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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City Guide

by Sabrina Smelko

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Although Montserrat Cardona was born in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende has been a close-by and second home for as long as she can remember. A small town with “a passion for beauty in almost every corner,” she has lived in SMA for nearly half a year now and continues to fall in love with its soul, diverse culture and genuine Mexican heart.

For over three decades, this inspiring Guanajuato’s area has attracted artists far and wide — from painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and gallery owners — and continues to draw young expats and entrepreneurs who’ve launched boutiques, hotels, spas, bars, concept stores, gourmet restaurants, and interior design firms. From the moment you check-in at your hotel, to the ingredients local dishes are prepared with, to the cocktails on one of the hundreds of terraces with a magnificent view of the Cathedral, San Miguel is known for its customer service and friendly locals. But perhaps Montserrat says it best: “All the people that live here love this Mexican jewel that (not by chance) is considered one of the best places to live in the world!” and today she shares with us a taste of that. –Sabrina

Eat

Lavanda Café is a MUST if you are a coffee- and latte-lover, or a fan of cinnamon rolls or fresh deli sandwiches. This is a great option for getting together with friends for delicious, casual breakfast or brunch in a beautiful and petite patio with vintage accents.

De Temporada Farm Rest

Not far from downtown (10 to 15 minutes by car), you’ll find De Temporada Farm Restaurant, a small local restaurant with furniture made from wooden palettes. It’s run by owner and chef Iliana Lanuza who prepares every dish with organic, seasonal ingredients that are also available for purchase in Granja La Trinidad, the farm it’s located on. You have to go to experience it in all its greatness: choose your seat, have a fresh lunch and relax while enjoying a view towards an extensive green area. Don’t miss the homemade ice creams!

Here is where pop art and a tempting eclectic menu merge. Several corners with different atmospheres among them, Café Rama is a unique place to spend a entire afternoon trying international dishes like fish and chips, chicken pot pie, Borsht soup or Swiss cheese fondue. A variety of iconic faces and logos hang on the walls (and most of them are for sale). You will never get bored here.

La Parada

La Parada is a local favorite for many reasons; one of them being that it’s the best place to get authentic Peruvian cuisine, which means delicious ceviches and good variety of piscos. The place has an enjoyable interior patio and a good bar — ideal to visit for lunch or dinner.

Tule

A stop at the delightful smoothie bar Tule is better after walking the cobblestone streets of San Miguel — and when it’s hot out. You can order an 100% organic and diary-free smoothie to refresh your itinerary.

The Restaurant is a favorite social spot to share a good conversation and have an exquisite lunch or dinner. At night, the Moroccan courtyard looks fantastic! It offers the most elegant and vibrant setting, and highest quality food with excellent flavors.

Chamonix is the perfect restaurant for a romantic date on the terrace, though inside the restaurant you’ll appreciate the French decor. For dinner, try the farfalle pasta with figs and Roquefort cream along with your favorite red wine. You will leave the place in love.

 

Shop

TINTORERA

I love the flow of new imagery from emerging artists. The workshop-store at Tintorera (tiger shark in Spanish) is a terrific space, near the Train Station, for a cup of tea while you take a look at the fantastic handmade collages, notebooks and silk screen prints. Want to make your own collages? Ask about their one-day workshop.

Chamonix Casa

There’s a slight sense of déjà-vu when you look inside of Chamonix Casa which looks like a classic grandmother’s house. Wooden cabinets display everything you need for French home styling: monogrammed tea towels, metal house numbers, vintage aprons, French publicity signs, ceramic tableware, along with dainty glassware and silver serving utensils.

Terra garden store

Terra Garden Store is at the back of a colonial-style house, where you can find a great variety of outdoor living and pieces for garden design. So, if you have a gardener’s spirit, you should come in. Among the selection are different sizes of pots, exterior lamps, botanical prints, ceramic tiles, fountains, metal objects, plant seeds and organic garden products.

Le Specie

San Miguel de Allende has an antique furniture tradition, so you’ll likely have stopped in many antique shops walking the street before you arrive at Le Spezie. Here you will find restored vintage, antique and rustic farm furniture from all over the world and they’re displayed with textiles, decorative candles, industrial lamps, ceramic tableware, unique objects from flea markets, mirrors and more adorable small items.

If you love birds, there’s a place where everything is designed to honor them. Camino Silvestre is a sort of paradise to find the perfect (and unique) hummingbird feeders, bird houses, books with vintage bird images, posters, glassware with feather motifs, beautiful nests — everything! Also, you can drink a delicious tea or coffee in its own coffee corner, Néctar, while admiring real birds flying around.

Recreos

Situated in one of San Miguel’s historic 250+ year-old buildings, Recreo San Miguel is just one block from the town’s picturesque main square and has been creating a union between the traditional textile techniques with a haute-couture sensibility to create sarapes (or ponchos) in luxurious, fine fabrics. Many are trimmed in semi-precious beads, shells, coins, feathers or fur. The high-quality fabrics and trims are sourced both in Mexico and across the world, while the garments are designed and manufactured locally. There are also scarves and shawls, capes and wraps, and jackets and vests.

Sofi's Home

The items in Sofi’s Home offer a masculine and feminine take on home decor. The boutique presents collections for every social part of the home (bar, living room, dining room and bedroom), playing on the latest colors and textile trends. If you like cushions, you’re in the right place to find an array of throw pillows in different materials (silk, cotton, linen…) which allow one to play with the arrangement to get different looks!

 

Stay

There are vast options listed on Airbnb where you can stay, but don’t be afraid to rent a room outside the downtown of San Miguel. Suburbs like Camino a la Cieneguita or San Miguel el Viejo are good examples where you can find affordable rooms at beautiful properties with all the commodities — plus big gardens and stunning green views! Many writers and artists opt for the latter for long stays.

Casa Calderoni B&BOK

Casa Calderoni is a great option if you want to be just steps away from the “centro” square, art crafts mercado and restaurants. You will love the cozy feeling in the bedrooms, patio, dining and living room. Tip: its rooftop terrace is one of the best spots in San Miguel to watch the sunset.

L'Otel

Without a doubt, L’Otel is the most chic hotel of SMA to stay, relax and eat delicious food. It’s enjoyable from the inside out. This is the place where design and luxury come together in every single detail to offer an exclusive experience of well-being for travelers.

What I love most about Posada del Corazón is its incredible selection of art books that you can read in front of a big window where you can see through tree-filled gardens in a very charming atmosphere (if you are a guest you can choose one to read during your stay). Also, you can visit it just to enjoy a tasty organic breakfast with friends. Perfect place for rainy days!

 

Visit/See

La Aurora

Your itinerary in San Miguel is not complete without visiting La Aurora, where art gallery owners offer their pieces in the same place. In this big and well designed center you can walk through its patios to admire the artwork and take your time to shop unique pieces. Also, there’s a coffee shop, restaurants and decor stores (some I mentioned before) so you can spend all day long there.

El Charco del Ingenio is a botanical garden that includes over 170 acres of nature preserve. The primary mission of this wonderful place is to study and conserve natural sources and spread ancestral knowledge through different activities: bird-watching tours, workshops, monthly talks, meditation and Temazcal sessions, full moon ceremony, spring equinox concerts and more. It’s the perfect place to be in touch with nature and Mexican roots.

The author of the cookbook Mexican Light, Kris Rudolph, moved to San Miguel de Allende to open a culinary school, which is a large, well-equipped kitchen in the colonial style. La Cocina Cooking School has been a real hit for locals and foreigners who wish to learn the traditional techniques to prepare molés, salsas or chiles en Nogada. During the class, which is only taught in small private groups, visitors cook a Mexican menu and finish with a dinner complete with wine and margaritas. If you have more time available, you can hire a weeklong tour to visit organic farms in the region and markets to get the ingredients you need.

 

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Comments

  • San Miguel de Allende is my favorite place on earth and Montserrat has captured it’s essence beautifully here. She’s highlighted the very best and unique spots that any design lover would be so happy to discover. I’ve been there twice myself and somehow failed to visit Chamonix Casa- next time 4 sure.

    See you in San Miguel Montse!

  • Wonderful guide to my favorite city! However, you missed out on mentioning Mixta (http://mixtasanmiguel.com) the best shop with the most amazing & eclectic mix of national & imported homegoods, jewelry & clothing in town, a meal at Aguamiel Cocina Rustica (a restuarant inside a beautiful home) & sunset drinks at La Azotea, with a breathtaking view overlooking the mountains. And don’t miss the hotsprings!

    • Thank you Jenn! You have all the reason, many stores, coffee shops and restautans in the same beautiful town!!! Maybe is a good reason to start thinking in Part 2 City Guide in the future. Worth it!

  • It would be so helpful if you provided the addresses of the featured
    places so we could find them.
    I live here and have been here 15 years. Many of the shops I have never heard of or seen.
    Thanks so much.
    Babs

    • Babs

      There should be links showing for each space for their websites with contact info- are those not showing for you? We provide links rather than addresses written out bc so often places move/change and their home pages are the best reference for up to date info.

      Grace

  • Do you have an address in SMA for Sofi’s Home? The only info I could find by clicking on their Facebook link on their website was an address in Zapopan, Jalisco. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for publishing this much needed information on one of my favorite cities in the world. We will be moving there in 2017 and this is very important to me.
      I will be visiting in September and look forward to seeing some of these treasures.
      thanks again…Peggye

      • Thank you Peggy Andress! So happy to know that you’re going to move to SMA. It is a beautiful place to live. Please let me know if you need any help in September.
        Have a nice day!
        Montserrat C.

  • Thanks for all the traveler tips! I will be visiting the area soon as I am furnishings home in Pescadero and was wondering if you knew of a personal shopping guide, to help with language, shopping and shipping to the Baja.

  • Hi, Thank YOU for all the helpful info!! I am making my 1st, I believe of many trips to SMA in December, staying for the entire month! During my time in San Miguel, I will be working, some, and in search of a local graphic designer. Do you have any recommendations?

    Thank you for your time and beautiful website!! Karen

    • Hello Karen!
      How can I contact you? Please feel free to email me (monts.bc101(ad)gmail(dot)com) to give you contactas and more tips. I wiil be there on December too! So hope we can meet. :)

  • Thank you so much for this lovely thorough report. I am visiting from Los Angeles for the very first time next week with a few girlfriends. I have a design firm here is Los Angeles and want to see as much pottery, textiles, furnishings…not to mention beautiful sunsets with a tequila cocktail in hand as possible ;-)! Are you still in San Miguel?

  • new to this site – its lovely. I am Mexican, and I couldn’t see any ‘Mexicanidad’ in the photos – meaning they could be of any place. That’s just my opinion… Best!
    MM

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