Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by the San Miguel de Allende Tourism Board, but all opinions are my own.
In central Mexico lies a colonial city, where green mountains meet cobblestone streets alongside dusty deserts sprawled under star filled skies. Where centuries of history coexist with modern innovation. Where urban life beats steadily while nature lies in wait next door. This is the heartbeat of Mexico… this is San Miguel de Allende.
The silver lining of our new normal has undoubtedly been the discovery of the hidden gems in our own backyards, and San Miguel de Allende is no exception. With easy access from airports across the United States, no advance COVID testing required in Mexico at the time of writing, and intense health & sanitation requirements in place for all San Miguel businesses, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes reasons why San Miguel de Allende should be your next romantic weekend getaway.
Enchanting colonial architecture, picturesque cobblestone streets and striking sunsets, have made San Miguel de Allende popular with artists and romantics for much of the past century. In fact, the colonial town in its entirety was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008.
Today, this formerly sleepy town has transformed into a cosmopolitan destination, making San Miguel an unmissable highlight for anyone visiting the northern central highlands of Mexico.
Dine at cutting-edge restaurants before strolling winding cobblestone streets that merge with 18th-century facades and serene colonial courtyards. Browse quality handicraft markets and contemporary galleries before engulfing yourself in a surfeit of cultural activities from festivals to fireworks to parades. And rest your head in luxury and design-forward hotels that make it near impossible to step outside were it not for the spring-like climate and soft warm light that seems to envelop the city on a perpetual basis.
But don’t wait…the word is already out! This year alone, Travel & Leisure named San Miguel de Allende the No. 2 top city in Mexico to visit and the No. 2 top city in the world! The city also took 10th place as one of the top gastronomic destinations in the world.
So here’s how to plan the ultimate romantic getaway to San Miguel de Allende. Because let’s be honest, we can all use a little Zorro-esque romance in our lives, wouldn’t you agree? So grab that special someone and head down south. Colonial Mexico, here we come!
Health and Safety during the New Normal
But first things first. In terms of health and safety, we note that San Miguel de Allende closed to non-residents in March 2020 as the entire city went under quarantine. Since then, the city has gradually reopened under strict regulations and in accordance with protocols from the World Travel & Tourism Council. In particular, San Miguel de Allende was endorsed with the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) “Safe Travels” seal of approval recognizing the implementation of global standardized health and hygiene protocols in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This international seal augments San Miguel de Allende’s own municipal “Health First” certification such that locals and visitors alike can now experience this unique UNESCO World Heritage city again.
Location of San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is located 150 miles north of Mexico City in the state of Guanajuato. The closest airport is Queretaro (QRO), at a little over an hour from San Miguel. However, most choose to fly into the larger Leon/Guanajuato Airport (BJX) which is a 1.5 hour drive from San Miguel. Upon arrival, numerous shuttles can be arranged to transport you to San Miguel, along with private transport. My personal favorite is a car rental, since it provides the added ability for exploration and wanderlust on the ground. Renting a car in Mexico is easier than many think, but note that your credit card insurance will not cover Third Party Liability and adding the extra coverage is mandatory in Mexico.
Where to Stay
Upon arrival, check into one of several elegant luxury, design and boutique hotels in San Miguel de Allende, perfect for some pampering and relaxation with your special someone.
Seeking the allure of yesteryear? The Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada evokes the charm of a bygone era with an opulent heritage hotel in the Mexican heartlands.
As a beautiful homage to colonial Mexico, the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende expresses the rich heritage and enchanting cosmopolitan spirit of San Miguel de Allende with colorful terra-cotta, a tranquil inner courtyard and impressive views over the picturesque city.
For something more modern, try the Hotel Amparo with edgy elegance and a stunning rooftop restaurant where Spanish comfort and tradition mix with contemporary art and design.
The Dos Casa Hotel & Spa, housed in two adjacent 18th-century colonial residences, is an impressive Design Hotel where bespoke contemporary design and chic modern decor melds with colonial architecture and time-honored Mexican hospitality.
Similarly, Hotel Matilda, another Design Hotel, boasts a sleek white exterior and sophisticated design elements, forming a sharp and style-conscious hideout amongst San Miguel’s cobblestoned streets.
No matter your taste – colonial or design-forward – it’s hard to go wrong in a city with luxurious and innovative options aplenty.
Friday Night Arrival: Time for Exploring
After checking in on Friday night, it’s time to start exploring. With 18th-century facades soaked in warm light and timeless colonial courtyards hidden in unexpected places, San Miguel is best explored at a leisurely pace. So while you’ll certainly want to let curiosity be your guide, be sure not to miss some of these key spots along the way.
Spend Friday night wandering at your own pace, or soaking up the ambience in your luxury or design hotel. Awaken bright and early Saturday morning to see the sights.
Mornings in San Miguel de Allende can be chilly, so start your day off right with a coffee from Ki’bok Coffee, the Tulum outpost known as a gathering place for local creatives while serving up organic, fair trade coffee sourced from the town of Coatepec, Veracruz. Next, head for breakfast at La Sacristia Café. Set in a building dating to 1743, this pleasant cafe serves traditional Mexican favorites like chilaquiles plus super juices and smoothies on a beautiful patio surrounded by fruit trees, plants and a fountain.
After a short walk, head to Fabrica La Aurora, a former textile factory, that now houses art galleries, antiques and artisanal products produced by local artists. But stick mainly to the art and antiques because the best artisanal market in town is the nearby Mercado de Artesanias. There, four blocks of indoor and outdoor stalls boast a wide variety of well-priced Mexican handicrafts, from silver jewelry from Taxco and rugs from Oaxaca to talavera pottery from Dolores Hidalgo and glass and tin lamps. Lastly, check out the fresh produce and colorful flowers at the nearby Ignacio Ramirez Market. Afterall, stopping to smell the roses with your loved one is always a good idea!
Although the produce looks fantastic at the Ignacio Ramirez Market, save your appetite for the lunch at Trazo 1810, a youthful elegant restaurant. Access is via an art gallery and after ascending the elevator at Hotel Casa 1810. Dine on cayenne-rubbed roast chicken and gnocchi on the fourth-floor terrace while gazing out at the stunning architecture of San MIguel de Allende.
After wetting your architectural palette with the Trazo 1810 vistas, head over to some of San Miguel’s best known architecture to see it first hand. The Templo de la Concepción and the Escuela de Bellas Artes are great places to start. The former is an 18th century Catholic church with a distinctive yellow dome, a fine altar and several magnificent old oil paintings, while the latter is a former monastery turned fine arts school, with extraordinary murals and tranquil gardens.
End your afternoon by browsing some of San Miguel’s many stylish and boho boutiques. Mixta, located in an historic mansion, offers brightly colored kaftans and bohemian dresses, along with patterned and colorful home decor. Mercado Collective sells tropical and boho-chic home goods that seem straight out of Tulum, while Sindashi has beautiful hand painted dresses. La Modernista offers mediterranan inspired clothing and home decor from Spain.
After an aperitif in your hotel’s undoubtedly chic bar, head for dinner at Bovine, a stylish brasserie serving locally butchered meats in an art deco-inspired space featuring gold and brass accents along with geometric black and white tiled floors. From 45 day aged beef to wood fired chicken and seasonal vegetables, this is a meal not to be missed.
Continue your evening at Quince Rooftop (or go on Sunday when it’s all day brunch), which is continually ranked as one of the best rooftop bars in the world (and that’s saying something coming from a New Yorker). Take in views of Colonial and neo-Gothic architecture while savoring the live music, views of La Parroquia and a dessert from in-house bakery Boulangerie, Bleu — the chocolate lavender mousse cake is a must! Lunch dishes include delicacies like carne picosa and avocado salad with panela cheese.
A classic way to start your second full day in San Miguel de Allende is with breakfast at Lavanda Cafe. With climbing vines and rattan furniture, the cafe’s signature drinks are infused with or accompanied by lavender, while the Mexican poached egg breakfasts are particularly tasty.
Afterwards, wander over to the pièce de résistance of San Miguel architecture – the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. Distinct for its neo-Gothic facade and pink wedding-cake towers, this unique church has exceptional acoustics and soaring ceilings set amidst a stunning plaza of manicured plants. If you have time to stay for Sunday service, it’s well worth it! The Templo de San Francisco is another 18th century building worth a visit. This church features Neoclassical architecture along with carved stone figures and a lavishly ornamented late Spanish baroque style facade.
Next, make time for a little shopping with a visit to Dôce 18 Concept House, an 18th century building that has been reinvented as a high-end fashion and design market along with a food hall of upscale quick service options. If you’re feeling hungry, grab a bite here. Otherwise continue on to your next stop – the Casa Dragones – a small batch tequila producer with a fantastic one-hour tasting.
Your last activity of the day can take one of two routes…wine touring or a self-guided gallery tour. Personally, I adore an afternoon of wine-touring. From the stunning vistas and intriguingly designed vineyards to tasting wine directly from the source, I can’t think of a better way to round out your San Miguel trip. To do so, take a 40 minute ride from San Miguel de Allende to Cuna de Tierra. Although the region only dates back to 2009, it’s already won many awards in wine competitions. Sample Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Semillon while admiring the cube-shaped stone buildings reminiscent of Napa beautifully located in the heart of Mexico. The winery also produces olive oil from its own orchard which is also worth sampling.
If it’s galleries you would prefer, your second option is to take a self guided gallery tour in San Miguel. This involves stops at Galeria Nudo, Galleria Tao and Galeria Casa Diana. Each showcases locally and internationally acclaimed Mexican artists, nature inspired pieces by Mexican designer Miguel Arregui and a rotating collection of international modern art, respectively. Also be sure to pick up Oaxacan textiles at nearby Juana Cata boutique or luxury textiles by local artisanal collectives at Recreo San Miguel.
Your final dinner in San Miguel de Allende should take place at The Restaurant, by L.A.- native chef Donnie Masterson (formerly of Tavern on the Green in New York). Each plated item in this 18th century colonial home is like a work of art. You can choose between Japanese cuisine and sushi at The Bar at the R, where deejays spin lively tracks in a hip setting afront a vinyl covered wall; or The Restaurant’s main menu – seasonally inspired dishes served in an elegant eighteenth century Moroccan courtyard, as well as in their chic dining salon. The chef’s inspirations come from San Miguel de Allende, such as locally sourced cheeses, but also abroad, such as Pacific salmon garnished with Morocann barbecue sauce.
Take an after dinner stroll in El Jardin park where mariachis serenade passerbys under manicured trees. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the tastiest churros in town and a cup of steaming hot cocoa at San Augustin, before closing a romantic and fun-filled weekend in San Miguel.
Note that another great option is to split the above itinerary into 3 or 4 days…adding extra time to stroll San Miguel’s picturesque cobblestoned streets, to toast local wine on rooftop bars and to indulge in additional escapes such as hot-air balloon rides and tours of nearby Tequila fields. Or simply take it slow and explore at a leisurely pace.
San Miguel de Allende and Romance
An intimate and charming destination, it’s easy to see why San Miguel de Allende is ideal for a romantic getaway. From refined hotels and culinary hotspots, to wine tasting and gallery walks, this colonial city certainly sets the scene for romance.
Known for its thriving art scene, colonial architecture, sophisticated food scene and a golden hour that has attracted photographers since the last century, San Miguel de Allende is still one of Mexican’s best kept secrets when it comes to couples getaways.
So grab your special someone and savor the ambiance of colonial cobblestoned streets, baroque architecture, and bougainvillea that spills out over balconies. Indulge in gastronomy and wines—from neighborhood hideaways to fine dining. And gaze upon art from the antique to the contemporary to the indigenous, in this most romantic backdrop.
Mexico’s metaphorical heart has an undoubtable mystical quality to it. But don’t take my word for it. Come see for yourself. Come visit San Miguel de Allende! Visit www.visitsanmiguel.travel to learn more!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me, @lighttravelsfaster on behalf of Visit San Miguel de Allende.~Eileen Rhein from @lighttravelsfaster