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San Miguel de Allende, the insider guide

San Miguel Arcángel church.
San Miguel Arcángel church. / A. F.
  • Where to stay and eat and what to do in this Unesco World Heritage city in Mexico's central highlands

This Unesco World Heritage city, in Mexico's central highlands, is the American Capital of Culture for 2019.

STAY:

Hotel Matilda

Hotel Matilda is a boutique property that fuses the colonial colour of San Miguel's past with the contemporary creativity of modern Mexico. It is home to the stylish Bar Müi, known for its creative mixology; a beautiful spa; pool and terrace; and signature contemporary Mexican dining at Moxi Restaurant.

I believe this is the only contemporary hotel in the city. Guestrooms have an uncluttered aesthetic; and luxurious bathrooms. Expect large flat-screen TVs, Bluetooth speaker too.

The property is a remarkable showcase for contemporary Mexican style. For example, hanging in the central atrium, bringing together all the floors of the building, is 'Blue Pangaea' by Bosco Sodi, probably the hotel's signature masterpiece. It is like staying within a living art gallery. It's more than décor; it's the soul of the property. One that perfectly complements San Miguel as a centre for international art. Every space of Hotel Matilda is defined by creativity from collages, paintings, photography, to sculpture.

Casa No Name

This historic former bishop's palace has to be one of the most romantic places in San Miguel de Allende. Once linked secretly to the nearby convent by hidden tunnels, Casa No Name is full of old-world charm. The six guest rooms are cosy - and each is unique in style. Exquisite attention to detail even extends to the beautiful signature scent.

The courtyard patio is the stand-out feature of the property. Guests can enjoy breakfast while enjoying the extraordinary rare frescos that adorn the walls. At the back of the house is a secret garden, the 'Jardin Lorca', a space dedicated to the Spanish poet where guests are invited to sit, relax, and maybe "meditate on the poetry that is life". Take the time-worn stone staircase up to the roof and discover the contemporary terrace. By day, take a plunge in the small pool, relax on sun loungers, or enjoy a massage in the spa tent. At sundown this azotea becomes the hip place in town for cocktails. This artsy hotel also hosts cultural events throughout the year as part of San Miguel's vibrant art scene.

EAT:

Moxi Restaurant

Moxi Restaurant is an integral part of the sophisticated contemporary guest experience at Hotel Matilda. Here the team of Executive Chef Francisco Ibáñez celebrate Mexican cuisine from a modern perspective. Try starters like Burrata with salsa verde and fried tortilla; and main dishes of ceviche with ginger; or Tatemado avocado, sautéed prawns with lime mayonnaise. If you don't make it for dinner, then certainly try and reserve a table for Saturday brunch.

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar

To experience a memorable sunset across the rooftops and spires of San Miguel, head to the Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the upscale Rosewood Hotel. This destination bar is where mixologists prepare artisanal cocktails; and the menu includes flatbreads and pizzas from the wood-fired oven, as well as creative tapas like Octopus and Potatoes Bravas Style, or gourmet tacos including Ribeye, with Guacamole and Grilled Chiles.

Bovine Brasserie

Found within the uber stylish Código Postal Design building - a historic house now home to design and fashion boutiques - one finds this elegant brasserie. Bovine is a sophisticated take on a classic steak house. Bruce James and Juan Pablo Gallegos have created a restaurant that is at once contemporary but also classic, with echoes of art deco. Australian Chef Paul Bentley leads a team that prepares a menu that not only offers premium cuts of meat like New York Strip and 45-day aged beef; but also seafood, and salads. Presentation is superb, with dishes coming to the table on cast iron platters. If you're in town for a celebration, book the 'Mesa Dragones' private dining area, where you can enjoy a special menu inspired by the tequila Casa Dragones.

La Azotea Tapas Bar

Unesco has recognised traditional Mexican food as a world treasure. Yet that doesn't stop San Miguel's chef's creating new taco recipes. La Azotea is a good choice to try some of the best.

Café La Sacristía

Coffee shop with charming courtyard patio.

Quince Rooftop

Lively late-night place for drinks and music.

DO:

Bellas Artes Fine Art School

San Miguel has more than a hundred galleries showcasing folk to contemporary art. The city's art scene is said to have been kick-started by a Peruvian artist who established the Escuela de Bellas Artes Art School in 1927. Permanent and temporary exhibits to be enjoyed.

Fábrica La Aurora

This cool Art & Design centre also has some truly tempting boutiques selling artisan products.

TRAVEL:

To get up up-to-date information on the city's Food, Art and Cultural festivals check the Mexican Tourism website and search 'San Miguel de Allende'

San Miguel is served by two regional airports; Queretaro Airport (QRO) about an hour away; and also Leon's Del Bajio Airport (BJX), the most popular, about 75 minutes away.

Most intercontinental flights from Europe arrive at Mexico City's Benito Juárez airport (MEX). Here one can pick up a rental car or pre-book a private or shared shuttle transfer from suppliers such as BajíoGo.