From the first time that I saw photos of San Miguel de Allende years ago, it stayed with me as a place of colonial splendor (churches, plazas, shops and ancient buildings) in the middle of nowhere. It is well preserved from being overrun by tourists because it is around an hour or two away from any major airports.
It is located around three hours from Mexico City and it is extremely easy to arrive by renting a car and using the modern highways to access it. Car rentals in Mexico are very affordable and straightforward. Once in the city it was everything I imagined from those photos and even more.
It is a town of one hundred and forty thousand people, yet it maintains its small town appeal. From the moment we entered the idyllic cobblestoned streets rumbled underneath the rental car, like something akin to Tuscany or Spain. Mexico maintains a denomination for historic cities of charm that is literally translated ‘magical towns’ and San Miguel is both the most original and perfect exemplar of this.
It is very easy to see that this town holds immense historical importance and it is maintained in almost time capsule form. There are abundant restaurants, boutique hotels, shops, homes and cultural displays. Parking is easy to find all around in spite of its ancient layout. Churches, houses, bell towers and buildings with impressive yellow, pink and earth hues are simply dazzling in every direction. Tourists are abundant, but not the kind that swell and swarm. Here the tourists are a more refined, they know what they’ve come to see and their discerning nature is evident.
Even when real estate and hotels here cater to a more upscale type of traveler it is by no means expensive on a world scale. Even reviews online about ‘pricey’ eateries and hotels did not live up to the expectations we have come to find in such places elsewhere. One cafe style restaurant we enjoyed was a simple place with a chilled atmosphere called Panio. The food was delicious and the no-frills vibe soaked up the soul of the place. For something more elaborate we tried the Belmont Hotel. The food was incredible and the atmosphere stylish. Another fantastic place is La Europea, there a local merchant gave us a tour of some of Mexico’s best wines which are largely unknown outside the country, but many of which have a distinctively great character with some growing in the same region of Guanajuato.
San Miguel de Allende is above all a town in which to get lost and indulge. Wandering the narrow streets with all of the character and charm of the centuries past is certainly the best pastime. Culturally there are many churches and museums to explore but just wandering and eating took up Wherever we seemed to turn in this city the food and atmosphere had a distinctly old-world feeling. From wines to local cheeses to sun-drenched squares and artesian bread.
One of the best hotel addresses in the city and our go-to place for pampering and lifestyle is The Rosewood Hotel. It is an oasis of calm wherein we’ve experienced our best spa treatment to date, historic accommodations and a panoramic rooftop bar that offers contemplative views of the classic skyline.