San Miguel de Allende is not new to fabulous hotels. Quite the opposite, actually. The small city with a population of less than 150,000 people has one of the highest concentrations of boutique hotels in all of Mexico. These design-forward hotels are part of the fabric of what makes the destination so special. And in the wake of the pandemic, as San Miguel de Allende is expecting travelers to start to flood the city once again, new hotels are getting ready to make their debut.
Much like Cancun, Mexico City and Los Cabos, San Miguel de Allende is becoming one of those cities in Mexico that is a must for truly understanding the soul of the country. I say this from personal experience. For the better part of a decade, my travels have taken me all around Mexico, but never to San Miguel de Allende. Upon my first visit earlier this month, it felt like another piece of the puzzle had finally snapped into place.
It is, in a word, breathtaking. I've traveled to colonial cities in Mexico before, and to historic sections of cities, as well. But never have I seen a city that looks so much like it has leapt off the pages of a coloring book. It almost feels like a movie set, or a scene straight out of Disney. But then you remember that it's real -- that this is what the city actually looks like, and has looked like, for decades. Cobblestone streets weave their way up and down sloping hills, flanked by gorgeously painted, low-rise homes. Ivy and blooming bougainvillea blanket the sides of buildings with an earthy kaleidoscope of color. More than 30 church steeples pepper the skyline, and in the background a dormant volcano sleeps quietly beneath a blanket of puffy clouds.
Related Insight: San Miguel de Allende reinvents itself
The city of San Miguel de Allende has been one of the most stringent when it comes to pandemic response. While other destinations in Mexico closed to tourism for three months, San Miguel de Allende pushed it to four. It reopened in July 2020 and, to this day, continues to enforce a strict mask policy. Anyone without a mask in the street will be approached by the police. As someone who waited to travel, I took comfort in this, and I would recommend San Miguel de Allende to wary travelers who are starting to ease themselves back into travel. The city's tourism facilities (hotels, restaurants, tours, etc.) are operating at 75% capacity at the moment, and every business in the city, be it a tortilla shop or a high-end hotel, had to meet the same set of health standards in order to be certified to reopen.
As part of my visit to the Spanish colonial jewel, I toured some of the city's notable hotels, including the iconic Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Hotel Matilda, Hotel Hacienda El Santuario, Casa Blanca 7 and Dos Casas. Many of these mainstay hotels have started incorporating new offerings for guests. When San Miguel de Allende shuttered for four months during the pandemic, many of the hotels and restaurants started channeling pent-up energy into getting creative. This manifested in a variety of ways.
The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
For example, the Rosewood started offering outdoor cooking classes, open only by reservation, for a one-on-one experience with the hotel's chef. Hotel Hacienda El Santuario converted one of its courtyard rooms into a small spa treatment room.
For me, the Hotel Matilda was one of the most impressive properties we toured. It's not surprising, considering this is one of the more established boutique hotels in the city and that it has been hosting creative events for years -- its annual Cena Negra dinner is one of the most highly anticipated events in the city. As part of its pandemic refurb, the Hotel Matilda opened a new bar in its courtyard, the Monkey Bar. The hotel also renovated its five suites as well as its rooftop bar. The spa unveiled a new treatment: a body wrap that uses mezcal -- a decadent treatment that I simply had to try for myself. A vigorous body scrub followed by the moisturizing wrap left my skin baby soft and muscles shockingly unwound just in time for an hour-long massage. This was the prelude to a fabulous dinner at Moxi, the hotel's main restaurant. Tip: The octopus main course is to die for.
Hotel openings on the horizon
But that's not all that is new in San Miguel de Allende. The city is poised to welcome a slew of hotel openings. In fact, the sounds of construction were part of the daily soundtrack as we walked the narrow streets. San Miguel is growing, and there's no stopping it now.
Dream Hotel Group, for example, will launch its five-star Chatwal San Miguel de Allende this year. It will be located at the Vines in San Miguel de Allende and will have 44 freestanding villas and 125 branded residences, all on a cliff overlooking the iconic steeples and boldly hued buildings of the city below.
The lobby area of Casa 1810. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Hyatt is hard at work building a new hotel in the city, as well. Still to be named, the hotel will be located across the street from the Rosewood and will have a total of 44 rooms. It will be part of the brand's Unbound Collection.
Hilton, in addition, will open the Homewood Suites by Hilton San Miguel de Allende with 94 rooms and the Hampton Inn by Hilton San Miguel de Allende with 120 rooms. Both will open this year.
One of the beloved boutique hotels in the city center is the Casa 1810, a lovely hotel with a bold art-forward design and a rooftop restaurant that offers 360-degree views of the city. The hotel is readying to open a second property, just off of Parque Juarez. The new hotel will have 19 rooms and a restaurant for 150 guests. It will be called Casa 1810 Parque, while the existing hotel will be renamed as Casa 1810 Centro. The new hotel is scheduled for a September opening.
It's a destination that truly feels safe, especially considering it is one of the most heavily trafficked by tourists. That vibe is a bit more subdued these days, particularly as other destinations in Mexico are easier to get to. Streets are quieter than usual during the day, or so I am told, but it didn't diminish from its energy. The air filled with the sounds of chatter from outdoor dining, tourists took Instagram-worthy glamour shots against the colorful facades and the bells from the blush-colored Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel echoed in all directions. To everyone who told me the city was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever see, I say, "correct."