One of the things that draws me to a destination is variety. I particularly love the high/low flavor and cultural contrasts of San Miguel de Allende. The praises of SMA are often sung. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the readers of Conde Nast Traveller have consistently voted it among the top destinations in the world. There are fabulous restaurants, (both high and low), some grand, baroque neo-classical architecture and a large ex-pat population but the thing I cherish most about this charming little Colonial town is that it has managed to stay so…well, Mexican.
Located a few hours to the north of Mexico City deep in the colonial heartland, as the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, San Miguel played a pivotal role in the Mexican War of Independence. This heritage is deeply valued. This little Daughter of the Revolution had a toy rifle strapped to her back
There is much to do in San Miguel itself. It boasts a vibrant Art scene focused around the Instituto Allende a world famous visual art school. Fabulous galleries and design shops are located nearby as well as in the eclectic Fabrica Aurora. It is a 15 minute walk down Calle Hidalgo from the Jardin and well worth the effort.
Like every Mexican town, the beating heart of SMA is the central square El Jardin, or simply, the garden. Around 6pm every evening it comes alive with locals and tourists alike and at any particular moment you are likely to encounter a parade, a political demonstration, Mariachi bands all competing with each other to be heard, a wedding party spilling out of the Cathedral or even a procession of cowboys on horseback. The residents of San Miguel have a theatrical bent.
I love to walk around residential areas and the area known as Parque Juarez affords wonderful views of gorgeous old Colonial Haciendas and streetscapes.
If you want to while away an afternoon in the countryside, the aptly named “Nirvana” or Los Senderos are great options for outdoor dining and soaking up spectacular views of the local landscapes.
There are many choices for day trips further afield.
Guanajuato, (1 1/2 hours away) is the birthplace of Diego Rivera and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Patzcuaro (3 hours away) also a UNESCO site and designated as one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” or Magic Towns, this architecturally unique town boasts one of the nations best Day of the Dead celebrations.
Atotonilco (only a ½ hour drive from SMA) is worth a visit because of its church, the inside of which is covered with a baroque mural of such extraordinary beauty that it has been dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Americas”. Can be combined with lunch at Nirvana.
Delores Hidalgo (1 ½ hrs) It’s full name is Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia Nacional (or in English: Dolores Hidalgo Cradle of National Independence) This little town is only 10minutes from Guanajuato and is THE birthplace of the Mexican War of Independence.
Mexico has a rich and fascinating history. San Miguel de Allende is located right in the middle of what is referred to as the Colonial towns. Nowhere is this history more fascinating. I strongly recommend a bit of advance reading – it will make everything you see and experience so much more relevant.
San Miguel Restaurants
An absolute MUST – enjoy a sunset cocktail on the rooftop lounge of the ROSEWOOD HOTEL.
Our favorite for Dinner – THE RESTAURANT
Good alternative for a casual dinner – LA MESCALERIA
Other than Mexican, the Indian restaurant – BAHJI – is great (and I mean really GREAT)
Cocktails – THE BAR AT MOXIE’S (stunning art collection in the Hotel Matilda)
THE TACO STAND – I adored the one off the Jardin on San Francisco side – it doesn’t set up until about 8pm – among the tastiest food we had in SMA!
Lunch or Tea – NECTAR TEA HOUSE on Correo (a delightful hummingbird retreat)
For a luxury option, check out CASA20 on VRBO (https://www.vrbo.com/424180) or try the more affordable and delightfully quirky Posada Corazon B&B. http://www.posadacorazon.mx/rates.htm Ring the bell on the door and they will let you in and stroll the grounds and ask to see the rooms – old world elegance.
For one of the most stunning design shops I have ever seen go to CASA ARMIDA (Ancha de San Antonio 26 )
or check out the wonderful pottery and home wares at TRINITATE – (Cuna de Allende st.)
or the exquisite Mexican Minimalism of WABI (Calle Aldama 13 )
Shopping is great in SMA – here is a list of my favourite shops.
MIXTA (Pila Seca)
THALULA de la LUNA (Pila Seca)
SOLANO 16 (next to The Restaurant)
AQUA de COCO (Sollano 31)
TAO – lovely gallery of artifacts, clothing etc. (Sollano 28)
CHAMONIX – Sollano 17
DIVA – Hernando Marcias
To get there we had to route through Houston, but the airport there has an OYSTER BAR at Pappadeaux’s Seafood