One of our favorite Mexican cities, San Miguel de Allende, is both exquisitely preserved and utterly cosmopolitan. The expatriate community here—of some 2,000 artists, collectors, restaurateurs, and conservationists—has taken over many of the 16th- and 17th-century ocher palacios. And around every corner is a chic store, a hidden garden or gallery, or a culinary gem. It's been three years since our last report from SMA, and as travel agent Lisa Lindblad discovered, several new openings (as well as some unrivaled classics) are keeping the city as vibrant as ever.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa de Sierra Nevada is still the best big hotel in town, with 33 suites in five colonial houses, two restaurants, and a lovely pool. The best rooms are Nos. 2, 5L, 6L, and 5P. Rates, $240-$400. At 35 Hospicio; 52-415/152-7040; www.quintareal.com.
Dos Casas is a peaceful new five-room B&B with Japanese-inspired decor (unusual for this city). Book either the Del Balcon room or La Terraza, which has a private terrace. Rates, $215-$315. At 101 Calle Quebrada; 52-415/154-4073; www.livingdoscasas.com.
On a hill about a ten-minute walk from town, Casa de la Cuesta is the place for views. American owners Bill and Heidi LeVasseur display their fantastic collection of Mexican folk art in the inn's six rooms. $ Rate, $120. At 32 Cuesta de San Jose; 52-415/154-4324; www.casadelacuesta.com.
WHERE TO EAT
For a breakfast of freshly made hot chocolate and churros, go to San Agustin Café, Mexico's answer to Krispy Kreme. $ At 21 San Francisco; 52-415/154-9102.
El Pegaso is a cozy but lively lunch spot with a nonsmoking room (a first in San Miguel). The art on the walls is for sale, and the menu includes simple fare such as eggs Benedict, Caesar salad, and fresh raspberry pie. $ Lunch, $15. At 6 Corregidora; 52-415/152-1351.
The modern, all-white decor at Azafrán perfectly complements the bright flavors and presentation of the food: The lasagna tower and the Thai shrimp get the most votes. Our favorites are the chile powder-dusted chocolate truffles. Dinner, $25. At 97 Hernández Maciás; 52-415/152-7482.
Tesoros is a showcase for Marcos Scott's Mexican pottery and Chiapas textiles ($15-$900). The shop also has a great assortment of Guatemalan fabrics. $ At 8-B Calle Recreo; 52-415/154-4838.
Zócalo is one of the best places for folk art. Rick and Debra Hall's collection carries works by all of Mexico's masters (like Hilario Alejos Madrigal and Tibercio Soteno). At 110 Hernández Macías; 52-415/152-0663; www.zocalotx.com.
Tucked into a beautiful courtyard house, Sazón sells handblown glassware, linens, and fabulous pottery by Gorky Gonzalez ($50-$1,000). It also conducts cooking classes and tours of the produce market. $ At 22 Correo; 52-415/154-7671; www.sazonsanmiguel.com.
Right outside town is Fabrica la Aurora, an old textile mill whose lofts several designers and antiques dealers have converted into stores. The goods here are more international, as is this cool expat crowd. On Calzada de la Aurora.
William Harris arrived in SMA eight years ago with his staggering array of southwestern art. Now he and business partner Luis Pantoja have created Piedras, a line of necklaces, pins, and earrings sold from the house he built to display his art. It's worth the trip to the suburb of Tascadero to see his collection. $ Jewelry, $50-$450. By appointment only, 52-415/154-9193.
GUIDE TO GET
Carmen Rioja can take you beyond the lively shopping and dining scenes and into the history of the city and its environs. Ask her to show you the 18th-century church in Santuario de Atotonilco, one of Mexico's holiest sites. Rate, $50 for two hours; 52-415/101-9715.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.