Top 12 Things to do in San Miguel de Allende
In the heart of Mexico, surrounded by stunning landscape of mountains, canyons, and valleys, you’ll find one of the most charming towns. In fact, 80,000 travelers selected San Miguel de Allende as the best city in the world, according to Conde Nast! We were intrigued, and booked a flight to find out why it’s been voted #1.
We arrived in March when the lavender colored Jacaranda trees start to blossom. Each day, we walked every cobblestone street of this magical town, and were enchanted by its colorful buildings, beautiful courtyards, lush parks. The colonial and Spanish architecture is beautiful, and worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
It’s easy to see why almost 25% of its residents are expats from the USA, Canada, and have made 500 yrs old San Miguel de Allende their permanent home. Dating back to the 16th century, silver traders stopped here too, as they traveled between Zacatecas and Mexico City. Named after General Ignacio Allende, a Mexican Hero of the 1700’s War of Independence, the city has attracted visitors throughout time from near and far.
Here are our recommendations on where to stay, dine, and a dozen things to do.
Our dozen favorites things to do…
1. WALK! Walk San Miguel de Allende! This is one of the best ways to explore this town. While walking the 24 blocks, we discovered courtyards, fountains, archways, passageways, sculptures, beautiful wall murals and whimsical door knockers on wood hewn doors, in the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.
There are churches, art galleries, gardens, colorful buildings and historic mansions, like the restored Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal, one of the town’s most beautiful, lining the streets. Highlights were meeting locals along the way, and trying some of the best Mexican food. And our favorite door is covered with milagros – a must see! Located along the alleyway of Cjon. Blanco, first door on the south side from Quebrada.
2. STROLL IN THE PARKS – Take a stroll or relax at a Park: There are a few parks to visit including Benito Juarez Park, and the El Jardín Principal at Plaza Allende. Take time to stroll through these parks and you’ll get into the rhythm of the local life. Sit on a bench under a laurel tree in the Jardin Principal (the main garden square) and listen to the bells of La Parroquia (San Miguel Arcangel Parrish) located in front of the park, watch locals activity, street vendors, and if you’re lucky, a mariachi will serenade you.
3. LOOK UP AT LA PARROQUIA: Admire the Landmark La Parroquia Church (San Miguel Arcangel Parrish): You can see the pinkish orange spires of La Parroquia stand out from the skyline from every vantage point. Get close to see the neo-gothic architecture of this 17th century church.
4. VISIT THE MERCADO DE ARTESANIAS: Located in the Colonial Centro that stretches for several blocks from Hidalgo to Loreto Street. You can find just about anything here from fresh produce, pinatas, milagros, silver, clothing, jewelry, hats, pottery and more! If you love milagros, you’ll find lots of them at Artesanias Baeza, email@example.com. If you’re hungry, try some street food, watch women make fresh tortillas and taste a freshly homemade tortilla! Also, you can find women removing thorns from cactus leaves, which are delicious when prepared as nopales.
5. MEET ARTISTS – Meet artists at Art Galleries: There’s a thriving artist community here and you can meet artists every Thursday at the studios and galleries in the Fábrica La Aurora, an old textile factory converted into a design center, located in the northeast part of town. You can also sign up for art classes and workshops.
6. HOP ON THE TROLLEY – Take the Sightseeing Trolley: Departing from the Tourism Office on the north side of the Jardin Principal, you can take the sightseeing trolley that will take you to the main points of interest, including the Mirador, a lookout point for a panoramic view of San Miguel de Allende.
7. COOK, PAINT & SPEAK SPANISH: Sign up for a cooking class, art class and/or Spanish speaking class!
8. GO TO CHURCH – Visit the Churches: There are several churches in addition to the iconic La Parroquia to visit, including Templo de la Concepcion, Templo de San Franciso, Templo de Nuestra Senora de la Salud, Santa Casa de Loreto, and Oratorio de San Felipe Neri – the exteriors are impressive and ornate, and be sure to go inside where the interiors have decorated ceilings, oil paintings worth seeing.
9. ADMIRE THE ARCHITECTURE – Visit the Town Buildings & Art Institutes: Theatre (Angela Peralta Teatro), Casa de Ignacio Allende, and Chorro, Foundation of San Miguel de Allende, and the Instituto Allende where you can see the works of young artists, or sit in the courtyard at a café. We especially liked visiting the National Art Institute, Bellas Artes. Walk the courtyard of this former convent, and corridors, archways to see the giant murals of David Alfaro Siqueiros, famous Mexican muralist. Be sure to visit the Biblioteca Pública (Public Library) and look up at the magnificent ceiling murals! Meet here on a Sunday and you can sign up for the tour of San Miguel resident’s casas.
10. DO SOME LAUNDRY at Lavaderos Antiguos: a square where you find the old wash basins, and if you visit on a Saturday you can watch locals washing their clothes in about a dozen basins – colorful sight!
11. ATTEND FESTIVALS – Festivals! If you can visit this town during one of their many weekend festivals, you’ll be able to see some dancing and musical performances, and incredible traditional costumes.
12. WATCH THE SUNRISE & SUNSET – Sunrises & Sunsets: There are many places to watch the sunrise and sunset, but our favorite was at our hotel – Rosewood San Miguel de Allende at the Luna Rooftop where we saw the light change across the Sierra Madre mountains and city skyline.
Daytrips outside San Miguel de Allende:
Surrounded by the Sierra de Guanajuato Mountains, and based in a beautiful valley, Guanajuato was known for its silver mines dating back to 1548. Nicknamed “the place of frogs” because the shape of its mountainous terrain is said to have resembled a frog to the city’s early inhabitants. The frog represents the God of Wisdom according to native religion.Just a couple hours from San Miguel de Allende, discover Guanajuato, the capital of Guanajuato state, one of Mexico’s best kept secrets – a Mexican city with European flair.
The drive from San Miguel de Allende is beautiful too. We saw the expansive countryside with mesquite trees and cactus spread across rolling hills and towns leading to mountain ranges.In order to reach this colonial gem, you need to first drive through a maze of underground tunnels. Once you get to the heart of the town, you’ll find Mariachis sing as locals and visitors stroll down narrow cobblestone alleyways (callejones), town squares, and gardens. This town is filled with charm – sidewalk cafés, museums, theaters, and markets. Guanajuato region is known as Bajio, the heartland of Mexico. We went to the top to get this panoramic view – isn’t it beautiful?! To find out more about our daytrip to Guanajuato, click here.
2. Atotonilco Sanctuary:
Known as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, the 18th century Atotonilco Jesuit Sanctuary is just 9 miles, about 20 mins from San Miguel de Allende.
In 2008, this Baroque architectural sanctuary became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with incredible frescoes paintings on the ceilings and walls depicting biblical stories by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre.
We weren’t able to get to these next few places, but hope to go on our next trip:
About 20 mins outside of town, visit the excavated Toltec ruins from the Pre-Columbian period 540-1050 AD, called Cañada de la Virgen. Temples, pyramids, artifacts have been excavated at this site, which use to be a religious center where the wind god, Ehecatl was worshiped. You can horseback ride, hike on trails or see the stars on the astronomy tours.
4. Dolores Hidalgo:
You can find Talavera pottery in this town, and see residents working on the pottery techniques. Also a village famous for its ice cream, which includes avocado, shrimp and tequila flavors!?
We heard this is a beautiful hacienda to visit where you can find a chapel, hotel and nice surroundings. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get inside the gates since you need to have an appointment and apply for access. Maybe next trip…
BEST PLACES TO EAT
Where to Dine?
1. 1826 Restaurant & Bar -International:
Rosewood’s restaurant, 1826, is named after the year that Mexican hero Ignacio de Allende brought independence to Mexico.
At 1826, Mexico’s rich heritage and culinary traditions are celebrated. Chef Carlos Segura shares, “the menu features traditional and innovative Mexican cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients. Embracing the “farm-to-table” philosophy, 1826 Restaurant has established partnerships with nearby farms and food producers that work with the culinary team to supply various fresh organic products.”
Chef Carlos Segura presents creative Mexican dishes that are delicious! We especially loved the Braised Beef Rib in “Mole de Olla” with squash, epazote, toasted corn and citric essence, and the Moro Crab Salad with habanero pepper, Cilantro & sweet lime juice. Guests can dine al fresco or indoors where you can watch the Chef and his team cook in the open artisan kitchen.
Location: Centro, Nemesio Diez #11, 152 9700
Reservation: email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
2. Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar:
Want to see a dramatic sunset? Get to the Luna Rooftop and you’ll have panoramic views of the mountains, and the skyline of San Miguel de Allende while enjoying authentically prepared Mexican and Spanish tapas and a Tamarindo margarita, in a casual, al fresco setting with breathtaking views of La Parroquia, the city and surrounding mountain ranges.
Locals and tourists agree that the Luna Rooftop Bar Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places to watch the sunset. Location: Centro, Nemesio Diez #11, 152 9700
Reservation: email: email@example.com,
Town Center – for some authentic Mexican food:
3. Café de la Parroquia:
One of the most gorgeous dining spots to see La Parroquia and taste delicious Mexican food, is Café de la Parroquia. You can dine in a shaded courtyard on a rooftop and have a splendid view of La Parroquia’s spires. For reservations, call: +52 415 152 31 61
4. La Cocina:
We heard this is a fabulous place to eat and feel like you’re in a real Mexican home. We peeked into the window and you sit down at a communal table right in the center of the kitchen and watch your food get prepared. For reservations, call: +52 (415) 152 0928 or email:
5. El Correo -Mexican:
One of San Miguel de Allende’s most popular restaurants for locals and tourists. Classic dishes are red mole, tortilla soup and famous must-have corundas. For reservations, call +23, 415 15 2 49 51
6. Café Rama:
Looking for a hip café with great décor and sidewalk tables? Great coffee and food!
Location: Calle Nueva No. 7, Centro www.cafe-rama.com
BEST PLACES TO STAY
Where to Stay?
We highly recommend the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, a luxury boutique hotel, where you’ll find some of the best views, exceptional service, and fine dining. Surrounded by natural beauty and history, we felt at home in one of their private residences, and found it to be the ideal place to experience this colonial town. You can choose to stay in one of the luxury hotel rooms, or reserve a private residence for your stay.
We were welcomed by Gustavo Vidargas, Public Relations Manager at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende. He introduced us to our Private Residence, and pointed out that each residence is decorated with authentic antiques and handicrafts from the region.
Gustavo highlighted that, “Each residence blends the town’s rich Spanish Colonial history with modern day luxury living conveniences such as state-of-the-art kitchens, spacious living areas and interior gardens with soothing fountains. Each residence also boasts a rooftop that offers breathtaking views of the city. Framed by a dramatic entryway and central courtyard, guests have multiple indoor and outdoor spaces adorned with fountains and fireplaces. Spacious and complete with every comfort imaginable, such as Jacuzzis and grills, the homes beg for alfresco entertainment with family and friends.”
Guests can choose from two, three, four or five-bedrooms at the Rosewood Private Residences.
For reservations, call +52 415 152 9750.
Private Residences Furnishings
- State-of-the-art kitchens fully equipped with stainless-steel Viking appliances
- FHD 48” televisions with private cable reception
- iPod docking stations
- Safety box
- Walk-in closets
- Full bathrooms with dual vanities and a separate shower for each guestroom
- Terraces with a Jacuzzi, grill and fireplace
- Elevators within each residence
- Service room on the ground floor
- Residence floor plans range from 2,378 (two-bedroom), 4,550 -square-feet (three-bedroom), 6,776-square-feet (four-bedroom) to 8,564-square-feet (five-bedroom)
- Bell staff and valet parking
- 24-hour concierge service
- Italian Rivolta Carmignani Egyptian cotton bed linens (300 thread count)
- Exclusive bath amenities (L’Occitane, Bvlgari, Natura Bissé or The Lavender Project – to be chosen by the guest)
- Daily bottled water
- Unique in-room tequila welcome amenity
- Daily fresh fruit
- Nespresso coffee selection
- Exclusive access to the fitness center, Sense spa, pools and restaurants
- Twice-daily housekeeping services
- Rose Buds activities for children
- High Speed WiFi internet
- Packing and unpacking service
- Preferred seating times at all of Rosewood San Miguel de Allende’s food and beverage establishments
- Blu ray & DVD players
- DVD library available at Concierge Desk
- 24-Hour room service
Excellent service from a welcome greeting to fluffing your pillows!
Trip Map (zoom in/out with controls on left)
There is no international airport in San Miguel de Allende, so you can fly into Leon/BJX or Mexico City, then take a bus or a taxi. San Miguel de Allende is located in Guanajuato state, so it’s a 165 miles drive from Mexico City, and about a 2 hr drive from Leon.
Plan your trip to San Miguel de Allende, email: info@GlobalAdventuress.com
We would like to thank the following for hosting our stay:
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and San Miguel de Allende Office of Tourism
Also, thank you to DK Travel for providing us with a DK Travel Eyewitness Guide on Mexico to help plan our trip!