A Mexican Treasure — San Miguel Allende

by Valerie Summers

Nestled in the mountainous central region of Mexico, the colorful, historic town of San Miguel Allende continues to offer visitors a fascinating getaway with good value. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its spectacular Spanish colonial architecture and old world charm that has remained, for the most part, unchanged from centuries ago.

Day and night the city’s central plaza, known as the Jardin, is filled with families, artists, shoe-shiners, musicians, and couples relaxing under shady trees. The Jardin shifts into high gear on the weekends with bands, light shows, fireworks and crowds of people. One of the city’s most beautiful structures, the Parish Church fronting the Jardin looks more like a fairytale castle which becomes a canvas for a unique light show with all sorts of images. Surrounding this center of activity is a variety of shops and restaurants. There is no need for visitors to fear drinking the water at any of the restaurants in this lovely city….it’s all purified. One of the best ways for visitors to familiarize themselves with the town is to take a tour which is offered several days a week. Volunteer guides meet at the Jardin to lead informative walking tours which last two to three hours.

San Miguel Allende is home to thousands of ex-patriots, most of whom are retired and spend a good deal of their time giving back to the community. The Biblioteca (library) is their central meeting place where a variety of activities begin including home and garden tours to some of the city’s most spectacular private abodes.

There is no shortage of culture with the city’s art galleries, concerts, plays, readings and classes aplenty. The well respected Instituto Allende helped put this town on the map and both residents and visitors number among its students. An array of classes offered there include Spanish as a second language and several hands on arts courses including painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry making and art history.

One of the city’s highlights, the Fabrica La Aurora, originally a textile factory, is now very upscale and home to antique shops, local galleries and art studios, furniture stores, clothing shops, custom jewelry, with an outstanding bookstore plus three casual restaurants. It’s worth several hours of browsing and shopping.

For shoppers, all price ranges and qualities of clothing, shoes and jewelry are available and English is commonly spoken by the merchants. This is the place to buy silver jewelry. The Artisans Market, which goes on for several blocks displays an enormous array of very well priced jewelry and clothing but there are also boutiques featuring more exclusive and expensive merchandise. Although there are plenty of reasonably priced taxis and public transportation available, this is a walking city and one can get to almost any destination easily on foot. It is, however, important to wear comfortable shoes in the picture perfect town with uneven cobblestone streets. It is a good investment to purchase a pair of San Miguel shoes which come in a variety of styles and colors and are extremely easy on the feet.

The city’s accommodations range from budget bed and breakfast inns to luxurious hotels. The newly opened, conveniently situated Hotel Matilda, affectionately named after the owner’s mother, offers an alternative21st century travel experience in contrast to the spectacular 16th/17th century colonial setting of the town. Hotel Matilda celebrates today’s lifestyle with contemporary art, décor, dining and spa experiences. In keeping with the town’s celebration of color of outside walls which line the streets in paprika, vermillion and ocher, the hotel’s brightly hued tangerine facade contrasts dramatically with its interior’s quiet, sophisticated color palette.

The lobby, its wall lined with books, offers comfortable seating arrangements and prominently features a large portrait of the young Matilda by renowned artist Diego Rivera. Original contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and collages by acclaimed Mexican, South American and artists from the USA displayed throughout the hotel imbue the feeling of an art gallery.

The 32 luxurious accommodations of the boutique hotel , from the deluxe rooms to the owner’s suite, offer rates which are surprisingly well priced for this first class operation. The dining room offers both comfortable indoor and outdoor seating and most guest rooms feature balconies or terraces.

The exquisite setting of the Restaurant Matilda overlooks a water wall flowing from the infinity pool. At its helm, Executive Chef Bernard McDonough serves up unique contemporary international cuisine. Chef McDonough’s passion is the imaginative creation of Latin American fare using only the finest locally produced ingredients. He has gone so far as to establish facilities to produce locally unavailable food products which are a must for his luscious creations.

The popular indoor/outdoor bar, deluxe 4,700 square foot spa and inviting infinity pool all add to a luxurious 21st century experience for guests of Hotel Matilda.

At the other end of the accommodations spectrum, also situated close to the town center, Casa Maricela’s Bed & Breakfast provides a friendly, homey atmosphere for its guests. The rooms are small but comfortable, immaculate and nicely furnished. Each has its own bathroom and television which carries several English language stations. For a very reasonable room rate (seasonal changes) guests also are provided with two delicious, healthy family style meals which are served daily except Sunday. The kitchen overflows with fresh fruit and vegetables and the water is purified. The piece de resistance of this B&B is the rooftop, umbrella covered patio with a spectacular view of the entire city. Many guests while away the time with a good book or spend sunset hours with a bottle of wine and some nibbles relaxing there while watching the city turn from daylight to velvet night.

San Miguel de Allende, named by Travel + Leisure 2010, as the #1 city in Latin America and #4 city in the world continues as a visitors Mecca. It’s safe, clean, friendly and beautiful.

For information:

Hotel Matilda

Aldama no. 53 Col. Centro

San Miguel de Allende, Gto, 37700


Casa Maricela

Jesus No. 41 int B Centro

San Miguel de Allende Gto C.P. 37700