The old-fashioned tour trolley rumbles along the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende.
“Look inside those open doors!” gushes our trolley guide.
Hidden behind the big brown doors fronting the streets of this UNESCO-listed colonial Mexican town, we spy magnificent Baroque and neo-Gothic mansions, built around garden courtyards with fountains; many now house boutique hotels, designer shops, restaurants and art galleries.
We crane our necks to see where the guide is pointing. But there are too many beautiful buildings vying for our attention to let us focus on just one.
San Miguel’s entire historic center – more than 24 blocks – looks as if it popped right out of a fairytale.
There’s the iconic La Parroquia Church with its pink neo-Gothic façade and soaring spires. The local stone mason who built it got his inspiration from a postcard picture of Gaudi’s quirky Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – or so the legend goes.
And now the Church of the Immaculate Conception, crowned by a cupola decorated with Corinthian columns, comes into view.
The church rises beside a striking yellow convent on Canal Street.
“Back in the 1700s, the enormously wealthy Canal family’s 16-year-old daughter wanted to be a nun, so she asked the King of Spain if she could build a convent for 72 nuns,” our guide rattles off.
And OMG, can that historic-looking hacienda really be the swank new Rosewood hotel?
Why travel to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico?
San Miguel de Allende is unlike any other Mexican city.
At 6,000 feet above sea level in the heart of Mexico, it has no beaches. So why travel to San Miguel de Allende?
Because it makes up for that lack in spades with its art, architecture and culture, and its wonderful climate. It’s safe and the hot spot to visit right now.
Conde Nast Traveler readers even voted San Miguel the best city in the world in 2013 for its “great atmosphere, excellent restaurants, culture and ambience galore.”
An important center along the old silver route (when Spanish mines supplied more than a third of the world’s silver), San Miguel is studded with well-preserved 17th and 18th century buildings lining higgledy-piggledy cobbled roads. Most are painted in orange, rust and pink colors; strict guidelines ensure renovations conform to historical standards.
When the sun sets and the town’s wrought-iron lamplights cast a golden glow, the town feels absolutely magical.
If you decide then and there that you’re never going to leave, or will return to live here permanently, you’d join good company.
And this is where we’re going to leave you – for now…
We know you’ll want to read about the devil masks we saw in San Miguel’s fascinating indigenous mask museum – and what fried grasshoppers taste like. So for more on what it’s like to travel to San Miguel de Allende, be sure to read “San Miguel de Allende: Fairytale colonial city (Part 2).”