San Miguel de Allende is a picturesque city located in Mexico's central highlands in the state of Guanajuato. It has a lovely local color as well as interesting culture and history. The city is graced with beautiful colonial-period churches, public parks and squares, and charming cobblestone streets lined with stately centuries-old mansions. A large part of its attraction to many visitors lies in its cosmopolitan atmosphere that is due to the large expat community-based in the city.
Tidily pruned laurel trees offer shade in San Miguel's central square, known as El Jardín. This is the heart of the city, a laid-back shady plaza bordered to the south by the Parish Church of San Miguel, La Parroquía, on the east and west by tall arcades, and to the north by the municipal government building (there's a tourist information stand here, offering maps and assistance).
San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542 by the Franciscan monk Fray Juan de San Miguel. The town was an important stop on the silver route and later featured prominently in the Mexican War of Independence. In 1826 the name of the city, previously San Miguel el Grande, was changed to honor revolutionary hero Ignacio Allende. In 2008 the UNESCO recognized the Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco as World Heritage sites.
What to Do
- Explore San Miguel de Allende's historical center on foot (be sure to pack good walking shoes for navigating those cobblestone streets).
- Shop for crafts at the many shops, boutiques, and galleries throughout the city.
- Take a hike and enjoy the flora and fauna at El Charco del Ingenio, a nearby nature reserve.
- Learn about Mexican history and the War of Independence by visiting the Casa de Allende, natal home of Ignacio Allende, now a museum.
- Take a class: whether you're interested in art, personal development or learning Spanish, in San Miguel you'll find classes or workshops to suit your interest.
- La Capilla, an elegant restaurant next to la Parroquia, offers a stunning rooftop view, Mexican and international cuisine, and live music. It can be pricey, but it's worth it.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with chocolate and churros at San Augustin, San Francisco #21
- La Brasserie offers a Mexican twist on the French bistro, Jesús #11
The city of Dolores Hidalgo is a short 25-mile drive from San Miguel de Allende. This town is known as the cradle of Mexican Independence. In 1810 Miguel Hidalgo rang the church bell in Dolores and called for the people to rise up against the Spanish crown, initiating the Mexican War of Independence.
Guanajuato is the state capital and birthplace of artist Diego Rivera. It is 35 miles from San Miguel. This is a university town, so there are lots of young people, and very vibrant culturally, in a different way from SMA. Don't miss the mummy museum!
The city of Queretaro, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located some 60 miles from San Miguel de Allende. It has many fine examples of colonial architecture, including an enormous aqueduct, the Church of San Francisco and the Palacio de la Corregidora, which are worth visiting, as well as several notable museums.
San Miguel de Allende has hostels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals for all budgets. Here are a few favorite options:
- Casa Quetzal, an intimate boutique hotel.
- Rosewood San Miguel, a luxury hotel.
- Hotel Real de Minas is located a 20-minute walk from San Miguel's historical center and has a swimming pool.
- Hotel Matilda is a boutique hotel and art experience.
San Miguel does not have an airport. Fly to the Leon/Bajio airport (airport code: BJX) or Mexico City airport (MEX), and then take a bus. Another option is to fly into Queretaro (QRO), but there are limited flights to this airport. Read about bus travel in Mexico.