February 4, 2020
If your idea of a dream vacation is an all-inclusive resort on the beaches of Mexico, stop reading right now. You’ve accidentally clicked on the wrong post and/or web site. (Maybe I should include a link to a cruise line, AKA “The Floating Norovirus,” to redirect you.)
Picture this: 8:30 pm (or 20:30) on a Thursday night. The town square is filled with families and couples, both expat and Mexican—some coming out after dinner at home or from their favorite local restaurant, some eating from the food carts. They’re talking and laughing, and kids are running around under the beautifully-lit pinkish Parroquia. Mariachi bands are playing. No one is watching TV; no kids are glued to their iPads. They’re—wait for it—engaged. Engaged in the right here, right now, and with the people around them. And when the spectacular bells from the church toll with deep, resounding beats every quarter hour, people actually stop and listen, letting the sound flow through them.
Sound like a 1970s TV show? Well, it still exists in San Miguel de Allende every night of the week. And that’s why you need to put down your watery well drink and get off the damn beach.
The beauty of Mexico is not just in the beaches. It’s the charm, serenity, and realness of some incredible areas throughout the country’s central region. The attention to San Miguel is not new; in fact, it may have been a bit overdone in recent years. But it really is worthy of a visit.
To get there: Go through Mexico City (which is also worth a few days if you want to do a combo trip), or if you’re a Delta airlines loyalist (like us), there are also direct flights from Atlanta and Detroit.
When you get there: There are a lot of hotels and vacation rentals in the city, including the Belmond and other chains. But, if you can, stay at the Rosewood Hotel. It’s in the perfect location, with a rooftop ideal for watching the sunset and listening to those incredible church bells from around the city. If you don’t stay there, go for a happy-hour drink at sunset.
The first morning: Breakfast or coffee at the hotel, then put on your walking shoes and traipse up those incredibly steep streets to the Salida Real a Querétaro, or even further up the hill to get a great perspective on the city. Wander back down through all the streets to see the textures and colors of all the great houses with bougainvillea and other stunning flowers spilling down their sides.
The town is filled with Baroque Spanish architecture dating back to the 1500s. Its cobblestone streets and the colorful buildings lining the streets epitomize this mostly unspoiled UNESCO Heritage site. There’s a lot of up and down in the city, so you can get some great exercise just walking around.
Over your visit, make sure to visit the organic market on Saturday (as well as wandering through the other markets that line the Zacateros street). And, of course, hit some of the great restaurants and cafés dotting the city, where rooftop dining and drinking is king.
For breakfast (which is a Big Deal here):
- Cumpanio, a lovely bakery and café great for breakfast or brunch/lunch. (It’s run by the same owner as Aperi, below.)
- Rustica (on Zacateros) is creative, small, and has a great back patio area. Great for breakfast or lunch.
- La Única: Better for lunch than dinner.
- Atrio: Creative fusion, with spectacular church view.
- Moxi: Great food, even though it’s a hotel restaurant.
- Aperi: Always seems to be the number-one choice for “finer” dining in town, along with The Restaurant
- If, for some reason, you want a steakhouse experience, try Bovine. Otherwise, go for a drink to see the space and admire the fun neon sign in the hallway and the adjacent retail spaces.
Note: The food at 1826 in the Rosewood is also great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner… We just usually forget to list hotel restaurants.
For afternoon snack/drinks/happy hour:
Quince Rooftop, although the music is a bit louder and can take away from the beautiful church bells
For pre or post-mezcal (where the drinks are decidedly not watered down):
San Mezcal or La Mezcaleria
Just be sure not to miss the sunrise or sunset over the city (that’s what all those rooftops are for). It really is magical.