The colonial city of San Miguel de Allende is one of our perennial favorites in central Mexico. Originally the site of an indigenous village, San Miguel was founded by a Franciscan monk in 1542 and reestablished by Spanish colonists in 1555 near two springs. The town flourished at a major crossroads, as evidenced by the immense palaces that stand in its center to this day. An influenza outbreak in the early 20th century left the city in serious decline, but its fortunes changed when artists established a school in a former convent. Expats restored crumbling colonial houses, and San Miguel grew into a major tourist (and retirement) destination, drawing visitors with its mild climate, well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets, impressive gallery scene, fine restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Roof terraces around San Miguel afford memorable views of the skyline’s domes and bell towers, notably that of the Parroquia San Miguel Arcángel (parish church), a surreal neo-gothic fantasy of pink sandstone.
Artists still work in San Miguel de Allende, but it doesn’t feel bohemian. In fact, the town is the most expensive and stylish of Mexico’s colonial cities. People dress up, especially on the weekends, when San Miguel draws visitors from Mexico City, Querétaro and Guadalajara. Holiday weekends can be especially crowded, making it wise to visit during the week, when there isn’t as much competition for reservations in top restaurants. The wine country just outside San Miguel is also quieter on weekdays.
We’ve long recommended two hotels in San Miguel de Allende, the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada, composed of six historic buildings in the center, and the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, a larger resort at the center’s edge. But since our last visit, a number of hideaways have opened in renovated colonial-era buildings. I couldn’t resist a return trip, so I selected three of the most promising new properties, all of which are within an easy walk of the church.