Off the Beaten Track / San Miguel de Allende
By Amy Chozick
Reporter Amy Chozick on where to eat, shop and drink good tequila in this colonial town in central Mexico.
Where to stay: Most of San Miguel's exquisite private homes, from quaint Mexican villas to sprawling Spanish-style mansions, are available for rent (about $3,000 a week for a four-bedroom residence; visit www.mexicandestinations.com ). The Casa de Sierra Nevada hotel has 17 rooms, some with balconies with city vistas (around $257 a night; Hospicio 35; Tel: 800-701-1561, www.casadesierranevada.com ).
Where to eat: During the hot late-afternoon hours, duck into the La Fragua for a leisurely lunch of tacos and fresh guacamole. Mariachis take requests. The old-fashioned bar features over 60 rare, top-shelf tequilas (Cuna de Allende No. 3, 52-415-152-1144). Housed in an old chapel, La Capilla offers international cuisine (think baked brie and risotto) as well as some special Mexican ingredients like huitlacoche, a sweet mushroom that grows on corn (52-415-152-0698; Cuna de Allende No. 10; www.la-capilla.com ).
What to do: Immerse yourself in San Miguel's eclectic artist community by taking a class at the Instituto Allende or one of the town's other schools. Painting, sculpture and photography classes are available year-round ( www.instituto-allende.edu.mx ; or Classes Unlimited; Mesones 57; 52-415-154-5366; www.classesunlimited.com ). Get a peek behind San Miguel's imposing Moorish walls by taking a house and garden tour. The town has some of Mexico's most gorgeous residences, but you'd never know it from the outside. (Sunday tours depart at noon from the Biblioteca Publico. Insurgentes, between Hidalgo and Relox; $15 a person.)
What to buy: From pre-Colonial to postmodern, San Miguel is known for its Mexican art and design. Interior designers and art connoisseurs from all over the U.S. come to the Fabrica La Aurora Design Center, an old factory converted into a massive collection of high-end interior design, art, antique and jewelry stores (Calzada de la Aurora; Mon.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Sun. 11:00-3:00 p.m.; 52-415-154-8583; www.lagaleriaaurora.com ). Be sure to venture to the back of the complex to visit decor store Finca Home (52-415-154-8323; www.fincahome.com ). For delightful, inexpensive Mexican folk art, pop into the centrally located El Nuevo Mundo (San Francisco No. 17; 52-415-152-3627).
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