It’s not every day that you get to sleep in the shadow of an original work by Pedro Friedeberg, arguably Mexico’s greatest Surrealist master.
But La Valise San Miguel de Allende, which debuted in September as the latest addition to the celebrated La Valise hotel collection, teems with his art—specifically, fanciful carvings that adorn the walls of its alluring common areas and six sumptuous suites.
For Yves Naman, founder of Namron Hospitality, La Valise’s parent company, opening an outpost in San Miguel was a natural next move: Given its rarefied reputation as an international arts center, it dovetails nicely with the brand’s ethos of laid-back luxury imbued with an inimitable sense of place. The city left an indelible impression on him after his first visit nearly two decades ago: “I was amazed by how you feel as though you’ve traveled 300 years back in time,” he says.
Naman was determined to find exactly the right spot for La Valise’s next location, following Mexico City and Tulum. “When I first saw the estate, I was most struck by Friedeberg’s creations,” Naman recalls. “We couldn’t believe the scale of the art and the property’s uniqueness, and instantly knew it was perfect for the La Valise brand.”
Tucked away behind a vermillion facade on a pedestrian cobblestone street steps away from El Jardín—the city’s leafy main square—the hotel, which was five years in the making, is an intimate and inspired alternative to San Miguel’s larger, higher-profile luxury resorts like Rosewood and Belmond. Beyond its ornate wooden door lies a bona fide urban oasis, centered by a verdant Zen garden, a pool and a show-stopping double staircase emblazoned with mythical dragons—another Friedeberg masterwork.
The overarching design scheme pays homage to the city’s pivotal ’60s era, when the Surrealist art movement swept into town and made it a magnet for artists and poets. Indeed, with its deftly curated suites—which vary in style and layout but brim with singular, locally sourced furnishings and objets—the hotel itself resembles a gallery. The ground-floor Alma Suite has exuberant carvings of monkeys on its walls, while the Genesis Suite, a tribute to artist Diego Rivera, boasts three grand arches reminiscent of a Mayan temple and a deep, mikveh-inspired bath.
Presiding over the property from the second floor, the nearly 800-square-foot master suite dazzles with a spacious living room, a bedroom wrapped in fanciful Friedeberg carvings, and a stunning and spa-inspired bathroom, whose star-studded cobalt ceiling shelters a giant granite tub. (The hotel’s spectacular bathrooms are a particular calling card.)
Given its prime location and myriad aesthetic charms, La Valise is a prime base from which to explore the treasure trove of San Miguel, whose eminently strollable streets—chockablock with low-slung, bougainvillea-laden buildings awash in mustard and ochre shades—will keep you happily meandering for hours. Spin by La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel—the pink, neo-Gothic parish church renowned for its soaring spires, and the city’s most recognizable icon—and meander through quiet lanes past countless galleries and chic shops, whose sleek storefronts and soignée wares underscore the city’s bold juxtaposition of past and present. Then make your way to Fabrica La Aurora, a former textile factory where halls once home to giant looms are lined with galleries and boutiques specializing in interior design, antiques and arts in virtually every medium.
After a long day spent exploring, La Valise’s enchanting candlelit courtyard is a seductive setting for a frosty margarita prepared by the endlessly accommodating staff, as the moonlight casts Friedeberg’s ferocious dragons into sharp relief.
Naman believes the property resembles the artist himself. “When Friedeberg arrives to an exhibition, he usually wears a mask—disguised and discreet,” he says. “That’s La Valise San Miguel de Allende: an unassuming facade on the outside, and an eccentric wonderland of discovery within.”
Rates at La Valise San Miguel de Allende start at $347 for two.