“In Mexico, Surrealism runs through the streets. Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America.” We assume that celebrated novelist Gabriel García Márquez had San Miguel de Allende in mind when he wrote these words. Every moment in this extraordinary city—declared a World Heritage Site in 2008—is like living a glorious dream.
STEPPING OUT of Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada into San Miguel de Allende, you’re dazzled by an explosion of color. Pastel houses line the cobblestone streets and stunning jacaranda trees flower in spring. The pink limestone Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, moments from the hotel, is not to be missed. Self-taught architect Don Zeferino Gutiérrez is rumored to have based his designs on postcards of gothic European cathedrals. In the glorious evening light, it feels drawn straight from a fairytale.
When every view feels like a photograph, it’s no surprise that San Miguel draws in a wealth of artists. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have both walked among these buildings. Shops specializing in artisanal crafts are strewn like jewels across the city. Head to Mixta, a stylish boutique selling fabrics, furniture and jewelry. Mercado de Artesanías is slightly further away. It’s a treasure trove boasting everything from fine wools to Mexican ceramics. Escuela de Bellas Artes is architecturally stunning and features spectacular murals by David Alfaro Siqueiros. It began life as a convent, like our hotel, and in 1949 was transformed into an art school for US GIs returned from the war.
Pack your walking shoes and make a point of getting lost along the cobblestone streets—the history is tangible at every turn. There are endless charming bars and cafes to sample along the way. Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar offers breathtaking views, but for a truly unique experience head to Casa Dragones tasting room in Dôce 18 Concept House. This six-seater bar is home to some of the world’s finest small-batch tequila. Bottles are hand numbered and designed to be sipped. Salud!
Though you won’t want to leave the historic center of town, guests should make an exception for the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. The internal walls of this 18th century church—a World Heritage Site in its own right—are covered in murals which reflect the region’s European and indigenous heritage. And while you’re out of town, make the most of it. De Temporada is a lovely local restaurant within a farm, where most of what you eat grows just a few meters away.