Doors. On a practical level, they separate the outside from the inside, keep the heat in and the cold out (or vice versa), uphold the privacy of rooms, and maintain the safety and security of homes. Doors can protect secrets, belie mysteries and, in the case of San Miguel de Allende, hide marvel after marvel. The huge, ancient, wide and wooden doors that dominate this sprawling ancient city’s cobblestone streets can be misleading. A first-time visitor might presume that what’s on the other side of an old dusty door is, well, more dust and not much else.
At least that’s what this naive first-timer thought. I’ve never been the type who innately feels it’s my right to knock and see what happens. I was born with strong wimpy genes and the firm belief that a closed door means stay out.
Not in this city. This city encourages the curious — more likely than not, the mere act of pushing a door open will reveal Willy Wonka levels of magic on the other side, which can take the form of breathtaking furniture, sumptuous gastronomy, swoon-worthy caftans or espadrilles, or local wares that only the in-the-know know about. This city has many layers to unpeel. It just needs you to enquire within. San Miguel de Allende is one big version of Let’s Make a Deal. (If you don’t get the reference, ask your parents.)
Our first visit to San Miguel illustrates our naïveté about its doors. I mean, we booked ourselves into a hotel that didn’t even have a door. In its minimalist modernity, it was certainly tasteful, but it held no mystery. Anyone could see inside. So we, in turn, found ourselves slipping into our Birkenstocks to discover what was outside.
My family and I have returned to SMA about half a dozen times over the past few years, and with each visit we’ve added more magical doors to our list of favorites. At the top is Casa Delphine.
The front door here is a swimming pool blue, which makes sense since you really should (pardon the hokey pun) dive in. The boutique hotel is the brainchild of jewelry designer Amanda Keidan, who opened the hotel in early 2019. After visiting the city two years prior for the Day of the Dead celebration, Keidan returned, checked out the real estate listings, and dared herself to purchase a five-room hotel nestled near the bottom of a quiet street a few blocks from the main town square.
"Everything was beige, and the front room was overflowing with furniture," recalls Keidan, who moved most of that furniture out and replaced it with a minimal number of pieces from local designers and others she’d found in Los Angeles, her former hometown. Like a family, each of the five rooms share a resemblance but bear unique characteristics (each also has a cantera fireplace). Ours was filled with sunlight streaming in through sheer curtains, a serene bathroom with a tub I never wanted to get out of, and a balcony that overlooked the intimate courtyard.
While Casa Delphine would technically be labeled a boutique hotel, it feels more like a bed and breakfast — but with only the good elements and none of the creepy ones. The rooms are within eyeshot of the communal area (painted a gorgeous shade Keidan says is Basalto Blue) while still feeling distanced enough for privacy. A massively long communal cedar table (designed by Peter Grau of Post 46) hosts guests for breakfast before they venture out through town guided by the recommendation book that Keidan updates every six months.
Now that the borders and businesses have re-opened, Keidan's memorable blue doors are open again, too. Plans this spring include pop-up dinners with guest chefs and offerings such as in-room (masked) massages and private Reiki sessions, as well as astrology and tarot card readings.
"The city feels relatively normal," says Keidan. "Everyone is very respectful and wears masks. We're known for our beautiful rooftop restaurants, and day trips to the surrounding countryside are safe and wide open, fresh-air experiences."
Other Doors Worth Walking Through
The flavors of this Middle Eastern-leaning restaurant on the roof of the ancient-chic Casa Blanca hotel are matched only by the views overlooking the magically lit Templo San Francisco across the street.
After ordering your latte and pastry at this cozy corner morning lair, slip upstairs with your goodies to Kibok’s rustic rooftop to plan your day.
The Blue Bar at Casa Sierra Nevada
We always make an hour or two for our favorite corner table in this old-world gem. Their cocktails are perfection. While mezcal might be the obvious when-in-Rome choice, I thirst for their Union, a Bacardi, Strega, and pineapple juice mix.
If you’re like me, you’ll want everything this home design store has to offer. Then again, if you’re like me, a washcloth or hand towel might be your realistic starter purchase.
Sure, flowy caftans and breezy ponchos might sound like pieces you buy when you’re on vacation, but Recreo is also loaded with clothing you’d want to wear every day back home. As a matter of fact, you might find yourself asking owner Lisa Coleman when she plans on opening a branch in your hometown.