Culture / Travel

Our Ultimate Guide to San Miguel de Allende — Where to Eat, Stay, and Play in the Artist-Laden Town

An Itinerary Tailored to Design-Loving Texans

BY // 03.01.23

In San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city and designated “magical pueblo” in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico, keep an eye out for the doors — not because you’ll want to leave (you will not want to leave), but because they’re absolutely exquisite. Along the cobblestone streets, brass knockers sculpted into hands adorn the homes’ facades. Swinging saloon doors lead to 100-year-old cantinas. You’ll see doors painted colors you can’t find outside of Mexico — aquas to blend with the Caribbean Sea, pinks to match the sunsets, greens to complement the cacti of the high-desert landscape.

Using the newly opened La Valise San Miguel as my home base, I’ve tailored an itinerary for even the most discerning (and well-seasoned) visitor to the artist-laden colonial town, a favorite of design-loving Texans.

 

Getting to San Miguel de Allende from Dallas-Fort Worth

To prepare for the sunny, dry climate and hilly streets, pack comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and chapstick. Accustomed to tourism, many San Miguelenses speak English, but it couldn’t hurt to learn basic Spanish phrases ahead of time. A direct flight from DFW to BJX takes roughly two and a half hours.

Book an airport shuttle in advance through Bajiogo, so your door-to-door transportation will be waiting for you in the airport. The trip to San Miguel takes about an hour and 40 minutes.

san miguel de allende la valise
One of just six exquisitely designed hotel rooms in La Valise San Miguel. (courtesy)

Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende

Brand-new boutique hotel La Valise San Miguel offers the most elegant accommodations in the city. The tranquil courtyard, where you’ll enjoy huevos rancheros and coffee in the morning, is sound-tracked by light jazz and the trickle of the infinity pool’s fountain. Each of the six guest rooms boasts a unique design and décor (PaperCity‘s rec: book the one with the outdoor bathtub). Both the location and the customer service are unbeatable. From La Valise, you can walk to the city’s center, El Jardín, in two minutes.

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The historic Casa
Dragones stable-turned-house in San Miguel

Fun things to do in San Miguel de Allende

– Go for a hike at El Charco, a nature preserve with botanical gardens. Check out the collection of unusual regional cacti, enjoy an easy walk through the arid terrain, and catch one of the best views of the city.

– Spend a day at the hot springs. You have a few options, all about seven miles outside of town, but the hot springs’ crown jewel is La Gruta. Swim inside a grotto, grab a bite in the on-site restaurant and get a massage.

Pro tip: La Gruta is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays when they clean and drain the pools, so go on a Wednesday, when you can soak in fresh hot water. The entrance fee for the day is equivalent to about $13.

– Dance salsa at La Chula. This rooftop venue just off the Jardín offers live salsa bands several nights a week. You’re sure to see some of the city’s best dancers, but beginners are warmly welcomed, too.

– Do some shopping. On Saturdays and Sundays, check out Mercado Sano and the open-air organic market behind it, where local farmers and craftsmen sell their produce, eggs, cheeses, sauces, and trinkets. For a super-local, less high-end shopping experience, hit the Tianguis, a flea market held every Tuesday, where under a giant sea of tarps, vendors sell everything from T-shirts to tacos.

– Buy a bottle of mezcal at Cava Sautto. Right on Zacateros Street, what locals call the Ancha, this liquor store carries mezcals and tequilas that aren’t exported from Mexico. That is, you won’t find them in Texas, so why not grab one to bring home? The staff is knowledgeable and will steer you in the right direction.

– Texas tequila lovers should pay a pit stop to Casa Dragones’ tiny but spirited Tasting Room, which packs plenty of design punch, along with the premium, silky-smooth tequila itself, produced 350 miles away in Jalisco.

 

Where to Eat and Drink in San Miguel de Allende

Rosewood San Miguel_Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar_
Luna Rooftop & Tapas Bar at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende boasts unprecedented views of the European-esq town. (Photo courtesy of Rosewood San Miguel de Allende)

On the rooftops…

– San Miguel is known for its eclectic culinary offerings and for its terrazas—restaurant rooftops to accompany gentle breezes and cold margaritas. So start with the best of the best: Before sunset, ride the elevator in Rosewood San Miguel de Allende up to Luna Tapas Bar for a 360-degree view of the city, craft cocktails, and a rotating menu of flatbreads.

– For a lively good time, grab a table at La Azotea and order the signature dish, jicama tacos—shrimp tacos wrapped in jicama instead of tortillas, garnished with crunchy fried onions.

– For upscale dining, try La Única. Among the most interesting dishes, the cauliflower is sourced locally, roasted whole, and prepared tableside with olive oil and citrus.

Rustica is a popular lunch spot in San Miguel de Allende. (courtesy)

At ground level…

– For breakfast, try Raíces Restaurante. The chef hails from Oaxaca, the country’s culinary capital, and prepares a fusion of typical Oaxacan cuisine and recipes from other Mexican regions. It’s one of those places where everything on the menu is great, but the arepas are a standout.

– You might have to wait a while for a table at Rustica, but it’s a popular lunch spot for a reason. Outdoor seating in the back is shaded by leafy trees and umbrellas, and diners love to linger over tuna tostadas with chimichurri.

– For the best chips and salsa in town, Hecho en Mexico is a cozy comfort-food staple. Pair those house-made chips and salsa with a Bohemia, the best of the Mexican beers.

– Everyone in San Miguel has a favorite taco cart, but popular options include Andy’s Pastor Taco Cart, parked on Insurgentes in front of the Biblioteca, and Gorditas Don Ciro, just outside of town.

 

san miguel de allende la valise
The courtyard of La Valise San Miguel, a newly opened boutique hotel in the beloved colonial-era city. (courtesy)

A UNESCO World Heritage site, San Miguel de Allende is a walking city. And that’s how you’ll see the doors, find the restaurants, and stumble across the mariachi bands, the mojiangas (giant, walking puppets that lead the wedding processions), and the Parroquia—a neo-gothic cathedral that is the most photographed church in the country. Any door you open in this colorful city will lead you somewhere beautiful.

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