Things to do in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is a place to fall in love. Is it worth visiting this Mexican city? It’s worth it and every penny that you spend. Here I tell you the reasons!

Losing yourself in the alleys of this city of the State of Guanajuato is a unique experience. Each colorful wall, molded since colonial times, evokes positive vibes, peace and disconnects you from the world.

Some facades may seem similar, but it is enough to enter them to change the perspective, not only because of the human warmth of the San Miguel people but also because of the charm of these narrow and deep enclosures.

The surroundings of the Civic Plaza offer a warm setting to rest or have a coffee.
The surroundings of the Civic Plaza offer a warm setting to rest or have a coffee.

San Miguel de Allende town

The central square gives prominence to the largest icon of the city: the church of San Miguel Arcángel. Spectacular! With a facade of neo-Gothic style, its construction began in the year 1550, but it was until 1890 when it approached the style that we know today. It is mandatory to appreciate this place in the day and night.

Ignacio Allende, an important leader during the Mexican independence movement, was baptized in this church. The majestic house of Ignacio Allende, located next to the temple, is today a museum that will help you to better understand the process of independence of this country (recommended! More details in What to do in San Miguel de Allende?).

Dozens of laurel trees, perfectly cut out with rounded shapes, rest in front of the church, as if it were an army that protects the precious jewel.

It’s 8:00 p.m. and the children continue to party in this World Heritage city, declared by Unesco in 2008. Around, street stalls offer fast traditional Mexican food, while some shops begin to close.

It is the turn of the bars that offer a good atmosphere; They are the best option for locals and foreigners to finish the day. Art and food lovers have galleries and gourmet restaurants available.

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It is January and the Christmas lights give even more life to San Miguel, distinguished, in 2017, as the Best City in the World (World’s Best Awards) and chosen, in 2019, as the American Capital of Culture.

The next day, the city wakes up at around 9:00 a.m., for me, a perfect opportunity to get up early, go through it, appreciate the silence and every space, corner, and alley of the place.

Slowly I see women artisans setting up their improvised premises around the street; with a good attitude and friendly treatment, some with their children in their arms, offer a memory of this wonderful place.

In front of the Cathedral, San Miguel women set up an improvised craft workshop for sale.
In front of the Cathedral, San Miguel women set up an improvised craft workshop for sale.

Whenever I am in a place far from home I wonder if I could live there … In San Miguel, the answer is yes.

What to do in San Miguel de Allende?

  • Go through the alleys without a map. Lose yourself and discover the charm of the cobbled streets, the traditional chopped paper that decorates the streets and shops (if you saw the movie Coco you’ll know what I’m talking about), and the decorative piñatas accompanying the electric service cables.
Piñatas are part of Mexican traditions. In San Miguel de Allende they decorate some streets.
Piñatas are part of Mexican traditions. In San Miguel de Allende they decorate some streets.
  • Enjoy every detail of the church. If you go during December Holidays, you will be able to observe the cozy portal that represents the birth of Jesus. If you go in another season, it is enough to appreciate the internal and welcoming details of the temple.
  • Eat ice cream in front of the central square. It does not matter if it is day or night, you will enjoy the imposing church of San Miguel Arcángel and the unique atmosphere of the city.
  • Visit the Craft Market. You can find in this ordered market from foods, juices, ceramics, wooden toys, and even wrestler masks. It is common to observe the ladies sitting in the steps of access to the market embroidering or peeling nopales. It opens at 9:00 a.m.
The Craft Market offers a wide variety of shops and street food stalls.
The Craft Market offers a wide variety of shops and street food stalls.
  • Temple of the Immaculate Conception. I love this church! It stands out in the city for its majestic yellow dome. It is also known as “The Nuns” because apart from the temple it has a convent. The dome was built in 1755 by the mason Zeferino Gutiérrez, who, apparently, was inspired by The National Residence of the Invalids in Paris.
  • Church of Our Lady of Health. Built-in 1735 this church attracts attention for its splendid Baroque stone façade.
  • Buy souvenirs. San Miguel offers dozens of stores and some markets where you can find from ceramics, some designs in Talavera (a type of earthenware that emerged in the sixteenth century), to leather, hand embroidery, and clothing. For more refined tastes, there are options such as Daniel Espinosa Jewelry or Pineda Covalin (Mexican luxury firm).
  • Bus tour. If you want to know the human side of this city, you must take the bus to know the surroundings of San Miguel. You will meet another face of the city, there are many workers who get on the bus with the crafts that will sell in the center, and of course, you will listen to a good repertoire of northern Mexican music. I took two.
  • Ignacio Allende House Museum. The family home of Ignacio Allende is currently a Museum. It is a mansion of colonial baroque style, built in the eighteenth century, which tells the history of the area in a very clear. The ticket is purchased at the museum reception and costs 55 pesos (approximately $ 2.8 USD), which are paid in cash, in local currency.
  • Botanical Garden El Charco del Ingenio. Open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 3 kilometers from the center of San Miguel, you will find this natural reserve where you can see a wide collection of cactus and succulents from Mexico, some are in danger of extinction.
Statue of General Ignacio Allende in the Civic Plaza
Statue of General Ignacio Allende in the Civic Plaza

How to get to San Miguel de Allende?

I arrived at San Miguel de Allende from Mexico City, after traveling 270 kilometers, which is like 3.5- 4 hours by car. A little more if you travel by bus (from the CDMX there are services – $ 28 per ticket).

I left at 6:30 a.m. and around 9:30 a.m. I made a stop in the State of Querétaro. From Querétaro to San Miguel by car, it takes about 1 hour, since they are about 70 km.

There is also bus service from Queretaro or Guanajuato to San Miguel. They take approximately one hour and a half, and costs between $5 and $4 USD, respectively.

If you want to arrive by plane, the closest airport to San Miguel de Allende is the International Airport of Guanajuato. The buses to San Miguel leave from the Central de Autobuses Guanajuato, which is one 24 km from the airport.

Façades in San Miguel de Allende are full of colors and plants
Façades in San Miguel de Allende are full of colors and plants

Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende?

San Miguel at night is a completely different experience to San Miguel by day, so I recommend staying in the city at least one night.

In the city center, there are many lodging options, including multiple and beautiful Boutique Hotels, with different prices and amenities. At the beginning of January it is high season, so when I went, the hotel occupation was almost total.

Cheap hotels in San Miguel de Allende Mexico

I did not find an option in the center that fit my budget, so I booked a hotel located one kilometer away, in the area named Estación (Hotel Estación, approximately $ 40 per night). I liked the experience because it involved more contact with local people and explore the surroundings of San Miguel.

To visit the historic center you can walk, call an Uber or take a bus. The bus option takes about 15 minutes, costs 6 pesos (0.31 USD) and is a Mexican experience you would enjoy.

Boutique hotels San Miguel de Allende

If you are looking for personalized attention and elegant design there are 2 boutique hotels that I visited. You can see La Puertecita Boutique Hotel which is one kilometer from the center and costs about $100 a night. Or if you’re looking to be closer to the center, we recommend the Mansion San Miguel, which has 8 rooms and breakfast included.

If you plan to rent a car, it is not a good idea to enter the city center with it, since there are no parking spaces and driving through the beautiful cobblestone streets can become a chaotic experience.

Although it is not Day of the Dead, the Catrinas decorate the shops with a very Mexican style.
Although it is not Day of the Dead, the Catrinas decorate the shops with a very Mexican style.

San Miguel de Allende restaurants

To eat, there are options for all tastes and budgets. I suggest taking a look at Google before making the decision. I went to Hecho en México, the place is bohemian, beautiful decorated and the food is varied and very good. Áperi Restaurant (inside the Dos Cercas boutique hotel) and 1826 Restaurant (inside the Rosewood Hotel) have been well rated by diners. If you prefer to have the same experience as Meryl Streep in San Miguel, you can dine on Antonia Bistro’s terrace.

Things to do around San Miguel de Allende

  • Guanajuato. In the historic center, you can see colonial buildings such as the Collegiate Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, and the Otero, Legislative and Municipal Palaces. Guanajuato offers a tour to the iconic “Callejón del beso” (street of 28 inches wide that tells a legend of love) and dozens of museums. The Museum of the Mummies has more than 100 bodies that, in a natural way -without embalming process- are conserved. From San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato is 67 kilometers away.
  • Atotonilco. It is a small city located about 14 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende. It is home of the Sanctuary Jesus Nazareno, a baroque temple known as the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico”, for the almost total coverage of paintings on its internal walls and ceilings.
  • Dolores Hidalgo. Recognized as a magical town, Dolores Hidalgo is the cradle of Mexican independence and, for lovers of Mexican music, is the city where José Alfredo Jiménez was born. It is located 40 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende and 57 kilometers from Guanajuato. The city offers churches, museums, and good local restaurants.
  • Mineral de Pozos. It is a city of Guanajuato located about 45 minutes by car, from San Miguel de Allende, which has an interesting history of mining exploitation. You can tour its central square, streets, and old mines, and enjoy good food, typical sweets and pulque (traditional fermented maguey drink, very popular in Guanajuato).
  • Pyramids “Cañada de la Virgen”. It is an archaeological site that consists of four sets of structures that is located 16 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende. It is believed that the construction of the pyramids along the Laja river basin belongs to the Toltec-Chichimec groups. On Mondays, it is closed.
Surroundings of the Civic Square of San Miguel
Surroundings of the Civic Square of San Miguel

Travel tips

  • Hotel occupancy in the area is high, so I recommend you book your hotel at least 3 weeks in advance.
  • Restaurants accept a credit card, but smaller businesses such as souvenir shops and buses only accept Mexican pesos.
  • In the historic center, there are few exchange houses, so it is advisable that when you arrive in the city you already have Mexican pesos.
  • There are shopping centers in and around San Miguel, such as Plaza Luciérnaga, where you can find department stores such as the Mexican chain Liverpool, fast food chains and movies.
  • These are the festivities that bring together more people in the city: Fiesta de Los Locos (weekend after June 13), independence celebrations (days before and after September 15) and the feast of La Alborada (Celebration of San Miguel Arcángel, end of September or beginning of October).
  • In my experience, San Miguel is a safe place, but it does not hurt to take precautions and self-care to avoid a bad time.
  • Suitable for children and seniors? The city is nice for people of any age, even, there is a Museum of Mexican Toy, which offers a collection of over 1000 objects acquired over 50 years.
  • It is important to take into consideration that the sidewalks are narrow and the streets made of stone, which hinders the free transit of strollers or wheelchairs. In addition, some streets have slopes.

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