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San Miguel de Allende: A guide for artsy, foodie, and culture enthusiasts

What to do in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende.
Nick Hilden / The Manual

The Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende is, in a word, gorgeous. The centro area is a maze of cobblestone streets and vibrantly colored walls that all come together at the city’s famous cathedral. Here and in the surrounding neighborhoods, one can find abundant opportunities to explore the renowned arts and handicrafts scene. Outstanding restaurants are pretty much everywhere, and an air of tranquility abounds — especially around sunset.

Located a pleasant three-hour bus ride from Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende attracts visitors of all walks, but it tends to draw a more art, food, and culture-enthused crowd. If that sounds like your beat, I’ve got everything you need to enjoy yourself included below.

Hotel Matilda, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Nick Hilden / The Manual

Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende

There are plenty of Airbnb and hotels to choose from, but here are two top-tier hotels that I can promise you’ll enjoy.

Hotel Matilda

Nestled along a charming street leading directly to the cathedral, Hotel Matilda is, simply put, an outstanding hotel by every metric. The suite I stayed in was stunning, modern, and supremely comfortable, with an expansive living room and two private balconies — one of which had a set of chaise lounges for luxuriating in the sun. It offers a top-notch staff, and the overall vibe is serene yet engaging. Art abounds, with a large mural overlooking the pool. The spa and massage service is excellent, the fitness room is perfectly adequate, and there’s even a little zen garden off the wellness area where you can chill by the pond.

Hotel Matilda has two restaurants. Moxi offers a tasty sort of Latin/Mediterranean fusion in an upscale setting, opening into the inner courtyard and pool area. MÜI Bar is a cocktails and ramen spot with hip decor. Both are solid dining options.

Casa Sierra Nevada

Also located in the heart of the city, Casa Sierra Nevada leans more into a traditional aesthetic. Housed in a spread of restored 17th-century buildings, its courtyards and gardens are beautiful, the pool and various sitting areas about as chill as can be, and the staff is great. My suite was sumptuously appointed and presented a kind of classic, old-world appeal, and best of all, it had a private hot tub on its equally private balcony.

I was genuinely blown away by the food at Casa Sierra Nevada. The Tunki Rooftop offers a flat-out bonkers view of the city to enjoy over a delicious Peruvian menu. Restaurante del Parque is tucked on the shoulder of the peaceful naturalistic setting provided by one of the city’s central parks. And Andanza in the hotel’s luxuriant main courtyard is superb. The chef is really firing on all cylinders, crafting dishes that are nothing short of exquisite. No matter where you stay, I recommend enjoying a meal at Andanza.

Mezcal-art restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Nick Hilden / The Manual

Where to eat in San Miguel de Allende

When it comes to eating beyond the hotel walls, I have three widely varying suggestions.

For a high-end (but not pretentiously so) meal, go to Bovine Brasserie. Here — as the name suggests — the menu tends to be extremely pro-meat, with perfectly cooked steaks being the forte. I also really like the decor, which has an almost steampunk, elegant-industrial thing going on.

If you’re looking for breakfast or lunch while wandering the centro district, I’m a fan of Café Monet. The menu is all over the place — Mexican, Italian, burgers, and sandwiches — which makes it perfect for families or groups where everyone wants something different. And the walls are covered with art from local artists.

Finally, while many visitors limit their exploration to the centro areas, I suggest venturing to the neighborhood by the old train station for two main reasons. First, to eat at Mezcal-art (I’ll tell you the second below). With its delectable menu drawn primarily from Oaxaca, tasty cocktails, super friendly staff, and overall great vibe, it’s an all-around wonderful eating experience. In the central yard, it can also host outdoor movies several nights a week.

Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel de Allende.
Nick Hilden / The Manual

What to do in San Miguel de Allende

The main thing to do here involves simply wandering the streets and photographing its supreme photogenicness, but I have three specific suggestions you should be sure to add to your list.

The first is, in fact, the second reason I suggest you go to the aforementioned neighborhood: to buy the incredible glassware at Boutique Guajuye. With its vast assortment of hand-blown glasses, bottles, and other glass items in an assortment of brilliant colors, you are certain to find something that will make everyone back home jealous.

Back in centro, check out Galeria Nudo. With its well-chosen collections of Mexican contemporary art, it’s the perfect example of why the city has such an illustrious reputation as an art and culture destination.

And last but not least, taxi your way to the top of the hill to visit El Charco del Ingenio — a sprawling botanical garden where it’s easy to enjoy several hours of walking paths through all manner of plant life, including some truly astounding cacti. When the sun is out (which is mostly always), be sure to wear sunscreen or a hat, because shade is sparse.

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Nick Hilden
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Hilden is a lifestyle and culture writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Afar…
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