Florence, Paris, Venice. The world’s most important centers of art, culture, and history are much more than just destinations; they’re life-changing experiences. Enter San Miguel de Allende, North America’s answer to Europe’s most exquisite offerings. Long under-appreciated in comparison to Mexico City, its neighbor to the south, San Miguel de Allende is enjoying a well-deserved moment of recognition from global tastemakers.
Chosen as a Condé Nast Traveller top city for travel and designated Travel and Leisure’s Best City in 2021, this stunning colonial town has always been a safe haven for visitors from afar. It was founded in the 16th century by Fray Juan de San Miguel as a stopping point for those who journeyed through the Mexican state of Guanajuato carrying precious minerals for trade.
In the ensuing years, it developed into a locus of art and creativity in Northern Mexico that is particularly embraced by American expats. The extensive list of great artists who escaped to San Miguel de Allende to draw inspiration from its brightly colored colonial buildings, sun-dappled courtyards, and mestizaje–unique mix of Mexican and American culture—includes everyone from painter Diego Rivera to beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to the late Charles Portis, who wrote his legendary novel True Grit while living there.
Today, there are so many things to do in San Miguel de Allende, or SMA for short, that focus on creativity and entrepreneurial energy. From its exuberant arts festivals to its chic fashion scene to its peaceful surrounding vineyards, it plays host to a wealth of experiences for the inquisitive traveler.
With the introduction of Armonia by Ketsali, our breathtaking villa set on a working vineyard just minutes from the center of the city, we are delighted to invite the Cuvée community to experience the best of San Miguel de Allende from one of its most awe-inspiring properties. Here are just a few things to do while you’re there.
Immerse Yourself in Local Architecture, Arts and Culture
There is so much culture packed into this small city that you may be overwhelmed by your abundance of choices. One of the most beloved things to do in San Miguel de Allende is a cultural experience you won’t want (or be able) to miss is its extraordinary 16th-century colonial architecture, which begins right on the square with the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a pastel-pink neo-Gothic church adorned with spires designed by indigenous stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez. Often used as a waypoint for visitors to the town, this unique parish church embodies the meeting-place of indigenous life and Catholicism. Besides being the burial place for several Mexican war heroes, the church is also home to the famous Cristo de la Conquista, constructed of cornstalks and orchid bulbs and said to be the first life-sized replica of Christ on the cross made in Mexico.
If you care to venture further back in time, we suggest a short drive to see the stunning 7th century pyramids at the Cañada de la Virgen, originally used by indigenous farmers to make observations of the sky. This important archeological site was only unearthed in 2002, and first opened to the public in 2011.
But there’s plenty going on in the present, too. Stop by Bellas Artes, a 1700s-cloisters-turned-cultural-center, for lunch at the cafe, an afternoon of contemporary installations and performances, and to view superb examples of murals by renowned Mexican artist Davíd Alfaro Siqueiros. If you’re in the market for art of your own, the city is home to hundreds of studios and independent galleries. Over 30 of them are represented at the much-loved Fabrica La Aurora.
Taste World-Class Cuisine
One of the most iconic things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to savor a gourmet meal from one of its many rooftops. One of the finest such examples, lauded for both its excellent cuisine and superb view, is Antonia Bistro SMA. Under the direction of Chef Alex Cuatepotzo, who ranks among Mexico’s most exciting young culinary minds, Antonia Bistro serves modern Mexican fare with locally-sourced meats and seafood alongside ingredients grown in the lush orchards of San Miguel. If you’ve never enjoyed fresh grilled octopus, kimchi and candied potatoes while taking in a panoramic view of colonial spires and domes, this is the place.
As for beverages, whether you lean more toward tequila or mezcal, you’ll find the best of both here. Stop into La Mezcalería to sample the classic Mexican spirit region-by-region. Purists drink mezcal neat, but recent years have seen it incorporated into superb cocktails, several of which you’ll find on the menu. And, though it’s fair to say American music of the 1970s and spring break tourism have cast tequila in a sometimes-unfavorable light, this ancient and complex spirit is treated with the reverence it deserves at Casa Dragones, a moody tasting bar for six nestled into the chic Dôce 18 Concept House, where Mexico’s best mixologists craft elevated cocktails to a backdrop of design-forward interior architecture by star designers Meyer Davis and Gloria Cortina.
If the epicurean in your group isn’t already enchanted by Armonia by Ketsali’s gourmet kitchen, barbacoa pit, pizza oven, and extensive wine cellar, they’ll be won over by the many markets that make San Miguel de Allende a culinary wonderland. Topping the list of traditional Mexican markets is Mercado San Juan de Díos, just a five-minute walk from the square. Wander between stalls brimming with bright fruit and vegetables while you enjoy fresh-prepared cactus leaves or jicama with chili, salt, and lemon. Step outside and choose a bouquet of flowers to take home, purchase an artisan craft, or pick up some fresh-butchered meats to prepare in the barbacoa pit.
Indulge Your Senses in the Countryside
Whether you’re an oenophile or simply like to dabble, another blissful thing to do in San Miguel de Allende is to travel the verdant hills and valleys surrounding the city. These are home to a variety of vineyards that will most certainly wend their way into your heart. The unique offerings at Bodega Dos Búhos include a selection of signature orange wines that are a favorite of Food & Wine magazine, while La Santísma Trinidad is strewn with fragrant lavender fields and offers visitors the opportunity to learn the elegant sport of polo on-site.
Besides vineyards, SMA is also home to many sun-drenched olive orchards. Spend an afternoon at Finca Luna Serena sampling local olive oil and tapenades, finished off with a hearty country lunch enjoyed while overlooking the hills and valleys of the beautiful Bajio region.
After all of your wanderings, unwind at the sumptuous Mayan Baths. This cavernous underground retreat located just north of San Miguel is home to thermal and mineral pools, candlelit quartz and crystal tunnels, and peaceful gardens that are the perfect location for watching the sunset.
A Signature Cuvée Experience
With so much to do and see, San Miguel de Allende may just be the sort of place you’ll want to visit again and again. There’s no better way to experience it than the Cuvée way. Our local team stands ready to create the personalized experience of a lifetime in this singular gem in the Colonial Highlands of Mexico. We look forward to welcoming you to this extraordinary locale in extraordinary luxury.