The Best City in the World is in Mexico

What to do and where to stay in Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende

By Danielle Rouviere, Protravel International Luxury Travel Agent

Given that Mexico is our North American neighbor, many Americans travel to Mexico at least once in their lives. Destinations such as Cancun, Cabo, and Tulum probably come to mind first, and as a Travel Advisor I am certainly asked about these cities more frequently. But guess what? Mexico has so much more to offer.

Colourful exterior walls of house in Mexico

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Mexico with Travel + Leisure magazine, which took us to two of their top destinations: San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City. San Miguel was voted ‘Best City in the World’ by its readers two years in a row, while Mexico City reached number four on that list in 2019.

If combining these two cities on a trip, I recommend starting in Mexico City, then leaving its hustle and bustle for the smaller, more quiet town of San Miguel.

Mexico City (aka CDMX)

Considering its size and diversity of sights, Mexico City is very much a destination for which you need a plan. And that—a perfectly executed itinerary with every must-see attraction—is exactly what I can provide! This city has the most museums in the world and a thriving culinary scene, so take advantage of my expertise (and access to exclusive benefits) to craft a vacation you’ll never forget.

Colourful cityscape and church dome in Mexico City

Upon arrival, we checked in to the city’s first 5-star property in ten years, the brand-new Sofitel Mexico City Reforma. It is located on the famed Paseo De La Reforma, a main street running through the city that’s comparable to Paris’ Champs Elysées. 

Exterior of luxury hotel in Mexico City and outdoor statueLeft image courtesy of Sofitel Hotels

The hotel interior is sleek and contemporary—everything you can expect from a Sofitel—with restaurants and bars that are certainly some of the best in the city. While Bajel is their modern Mexican restaurant, my personal favorite is the Mediterranean and Mexican infusion at Balta—be sure to get the octopus!

Overhead shot of food on plates at restaurantImage courtesy of Sofitel Hotels

The real wow factor, however, is Cityzen bar, located on the 38th floor with extensive views of the city. Speaking of views, their pool (on the same floor as Cityzen) is the highest in Mexico; take a dip before heading to the hotel’s luxurious L’Occitane Spa.

Two photos of a luxury hotel restaurant patio and interior poolImages: Danielle Rouviere

What to Do? 
First, take note that I can organize for a local guide with private transportation for each of the activities I have highlighted here!

Plaza de la Constitución (The Zócalo) 
The Zócalo is Mexico City’s main square, a meeting point for locals since the Aztecs. Today, it’s where everything from political events to concerts take place, and it's absolutely worth a visit. There are a number of historic buildings located in this plaza, including the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, the Historic City Hall, the Government Building, and the National Palace (Palacio Nacional), the latter of which is arguably the most important building in the area. It’s where you’ll find Diego Rivera’s “The History of Mexico,” a mural depicting the region’s history, from past to present and into a vision of the future. You may actually want to visit this historic square more than once over your stay, since seeing it at sunset—during which time Mexican soldiers march out to the center of the plaza to take down the flag—is an absolute must.

Coyoacán is one of Mexico City’s more southern neighborhoods, though it doesn’t feel like it’s in the city at all. It’s most famed for The Blue House (Casa Azul), which is the residence where Frida Kahlo was born, lived out her life, and died. It's also where her most important works are housed. 

Bright blue wall with plants growing up the side

In Coyoacán you can also visit the Museum of Dolores Olmedo to see collections from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and other significant Latin artists. Finish off with a trip to the Mercado Coyoacán to shop and mingle with the locals. It’s a bustling two-story market filled with food stalls, produce stands, and artisanal goods.

The neighborhood known as Polanco is considered the “Beverly Hills” of Mexico City, and is where you’ll find high-end shops like contemporary Latin American fashion brand Sandra Weil. It is also home to El Palacio de Hierro, a luxury department store that is equipped with all the recognizable luxury brands and an enormous gourmet food court. And of course, this is the neighborhood where some of the city’s best restaurants are located, including Pujól and Quintonil.

When to Visit?

The best weather in CDMX is March-May, when temperatures are beautiful and the rainy season hasn't started yet; it’s also the high season for tourists, however. Since the winters there can be quite cold, you’ll find the best rates from December-February, but I think October and November are great times to visit—the days are warm and the nights are chilly, but the rainy season has finished and many tourists have vacated. Pro tip: Since Mexico City is a business hub, hotel rates are actually lower on the weekends!

San Miguel de Allende

If you are up on your travel trends, you know that San Miguel is one of Mexico’s most talked about destinations, and is a far cry from the sprawling metropolis of CDMX. If you aren’t familiar with this charming central Mexican town, here’s what makes it so special: In recent years, it has become a hub for artists and culinary enthusiasts alike, meaning this small community has an almost shockingly high concentration of art galleries and amazing restaurants.

Church and street scene in Mexico CityLeft image: Danielle Rouviere

What I personally love about San Miguel is that its locals embrace who they are in order to provide authentic local experiences. I was lucky enough to enjoy curated excursions by two of the best hotels in town: the Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada and the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende.

What To Do:
The Belmond offers an art gallery tour around the streets of San Miguel, and if you are interested in a certain type of art, the tour can be tailored to your taste. A local guide will connect you with the curators of each gallery, who will tell you the stories of their featured artists. After your art trek around town, you can head back to the art studio located in the Belmond’s Casa Parque house.

A stack of paintings and man standing next to sculpture Images: Danielle Rouviere

There, you’ll take a painting class (your choice of oil, acrylic, watercolor, or drawing) with their resident artist, José Luis Arias. Then finish off your day at the Restaurante Del Parque, a beautiful space surrounded by lush greenery.

Interior of a bar with leaves painted on wallImage courtesy of Restaurante Del Parque

The Rosewood also has their own special excursion: an outdoor cooking class with an option to visit a local organic farm called Rancho La Trinidad—a true gem, as is its owner Carl Jankay.

Woman picking vegetables in organic gardenImages: Danielle Rouviere

After learning about the crops in season, you’ll head back to the Rosewood’s outdoor kitchen, Les Pirules, and get ready to roll up your sleeves. In the kitchen you’ll get your hands dirty peeling garlic, blending up mole, and flipping steaks on the mesquite fire. Once it’s time to sit down for your meal (after a tequila aperitif, of course!), you’ll start to realize the genuine magic of this town.

Two men cooking in fancy outdoor kitchenImage: Danielle Rouviere

I highly recommend including the farm visit in your excursion; after all, it is one thing to eat a meal, but it's another to experience one made with local organic ingredients that you not only helped harvest, but transformed through the principles of traditional Mexican cooking. This is a truly unique opportunity.

Once finished in the kitchen, you’ll dine at an impeccably set table on the vast greenery overlooking the Parroquia. This is a moment that’s hard to recreate, which is what makes traveling so extraordinary. This is the charm of San Miguel.

Long outdoor table set for dinnerImage courtesy of Rosewood Hotels

Where to Eat & Drink?
-Moxi; Located in Hotel Matilda, Address: Aldama 53, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
Within the hip, centrally located boutique Hotel Matilda, Moxi is run by Enrique Olvera, one of the country’s most famous chefs. The menu specializes in modern takes on Mexican classics.

-Aperi; Address: Quebrada 101, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
A fine-dining experience hailed as “the best gourmet experience in Mexico.” The seasonal menu highlights their regional cuisine.

-Casa Dragones; Located inside Dôce 18 Concept House
A reservation only tequila bar brought to you by the Casa Dragones brand; they’re recognized for their Joven blend, said to be one of the finest sipping tequilas in the world.

-Luna Rooftop; Located in the Rosewood, Address: Nemesio Diez 11, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Even if you aren’t staying at the Rosewood, their rooftop bar is worth visiting for one of the best views of the Parroquia (if not the best!) in San Miguel. Enjoy cocktails and international tapas in the early evening, when the descending sun sets the town on fire with color.

Cityscape of San Miguel in the evening

When to Visit?

San Miguel is truly a year-round destination, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. There are two seasons in San Miguel: winter and the rainy season. Winter (November-April) sees less rainfall, and is generally a more popular time since the days are warm and the nights are cool. May-October is the rainy season, which can deter some tourists; this does means better travel deals and fewer crowds at the exclusive restaurants, however. San Miguel is still an affordable destination, so either season you choose won’t break the bank. Just be sure to avoid popular holidays like Christmas and Easter!

Accessing Virtuoso Amenities

Planning a vacation can be stressful and incredibly time consuming, so how about letting me do all the work instead? Think of me as your own personal travel concierge who’ll be there every step of the way. My connections can grant you VIP status at the best hotels, providing access to private experiences most travelers can’t obtain; these include amenities that are often valued at hundreds of dollars per trip, and which aren’t available online. Below you find them for each hotel that’s featured in this post!

Sofitel Mexico City Reforma

Av. Paseo de la Reforma 297, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México, Mexico City, México

  • USD100 equivalent Food and Beverage credit to be used during stay with conditions
  • Complimentary Buffet breakfast for two daily
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
Overhead shot of Spanish style courtyard at dusk

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

Nemesio Diez 11, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México

  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada

Hospicio 35, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México

  • Complimentary daily full breakfast for two
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

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