This small colonial town with its distinctly European feel has been attracting expatriates for decades and is now one of the hottest destinations among designers and discerning homeowners searching for fabulous resources and inspirational settings. The insider’s guide to this fascinating town highlights shopping, lodging and dining.
WHERE TO SHOP…
Santa Barbara, CA entrepreneur Anne Harte created this innovative lifestyle boutique. located in an impeccably restored 18th-century colonial building, which serves as a backdrop to Harte’s well-edited collection of stylish finds from around the world. Exquisite fashion, jewelry, furnishings and accessories for the home. www.sollano16.com
A jewel box of a shop offering custom-designed and original objects from Mexico…jewelry, antiqued mirrored trays and boxes. Jesús 26, San Miguel de Allende
This charming shop is a series of rooms (it was originally a home) with colorful frescoed walls and light-filled open hallways. There’s an eclectic assortment of gift items—clothing, textiles, and housewares. They sell handwoven cotton shawls and table runners, one of a kind lighting fixtures and furnishings, many be designer Carey Berkus, who helped create the space when Mixta recently moved to larger digs. 3 Pila Seca; 011-52-415-152-7343 www.mixtasanmiguel.com
Owned by Carol Romano, this shop is the place to go for one-of-a-kind treasures. Romano mixes tableware by local artisans with her finds from buying trips to Morocco, Turkey, and beyond. It’s a place where you may go to browse but you’ll undoubtedly end up buying. inshalaimports.com
This store in San Miguel de Allende that took over the old La Capilla space just behind the Parroquia Church. You can find Trinitate in San Miguel, just half a block from the main plaza, the jardin. There are two other stores located in Leon (where the factory is located) and in Mexico City in the Colonial Polanco area. Cuna de Allende No. 10 www.trinitateleon.com
Filled with owner Evita Avery’s collection of antique and contemporary Mexican folk art, including almost-impossible-to-find antique tabletop pieces, this shop is an institution in San Miguel. This shop has really interesting colonial Mexican ceramics—plates, pitchers, jugs—as well as religious artifacts, like reliquaries and crucifixes, and textiles. It’s the best shop in town for Mexican antiques. 93 Mesones; 011-52-415-152-3954 www.lacalaca.com
Camino Silvestre in San Miguel de Allende is an oasis in the city for nature lovers with an emphasis on design and beautiful gifts. The owners, known for their blown-glass hummingbird business in the US for the last 18 years, have created a set of stores and a tea house that feature their original designs, as well as local and international artists, Mexican artisans, and beautiful gifts from around the world. Zacateros No. 46 & Correo No. 43, San Miguel de Allende. Camino Silvestre showcases their signature hummingbird feeders and fine gifts with a second location at 46 Zacateros.
RECREO SAN MIGUEL
In Spanish, “Recreo” means recreate. The Recreo, or recreation of the serape or poncho, is designed for men and women using the world’s finest fabrics. The result is a look that is at once traditional and contemporary. Stylish serapes and ponchos are the focus. Luxurious textiles and beaded detail make these modern day serapes idea for year around wraps. 26 Recreo; 011-52-415-154-4820 www.recreosanmiguel.com
FÁBRICA LA AURORA
A former muslin factory that’s now filled with shops and galleries. La Bottega di Casa and Rachel Horn, For antiques and home decor, Cantadora has a quality selection. Calzada de la Aurora; 011-52-415-152-1312.
WHERE TO STAY…
L’Ôtel feels like visiting private home, with just four guest rooms housed in a beautifully renovated colonial mansion. Open-air courtyard, rooftop patio with pool and gorgeous views of the town and a cozy dining room, plus bikes to tour around the neighborhood. L’Ôtel, Chiquitos 1 A. www.l-otelgroup.com
ROSEWOOD RESORT AND SPA
The Rosewood’s rooms are all suites. On the edge of the historic district and about a five-minute walk from the center of town, the resort is conveniently located, but set in a quiet neighborhood. A beautiful pool, a huge spa, and gym.Luna, the rooftop bar, has spectacular views and excellent tapas.
11 Nemesio Díez; 011-52-415-152-9700 www.rosewoodhotels.com
The only hotel in the historic center with a modern vibe. The spa presents a serene setting and offers unique treatments. The restaurant, Moxi, serves haute Mexican cuisine.
53 Aldama; 011-52-415-152-1015 www.hotelmatilda.com
Vacation Home Rental Companies…
PREMIER SAN MIGUEL VACATION RENTALS offers a desirable list of vacation homes and includes guest services with special attention to details that will make your stay a memorable experience.
San Miguel House Rentals..www.san-miguel-house-rentals.com
(be sure to check out the amazing Casa Dragones house rental)
WHERE TO DINE…
For a more upscale dining experience, this restaurant inside a 300-year-old colonial house with Moorish arches is arguably the best culinary experience in San Miguel. Chef Donnie Masterton (a James Beard Award winner) was one of the first in town to introduce local, fresh and organic cuisine. Follow the well-heeled expats to the flagstone courtyard at The Restaurant, an elegant and candlelit restaurant that serves international comfort dishes using organic ingredients from local ranchers, growers and dairy farmers. Sollano 16, Centro www.therestaurantsanmiguel.com
Part bakery, part pastry shop, this is the perfect place to start your day. Later in the day, the location also has a well-designed restaurant for more-savory evening fare. 29 Correo; 011-52-415-152-2984 www.cumpanio.com
Azotea’s roof, Ole Ole for fajitas in a bullfighting atmosphere, La Manantial for fish tacos in an old cantina.
There is music all over town… Mama Mias, The Limmerick, Tio Lucas.
La Sirena Gorda retains the hole-in-the-wall look of a cantina — swinging doors, dim light, faded paint on the walls, but with a more refined bar. Also known by its original name, La Manantial, which is painted on the front, this is where you want to hang out during the late-evening hours, drinking the signature ginger or tamarind margaritas. Calle Barranca; 52-415-110-0007
WHAT TO EXPLORE…
San Miguel de Allende was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008. The baroque buildings and stone streets rival the most enchanting parts of Spain and Italy.
The Instituto Allende is one of the city’s main draws, furthering San Miguel’s reputation as an international art destination. Look for the Diego Rivera murals.
Architecture and design lovers should visit the hacienda Jaral de Berrio, which is about an hour and a half drive north of San Miguel. A plethora of decorative wallpapers and aged patina walls in this abandoned hacienda. On the way back, stop at the Sanctuario de Atotonilco, a baroque masterpiece.
El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden…take a long walk through this botanical garden and nature conservation area located above the town of San Miguel.
Cooking Classes are offered in private home settings and experienced chefs from top hotels invite you to learn more about healthy and regional cuisine.
Day Trips…The region is known for its quality crafts. Dolores Hidalgo for ceramics, Guanajuato for silver and Leon for leatherwork. San Miguel de Allende manufactures metal work.
One of the most popular guide in town is Daniel Hernandez (hernandez-tours.com), who will take you almost anywhere in the area.
Is it safe? San Miguel de Allende is well insulated from the violence plaguing the border towns of Mexico.
How to get there…
San Miguel 500-year old San Miguel de Allende is about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City, at the far eastern edge of the state of Guanajuato. The nearest commercial airports are Querétaro (about 45 miles away) and León-Guanajuato (about 70 miles). On a budget? The sometimes cheaper alternative is to fly into Mexico City, which offers more flights, then a four-hour drive or bus trip to SMA. Not recommended if you’re only visiting for a few days.