If you’re looking for a fantastic travel destination in Mexico away from the beach and tropical paradises, look no further than San Miguel de Allende.
This beautiful and colorful small city in Mexico’s Central Highlands region is a popular tourist spot for a good reason—there are endless fun things to do and see here.
From ancient ruins to world-class wineries, San Miguel has something for everyone.
In this article, we’ll talk about the best of the best when it comes to the things to do in San Miguel de Allende.
We’ll also recommend some great places to stay, eat and drink while you’re here.
So let’s get started!
When is the Best Time to visit San Miguel de Allende?
The best time to travel to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico is from February to December, where you have pleasant or warm weather and hardly any precipitation.
San Miguel de Allende’s average maximum temperature is 84°F (29°C) in May and 66°F (19°C) in January.
San Miguel de Allende has a Mediterranean climate but with very mild extremes. Summers are hot and dry and in winter the temperature is somewhat cold.
The city was founded as San Miguel el Grande in the mid-16th century as a stage on the Camino Real that linked Mexico City with the northern mining centers of Guanajuato and Zacatecas.
As this road crossed the Chichimeca territory that Viceroy San Miguel did not control, it received the title of Villa Protectora.
It lived its time of splendor during the eighteenth century, and numerous churches and palaces were built with a mixture of Spanish, Creole, and indigenous influences.
The title of World Heritage is because it is an excellent example of cultural exchange between Europe and America.
It would later play an essential role in the fight for independence.
One of the main protagonists of this movement was Ignacio Allende, originally from San Miguel, and for this reason, since 1826, the city has been known as San Miguel de Allende.
During the 19th century, it was an impoverished and isolated city, so it did not evolve and remained frozen in time.
It’s one of the reasons why it preserves its historic center intact.
Now, conveniently restored, it is one of the most attractive places to visit on any trip to Mexico.
A walk through these cobblestone streets lined with old mansions, barred windows, carved wooden doorways, and courtyards with fountains is a delight.
Visiting San Miguel de Allende can be a day trip from Guanajuato or a place to spend at least one night since the offer of hotels and restaurants is very abundant.
FAQ About San Miguel de Allende
Is it Safe to Travel to San Miguel de Allende?
It is safe to travel to San Miguel de Allende. From either of the 3 closest airports, you won’t have any problem going to San Miguel de Allende. It is also quite safe to move around San Miguel de Allende even at night. You will have no issue visiting the surrounding areas. As usual, keep your eyes open and exercise precautions.
Is San Miguel de Allende Worth It?
YES! San Miguel de Allende is totally worth it if you enjoy vibrant colonial cities with a Spanish and Mexican flavor.
Best Airport for San Miguel de Allende
There are three different airports you can choose from to get to San Miguel de Allende. Guanajuato International Airport (BJX), Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (QRO) u0026amp; Mexico City International Airport (MEX). However, flying into Mexico City International Airport might allow you to obtain better ticket prices than the other two. All of these airports are between an hour and a half to two hours from San Miguel de Allende so you’ll require to book transportation.
Best Way to get to San Miguel de Allende
If you’re flying into Mexico, your best option in terms of a variety of airline options, ticket prices, and ways of transportation will be Mexico City. Arriving at Mexico City International Airport and having your previously booked transportation ready will let you get to San Miguel de Allende about 2 and a half hours after you land. (Always depending on traffic).
So what are the Best Things to do in San Miguel de Allende?
Historic City Center
The historic city center of San Miguel de Allende is included, along with the nearby sanctuary of Atotonilco, on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Its historic center with San Miguel’s main plaza has a marked colonial character. Still, its atmosphere is quite different from the rest of the nearby cities like Guanajuato, Querétaro, or Aguascalientes.
For decades, San Miguel de Allende has been the favorite of many foreigners, especially Americans, who spend long periods there, mainly in winter.
Artists arrived first, attracted by the beauty of the architecture and the beautiful light of the area, then Spanish students, and later many retirees, who have settled permanently.
The presence of this foreign colony has partially modified the atmosphere of the streets surrounding the Garden (the main square), giving it entirely over to tourism.
But it must also be recognized that many of them long ago exerted significant pressure to preserve the houses and streets, and for all this, they are now so well maintained.
El Jardin Square
An excellent place to start discovering this colorful city is the main square, which in this case people know as the Garden.
It is a tree-lined square conducive to walking or stopping on a bench; there are always balloon and craft vendors, musicians, and ice cream stalls.
As you enter the Garden, the first thing that draws your attention is the Parish Church Facade, which is entirely different from any other in Mexico.
The church is from the 17th century and is relatively conventional, but the tower is surprising in a curious pseudo-Gothic style.
Next to Plaza El Jardín is the Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende or Casa Allende, which is a historic building that shows the importance of Ignacio Allende, the city’s favorite son, in the country’s history.
Five years after Mexico’s Independence, they had already given his surname to the city’s name, which still retains.
It was the first museum of the National Institute of Anthropology and History to be restructured as part of the Bicentennial of Independence celebrations.
In this museum, the visitor will be able to learn a brief chronicle of the town of San Miguel el Grande during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
The setting of a pulpería is exposed (the name of general stores two centuries back) and the Botica del Sagrado Corazón, a pharmacy that remained in the same place until 1979.
The museum emphasizes the Bourbonic Reforms that produced widespread discontent in the population of New Spain as a prelude to the great American rebellion.
The spaces of the house in which the daily life of the Allende family took place (living rooms, bedrooms, oratory, kitchen, and stable) show how a good Creole family lived at the beginning of the 19th century.
The museum describes the hero’s profile (birth, descendants, family), the beginning of the war of independence (insurrection, plans revealed, differences between Ignacio Allende and Miguel Hidalgo, capture, trial, and death of Ignacio Allende).
A great moment not to be missed during sunset is in the garden when the tops of the trees fill up with birds looking for a place to sleep, the church tower lights up, and several mariachi bands will likely appear to sing their songs to passers-by who request them.
You can find a table in one nearby place to drink and enjoy the atmosphere.
Full-Day Tour of San Miguel Allende
This large square, finished in 1555, offers plenty of daily activity and entertainment.
A central feature of the plaza is the very prominent statue of Ignacio Allende on a horse that immediately catches the eye upon arrival.
The lively Ignacio Ramírez market is very close. Many restaurants offer delicious dishes. The square is full of music and art and is an important place to meet friends, relax, and watch the many activities daily.
A walk through the nearby streets allows you to discover the architectural treasure of San Miguel de Allende, where churches and lavish mansions from the time of the Spanish viceroyalty abound.
Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal
One of the most imposing palaces is the Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal, known as the Casa del Conde, although its owners never held any “Count” title.
It is one of Mexico’s best examples of New Spain’s civil architecture.
The façade with Corinthian columns, heraldic symbols, and the image of the Virgin give it a majestic appearance.
The list of churches is endless, but they all have some detail of interest.
The San Francisco church used the profits from bullfighting to finance the construction.
The Nuestra Señora de la Salud church belonged to the San Francisco de Sales school, where all the local patriots who fought for independence studied.
Indigenous artisans built the San Felipe Neri Oratory and gave the construction a different character from the other churches.
The decoration, the pink stone, and numerous legends about treasures hidden under the altar give it an original and different touch.
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
The symbol of every Mexican population, whether large or small, is its main Catholic temple.
The one in San Miguel Allende celebrates the Archangel Michael, the Chief of the Armies of God and patron of the Universal Church according to the Roman Catholic Religion.
The most famous thing about the Parroquia de San Miguel de Arcangel is its pink stone towers that rise above the city.
These strange pinnacles were designed by the indigenous stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez at the end of the 19th century.
He allegedly based his design on a postcard of a Belgian church and instructed the builders by drawing plans on the ground with a stick.
In the chapel to the left of the main altar is the much-revered image of Cristo de la Conquista, made in Pátzcuaro from cornstalks and orchid bulbs, probably in the 16th century.
This parish church became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Templo de San Francisco
Also in the city center area of San Miguel, at the Plaza de San Francisco, is the church consecrated to San Francisco de Asís.
The temple, built at the end of the 17th century, took more than 20 years to rise, showing the changes in architectural art and style during the period.
The façade is in the Estípite Baroque style, while the bell tower and dome, are of neoclassical lines.
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Nuestra Señora de la Salud Church (Our Lady of Health)
La Salud, as it is colloquially known in San Miguel de Allende, is on Calle Insurgentes and offers a beautiful light show at night.
Its facade is of neat Churrigueresque stonework.
The luxury of its old gold altars has been replaced by the humility of stone.
In one of the interior corners, there is a chapel of the Virgin of the Three Birds that surprises with its beauty.
According to San Miguel de Allende tradition, the bell of Our Lady of Health is the oldest among all the temples in the city.
Market & Art Galleries
Handmade items are widespread all around San Miguel de Allende, and going around the markets hunting for bargains is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende.
Nearby to the Parroquia de San Miguel, is the El Nigromante local market, and in it, the most original Mexico appears, with its food stalls, equipment, and herbs that heal everything.
Jewelry stalls sell pendants and rings, some made from local stones like Mexican jade or shaped like a skull.
You will see traditional hand-painted Mexican pottery stacked alongside hanging lamps and Oaxacan rugs and clothing.
Even the souvenirs at the tourist stalls are hand-painted.
The official San Miguel de Allende Craft Market contains a mix of handicraft stalls and traditional food stalls that sell local handmade candy, locally harvested honey, and some medicinal herbs.
The market continues down a few steps through a corridor with stalls on both sides and in the open air, winding through the narrow streets until it comes out on the main road on the other side.
San Miguel de Allende is a city full of artists, painters, and artisans, reflected in this beautiful market.
San Miguel de Allende abounds with art galleries and is said to have the highest density of these businesses of any Mexican city.
And the craft shops have the most extensive offer in the whole country.
Casa Maxwell, on Canal Street, is one of the largest contemporary art stores, but there are many more.
The Mojigangas of San Miguel de Allende, have their origin in the tradition of “Los Gigantes de España” (The Giants from Spain).
The Spanish brought this tradition to Mexico, becoming entrenched in some places over time.
San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca City are two places where the tradition took root and evolved into a different popular art form, interpreted more locally.
The original Spanish giant style was more apt to depict symmetrical aristocratic figures and was more doll-like in appearance.
In Latin America, this tradition transformed into a more relaxed and burlesque art form that you can see in “Las Mojigangas” de San Miguel de Allende—sometimes merging the Sacred with the Profane.
Fábrica La Aurora
Today, what was once a textile factory houses canvases, sculptures, and handicrafts from very well-known artists living in San Miguel de Allende.
The Cultural Center of Art and Design, La Aurora, has become one of the city’s main attractions in San Miguel de Allende.
After being a vital engine of the labor sector in the textile industry for nine decades, La Aurora evolved to house canvases and handmade products in exchange for the looms that had already given it fame and recognition.
Since 2004, the Aurora Factory has housed contemporary art galleries, furniture design and decoration stores, antiques, jewelry, linens, restaurants, and perhaps the place’s main attraction, the Studio Gallery.
The Studio Gallery shows magnificent colors that attract countless locals, tourists, and anyone who shows a fondness for art.
A walk through La Aurora leads to multiple scenarios.
From the simple delight of spending an afternoon strolling through its walkways and open studios, among paintings, antiques, books, and sculptures, to the possibility of coming face to face with an artist amid an exchange of ideas and opinions at the time of tasting a dish in the local cafes, or while suddenly launching themselves to conquer their canvases.
La Aurora is certainly a dream come true for true art lovers.
Unusual things to do in San Miguel de Allende
Enjoy the Nearby Hot Springs
Several natural hot springs near San Miguel de Allende, but La Gruta and Escondido Hot Springs are only 15 minutes away.
The park-like grounds encompass swimming pools, hot tubs with graduated temperatures, restaurants, and spa rooms.
Visitors can swim through tunnels to an artificial cave with a hot waterfall that provides the perfect shoulder massage at both sites.
For a quieter experience, visit these places on a weekday.
Discover Central Mexico’s Archeology
The Cañada de la Virgen archaeological zone, located in the San Miguel de Allende municipality, is a pre-Hispanic settlement.
The inhabitants used the monuments to make observations of the sky and the universe.
The Cañada de la Virgen urban layout reflects the cosmic cycles to which the life of groups of farmers was linked.
They also practiced gathering and hunting in the surrounding semi-desert regions and exchanged objects used in ritual activities with other Mesoamerican areas.
Its defensive position, from which the central basin visually dominates the Laja River, also indicates the ritual importance of the Cañada de la Virgen.
Visit the “El Charco del Ingenio” Botanical Garden
San Miguel’s 215-acre Botanical Garden is also a bird and wildlife sanctuary.
The trails run through wetlands and magnificent areas of cacti and native plants.
The deep canyon at the bottom features the freshwater spring of the same name, “El Charco del Ingenio.”
Don’t miss the Conservatory of Mexican Plants in this amazing Botanical Garden, which houses thousands of species of cacti and succulents.
Don’t miss the Sanctuary of Atotonilco
Known as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, this vitally important church in the hamlet of Atotonilco, 11 km north of San Miguel, is defined by its connection to the struggle for independence, which has made it an important symbol for Mexicans.
Independence war hero Ignacio Allende married here in 1802.
Eight years later, he returned to San Miguel with Miguel Hidalgo and a band of pro-independence rebels en route to Dolores to carry the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe from this shrine as their flag.
A trip to Atotonilco is the goal of pilgrims and penitents from all over Mexico and the starting point of an essential and solemn procession two weekends before Holy Week.
Participants carry the image of the Lord of the Column image to the San Juan de Dios church in San Miguel.
Inside, the sanctuary has six chapels filled with statues, famous murals, and paintings.
You can easily visit this Sanctuary on a day trip from San Miguel de Allende.
Going to Dolores Hidalgo is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende and you simply can’t miss going there. It’s less than 40 kilometers San Miguel de Allende’s city center.
People know Dolores Hidalgo as the cradle of the Mexican Independence Movement.
On the morning of September 16, 1810, in the atrium of the Dolores parish, the priest and independence leader Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called for an uprising against colonial domination.
That pronouncement went down in history with the name of Grito de Dolores, a fact that symbolizes the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence.
If you are there on November 23, you can enjoy the José Alfredo Jiménez International Festival, the greatest singer-songwriter of Mexican music and the most famous singer of the 20th century from Dolores.
Of course, hotel availability is abundant and, in general, the quality of the accommodation is higher than the average for the country.
As in many colonial cities, some hotels occupy restored old buildings.
Some maintain their traditional atmosphere while others prefer a more modern decoration.
There are also many boutique hotels, some of them very luxurious.
My recommendation for the Best Hotels in San Miguel de Allende are:
- Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada (The Best Colonial House and Architecture).
- Rosewood San Miguel de Allende (The Best Rooftop Bar in San Miguel de Allende).
- Casa Schuck
- Hotel Matilda
- Hotel Amparo
- Dos Casas
These are only a few examples of the wide range of accommodations offered.
San Miguel de Allende has something interesting for everyone: history, culture, gastronomy, and art.
Being a small town, it is an ideal destination in Mexico for a romantic getaway or a family vacation.
Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende
Another set of best things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to savor the different styles of Mexican food and drinks around town.
San Miguel Allende’s gastronomic offer is broad and varied.
You can find street food, such as quesadillas, tamales, tacos al pastor, and international cuisine restaurants for fine dining.
Food Tours are also one of the fun things to do in San Miguel de Allende, where you can go restaurant hopping enjoying one delicious food after the other.
There are also many bars where you can enjoy a refreshing beer or a cocktail while listening to live music.
The prices are higher than in other parts of Mexico but still affordable.
This is my list of some of San Miguel de Allende’s Best Restaurants:
- Amatte / Hacmans
- Quince Rooftop
- Trazo 1810
- Carajillo – San Miguel
San Miguel Allende’s Wineries
San Miguel de Allende is in the heart of Mexico’s wine country, with many beautiful vineyards to visit.
The wine scene in San Miguel de Allende has been growing steadily over the past few years and has become some the most enjoyable things to do in San Miguel de Allende.
Many excellent wineries are now in and around the city, producing exceptional wines like Viñedos San Lucas, Dos Buhos, La Santísima Trinidad and Cuna de Tierra.
These wineries offer various wines, from reds and whites to sparkling wines.
Make sure to stop by the wineries for a wine tasting which will come with a full explanation about the wine, the winery, and the surrounding region.
They also offer tours of their facilities, so you can learn about the process of making wine.
San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s biggest draws and has been hugely popular for much of the last century with its magnificent colonial architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and great light.
With great restaurants and first-class accommodations, numerous galleries filled with quality Mexican crafts, fantastic spring weather, and a plethora of cultural activities, including festivals, fireworks, and parades, San Miguel de Allende is a must-see for anyone visiting the Bajío area in Central Mexico.
San Miguel de Allende was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and despite receiving a large number of visitors a year, the city absorbs them well.
Locals mingle warmly with their foreign guests and residents.