Ranked the number one destination in the World for a second year in a row, the small and spellbinding colonial city of San Miguel de Allende is no longer a well-kept secret of savvy weekenders and artists. And yet despite this increase in buzz, the city remains unfailingly charming and bohemian. From its cobblestoned roads lined with locally sourced concept stores to its gastronomical delights tucked behind unsuspecting facades, the UNESCO World Heritage site offers no shortage of gems to be marveled over. Here, a list of the places no design lover should miss and a few helpful tips for planning your trip.
Browse a Stunning Shop Located in One of San Miguel de Allende's Oldest Buildings
Occupying the ground floor of a historic house that dates back to the 1700s, is an eclectic and meticulously curated shop selling home accessories, clothing, and oddities made by artisans from all over the world. With its cactus-lined courtyard, mosaic tiles, and original interior wallpapers, you’ll want to peruse every last corner at a glacial, touch-everything-along-the-way pace. My boyfriend bought Tibetan Monk-inspired oil infusion sticks; I bought a pair of tassel earrings handmade by a female designer from Kenya.
Have a Mystical Art Experience at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray
Since purchasing a spacious plot of land in the rural outskirts of San Miguel de Allende in 2001, artist has created an art gallery and home like no other with his husband, Richard Schultz. Adorned in bright colors, mosaics, and sentimental trinkets that have been repurposed into sculptures, the space is pure wonder. Every last inch of the gallery—named Chapel of Jimmy Ray for McLauchlin’s late father—and home (called Casa de Las Ranas) is touched by intriguing vibrancy.
Tours of the property lead by the art master himself can be arranged ahead of time through . And the experience of getting to learn about McLauchlin’s fascinating and work are nothing short of soul-elevating. Pro tip: McLauchlin makes decorated cow skulls that are available for purchase (along with all the works displayed at Chapel of Jimmy Ray) and these are worth checking a suitcase for, or arranging an entire trip around.
Sip Tequila at Casa Dragones Guest House
Located inside the former 17th century Dragones stable—a place of great historical significance in San Miguel de Allende—luxury tequila brand has created an upscale, culturally informed tequila-sipping experience. Celebrated for being "dangerously smooth" by , Casa Dragones is the world's only tequila designed be sipped and only a few thousand bottles of the premium product are made each year.
An intimate tour of the Casa Dragones private guest house follows the tasting, which interior design lovers can expect to swoon over. Pro tip: book the 6PM tasting to catch a breathtaking view of the sunset from the rooftop. Also note that Casa Dragones hosts another tequila tasting at the world's smallest tequila bar, a brilliantly designed spot housed inside Doce 18 (see below).
Shop, Munch, and Sip at Dôce-18 Concept House
is a one-stop concept shop and guest house offering chic accommodations, food stalls, and a marketplace-like arrangement of local boutiques inside what . Rich in history, the fascinating building is named after its Jewish owner who resettled in San Miguel de Allende after fleeing Europe before the Holocaust. A lengthy, multimillion dollar renovation in 2014 thoughtfully preserved much of the original architecture while brilliantly blending in modern design.
Drink and Snack With A View at Luna
, the romantic rooftop bar at the Rosewood Hotel, makes for a perfect place to ease the evening in. The relaxed space pairs an unforgettable view of downtown San Miguel de Allende with smart cocktails and diet-bending tapas. (Get the octopus with charred potatoes and if nobody’s looking, you at least have my blessings to lick your plate.) It's also worth noting that San Miguel de Allende is a city that *loves* festivals and any excuse for fireworks. If you're in town during a festival, planning an evening around watching the fireworks from Luna is highly worth it (think: Disney World, but for artsy and culturally savvy adults).
Stay at San Miguel De Allende’s First Contemporary Boutique Hotel
Situated just a minute’s stroll away from Juárez Park on one of the most picturesque streets in San Miguel de Allende, is an oasis of sleekness from the moment you walk in. Designed as an indoor-outdoor hotel, the contemporary space is adorned in modern art installations from the hotel owner’s private collection as well as photographs from Mexican artists such as Eduardo Zaylan.
Each light-filled guest room features floor-to-ceiling windows and Mexican calcutta marble floors, and most of the rooms have terraces with scenic downtown views. Highlights of the property also include an infinity pool, a spa (which is home to the city’s only hammam), and Moxi, a beautifully designed restaurant. Should it be within your budget, splurge on the Owner’s Suite as it comes with a New York City apartment-sized patio lined with over 50 cacti and breathtaking views of the city.
Stay in a Spanish Colonial Mansion in the Heart of the City
Spread between six unassuming Spanish-colonial mansions lie ’s luxuriously private accommodations. Centered around lush courtyards, the dwellings have thoughtfully been arranged as spacious rooms and suites that feel grand and yet homey.
Each of the 37 guest rooms have been individually designed in Spanish colonial fashion. Large copper bathtubs have been crafted from local artisans; all of the tilings have been sourced from local materials. Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada also has 2 restaurants located inside different houses that serve up some of the tastiest dishes I ate during my trip, as well as a spa. Also, the property’s crown jewel is its pool, which has to be one of the prettiest in the world.
1. If you’re coming from the U.S., you’ll find that it’s cheapest to fly into Mexico City. For the next lag of your journey, look no further than booking a car service with—a fully accredited car service company that goes above and beyond with making clients feel comfortable and at ease from the moment they arrive. SMARide is run by San Miguel de Allende native Jose Maria Arias Tellez and his Uncle, Ricardo, who oversee a team of professional drivers. Note that the mountainous scenery along the three-hour drive is mesmerizingly beautiful and that you'll be tempted to use half your phone's storage to take pictures and time lapses during the trip.
2. San Miguel de Allende is a hilly city with cobblestoned roads—so, unless you fancy yourself the risky sport of wobbling down diagonally-inclined roads in unsupportive shoes, pack accordingly. And while you're packing practically, throw a layering piece or jacket into your carry-on as temperatures drop up to twenty degrees in the evening.
3. San Miguel de Allende is a warm and friendly city, so take the time to talk to locals and ask for their recommendations for best kept secrets. Despite showing up to San Miguel de Allende with an itinerary I had proudly planned out for weeks, I found that so many of my favorite meals were in places I would've never known about had I not sought local expertise.