Posted by beth elsey on May 23, 1999
We plan to visit Queretero, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Morelia next week–would like any tips on charming places to stay (moderate range US50-70) and great places to eat. We will be doing the bus tour so places close enough to walk (less than a mile to city center)–also any tips on the hot springs near San Miguel! Thanks!
Posted by Mike Davis on May 25, 1999
I’ll start with San Miguel first, since I know it best. Since its been a couple of years since I was back in Mexico, however, I would strongly recommend that you buy a good guidebook, if you have not already done so, so that you can verify my suggestions.
The problem with your stated price range is that, in San Miguel, you’ll be getting significantly less for your money than elsewhere, so you might want to spend a little more, at least in SMA. For your requested price range you’re dealing mostly with B&B’s, most of which are quite charming, but their rooms tend to be smaller. I can personally recommend La Mansión del Bosque: good, home-cooked meals, and the owner is extremely knowledgeable about the area. I’ve also heard some very good things about the Pensión Casa Carmen and Villa Mirasol. If you are willing to pay a little more money, in 1996, I paid about $80 per night each (AAA membership rate), for two junior suites at the Villa Jacaranda. Both rooms were nice, and one was magnificent, with a bedroom, living room w/fireplace, and private terrace. (This brings to mind some other advice: at these quirky, small hotels, always ask them to show you the different rooms that might be available; they can vary enormously.) Also, the restaurant is pretty, and the food is excellent, having won a number of magazines’ awards (Gourmet & Travel/Holiday).
I can recommend a number of restaurants in San Miguel, in addition to the Jacaranda’s: Bugambilia (gourmet Mexican), Mama Mia (excellent breakfasts, fantastic atmosphere, decent Italian food, wonderful live music at night), El Correo (great breakfasts), Caribe (excellent fresh seafood), and Rincón Español (Spanish, flamenco dancer). In addition, there are a lot of other places with live music at night; two of my favorites are La Fragua (but beware of overcharging on drinks) and La Princesa.
In Querétaro, I don’t know of anything, except for a decent business hotel (the Mirabel), in your price range. In the center, there is the beautiful Mesón de Santa Rosa, but they charge in the $85 to $90 range. Also, on the outskirts (you can take a taxi) is the nicest Holiday Inn I’ve ever seen, but they charge the same as the Santa Rosa. The Fonda del Refugio is a very nice place to eat, as is the restaurant at the Santa Rosa.
In Guanajuato, I’ve heard that the Posada Santa Fe and the Hotel San Diego are both nice, but I usually stay at the much cheaper Socavón (the top floor, up four flights of stairs, is very pleasant). I can recommend the Tasca de los Santos as a place to eat.
Taboada is by far the nicest, best maintained balneario (hot springs) outside of San Miguel. The problem is that transportation is iffy (it’s far from the main road); there is a public bus that goes there a few times per day, but if you miss the last one back (mid-afternoon), you’ll have to pay through the nose to get a room at the very fancy hotel that’s there. I’ve heard that Taboada has a van that leaves from the Hotel Vista Hermosa, on Calle Cuna de Allende, but I don’t know anything about it.
Posted by mitch on May 23, 1999
I just returned from the area about 6 hours ago. Don’t exactly understand your “bus tour” comment… but here are some ideas: If you are looking for a good place to stay in San Miguel, try Mansion Virreyes at Canal 19. It’s a half block from the Jardin. A double will run you about 420 pesos. Not much English there, but the location is excellent. Day manager is “Remedios” and she is very helpful (if you can speak some Spanish). You can’t go wrong eating at “Mama Mias” in SMA. Great pizza at the “Grotto”, just off the jardin, to the right & back of the Parroqia. Re: Hot Springs nearby: Two choices 1) the public hot springs. Cheap. No personal report. Never tried. 2) Hotel Hacienda Taboada. Great place. A $7 taxi ride from SMA. Takes 15 minutes. Very upscale. You can get a “day pass” for about $25. Nightly stays run around $100. I’ve stayed there 3 times in the past 4 years. I use it as a one or two night splurge on my trips. Gets my ESPN and CNN fix in for the trip. Food & service good.
Posted by mitch on May 23, 1999
In Queretaro: Be sure to visit the primary museum…if you are a Mexican history buff. I went through it on Thursday. Great place to eat: on the Plaza Independencia. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of the place. Directions: Go to the plaza, stand in front of the house of government. Go to your right and walk up the plaza. Directly across from the plaza you will see a place very popular with the bus tours. Avoid it. At the corner on the right you will see a restaurant that also has outdoor tables on the right corner. It’s in front of the entryway to the theatre. Eat there. Order the tornados or the special pescado dish. Re: Guanajuato: Try to be in the Jardin Union on Saturday night. (I was there last night.) Eat at the Casa Valadez. Order the Churrasco; order it medium. I know this goes against principals, but DO IT. Save room for the strawberry cheesecake for desert. If your bus tour offers a trip to Atotonilco…skip it. It should be renamed “Atotodon’tgo”. Hope this helps.
Posted by Richard Ferguson on May 23, 1999
In Guanajuato, we like the Hotel Embajadoras, within walking distance of the center of town, but far enough away to be quiet. Around $40 US per room.
Taxis cost one or two dollars US, so not a big issue, if you have energy, walk, if you are tired, grab a taxi.
Posted by Brian J. Larkin on May 24, 1999
When it comes to places to dine in San Miguel, the Casa de Sierra Nevada has to be among the top of the line. Actually there are two Sierra Nevada’s. One is adjacent to Juarez Park (a bird sanctuary famous or infamous for its egrets) is an extension of the first. While it is nice, the one you want — if you want either — is the old Sierra Nevada on top of the hill. Their chateaubriand is memorable.
The Sierra Nevada is also a place to see, even if you are not interested in dining there. It is the hotel of choice in San Miguel. If nothing else, stop by and have a drink.
Moving down from the Sierra Nevada there is a wide range of restaurants with prices to meet any budget. There are more upscale restaurants than one would expect in as small a town as SMA. Many are fine but there is none that I would call a “must.”
When it comes to must-see places in SMA, don’t worry. You will see them all. The downtown area is really just a small town — population of perhaps 35,000. For example, The Jardin is a must-see and the Parroquia, the beautiful pseudo-gothic church, is a must-see, but you can’t miss seeing them. Another of the many churches to see is El Oratorio de San Felipe Neri and its chapel, La Santa Casa de Loreto. Also you will want to see the Institute and the library (Biblioteca Publica). But you are going to be reminded to do so anyway.
One thing you might want to do is take a walking tour. They are sponsored by the Biblioteca Publica, the library supported by the English speaking community. They are a wonderful way to get to see some splendid homes and to get the inside information about SMA. For details, ask anyone you see sitting around the Jardin. A few recommended inexpensive hotels are the Pasada Carmina, Quinta Loreto, and Pasada de las Monjas. The first two are popular with the local folks. Carmina’s, in particular, is a very popular lunch spot for local U.S. and Canadian expatriates.
My wife and I have not stayed at any of the three places I mention. We have eaten at the first two and visited friends who were staying at Carmina’s. I suggest these three based largely on first hand reports from people we know or have met who have stayed in them and whose judgement we respect.
Posted by MotherHubbard on May 24, 1999
In Queretaro: Cheap but clean and just a few blocks west of the Plaza de Armas, The Hotel Senorial, probably about $24 dols/day. More upscale is the Meson de Santa Rosa on the Plaza de Independencia. Rates are probably closer to $60-70/day. Nice old rooms and building. There are any number of restaurants on either the Plaza de Independencia, the Plaza de Armistad. Also near the Plaza de Guerrero to the west side of El Centro is a small restaurant called “Archangel”. Simple foods, very popular with locals, no alcohol. Across the street from the Teatro Principal, sorry, can’t remember the exact name, is a great restaurant called the “Restaurant de Siglo”, a little more upscale, but service and food very good. The tourist office is on the Plaza de Independencia and they have trolley car tours in English and Spanish every afternoon that have 2 different routes.
If you get a chance while you’re in Queretaro, I’d recommend a short 1 hour trip to Tequisquiapan-has several balenarios. Lots of cultural things to do in Qro. In Guanajuato: Hotel Embajadores good, also Hotel San Francisco on the Jardin. Be fore- warned any hotel on the Jardin may be a little noisy on the weekend nights. Restaurants: Truco 7(siete), which is also its address is to the right of the Basilica on Truco street. Very popular, good food and moderately priced. El Retiro, good food, simple atmosphere, low priced, on the street that’s to the left when you are facing the Teatro Juarez, about 1/3 of the way to the Don Quixote Museum. There are several higher priced restaurants on the Jardin. I can personally recommend the Posada de Santa Fe, or San Diego, right now I’m having a synapse-lapse. Outside of town; Hotel de Real Minas, a little more upscale, so-so restaurant (my opinion) but the rooms are ok. Taxis are in abundance and the bus goes right by the front of the building. I know there are lots of restaurants and hotels that I’ve not encountered. If you speak Spanish, there’s a tour of an old mine at Boca de Mina, behind Valenciana (the church) that was interesting to me. Have your cab wait for you. Cabs to that area are not very frequent. Enough! Have a good trip.
Posted by Laurie on May 24, 1999
In Morelia, the Virrey de Mendoza hotel, on the west side of the main square, is an incredibly elegant former mansion (much classier than the touristy hotels on the north side of the square). The lobby and rooms are beautiful, the service impeccable, the dining room excellent, the bar clubby and cozy (great for late night sippings of their best tequila). It should be within your price range. The rooms on the street can be a little noisy. For eating, the Posada de la Soledad, a few blocks away to the north, has an excellent afternoon buffet on weekends. We had a memorable meal in their beautiful open-air courtyard, surrounded by flowers and singing birds. Las Mercedes is a great place for dinner, a few blocks west of the Virrey. Hip decor, great food, can’t be beat.
Posted by jennifer rose on May 25, 1999
Everything Laurie said about the Virrey and Las Mercedes is absolutely on point. Las Mercedes is my absolute fav in all of Morelia. Chicken Kiev, Pollo Azteca (where huitlacoche replaces the butter), and the pesto are tan rico, and the apple strudel is not to be missed. If you have time for only one restaurant in Morelia, it’s Las Mercedes. Hands down, the place to stay within the budget range you described is the Virrey de Mendoza. Look no further. Many tourists are seduced by the hostelries under the portales or the Soledad, fearful that Virrey’s going to cost them an arm and a leg. It’s no more expensive, and light years away from the others in all categories. Downtown Morelia, moribund by night in days of yore, is seeing a revitalization by some new entrants. Overlooking the east side of the Cathedral is a new hotel with rooftop dining which comes highly touted: Los Juaninos. That hotel is out of the price range you described.
Opened a little over a year ago, atop Burger King, cater-corner from the Virrey de Mendoza is Casa del Portal, which was a private home until its reincarnation as an eatery, café, and antique shop. The entrance is through a souvenir store on Abasolo. Stroll down Galeana (the street parallel to and one block west of Abasolo), a block or so from Madero, and there’s Casa de Espiritus, a renovated old mansion that becomes alive at night as a club. On Allende, open seven nights a week is the Pena y Centro Cultural Bola Suriana, folk club which doesn’t really become alive until after 10 p.m. If you’re lucky, one of Michoacan’s leading musical groups, the Bol Suriana will be playing. Two or three blocks south of the plaza, a few steps off of Galeana, is a fantastic Italian restaurant at Corregadora #432. No sign in front.
San Miguelito is an extremely popular restaurant, a cab ride from el centro on Av. Camelinas, contraesquina the Convention Center. Progeny of a similar venture in San Miguel de Allende, not only is the food fantastic, but all the décor’s for sale! No trip to Morelia is complete without one meal at the Villa Montana. Or at least a drink. Never mind what I wrote earlier about the Villa Montana. Like a Phoenix, it’s risen to greater heights and is now the classiest, as well as the most expensive, venue in town. But it’s money well spent.
While you’re in the ‘hood, venture up to Colonia Santa Maria de Guido, a town whose history predates Morelia. Stop in at Senal and gander at the incredible wonders in wood created by George Shoemaker, a second generation artist whose goods have become internationally famous. La Sirenita, a gift shop cum gallery, located near the Villa Montana, has just opened a branch across from the Casa de Artesanias. Its wares take folk art to new heights. If time’s limited, and you want one-stop shopping or an overview of all Michoacan’s artesania, the Casa de Artesanias can’t be beat. Upstairs, the state’s major craft centers each have small separate stores. There was a time, not even long ago nor far away, when the plaza in front of the ex-Convento San Francisco was barren of the God-forsaken puestos which set down and continue to clutter the landscape. The current mayor has promised that the ambulantes, which clog Morelia’s downtown, will be gone by the end of his term.
Posted by edw on May 25, 1999
Beth: I was in Morelia last week. As noted elsewhere the Virrey de Mendoza is the elegant place and sort of a classical movie set time warp. The hotels on the north side under the portals are OK, and I prefer the Hotel Casino. Any of those hotels are great to sit out on the sidewalk tables and sip something and watch the people. They close up around 10pm. The Burger King on the corner has a popular long-distance Ladatel telephone and clean restrooms upstairs. You will not see many tourists there this time of year, or at least I didn’t last week.
Can’t recommend any restaurants since that is not one of my priorities. I ate at various cafes near the bus station, comidas 10-15 pesos. I enjoyed the Woolworth’s restaurant for breakfast. It is in a restored convent or chapel just southwest of the plaza on Madero. I was disappointed in the overall quality of the folk art, etc. in the public markets but there was excellent work in the state supported Casa de Artesanas east of the plaza/market de San Francisco – you must check it out. Since my wife was not with me this last trip, I stayed at the Hotel Mintzicuri.
It is not for everyone, but I like the Diego-like murals in the lobby, the staff, and of course, the price, 115 pesos + 10 peso deposit for a towel. Which indicates it is in the budget category. The streets of Morelia are all crowded with street merchant stalls and difficult to navigate. I found the taxis cheap enough but mostly rode the Volkswagen combi’s, price 2 1/2 pesos. The tourist office, one block west of the Virrey and before the dulces market, are helpful and can help you plan or get to your sites. Depending on how long you stay in Morelia, Patzcuaro is a short distance and a good day trip by local bus. Enough!
Mitch, Hotel Hacienda Taboada sounds great, how does one make reservations? I will be in Delores Hidalgo next month on a volunteer project and want to take a weekend trip. Does Taboada sound feasible?
Posted by mitch on May 25, 1999
Hi Denise: You are right. Taboada is really nice. I just dug into my files, and here is their phone number: (in Mexico) 415-2-0850. Fax is: 415-2-1798. You could probably use a search engine (suggest Alta Vista) using “Hotel Hacienda Taboada +Mexico” and find further details. You said you will be in Dolores; you will be VERY close to the hotel. A taxi from Dolores may cost $5. Arrange for the taxi driver to pick you up when you wish to leave. They will be very happy to do so. This is not a good place for those wishing to do Mexico “on the cheap.” It’s a first class resort, and the service and prices reflect such. Nevertheless, similar accommodations in the USA or Europe would be 50 to 100% higher. You can certainly buy a beer in a cheap restaurant in Mexico for 75 cents, whereas at Taboada it will cost $1.75; but try ordering one at a nice resort in the USA and it will cost three or four dollars. If you are a tennis fan, they have beautiful courts (and rent rackets). Also ping pong & pool.
Posted by mitch, part 2 on May 25, 1999
Ran out of room on prior message. I also wanted to tell you that this is the off season, so you shouldn’t have to worry much about reservations, unless a large group is using the place. I have had good luck using travel agents in San Miguel to make the arrangements. They seem to know the right price to pay. I would recommend the Vertiz Agency, the local American Express rep on Calle Reloj in SMA. d/k any agents in Dolores. Taboada has a large pool or medium heat, and a small one of serious heat (about 10 minutes is all you can stand). Also unique is that the bathtubs in the rooms have the mineral water pumped straight into them! If you rent a room & have kids with you, horseback riding is gratis for the kids…or for you too if you really like riding smelly old horses. Note that the pools are closed one day a week for cleaning, but this is usually at mid-week, so it shouldn’t affect you.