The charming town of San Miguel de Allende was our last stop on our April tour of central Mexico before returning to Mexico City for a couple of days, and then home.
With a European history dating back to the 16th century, San Miguel de Allende is central Mexico’s oldest city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cobblestoned central district serves up example after example of stunning, beautifully preserved baroque and gothic Spanish architecture. A standout is the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, whose dramatic pink towers rise above the main plaza. Work on the church began in 1709, but the current spiky facade was completed in the mid-1800s.
Today’s San Miguel boasts one of the largest communities of North American expats in Mexico, and it’s a mecca for lovers of the arts and authentic cultural festivals.
We enjoyed our two-day stopover in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Here are our highlights.
As usual, some photos are in galleries – just click the first one to view each in sequence.
Go wine tasting
Fun fact: Mexico is the oldest wine-producing country in the Americas. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Mexico’s viticulture industry really began to take off, and today the country boasts three world-class wine regions: North, including Baja and Sonora; Laguna, encompassing a broad swath of Northern Mexico; and Central, including Querétaro and Guanajuato states. Lucky us, we found ourselves smack in the middle of the Central region. Of course we had to check out some wineries, since they just happened to be on our way to San Miguel de Allende!
We made stops at Cuna de Tierra, Tres Raices, and Hacienda San Jose Lavista. Of the three, our favorite was Cuna de Tierra. It’s one of the most-established wineries in Guanajuato state, and we especially loved its Nebbiolo blends. One highly-rated winery we missed, but will definitely visit next time, is Dos Buhos.
Tips: All of these wineries charge a fee for tasting that is refunded if you purchase wine. Hacienda San Jose Lavista does not have a tasting room, but you can taste their wines and pair them with a yummy appetizer in the on-site restaurant, Tarragon. In addition to its winery near Dolores Hidalgo, Cuna de Tierra also has a tasting room/shop in centro San Miguel de Allende.
In our experience, the best way to experience a place like San Miguel is to just . . . walk. Walk, and let the town reveal itself.
Visit a desert botanical garden
El Charco del Ingenio is a great place to spend a morning learning about the area’s ecology and native flora and to take in some beautiful desert scenery. Situated in an ecological preserve, this 170-acre botanical garden features an interesting interpretive center, nature trails and an amazing variety of cacti and other native desert plants.
Experience the “art factory”
Fabrica La Aurora, also known as the Cultural Center of Art and Design, is a former textile mill that has been converted into a vast art exhibition space – with gallery after gallery of beautiful art in every medium. In addition, La Aurora houses numerous shops selling beautiful and unique housewares and furniture. We also enjoyed our lunch at the on-site restaurant, Food Factory.
Zen out at the hot springs
Tip: Arrive EARLY at the hot springs, especially on weekends. We showed up right at Escondido’s opening, 8:00 a.m., and practically had the pools to ourselves. A couple of hours later, it was already filling up with big families and boom boxes.
- We loved our lodging, Casa Frida B&B – filled with colorful Frida Kahlo-themed art and a 1940s vibe. Situated high on a hill, Casa Frida is quiet and cozy. A sumptuous breakfast was included and served up by the friendly host, Guillermo.
San Miguel’s restaurant scene is world-class. We wish we’d had more time! But we did enjoy two other restaurants in addition to Food Factory: Mama Mia and Atrio. Mama Mia features excellent Italian food and live music every afternoon. Atrio is one of the town’s highest-rated restaurants, with a stunning rooftop location directly across the street from the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel.
- DO NOT MISS sunset at the rooftop bar of the Rosewood Hotel. Not only is it a great people-watching venue (the ultra-high-end Rosewood is popular with jet-setters from the U.S.), but the early evening views are beyond spectacular. We did partake of (very expensive) pizza and cocktails, but the main draw is the view.
Finally . . .
Here’s the scene you’ll find at Jardín Allende, pretty much every day: