The Best City In The World – San Miguel De Allende
San Miguel de Allende was proclaimed best city in the world 2017 and 2018 by Travel & Leisure
and is the “American Capital of Culture for 2019.” If you’re wondering why this small, sleepy colonial enclave with no traffic lights about 150 miles north of Mexico City in Guanajuato became the number one city on the planet, you have only to visit to see its magic. It’s easy to fall under the spell of this enchanting town that has become a magnet for sophisticated travelers drawn to its ravishing beauty, renowned gastronomy and rich culture.
San Miguel de Allende is named for General Ignacio Allende, a hero in Mexico’s War of Independence, who was born here. During the middle of the 20th century the city’s natural light and dazzling Baroque colonial architecture captivated foreign artists who studied at the Instituto Allende and Escuela de Bellas Artes. Pretty soon it became known as an artists’ haven attracting writers, painters and other creative types, along with enthralled expats and tourists.
The best way to experience Sam Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is on foot. You feel like you’re going back in time strolling the quaint cobbled passageways, gazing at beautiful age-old Spanish colonial architecture, charming houses with flowered balconies and mansions with engraved wooden doors. Remarkably preserved buildings with colorful facades in hues of pink, golden, orange and raspberry are even more glorious when illuminated by the sun’s golden rays. It looks like a picture postcard.
I love wandering the colorful streets lined with designer boutiques, shops selling high quality artisanal crafts and jewelry as well as galleries with striking local art. A mix of friendly locals and artists gives the place a cosmopolitan-chic allure. The lively grand plaza with magnificent Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel Church topped by soaring pink towers, is a sight to behold. Head to the Mercado de Artesanias for handicrafts and handmade sandals. Don’t miss the Fábrica La Aurora, an art and design center with artist studios housed in a former textile factory.
Travelers will find many top resorts here. Among the luxe options, impressive Rosewood San Miguel de Allende (www.rosewoodhotels.com) along with Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada (www.belmond.com) and Hotel Matilda (www.hotelmatilda.com) are my favorites. All are ultra stylish with handsome traditional décor, pools, spas and excellent eateries. I also like the well-priced atmospheric Hacienda El Santuario featuring lovely rooms with local art, plus courtyards with plants and fruit trees.
The city is a foodie paradise with a popping culinary scene. Inventive chefs serve up innovative, sophisticated Mexican and International Cuisine in eating establishments as fashionable as the stylish crowd. Many top restaurants like Quince, La Posadita Cocina Mexicana and Antonia Bistro, offer rooftop dining so guests savor stunning city views while feasting on delicious dishes.
There are also fascinating festivals. I attended one honoring the city’s patron, Saint Michael Archangel, an extravaganza better than any Broadway production. The spectacle included pole flyers and fireworks synchronized with music that rivaled Cirque Du Soleil; spectacular costumed parades with flower adorned floats, musicians, devils, skeletons and Frieda Kahlos galore, plus thousands dancing in the streets dressed from head to toe in traditional garb of their indigenous tribes; an enormous cavalry of farmers in gaucho hats bringing their horses for a blessing from the parish priest; mariachis and the beloved, fantastical Mojigangas – giant puppets. Renowned artist Hermes Arroyo creates these swoon-worthy marvels and teaches classes for visitors interested in learning the art form. Hermesa012@yahoo.com.mx
Beauty Of Rural Guanajuato/ Atotonilco
Heading north to Atotonilco, lies the famed Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareth. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains gorgeous Baroque murals and frescoes adorning the church and chapel interior, regarded as one of the great highlights of Mexico’s religious colonial art. After visiting, stroll the outdoor shops with local wares and food stalls, then tuck into nearby Nirvana Retreat (www.hotelnirvana.mx) for a serene respite. The stylish boutique hotel overlooking the Laja River lives up to its name with its tranquil countryside ambiance, chic accommodations, superb spa, excellent restaurant, horses to ride and pool filled with thermal waters from nearby hot springs.
For information on travel to San Miguel de Allende: www.visitsanmiguel.travel
Hernandez Tours provides excellent tours, guides and transportation. www.hernandeztours.com
Aeromexico offers flights from US cities to San Miguel de Allende connecting in Mexico City to a 90 minute flight to Queretaro. Seats are spacious, the entertainment system is excellent and service is impressive.