Under the Spell of San Miguel

IMG_0947

The first time I heard of San Miguel de Allende in the mountains of central Mexico was about 12 years ago. I remember thinking “Sounds like a lovely place, but if I’m going to Mexico, there better be a beach involved.”

But over the last year or so I’d noticed its charming stone streets and colorful architecture pop up on my Instagram feed and in magazine articles. So, I decided that beach or no beach, it was time for a trip. Which is how four of my best girlfriends and I ended up spending five glorious days there in January.

San Miguel is magical. Its baroque architecture, dry climate, and rolling hills make it look like Spain or Tuscany. Its history as a haven for ex-pat artists means that it’s full of colorful shops and gorgeous galleries, as well as stylish restaurants, hip rooftop bars, and chic coffee shops. And mixed in with all of this is the rich culture of Mexico—and all of its famed tequila, guacomole, and tacos. For me, it was love at first sight.

I could write sonnets about San Miguel, but those wouldn’t really be helpful (or very good). So, instead, I’ve listed my top recommendations for your trip below. Because trust me, you want to go.

STAY

We stayed in this Airbnb. It was perfect. The centuries-old home was gorgeously restored and spacious with hidden courtyards, and a rooftop perfect for wine and cheese sunsets and sunrises full of church bells. We were a block away from our favorite breakfast spot (literally, they gave us hugs goodbye on our last morning) and two blocks away from the city’s center square.
IMG_0788

Rosewood San Miguel
Like all Rosewood hotels, this luxurious spot was beautiful. It’s on the edge of the historic part of town, but easily walkable to everything and close to its beautiful gardens. It’s a perfect spot if you want the amenities of a hotel. However, we took full advantage of it even not staying there. We spent an evening at its rooftop bar (a must), a morning shopping at a market in its courtyard (so fun), a day by its modern pool (another must), and an afternoon in its serene spa (duh).

DO

IMG_0988

Spa at the Rosewood
This might be the most reasonably priced luxury spa I’ve ever gone to. I had a blissful two-hour treatment that included a lavender scrub followed by a lavender oil massage. It was hands down the best massage I’ve ever gotten. And the whole thing cost  around $110. Amazing.

La Gruta
About half an hour outside San Miguel are these natural hot springs. Grab a taxi in town and have them take you by the Sanctuary of Atotonilco on the way. The historic church is a World Heritage Site and often called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico for the incredible murals across its ceilings. The springs are less than a mile away and well worth the trip. You could easily spend a day here relaxing in the sun and swimming in the various pools.

Shopping!
There are adorable shops on every corner in San Miguel. This Travel + Leisure article does a great job rounding up a few. My personal favorites were Mixta and Doce 18. Mixta is just a cool boutique. Doce 18 had me kind of losing it because it was so cool. They call it a “concept house.” The idea is that there are mini versions of shops and restaurants throughout its sophisticated space and bright courtyard. This feels like something you’d find in London or New York—not off a cobblestone side street in the middle of Mexico. There’s an art gallery, champagne bar, macaroon stand, clothing store, tequila tasting room, mac and cheese bar… it just keeps going. And every one of them is more Instagrammable than the last.
EAT & DRINK
We ate SO much great food. As shocking as this is, I had to narrow it down significantly to get to this list of my absolute favorites.
IMG_0976
You’ll likely have to wait in line just to get in the door of this charming coffee shop and brunch spot. It’s worth it. So worth it. Sit in the tree-filled stone courtyard. Order the lavender latte (and another one to go) and poached eggs. It’s like teleporting to a summer morning in the fields of Provence.

IMG_0607

Cumpanio
This elegant Italian bakery became our favorite spot to gather for cappuccino and fresh pastries most mornings. They had an almond brioche that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This is the kind of place where you’ll want to linger over lattes and long conversation.
El Manatial
It’s a hip favorite for the locals and fills up fast most nights. Known for its ginger margaritas and seafood tostadas, it’s a convivial little cantina where we literally ordered half the menu (food and drink) and still only paid like $12 each for dinner. The dream.

IMG_0853

La Posadita
This rooftop restaurant was the perfect place for a long lunch in the midday sun. It’s right next to the cathedral and offers impressive views from any seat. The guacamole was my favorite from the whole trip (and we tried A LOT) and the oversized icy  margaritas were made for those lazy kind of vacation afternoons.

IMG_0791

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar
This spot on top of The Rosewood more than lives up to its hype as the best bar in San Miguel. When we stepped off the elevator and walked around the corner into it, I literally stopped and said “Whoa.” It’s that impressive. The views are amazing, there’s live music most nights, and the creative mezcal and local tequila cocktails are the kind of things you’ll want to sip on for hours.

For a fancier experience–or a more romantic evening, if that’s your thing—this is your place. It’s a beautiful spot in a courtyard draped with twinkling white lights and centered around a fountain filled with fresh rose petals. The dishes and the wine list feel more European than Mexican—think buratta cheese, foie gras, and housemade pasta.

IMG_0681

I’ll stop now. But a few quick things to know before you go: San Miguel is at 6,500 feet and a desert climate. It gets very cold when the sun goes down. It’s about an hour and a half from the Leon Airport. The Bajio Go shuttle service was easy, friendly, and inexpensive. And finally, take me with you, please.

One thought on “Under the Spell of San Miguel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s