San Miguel de Allende
Posted on: March 24, 2014, by Peter William
From a perch at the Mirador (the best viewing spot on the southeast side of town), San Miguel de Allende looks like an open, weathered hand, cradled on all sides by the beautiful Bajio Mountains of central Mexico.
As one of Mexico’s oldest towns—and possibly its most beautiful colonial settlement—San Miguel is my favorite travel destination. This historic center of modern Mexico, where the independence movement from Spain originated, is lined with well-preserved buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries. Its winding and steep cobblestone streets lead to meticulous plazas and parks. However, despite holding the historic heartbeat of Mexico, the last century has transformed this little mountain town into a buzzing cultural hub. History keeps it quaint, but it’s the music, art, and food that really defines San Miguel.
San Miguel is most easily navigable on foot or bike, and our friend Alberto Martinez, can fit you with a Cannondale bike and put a cold cerveza in the fridge for your post ride cool down.
Follow Calle Huertas down to the Jardin at the center of town, passing by colorful cafes, street-side galleries, and bubbling fountains. You’ll drift through smells of grilled corn, green chiles, and carnitas as you arrive at the bustling city center. At the foot of the towering Parish de San Miguel, downtown is a square teeming with chic shops, galleries, and cafes. Stop into El Pegaso, a Mexican-Italian restaurant overlooking the central plaza. I suggest the Chile Relleno, with Aztec soup and a slice of pie de queso (cheesecake). Maybe an espresso to top it off? After that you’ll be ready for an adventure.
Check out the Galleria de Arte Contemporaneo where you’ll experience some of the world’s preeminent contemporary artists, from Beverley Ashe to Jordi Boldo. Don’t forget, this is the home turf of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Art has a rich history here.
But since you’re on your bike, let’s take San Antonio Street out of town in search of ancient ruins. Near the basin of the Laja River, about 15 miles outside of town lies the Canada de la Virgen, a pre-Colombian archeological site that features pyramids and arches. You can ride your bike right up to the pyramids and wander through crumbling hallways built by the Toltec people. Less ancient, but equally beautiful are the old monasteries built by the Jesuits centuries ago.
Or visit Mexico’s oldest tree; it was seeded before Cortez landed over 500 years ago!
On your way back to town, stop at La Gruta, a string of natural hot springs, grassy verges and comfy recliners. There is a small café where you can grab a drink and enjoy the sunset before returning to town. Once back, take a siesta in your suite at the Belmond Case de Sierra Nevada, a four-star hotel with vine-draped arches and flowery courtyards.
Then, when you’re ready, hit the San Miguel nightlife. After a drink at Harry’s, a dynamic, tasteful New Orleans style bar, walk over to Mama Mia’s for salsa dancing. Live bands echo through an enclosed courtyard/dance floor until the early morning, and this is when San Miguel’s true cosmopolitan side will surface. What looks like an historical landmark during the day becomes an electrified social scene at night. That is San Miguel; a lively artistic pulse surges through this quaint historic mountain town, and whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or an extended stay, San Miguel offers culture, history, cuisine, and adventure.