San Miguel de Allende Is Making its Mark in the Culinary World

San Miguel de Allende celebrates its 475th birthday this year with a special honor. It’s the fourth-friendliest city in the world, according to Travel + Leisure magazine’s “World's Best Awards” announced in March.

Awards and accolades are nothing new for the UNESCO World Heritage site. But this recent recognition is appreciated.

“We are pretty friendly here,” Guillermo González, director of the San Miguel de Allende Tourism Board, tells Travel Agent.

“We offer a unique colonial heritage. We have over 120 art galleries, very nice boutique hotels and a friendly atmosphere where visitors can walk for blocks,” said González.

The destination is also a great launching point for day trips.

Spas, wineries and adventure parks are nearby. And horseback rides along the River Laja are a big draw.

“We’re seven miles away from a hot spring. There are nice hotel properties such as the Nirvana Retreat, where you can get massages and relax in pools filled by the springs. They also have an excellent chef. Another close attraction is the Atotonilco Sanctuary, which is part of our UNESCO site. The church there has beautiful frescoes,” said González.

In San Miguel itself, new properties and culinary fests are also in the news.

Grupo Posadas will open Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende in early 2018.

“It’s within walking distance to the main plaza. They’re building it next to an hacienda, which will be incorporated into the property,” said González.

Plans call for 135 rooms, a cultural center, extensive grounds and the signature Live Aqua ambiance.

“Live Aqua is a very nice concept that involves everything related to wellness, the senses and relaxation. It’s very modern, but cozy at same time. It’s one of our goals to keep growing with the brand,” Rafael Lizárraga, chief commercial officer of Hotelera Posadas, tells Travel Agent.

While the Live Aqua addition is welcome news, González makes one thing clear.

“We don’t do all inclusives and we don’t want them. We have very nice restaurants. The idea is for visitors to walk in the streets and enjoy this wonderful town,” he tells Travel Agent.

González points to other recent openings on the San Miguel scene.

Dôce-18 (1218) Concept House opened last spring in a restored 18th century colonial building. It’s in the heart of the city. It has a photography gallery, designers for clothing and a French-style bakery. It also has Jacinto 1930 by chef Matteo Salas, who has another famous restaurant here called Áperi. On the second floor is L'Ôtel, which is our newest hotel in San Miguel. It opened last year. It’s a 10-suite boutique property that’s very high end in its design. They even grow their own greens on the roof,” said González.

Visitors to San Miguel de Allende can look forward to some long-standing and new festivals in the destination.

“We have the local tradition of Semana Santa that has been here for 200 years. People love it. They take all the saints from churches and walk in a procession on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy Week,” said González.

After that comes May, which is destination wedding month.

“We’re filled with weddings in May. The weather is so nice. Most people use one of two options. The Hotel Real de Minas, which has 215 rooms. Or, the Rosewood, which is more in the luxury category. There are also some amazing homes that entire families can rent,” González.

In the summer comes the international film festival.

And set for July 13-16 is the Market of Arts & Gastronomy Festival. Organizers include the Hotel Matilda, whose restaurant Moxi is helmed by superstar chef Enrique Olvera.

In March, the eatery earned the #24 slot on The Daily Meal’s 2017 list of the “101 Best Restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean.” (Olvera’s Pujol in Mexico City came in at number three.)

Bruce James, director of Hotel Matilda, said the honors are long overdue.

“There is growing recognition worldwide that the Mexican kitchen has evolved into one of the world’s great cuisines,” said James.

Throughout the year, Moxi invites top Mexican chefs to take part in “Supper Clubs.” The chefs often use the opportunity to showcase local food providers. Among them: Santisima Trinidad, a vineyard that produces wine, lavender and olive oil; Bodega Organica; Remo (a producer of artisanal cheeses) and Mercado Sano, a large organic market that opened in 2016.

The Supper Clubs often include contemporary art exhibits as well.

Though details are not fully set, the lineup for the Market of Arts & Gastronomy Festival is impressive. In addition to Moxi and MÜI bar at Hotel Matilda, dinners, tastings and talks will take place at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, The Restaurant by chef Donnie Masterton, the Casa de Europa Cultural center and the boutique Hacienda los Picachos.