of chocolates for the rest of the day. Another morning option is Lavanda Café, a tiny restaurant with fresh toasted coffee and delicious baked eggs. It has become a regular for locals and tourists, therefore be prepared to possibly endure a wait.
For lunch, wander outside of the historic center and drive 20 minutes to Viñedos San Lucas, a spectacular property and hotel development that is home to vineyards as well as a winery and restaurant. Here you can spend the afternoon tasting wines made on the property, accompanied by cold cut meats and cheese. Another classic San Miguel choice is Tío Lucas. Here you can enjoy an upscale experience set to live jazz music without entering “fine dining” territory. It perfect for couples or a group of friends looking for a nice meal and a few rounds of drinks.
Places to stay
Many of San Miguel’s hotels can be found in spectacular colonial buildings in the city’s historic center. Each is an oasis to where you can recharge after a day of exploring. The first on our list is Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada, which maintains the spirit of Guanajuato’s historic buildings. Its 37 rooms are distributed throughout various restored houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. The personalized service is extraordinary and never overwhelming. Don’t miss the private rooftop with views of San Miguel’s iconic cathedral.
Another luxury spot is Rosewood San Miguel de Allende that stays true to the brand’s principle “Sense of Place.” The hotel boasts 67 rooms and has a design and style that echoes the heart of the destination: pops of colors, paintings and sculptures in the hallways, and ample gardens. In the evening, sip on a mojito Allende, made with mezcal, while sitting at the hotel bar, Luna, overlooking the city.
Hotel Matilda is a design boutique hotel located in the center of San Miguel de Allende. It is home to 32 rooms and an impressive contemporary art collection featuring a mural by Claudio Limón and works by artists such as Nacho Rodríguez Bach, Bosco Sodi, Betsabeé Romero, and Javier Marín. For the foodies, eating at the hotel’s restaurant Moxi is a must — operated by the world-acclaimed chef Enrique Olvera. Did we mention their Casa Dragones tequila cellar?
Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada
+52 (415) 152 7040
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Nemesio Díez 11
+52 (415) 152 9700
+52 (415) 152 1015
Hernández Macías 87
+52 (415) 152 1610
Le Petit Four
+52 (415) 154 4010
Viñedos San Lucas
Carretera Querétaro-San Miguel de Allende, km. 26
+52 (415) 688 2210
+52 (415) 152 4996
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