July 2024


First off, if you’d rather hear this blog than to read it…you can check out my photo tour with narration here.

San Miguel de Allende is a city that should absolutely be on your travel must-see list. It's almost a little too beautiful. It's like almost the Disney version of what a city in Mexico should be like.  I’m talking cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and music flowing from every open door.  The weather is moderate (in February when we visited, anyway) and it’s surprisingly easy to access from the United States.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende Sketching at Tunkti rooftop bar at sunset

 

My sister, Lauren, and I took a quick trip to check out the town, do photoshoots for Handker, and to work on our new joint venture, Larney + Babs. We took sketchbooks and novels to dinner, sat poolside and sipped limey drinks, and were the most hilarious versions of ourselves the way only sisters can be.

How to get there: there are lots of direct flights from the US to Guanajato, we flew St. Louis to Houston to Guanajato, which was super easy. Then we hired a private car for about $50 to drive us the 1.5 hours to San Miguel. I was shocked how smooth the travel day was. We arrived in time to sit by the pool and enjoy our first of many mezcal margaritas.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende basilica view sunset bougainvillia

Where to stay: I was using credit card points (thanks, Chase), so we cashed some in at Casa Sierra Nevada. 5 out of 5 would stay again! The service was impeccable from the welcome drink to the amazing full breakfast to the cocktails poolside. Oh, and you can get coffee service in the morning with a little pastry. We felt relaxed in the charming converted monastery that houses the hotel…it was comfy but gorgeous in all the best ways.

Poolside view Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende

There are also tons of AirBnBs in SMA because of a high population of American Ex-Pats. Speaking of that, beware the slightly crabby retired artist types. We joked that the best club in San Miguel is called “No Picante” and the password is “I have a home here”. LOLOLOL. We much preferred the locals to the Americans we encountered.

Where to eat: San Miguel is home to some absolutely off-the-charts incredible places. And they were priced super-affordably.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende El Manantial
Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende El Manantial dinner spot

 

It’s such a great way to get the feel of the Mexican culture and aesthetic. Probably my favorite was El Manantial. It was absolutely knock-out-good. Recommend everything, especially the tostadas with ceviche. In fact, we ate so much ceviche in San Miguel. Even though this is an inland city, there's still really good access to seafood.

 

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende El Manantial restaurant

 

 

Unica. High end, lovely restaurant. There was a rooftop, so we got to watch the sunset behind the cathedral.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende food at Unica restaurant
Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende margarita

 

We had steak, we had ceviche tostadas, we had mezcal margaritas again. And, it's a gorgeous place, and I think our total bill for an appetizer, two margaritas each and two entrees  was under $100. We found that all over San Miguel, even very nice places were affordable.

Local coffee shops and street food is also so great! Overall, I’d say, explore away….every street that you walk down had a beautiful looking restaurant.

What to see: If you like artsy things, there is so much to see here. Let's start with Fabrica La Aurora, which is an old factory complex and it's been made into artist studios and vintage shops, like antique stores. The beautiful complex includes an outdoor cafe for refreshments.  And it looks like it's a little bit far from downtown, but it's it's under a mile and you can walk. Honestly, one of my favorite parts about San Miguel is being able to walk in all the neighborhoods, see all the beautiful colored buildings and the cobblestone streets. It just felt like you were walking in a picture book every day. 

Mercado de artisanias in San Miguel de Allende travel Handker City guide
San Miguel de Allende travel Handker City guide Local artists

 

There's a really amazing market called Mercado Artesanias, Artisans Market. It's huge. It just keeps going and going and going. There's a mix of actual authentic artwork, things like milagros, and hand-painted traditional folk pieces, jewelry, and then a mix of like tourist stuff, which we thought was probably mass-produced. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a morning of walking through. There's also good food there if you’re feeling adventurous. I would go early so it doesn't get so hot, because it is shaded, but it's outside, so it can get pretty hot during the middle of the day.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende Hermes Arroyo Mojigangas

Best experience of the trip:  An artist workshop to make a mojiganga with Hermes Arroyo. A mojiganga is a giant doll that's made out of papier-mâché that they parade in the streets. There’s a tradition in San Miguel that part of the wedding ceremony is a procession in the streets, led by these giant doll/puppet creations. They’re beautiful and all original.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende Hermes Arroyo Mojigangas

 

We signed up with that through our hotel, the Casa Sierra Nevada. They set us up with a class, which was hosted in their sister property, and it was right on Parque Benito Juarez. It was at sunset, they brought us cocktails, and we spent three hours with this amazing artist. He was just the best.

While we were finishing up painting our dolls, we could hear the sounds of a wedding procession happening down in the park. So when we were done with the class, we went down to the park to hang out and watched the mariachi band and the wedding people having a great time.

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende Hermes Arroyo Mojigangas

We also went to the artist’s workshop closer to the central part of town. And he has a beautiful little store there with handmade things. 

Handker City Travel Guide San Miguel de Allende Esquito Popular

Right next door to the Mojiganga workshop is the Esquina de Juguete Popular Mexicana, which is folk art toy museum. I loved that place!

San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene Mixta shop

 

I visited Mixta--one of Handker's stockists who I enjoy talking with when she comes to trade shows. All over San Miguel there's so much shopping to be done. You could probably spend three days just doing nothing but shopping. Including, paper stores, clothing stores, glassware, handmade artisan goods. My suitcase was STUFFED because I cannot resist any kind of folk-art aesthetic.

San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene with flowers climbing up a wall

 

Just walking up and down the streets was such a joy to see the colors, to see the people, and to talk to and interact with people. It is pretty hilly, and the cobblestones are somewhat difficult to negotiate, so wear sensible shoes.

 

San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene Beth Snyder

 

We spent the last few hours in town walking around with a coffee, the new bandanas for Handker, and the new jewelry and taking photos for the future. Check out my Instagram highlight story here for all the visuals!

 

San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene Beth Snyder
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene Handker bandana
brass earrings on a yellow background San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene mezcal margarita
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene earrings photos shoot beth snyder
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene with Josie Earrings
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene Beth Snyder
San miguel de Allende Handker City Travel Guide Street scene

Further exploring/resources: