San Miguel de Allende may just be the most charming small town in Mexico. It’s no pueblito, though, but a colorful, colonial-style city with a vibrant wine scene, markets and artisans galore, and one of the most impressive gastronomic scenes in Mexico.
From the second you drop into downtown, you’ll see the iconic, pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel towering above the lower, Spanish-style buildings sprawled out around the square. Walk around the square, people watch, or duck into the nearby artisan market to pick up handmade goodies.
Museums abound in San Miguel, as do shopping offerings in the city; local boutiques here make everything from silk-screen tees to hammered silver jewelry. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll have your pick from shrimp tempura on a crunchy tostada, slow-cooked barbacoa from a modest street stand, or Sri Lankan-Swiss-Mexican fusion food all within a few blocks from el centro.
Despite being a small town, San Miguel de Allende is filled with things to do, whether you’re in town for a day or a week. It’s a cultural hub, with plenty of art exhibition spaces and live music performances around town in the evenings. And if you can’t fit everything into one trip, you’ll just have to come back; you wouldn’t be the first foreigner to land in San Miguel permanently.
San Miguel de Allende is in the central time zone. The country’s Daylight Savings calendar deviates from the United States’, so there are a few weeks a year the U.S. and Mexico central time zones are an hour apart. If you visit in spring or fall, check ahead.
Best Time to Go
San Miguel de Allende is packed with activities year-round, and you’ll find things to do no matter when you visit. For the best weather, we recommend visiting between November and April when highs hover in the 70s and 80s, though tourists will be out in full force during the Christmas and Easter holidays. It seems like San Miguel is always celebrating something — not just Día de los Muertos (Nov. 1), but the annual wine harvest festival in August, the Guanajuato International Film Festival each July, and of course, the Desfile de los Locos, which literally translated as “Parade of the Crazies” and sees Sanmiguelenses dress up in their wackiest outfits to throw candy at onlookers each June.
Things to Know
San Miguel de Allende — or “San Mike,” as some only semi-jokingly call it — is a haven for American expats, bachelorette parties, and retirees. It’s an extremely welcoming town, where it’s not uncommon to see tourists hanging out with locals in the streets, at market stalls, or even at the bar.
It’s also a pretty small town, so you likely won’t need to worry about transportation, unless you’re taking a day trip to nearby attractions, like to Guanajuato or Querétaro, or visiting the lake just outside city limits. Your most common mode of transportation will be on foot — so pack comfy shoes — but be warned that San Miguel’s altitude and the hilly terrain can take your breath away, literally. If you’d prefer, you can easily flag down a green taxi or call an Uber instead of trekking back up the cobblestone streets.
While San Miguel is well-accustomed to tourists — about 10 percent of the population are foreigners — travelers should still be cautious and considerate. Be aware of locals looking to get by in a hurry, and stand to the right on sidewalks.
Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN
(Check the current exchange rate)
I don’t speak Spanish: No hablo español.
I’m lost: Estoy perdido/a
I would like…: Me gustaría..
Learn more Spanish phrases
Calling Code: +5
Capital City: Mexico Cit
How to Get Around
Buses: San Miguel’s bus station, or terminal, is on the west side of town. Here, you’ll be able to book a bus to nearby destinations like León, Bernal, or Mexico City. For the buses the locals take, you’ll want to hop on one of the Urbana lines, which are mapped out here
. Rates will vary depending on the route and time of day, but a trip shouldn’t cost you more than a few pesos
Taxis: It won’t be hard to flag down one of San Miguel’s quintessential green-and-white taxis in most parts of town. If you’re staying downtown, cabs are plentiful. On the outskirts of the city, you may need to head to a main road to hail a cab
Ride service: Uber has an extensive transit web across the city, stretching out into nearby towns. Depending on traffic and trip length, your Uber should come out around 30-100 pesos (or $1.50-$5)
Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique
This luxury hotel is just a block away from San Miguel’s central square, Jardín Allende. Here, you’ll bed down in a centuries-old casona with colonial-era Spanish Baroque details, along with Mexican-made mosaics. Don’t miss the rooftop restaurant, with 360-view of downtown, and dishes like short rib braised in local beer and risotto topped with pear and serrano ham.
Casa de la Noche
The hotel’s name, Casa de la Noche — literally, “House of the Night” — hints at its sordid past. Yes, the 1930s mansion, with its open patio, high wood-beam ceilings, and red terracotta floors, was once a bordello. Run by a woman known as La Turca, this mansion once sheltered local politicians and beatniks… but just for a night. Now, you too can wander the halls of this downtown home before tucking in for the evening.
Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende
Despite being a five-minute walk from the square, this 33-room hacienda feels like a far-removed sanctuary. Rooms are spacious and have classic touches like four-poster beds, Monrovian star-shaped lanterns and tall, concrete columns. On the south side of el centro, Hacienda El Santuario is perfect for hitting all the sights, including passing through nearby Parque Benito Juárez and the old clothes-washing stations of El Chorro.
For a more traditional stay, a visit to Casa Angelitos is in order. On an ivy-lined alley above el centro, this picturesque bed-and-breakfast has nine suites to choose from, from the Luna room and its crescent-shaped, art deco-style windows, to the Cielo room and its vaulted boveda ceilings. Breakfast is all organic and can be served on the hotel’s patio overlooking the town.
Looking for something more modern? Pop into Hotel Amparo, near San Miguel’s artisan market, for rooms plastered in neo-Andean geometric wallpaper mixed with mural-like mosaics. The hotel’s bar and café, Margaret, puts out CoffeeChatas and comida all day, along with hangover cures and drinks like hibiscus mezcal margaritas.
Hotel Matilda dubs itself a multisensory experience, and with sleek rooms, a 4,700-square-foot spa with Turkish baths, and a world-class restaurant, it definitely delivers. The hotel also houses an extensive art collection, including prints by Mexican photographer Eduardo Zaylan and a copy of Diego Rivera’s painting of the hotel owner’s mother Matilda, for whom the hotel was named.
Antonio Bistro SMA
Address: San Francisco 57, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
For unbeatable views of downtown San Miguel, try out Antonia Bistro. The terrace-top restaurant is perfect to watch the sun set across el centro with a plate of Galician shrimp with chorizo and a drink in hand.
Tacos Don Felix
Tacos Don Felix routinely tops must-visit lists in San Miguel, despite being a 20-minute walk from the city center. And sure, you can order the tacos here, even opting for the seven-ways platter. But you should consider the enchiladas: some served in local fashion, like the potato-stuffed enchiladas al portal, and some a bit less commonly prepared, like the enchiladas a la diabla (spicy!).
With an unassuming exterior and a hand-scrawled menu, you might not think much of Tostévere. But the tostadas here are piled high with toppings like truffled esquites, shrimp tempura, and grilled octopus. Not in the mood for seafood? Order the short rib sandwich served on flatbread.
Dila’s combines Sri Lankan food with the owner’s Swiss training and Mexican ingredients. Some plates incorporate all three, like a Swiss emmental and Oaxacan cheese pasta topped with cumin. Other favorites include the fish of the day in spicy peanut curry and the sweet, sour, spicy “devil pork” ribs.
Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
Eat with the locals at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, which is joined to San Miguel’s artisan market. Order up a quick torta and wash it down with an agua de betabel — sweetened beet juice, a San Miguel staple — or spend hours wandering up and down the stalls. You can even pick up groceries here, if you’d like, or small snacks like candies and bags of peanuts to take on your walk.
Café y Churrería San Agustín
Indulge your sweet tooth at this churrería, which fries up foot-long churros around the clock. You may have to hang around in line to get in, but make the trip worth the wait with a piping hot chocolate to pair with your churro.
El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes
Under a tarp next to the city’s bus terminal, these guys fry up the best barbacoa and mixiotes in town. Don’t write off the place too quickly — the barbacoa is tender enough to melt in your mouth, the mixiotes are juicy, and a flan is a must-have dessert. There are a few other street stands around, so look carefully: El Pato has papel picado flags hanging out front.
Things to Do
Jardín Allende and the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Address: Principal S/N, Zona Centro, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
San Miguel’s most popular spots, the main plaza and parish church should be your first stop in town. Grab a snack from a street vendor selling elotes or hot dogs, then head inside the dusty pink “wedding cake” church for top-notch brickwork, murals styled after Mexican Modernism, and religious icons around every corner.
La Esquina: Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano
Even if you haven’t played with toys in years, San Miguel’s museum dedicated to all kinds of curios should be on your list. These aren’t Barbies and Hot Wheels, but handcrafted Ferris wheels, carefully stitched Frida Kahlos, and beaded alebrijes (small toy animals typically made of woven fabrics).
Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel de Allende
Pick up a book and sip on a cafecito at the public library’s tiny bistro. If your Spanish isn’t up to par, not to worry: San Miguel’s Biblioteca Pública holds one of the most extensive English-language book collections in all of Latin America. While you’re there, peer into the offices of Atención San Miguel, the town’s bilingual newspaper, or catch a show from the Teatro Santa Ana on the patio.
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante
San Miguel’s reputation as an international artist haven is largely due to this arts school, which housed hordes of the Beat generation back in the day. Now, El Nigromante is a hub of cultural activity, from photography exhibitions to musical performances. If you have the time, check out the institute’s sundry arts classes for yourself.
Address: Salida Real a Querétaro 92, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
Perhaps the most popular lookout point in all of San Miguel de Allende, this mirador offers unbeatable views of the centro down below. It’s a (somewhat steep) 15-minute walk from downtown. The shops just behind the lookout point are also chock-full of souvenirs and artisan gifts to browse.
Mercado de Artesanías
Address: Lucas Balderas S/N, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
If you’re looking to take a piece of Mexico back home, San Miguel’s artisan market is a must-stop. Hammered tin hearts, woven pom-poms and hand-painted barro plates and mugs fill the aisles of the market downtown—and they may fill your suitcases soon, too.
Address: Pila Seca 3, Zona Centro, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
Spindly cacti, shockingly blue wallpaper and intricate tile floors greet you at the entrance of Mixta, a cool clothing shop featuring local designers. The shop is in one of the oldest buildings in San Miguel, while designs are modern and topped with handmade jewelry and stitched bags.
Fábrica La Aurora
On the north end of town, this once-abandoned textile factory is now a vibrant center for art galleries, boutiques, studios and exhibition spaces. Check out the art on display—whether it has a price tag on it or not—and then spend some time hanging out in the café or bookstore.
For everything you can’t find in the artisan market, it’ll be here, at La Calaca. Filled to the brim with decades-old folk art, hammered silver jewelry and hard-to-come-by textile patterns, this vintage store is a dream for serious fans of art from all over Latin America.
Address: Salon los Pinos, Salida Real a Querétaro 173, Zona Centro, Valle del Maíz, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México
Treasure hunters will want to hike out to the eastern edge of the city to La Pulga, or the “Flea Market,” a monthly free-for-all of second-hand clothes, snacks and new-to-you antiques. Bring cash; most vendors won’t accept cards.
Neighborhoods to Know
El Centro: If you’re just in town for a few days, you’ll likely spend most of your time here, in San Miguel’s historic downtown. The neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and its surrounding plaza is a great starting point, but fan out along side streets to explore local boutiques, hole-in-the-wall bars and the city’s outdoor markets.
Los Balcones: As the name suggests, Los Balcones, or “the balconies,” is a hillside neighborhood dotted with homes – and balconies – overlooking downtown. B&Bs and bougainvilles fill the upscale area, along with the stunning Charco Del Ingenio botanical garden. And don’t miss a meal at La Mansión de Montitlán, a cash-only fine dining spot that’s open for just a few hours each Sunday. Menus rotate weekly, and include options like roasted beet and arugula salad, pan-seared duck breast and hummingbird cake.
Guadalupe: If street art’s more your style, head to Guadalupe, where cobblestone alleyways and murals mix with vegetarian shops, art galleries and the picturesque Templo de Cristo Rey in the neighborhood’s central plaza. For killer vegan food, try out Manipura Restaurante’s dishes like encacahuatadas, or enchiladas made with a peanut salsa, or sweet coconut and blueberry tamales for dessert. Across the river, Pulques y Curados La Otomí serves up fermented pulques, a cousin to tequila and mezcal that’s flavored with fruits or honey.
El Obraje: For a more residential stay, try an Airbnb in El Obraje, just a 10-minute walk north of el centro and close to the Fábrica Aurora art gallery. Plenty of coffee shops are nearby, along with a small colonial chapel and the Parque Municipal Zeferino Gutierrez, a newly opened park that’s perfect for morning runs or finishing off the day with an evening light show.
San Miguel de Allende has a relatively mild climate, with temperatures staying between a certain range year-round. The city is at an altitude—6,234 feet in the air, to be exact—so it can take a few days to get adjusted to the air, and nights can get chilly. And while you may be tempted to head to San Miguel in the summer, that’s also rainy season. Showers come down regularly in the afternoons, but never last long enough to keep you inside all day.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month.
January: 45°F to 74°F
February: 47°F to 77°F
March: 52°F to 82°F
April: 56°F to 86°F
May: 60°F to 88°F
June: 61°F to 85°F
July: 59°F to 81°F
August: 58°F to 81°F
September: 58°F to 80°F
October: 54°F to 80°F
November: 50°F to 78°F
December: 47°F to 75°F
Apps to Download
mxplor San Miguel de Allende: Forget the clunky headphone sets passed around on audio tours. With this 99 cent app, you’ll have a discreet 90-minute tour of the town to take at your own pace.
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