I was a bit skeptical about visiting San Miguel de Allende, the colonial city heralded as the “Heart of Mexico” and named a preferred tourism site by esteemed publications. I feared that with roughly 10 percent of its population being from the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere, possibly the essential Mexican ambiance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site city would no longer exist. During my recent visit (December 2021) I was delighted to discover that San Miguel de Allende’s Mexican charm and essence is very much intact.
On a sunny afternoon, after meandering the city’s enchanting cobblestone lanes, we relaxed on one of the many wrought iron benches in the Plaza Principal (main square) in front of the exquisitely ornate, pink sandstone neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel. We smiled as a proud dad held his toddling youngster’s hand as he tried to chase one of the dozens of cooing pigeons. Vendors with enormous bunches of colorful balloons and ice cream carts with artisanal flavors (avocado, corn, Mexican vanilla) enticed us.
Founded in 1542 by a Spanish missionary, San Miguel is a shining example of 16th century Spanish Colonial Baroque architecture, with such notable sites as the afore-mentioned Parroquia, and countless other elaborately designed buildings. Strolling down the narrow twisting lanes, we enjoyed endless discoveries - a rooftop flower pot with tumbling vines, cats peering from tiny windows, doorways draped in traditional archway decorations, and more. Galleries, boutiques, and bistros beckoned to us everywhere.
Perfectly situated just ten minutes from the main square, and steps from Parque Juarez, the expansive city park, we stayed at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende. This elegant 67-room (each with private terrace or balcony) property belies its 2011 founding, appearing as a majestic, historic hacienda, down to the last detail. Three hours from Mexico City’s Airport, or one hour from Queretaro’s Airport, the Rosewood’s vistas of the surrounding mountains, multicolored homes, and towering church spires below are especially impressive from its very popular Luna Rooftop Bar. The Rosewood’s restaurant and tequila bar, 1826, offers a sumptuous dining room as well as a beautiful garden atrium. Here, Alejandro, our waiter, not only remembered my breakfast order but brought me an entire bottle of fresh-squeezed orange juice, sided by the best almond croissant I can recall since Paris.
Mexico is so much more than its glorious beach towns. Perhaps your next trip could be to the interior “heart of Mexico.” Within San Miguel, or a short distance beyond, you will find the enchanting small city of Guanajuato, hot springs, vineyards, archaeological sites, golf courses, spas, hot air balloon rides, horseback riding, and a heady mix of museums.
San Miguel de Allende will give you a warm “bienvenida” (welcome!)