My birthday celebration continues. And this year, I wanted to celebrate in a place that most people I know never even heard of — San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico. Combined with a walking tour in nearby Guanajuato, it makes the perfect 3-day weekend from the West Coast.
Let’s get real. When most people think of Mexico, they often imagine shady border towns, cheap tequila shots and party beaches. San Miguel De Allende couldn’t be any further from this stereotype. Think top designer restaurants, first class hotels and a compact downtown that literally feels like a movie set. It’s been a long-time favorite weekend destination for well-heeled Mexico City elites and home to a large American retiree set. And named this month as Travel and Leisure Magazine’s “Top City in the World.” Talk about the pressure for high expectations! But it really hit the mark.
We can’t tell you how many people said “have fun at the beach” (fyi, San Miguel is smack dab in the middle of Mexico). But don’t worry, there is plenty to do in Mexico besides sun and sand. And all incredibly cheap (but high class!).
Here is our 2-day itinerary for a fantastic (and busy!) weekend in San Miguel De Allende.
- Check into your hotel. There are so many lovely B&B’s along with high-end chains. In fact, Four Seasons will be opening a hotel within the next year and half. But we absolutely fell in love with Casa 1810. You can’t beat the location, right in the heart of downtown – making it the perfect spot to be based. Plus, the service couldn’t be more on top of everything!
- Morning: Get your fill of art and walk (or cab) over to trendy Fábrica La Aurora, a remodeled raw-cotton factory. This sprawling arts complex is truly impressive. Take note: things don’t start hopping until around 11 AM. We were tight on time so we got here early and had some breakfast. We LOVED the chilaquiles at the cafe inside. In fact, I would come back just to have that again!
- Now that you’re fueled up, it’s time to take in some art. You’ll find everything from traditional to contemporary to general home good stores. While it might seem pricey, it’s a fraction of the cost if you bought these items in LA or New York.
- Early afternoon: Hop in a cab and meet your tour guide Charlotte for The Rancho Tour. Without a doubt, my favorite part of this trip. The Rancho Tour is a passion project by Charlotte, a retiree who splits her time in Austin, Texas and San Miguel de Allende. A professional photographer, Charlotte got connected with this community of women through the art world. But what I loved about this tour was the variety of experiences and interaction with the families.
Charlotte took us to the homes of these incredibly welcoming Mexican families who gave us a lesson on cooking. We weren’t super hungry, but I literally couldn’t help myself as we made fresh tortillas, grinding the corn.
Next up, we got a lesson on stone carving and even got a chance to chop down some of the stones ourselves. They make a variety of sculptures from pigs to frogs. And each stone carving ranges from $5-10 USD.
The tour has several stops and experiences – including a taste of cactus fruit, a language lesson in Otomi (native language) taught by an elder, taste of medicinal herbs (that are VERY strong), and finally a stop at the rug showroom with handwoven rugs made by the local women in the village. I can’t recommend this tour enough. I loved every second of it.
- Evening: You’ll have a little break between the village tour and the evening activity (a high end food walking tour). My recommendation is to go back to the hotel and take a shower, and hang out at a nearby cafe (like Starbucks) before joining the evening tour with Taste of San Miguel.
The tour is set up as a progressive dinner — hitting up six of the city’s top-rated, high-end restaurants and bars including Aperi, The Restaurant and Mezcaleria. The walking portion is very compact, but I didn’t feel overly full by the end which I appreciated!
- Late night: If you’re still up for some late-night fun, you need to head over to the Rosewood Hotel rooftop bar. The drinks are pricey, but those views are worth it!
- 8 AM, another early morning! But we need to maximize our time. Head up to the rooftop of Casa 1810 to enjoy the (massive) breakfast and gorgeous views. Breakfast is included in the rate!
- After breakfast, get in some last minute shopping and art browsing. There are so many shops within blocks of Casa 1810.
- Early afternoon: Hit up Oprah’s favorite tequila! It isn’t cheap. Doce 18 is such a high-end experience. Inside you’ll find photography studios, clothing stores, french bakeries (even with the attitude!) and Casa Dragones (aka the champagne of tequila and Oprah’s favorite!). They have a tasting room, but if you’re short on time (like us) you can go to the bar. FYI, it’s $40 USD a shot (what the?!). But we chalk it up as an experience. Thank you Oprah!
- Late afternoon: Sadly, it’s time to go! There is so much more to do. But guess we’ll fit it into our next trip. If you get in earlier, we highly recommend the spa at the Rosewood (where we got a couples massage). We definitely will be back to San Miguel De Allende. It’s one of the top places we’ve gone in Mexico — and who can beat the price?