There’s just something about San Miguel de Allende- Ask any of the Austin residents who spend much of their time between the two cities, and they’ll tell you about the charming architecture, vibrant culture, and familial community that sets it apart.
With a population comprised of a diverse mix of locals and ex-pats, visitors often find unexpected connections in the fascinating artists, designers, and professionals they encounter in SMA. It’s not uncommon for residents to open their homes to entertain friends, new and old. It’s a city small enough that you may find yourself making a new acquaintance one day and running into them the next while walking through the jardin, where your conversation will pick up as though you’ve known each other for ages.
Accessible via a two-hour flight from Houston or Dallas, San Miguel’s similar casual, easy living attracts many local Austinites for vacation getaways or pied-à-terre accommodations. One look at the lush landscapes synonymous with the town’s charm, and it’s no wonder the city has become a popular location for destination weddings or milestone events.
With so many familiar faces in San Miguel, we asked a few to share their go-to recommendations for discovering everything from the best al pastor tacos, to handcrafted objet d’art and sipping tequila. Judging by their lists, it is clear this top-ranked travel destination delivers on a memorable respite south of Austin, TX.
Where to Sip, Dine and Savor:
Venture to the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo any night of the week and you’ll notice a line forming around 8PM. Jump in the queue to secure your spot for what is unanimously known as the best taco truck in the city, which opens to a fanfare nightly from patrons eager to devour their al pastor and lengua tacos. If you’re lucky enough to find an open barstool, pull up a seat and enjoy your plate with a front row view of the rapid-fire assembly line at work.
While cross-referencing recommendation lists, a pattern appeared: each tastemaker consulted ranked Chef Donnie Masterton’s establishments high on their list. His formidable influence on San Miguel’s culinary landscape is exemplified by his portfolio of restaurants that blanket the city. The visionary behind the standout cuisine at The Restaurant and Fatima, just to name a few, Donnie reinvented what it means to dine in San Miguel. His passion for the culture and love of his craft is evident in both the range of flavor profiles and culinary experiences he curates. We did a tour of his establishments and can confirm they’re all worthy of top billing on your itinerary!
Regulars know there’s a breadth of options that are available to enjoy while dining in the city. When you’re in the mood for something different, stop by La Parada, a Peruvian restaurant led by Chef Alexandra Gutt, whose personality is as dynamic as her dishes. Jump-start your meal with a signature Pisco Sour cocktail and a ceviche, then dive into their menu of lively, fresh fare.
A rite of passage as an adult is learning that tequila can be sipped leisurely, as opposed to the salt, shot, lime routine made popular during spring break trips south of the border. Enter Casa Dragones’ intimate, six seat tasting room and their crown jewel, Joven- a premium, all-natural sipping tequila. Every detail of the Casa Dragones experience at the Doce 18 Concept House is designed with purposeful intent. Once you step inside the private space, your eye will wander from the obsidian volcanic stone walls adorned with rows of aesthetically pleasing bottles, to the seductive sipping glasses embellished with pepita-inspired etchings.
The knowledgeable docent will guide you through a tasting experience, showcasing the complexity of the notes that express themselves on your palette, thanks to their eight to ten-year aging process. To cap off your bespoke experience, the on-site calligrapher will personalize the brand’s signature etched crystal bottle with a moniker of your choice. The tequila is housed in a vessel so beautiful; it will double as a décoratif on your bar cart.
Where to Soak in the View:
A pro-tip when visiting San Miguel: always look up. The al fresco lifestyle of the city revolves around its numerous rooftop patios, where you can enjoy stunning sunsets and vivacious nightlife perched atop one of the city’s architectural darlings. Here, some of our favorites for dinner or cocktails with a view:
Luna Bar at the Rosewood Hotel- 360-degree views of the city and the iconic Parroquia make this location a must-visit during golden hour. You’ll capture the sites thanks to unobstructed photo-ops of the colorful sunsets and terrain, while enjoying the sounds of live music on the rooftop.
Fatima at Casa Blanca 7- After a visit to this rooftop restaurant and bar at the Casa Blanca 7 Hotel, you’ll be left saying, “We’ll always have San Miguel.” Highlights include Chef Donnie Masterton’s delectable Mediterranean cuisine, coupled with some of the best views overlooking the city’s historic cathedrals.
Bekeb- Perched atop Casa Hoyos is Bekeb, whose boho chic vibes and scenic skyline make for a memorable gathering place. Design aficionados will appreciate the thoughtful details on display throughout the entire hotel and cocktail bar, including lounge-worthy chaises that beckon you to linger with margarita in hand.
Where to Shop:
Returning home with talismans from your travels is a must. Here, some local favorites:
Eclectica- Discover objets d’art that showcase a melding of genres and global craftsmanship at Eclectica. As a bonus, the owner Eras is a fabulous tour guide!
Casamidy- Husband and wife duo Jorge Almada and Anne-Marie Midy apply their refined eye and minimalist aesthetic to combine contemporary design with traditional artisan methods- the result is furnishings to covet.
Rachel Horn Interiors- For uber-chic pieces handcrafted in SMA, stop by this showroom from one of our favorite design doyennes. Her jet-set lifestyle brings together inspiration from an amalgamation of cultures and makes for décor and interior design projects that wow.
Doce 18 Concept House- Stroll through masterfully edited vignettes from designers and artists, while enjoying unique hospitality experiences featuring local food and libations, all under one roof.
Where to Stay:
To fully enjoy the charming architecture and lush scenery of SMA, “in the know” regulars recommend making a reservation at one of the exclusive locations featured in Premier San Miguel’s portfolio. Their house rental and concierge service offer access to spectacular local properties, including Casa Hyder, the ultimate well-appointed SMA accommodation, known for its eclectic décor and rich history. The property books up months in advance, but if you’re one of the privileged few guests who gets to walk through its doors, you’ll understand why. We’ve heard stories about the legendary, intimate salons the owner of the property hosts whenever she’s in town. When vacant, the renowned house and courtyard gardens are available to be reserved for private events and are an ideal backdrop for a memorable special occasion.
The Rosewood San Miguel de Allende- The Rosewood pulls out all the stops, pairing design elements indicative of SMA with their staff’s warm hospitality, making it easy to see why SMA has claimed a spot in travelers' hearts. Upon arrival, we were delighted to find a petite bottle of Clase Azul Tequila and fresh guacamole in our room- a gesture that set a welcoming tone that lasted throughout our entire stay. Across the board, locals and visitors know their Sunday brunch is not to miss. Arrive hungry and be prepared to enjoy an abundance of chef-attended stations, featuring local delicacies and even an Insta-worthy michelada.