Winner of Travel & Leisure Magazine’s Best City in The World 2017, San Miguel de Allende soared up the charts to be my Number One pretty much on arrival. They say that’s love at first sight.
Handing the mantle over was not easy; prising it from the hands of long-time favourite San Cristobal de las Casas, another one of Mexico’s stunning colonial towns and Pueblos Magicos, took some careful consideration. And it can’t be forgotten that our previous destination of Guanajuato had also become a contender in its own right. Was Mexico becoming…. even more amazing?
We arrived in San Miguel de Allende by taking an incredibly good value Uber from Guanajuato for a bargain price of around £25, for a 1.5 hour journey. There are cheaper buses available, but we weren’t feeling too good after our night out with the mariachis!
Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende sit only 75km from each other, and can be rolled into a great little trip from Queretaro, Mexico City, Guadalajara, or Puebla. We arrived the Thursday before Good Friday, and were expecting some pretty big celebrations. Checking into Lool Beh Hostel, we were greeted by a lovely family who couldn’t do enough to welcome us.
We didn’t find too many blogs online about San Miguel, and so we had presumed it would be a quiet little place, and originally only allowed a day for exploring. We were so wrong!
In fact, this visual treat of a city is a good liveable size – with a population of 60,000, including an immigrant population of Canadians and American retirees who make this place home for much of the year. Coming with that, there are many eccentric activities advertised around town that give the place a bit of an edge… bi-plane flying, sure. oboe lessons, why not? Wine tasting, of course!
I am trying to trying to explain why this place is so amazing, although there are no stand-out reasons that I can articulate. It is a combination of the atmosphere, the architecture, the magic caves of trinkets found behind wooden doors in ancient walls, the multi-coloured bougainvillea, the swing-door saloons, the modern design in all the bars, restaurants, hotels and cafes, the welcoming people, and of course, as always in Mexico… the food. Saying this, it sounds like so many other capturing places we have been; and it is. It’s just the best we’ve been to so far, and felt like the finished article – we loved it. It’s probably worth noting that it is very civilised and safe.
We basically spent our time in and out of shops, bars and churches. There really are so many things to look at and enjoy. We had incredible pizza at a Soho style pizza place called Chiquita with a beautiful rooftop garden, we spent hours in furniture, lighting and pottery shops, we contemplated wine tasting again, and watched Easter parades while feasting on corn from a cart.
The celebrations for Easter continued throughout the weekend, and involved hundreds of people packing into the famous neo-gothic church of Parroquia de Arcangel for mass. This church was constructed in the 1600s and re-built several times, with the self-taught Don Zeferino Gutierrez redesigning the façade in the late 1800s, and responsible for its appearance today. This beautiful, slightly leaning church has been compared to the Sagrada Familia. By day and by night, this building truly is stunning and really marks the centre of the city.
Unfortunately, on our second night we needed to move hostels, as Lool Beh was fully booked. We checked into the better-located Alcatraz Hostel which brought us slightly nearer to the action. Staying again in a dorm for the bargain price of around £7 each, this hostel was sufficient for what we needed. We would have loved to have stayed at one of the stunning hotels around town, such as the famous Rosewood.
Even the cheaper hotels are great, with beautiful design ideas. We were busy taking photos of one casa particular (private property) when the owner came outside and offered us to come in and have a look around. We were stunned. I genuinely cannot imagine this happening in the UK. We were also welcomed into several hotels for a look around when we were just being nosey.
Due to Easter, the town was packed with tourists, and hundreds of balloons, and strings of bunting decorated every street. This just accentuated the city’s beauty. As always in Mexico, the residents seemed to take great pride in the appearance of their workspaces and homes.
Further Easter celebrations included a full parade with religious floats, dancers, and actors, dressed-up donkeys, and children playing with rocket balloons.
Just as quickly as it began, our time in San Miguel de Allende was over. We didn’t have nearly enough time to test out all of the bars and restaurants, and will definitely be back.
Our time in San Miguel de Allende just made us feel in awe of Mexico even more. At one point back in Guadalajara, after being amazed by just one more of many things, Rob had turned to me and said “I guess this is what people mean when they say they have fallen in love with a country.”
Mexico really does make you feel that way.