A restaurant and bar in the first courtyard, a heated swimming pool in the second courtyard the rooms look down on, and it’s just a walk out the door to the thick of the historic center. That’s a typical description of many hotels in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, almost all qualifying to be called “boutique.” But El Meson is a bit trendier, a bit funkier, and a bit less obsessed with the Spanish Colonial era than most of them in this perfectly presented Mexican city.
As we mentioned recently in our Hotel Matilda review, most San Miguel de Allende hotels have drawn from a similar playback for decades. If you love Spanish Colonial architecture, furniture, and design—a reason many visitors are so enchanted with the place to start with—there are dozens of great choices within walking distance of the central plaza. El Meson though is more for the crowd that gravitates to the Habita Group hotels in other parts of Mexico: contemporary places with a playful, less serious aesthetic. A hotel with cool design elements, and a fun atmosphere, but not crazy expensive.
The entrance to El Mesón is a bit strange, guests arriving through a covered courtyard that hosts a small gourmet shop, a restaurant with two kitchens (a demo one and a real one), and a corner bar to the right of a small reception desk that’s an opening in the far wall. Someone is always on hand to grab the bags and guide you though, taking them up to your room after the formalities.
The rooms themselves vary a great bit as this is a quirky hotel with lots of personality. But in all you can expect furniture and fixtures with flair, without a big clunky colonial chair in sight. As with many artsy hotels, design can sometimes trump function—or common sense. In this photo here of the room I stayed in with my wife and daughter, said daughter banged her head on that glass globe hanging down from the ceiling as she bounced out of bed and I was out a hundred bucks after it smashed into as many pieces on the floor. Said the manager on duty that I settled up with the next morning, “I really don’t like those lights. That’s the third one we have had to replace and we just bought the last one from the shop…”
Some of the suites are especially stylish, like the one pictured at the top. There are a few quirks here and there in terms of tight bathroom spaces and limited storage, but that goes with the territory in the historic center of a city that’s a few hundred years old.
There is a small roof deck for lounging and sunning, but the best hang-out space when the sun is high is around the deep heated pool with waterfall. There are a few lounge chairs with fluffy towels at the ready and the bar is right off this courtyard if you want a drink. At night it’s lit up in a dramatic fashion as the bar crowd spills out into the pool area.
The Patio 3 bar here is an especially attractive space, with more style than most others in town and nice lounge sitting areas with soft lighting for after the sun goes down. They have a good tequila selection of course and can whip up a wide variety of cocktails.
One of the best reasons for staying here is the central location on Mesones. It took us exactly three minutes to get to the main plaza from El Mesón and there were a dozen good restaurants and bars within a few blocks. In a city meant for strolling, this is a good place to set out from.
El Meson’s owners have several other businesses in town and they might send you to their Restaurant El Correo if you ask for a dining recommendation. It’s quite good, with well-prepared typical central Mexican dishes for all three meals, and it’s an attractive space just a block off the main square.
Their newest project is the more upscale El Palomar hotel, also in a convenient spot with with a killer view from the rooftop pool and lounging area.
Editor Tim Leffel was a guest for one night at El Meson while in San Miguel de Allende researching a travel story for another publication.