Discover the jewel of Mexico‘s central highlands, a once-sleepy colonial hill town turned international magnet for travellers and gourmands, and a Unesco World Heritage site. Book now with Culture Trip.
Narrow cobbled streets lined with ochre and lemon-yellow cottages, Juliet balconies and church bells ringing from a cathedral glistening with gold… San Miguel de Allende is quintessentially Mexican. With a lively arts and café scene, beautiful townhouses and a hinterland of pine-covered hills, it’s a popular weekend escape from Mexico City and is replete with tasteful boutique hotels.
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Minutes from the central plaza and set in a converted Spanish colonial mission house, Casa Misión is wonderfully romantic. The hotel even has a Spaghetti-Western-style church bell tower. Rooms are small but artily decorated – with Mexican rugs on terracotta-tile floors, local ceramics and scatterings of colorful textiles and art. And the upper balcony is the perfect spot to sip a margarita, the San Miguel skyline at your feet.
Spread across three colonial townhouses, with a garden replete with bougainvillea and dotted with benches, El Santuario sits on a quiet street a few minutes’ walk from leafy Benito Juarez park. As with most San Miguel boutiques, its rooms are small, with narrow desks and chests of drawers squeezed into the modest spaces around the ample beds – but the décor is beautiful, with Mexican textiles and folk art and crafts decorating each room and El Santuario’s public spaces.
Not all San Miguel boutiques evoke the romantic Spanish colonial look. With fashionable muted grays (offset with single-color scatter cushions), distressed woods and raw stone, and walls hung with modern art, La Nena is self-consciously contemporary. And, despite being a stone’s throw from the center, it even has a pool squeezed into the central atrium and so small you can swim across it in a stroke.
The standard rooms in this townhouse hotel are simple, finished in wood-laminate and fresh pistachios and off-whites but with little more than a bed, a modest chest of drawers and bedside tables. But they’re decorated with arty carvings and are excellent value – with prices including a hearty Mexican breakfast. The center is close by and there are pretty skyline views from the al fresco sun deck.
Real De Minas is big for a boutique hotel – with more than 200 rooms in a sprawling complex of buildings – and the town center is a 15-minute walk away. But this is one of the few hotels in central San Miguel to have a large pool and extensive gardens. Rooms feel a little hotel-chain anonymous but are modern, in off-whites and olives, with tile-carpets and ample space.
This adults-only, romantic boutique, set in an ancient raw-stone house with colonnades of Romanesque arches and rooms in heavy ochres and sky blues, looks like a set from a Zorro episode. It’s in a great location, perched over the town with skyline views from the rooftop sun deck. Breakfast, served in a gallery overlooking the tropical garden, is huge and there are bars and restaurants on the doorstep.
Colonial meets contemporary at the Selina. The hotel sits in a large Spanish-era townhouse in the city center, and built around a central atrium lush with wall and floor plants. But with their solid blocks of color, huge windows and kitschy poster art, rooms feel contemporary. So does the big open-plan upper sun deck with a view from its lounge-y sofas, wooden decking and cocktail bar restaurant.
San Miguel’s first attempt at modern, chic hospitality has been a roaring success. Matilda, and its restaurant Moxi (under the direction of celebrated Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera), may well be the future for colonial and quaint San Miguel. Not only is the interior decor eclectic-hip, but the clientele is younger, more moneyed and more urban than the average tourist. The hotel often hosts DJ nights on the rooftop bar, special chef appearances at Moxi, and local fashion events executed with flair.
Each of the seven rooms at Dos Casas is filled with classic, stylish furniture in blacks, whites, grays and tans. Comfortable and luxurious, the hotel is a renovated San Miguel colonial mansion with a rooftop pool and a tiny wine bar perfect for intimate moments and quick drinks before dinner — and what a dinner it is. The hotel restaurant, Aperi, is quickly becoming one of the top dining spots in town, with most fans recommending the chef’s tasting menu, which is prepared in front of you.
L’otel is built above the Doce 18 Concept, a gourmet food court and luxury shopping complex in the heart of downtown San Miguel. The hotel is brimming with contemporary art, set against the white-on-white backdrop of its walls and linens. There’s a heated rooftop pool, several suites have open-air bathrooms and the best suite has a whirlpool tub on the balcony.
El Palomar sits above town at the top of San Francisco street in what used to be an apartment building, with each room a mini-suite in the cozy style of a Parisian apartment. Views from the rooftop bar of the city’s iconic main cathedral are illuminated by the twinkle of orange-glazed cobblestone streets and the sound of church bells. The hotel restaurant serves classic Mexican dishes for breakfast and the rooftop pool provides a chance to cool off in the high desert sun.
Formerly a granary and hotel for weary travelers coming through San Miguel to sell their wares, El Meson has plenty of history and even more class. It has 10 eclectically decorated rooms dotting the perimeter, each with garden views, and a stone-lined pool, sun terrace and sun deck sits in the middle of the central patio.
Colonial stone walls, Mexican-made textiles and antique furniture mean Casa 1810 blends seamlessly into the old-world ambiance of San Miguel de Allende. Rooms ring a hacienda-style central courtyard and the rooftop provides views of the pink cathedral, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. The hotel is just steps from the historic and charming downtown of San Miguel.
Providing something different from the boutique hotels of downtown San Miguel, Sagrada is a desert retreat with homey luxury. Individual cabins are designed for ultimate tranquility – soft fabrics, wood and stone construction, and a Zen decor. You can take part in communal dinners in the kitchen, get a deep-tissue massage, take a yoga class in the stunning open-air studio or just hang out around the fire pit, sipping wine and taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Suites in Casalinda are fun and whimsically decorated but don’t stint on luxury either, with high-quality linens and amenities accompanying local art work and splashes of color. All have small kitchenettes, whirlpool tubs and private balconies. The on-site restaurant, Bugambilia, is a favorite among locals for classic Mexican cuisine.
Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting to this article.
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