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This article appears in Volume 24: The Slow Issue.
Hidden in Mexico’s central highlands, the cobblestoned enclave of San Miguel de Allende is perhaps not the first place you’d expect to attract American expats and Mexican holiday makers alike. It’s a good four-hour drive from Mexico City and lacks the sugar-white beaches of Cancun and Tulum – and yet the people come.
Locals say the city is built on rose quartz, said to be the force of life. While some dispute the quartz theory most will admit there’s something indefinable that pulls people to San Miguel.
Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada
No two rooms are alike at this charming colonial-style mansion, spread across six buildings moments from the town square. The individually designed rooms feature polished-copper bathtubs, intricate tiling and custom artwork and the staff are faultless – whether you ask for restaurant recommendations, city tips or a mezcal margarita they’ll deliver with aplomb. Most suites have terraces, some overlooking the town’s spires and others with views of the lush orange and lime trees that hang through the gates. Restaurants Andanza and Restaurante Del Parque serve contemporary Mexican cuisine with a few added quirks – try the mushroom cappuccino.
L’Otel has a ten-bedroom outpost in the Dôce 18 Concept House just off the main square, but it’s this four-bedroom property on one of the town’s quietest streets – and with an entrance so unassuming that you’d walk right past if you weren’t looking for it – that will capture your heart. It feels like the house of a (very glamorous) friend – think walls covered in art, grey-hued furniture and tastefully placed Taschen books in a lounge that leads onto a courtyard overflowing with bougainvillea. The rooms to the back of the hotel are bedecked with crystal lamps and back onto a waterfall – plus there’s a rooftop with 360- degree views.
Hotel Dos Casas
Built in 2004 when Alberto Laposse combined two adjoining colonial houses, the vibe here is utterly cool and the hotel is filled with achingly stylish people to match. 1940s and 1950s-inspired furniture is thoughtfully placed among modern Mexican design pieces and it’s home to the famed Aperi restaurant – book the chef’s table in advance to sample the handiwork of head chef Matteo Salas.
It might seem strange to come all the way to Mexico and opt for Peruvian food, but La Parada is worth the diversion. Ask someone at the bar to talk you through the extensive range of piscos and start with an expertly prepared pisco sour before moving onto the delicious octopus ceviche. The husband-and- wife owners make everyone feel immediately welcome, and vegetarians and vegans are enthusiastically accommodated.
Local, seasonal ingredients are the name of the game at this establishment, which is set in a Moroccan-style courtyard. LA export Donnie Masterson takes charge in the kitchen, where he prepares straightforward but flavorful dishes that aim to highlight key regional ingredients like fresh tuna from the Bajío region or local Burrata cheese. A favourite with locals as well as travellers, reservations are a must.
If Quince had a tagline it would be “Come for the views, stay for the dessert.” The former are some of the best in San Miguel, overlooking La Parroquia’s illuminated, Baz Luhrmann-style cross from the east and west terraces, as well as rooftops and spires from every angle. Book a table to coincide with one of the city’s magical sunsets and order something from the mouthwatering dessert bar while listening to one of the frequent live DJs and bands that perform here.
San Miguel isn’t all fine dining – it has its fair share of hip, healthy cafés too. Ki’bok – which also has an outpost in Tulum – sources its coffee from a co-op of organic farmers in Veracruz and is touted as one of the best cups in town. The quinoa grain bowls are almost as famous as the coffee.
Dôce 18 Concept House
Despite hiding just off the historical town square, Dôce 18 is anything but old-fashioned. This concept store hosts an array of shops and concessions from independent jewellers through to purveyors of artisan olive oil. The interior is cool and contemporary and wouldn’t look out of place in Ibiza.
Recreo San Miguel
This store recreates clothes with cultural significance. Items take their inspiration from the Mexican poncho, which may sound odd, but the rails are hung with kaftan-style dresses and coats in delicate fabrics that make it hard to leave empty-handed. All of the fabric is locally sourced and most of the garments are constructed by local women’s collectives.
Fabrica La Aurora
Once a textile factory, La Aurora is today a cultural and artistic centre housing art galleries, design studios and antiques. It’s not in the city centre but is worth the trip out. The building is centered around a beautiful courtyard filled with pieces of culture and exotic cacti. Spend a day getting lost in its exhibition spaces and café.
Escuela de Bellas Artes
Even if you have no artistic ambition, this cloister a few blocks from the main square is a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. Bellas Artes is a fully functioning art school offering classes in everything from ceramics to weaving and is also the perfect space for a coffee and some quiet reflection at the Café Las Musas. It plays host to music, film and art events on a nightly basis.
- +52 415 152 0289
Cox & Kings offers a seven-day / four-night private trip to Mexico from £1,745 per person including one night at the Galeria Plaza Reforma in Mexico City and three nights at the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende. Direct flights with AeroMexico, private airport transfers and travel between Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende are included.
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