Over the last two decades San Miguel de Allende—once a quiet, quaint, cobble-lined town that developed a following among artists in the 1950s—has exploded in popularity with foreign expatriates who have chosen to live (full-time or part-time) in Mexico. The overall feel is still colonial and bohemian, but the town is alive with activity and growth which also makes it an exciting place to visit.
Although this is a small city, it successfully combines old world charm with modern-day cosmopolitan lifestyle. Most activities surround arts and learning, painting, weaving, photography and sculpture. Spanish Language schools are big here too; you can learn more about residential Spanish Language Courses with Mexperience’s Learn Spanish section.
Although San Miguel can be enjoyed as part of day visit, you really need to stay here for a few days to grasp the essence of what this colonial city has to offer. It’s a very popular weekend destination, and people from Mexico City will spend weekend breaks in San Miguel to escape the urban congestion of the capital. As a result, Thursdays to Sundays are much livelier in San Miguel, although hotel rooms in San Miguel are harder to come by at the weekends.
The town is known for its fine hotels and B&Bs, quaint restaurants and fine boutique shops pureying a wide assortment of articles from arts and crafts, to fine clothes and jewelry.
Gathered around the colonial center are a number of fine examples of great colonial architecture, including the Parish Church which resides in front of the tree-lined main plaza.
San Miguel is magical and lively place to visit. It is a must-see destination as part of a tour of Mexico’s colonial cities. If a local festival is going on, you’ll have a first-hand experience of the colorful traditions celebrated in this region; but even during quieter times, this city has a unique, attractive charm that reflects all that is best about Mexico. Come here for a visit and experience what so many others have encountered here: an irresistibly draw cast by a spell that is uniquely Mexican, uniquely San Miguel.
San Miguel is endowed with stunning views and equally stunning colonial architecture. From the minute you enter the town square you’ll be enchanted by its antiquated beauty. The Parish Church, which faces the main plaza (zocalo), is one of the main architectural attractions here.
Be sure to visit the recently restored home (colonial mansion) of Ignacio Allende, the famous Patriot who the town was named after.
Another colonial gem that should be seen is La Casa del Conde Canal (House of the Count of Canal), now occupied by the famous art institute, Instituto Allende (see below). You can walk through the salons and watch as students paint, weave and sculpt as part of their courses.
One of the most famous art schools in Mexico, the Instituto Allende hosts thousands of art students from all over the world who come here to learn arts and languages in the heart of San Miguel. Students come here and stay for weeks or months; rented accommodation is plentiful and available in nearby residential areas.
Museums and Art in San Miguel
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez – Also known as the Escuela de Bellas Artes (school of fine arts), this is a local art institute where you can take courses in art, sculpture, music and dance. The center is hosted in a former convent; one of its most treasured inheritances is an unfinished 1940’s mural painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Large trees, a huge courtyard and colonial fountains set the scene for this magnificent place to study, learn and explore. Concerts and lectures are given here; check locally for details.
Casa del Mayorazgo de Canal – This is the old family home of the Canal family – now occupied by Banamex Bank. Check out the wooden-carved door.
There are plenty of art galleries allowing you to find art for sale everywhere in San Miguel, but there is also a selection of fine galleries from which you can buy artwork in San Miguel. See the What to Buy in San Miguel section for further details.
Exploring Around San Miguel
There are hot springs nearby, where you can bathe in natural warm mineral waters. The most popular are La Gruta and La Taboada—both lie about 30 minutes’ outside of San Miguel.
From San Miguel, day trips are available to the town of Dolores Hidalgo, named after the famous Patriot who sounded the “Grito” (Cry) for Mexican Independence. September 16th is huge in Dolores Hidalgo—it is traditional that Mexico’s President comes here to re-enact the “Grito” on his last year in office. Dolores Hidalgo is also famous for Talavera—a very strong ceramic which is used to make a variety of crockery and also wall and floor tiles. The pottery is colorfully decorated. Talavera is plentiful here and a lot less expensive than you could buy it elsewhere.
San Miguel has a huge number of festivals and parties. There is a saying that Mexicans will find any excuse to have a party. This is no more true than in San Miguel de Allende which literally has a celebration (big or small) happening every week of the year. See the local events section below, for more details about some of these.
By Air – There is no airport at San Miguel de Allende, but if you want to fly close, you have two options: Aeropuerto Internacional del Bajio near Leon (110 miles) and Aeropuerto Internacional de Queretaro (40 miles). Check carriers that fly to each location. Many also fly into Mexico City’s international airport. Ground transport to San Miguel from airports is by private taxi or Airport Transfers. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus – You can travel to San Miguel on a luxury bus from Mexico City – the trip takes around 4 hours and departs from Mexico City’s northern bus terminal. If you don’t want to travel across Mexico City from the airport to the bus terminal, you can board a bus from Mexico City’s airport to Queretaro, where you can can change and board a second bus to San Miguel. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car – Driving to San Miguel is very fast and efficient with the roads and toll roads that connect the region. See additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s colonial towns and cities, consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental in Mexico and connect to the Mexperience Travel Center to reserve your Rental Car.
Taxis – Taxis in most of Mexico’s colonial towns and cities are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby; taxi hotel rates are usually higher than cabs you hail off the street. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a price with the driver. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.
San Miguel is host to a significant number of Local Events all year-round; many related to arts and culture. The principal ones are detailed here.
January 21st – Ignacio Allende’s Birthday – a local parade and celebrations take place to mark the birthday Ignacio Allende—one of Mexico’s most revered historical figures and the person whom the town of San Miguel Allende is named after.
Easter Week – Religious celebrations are big in San Miguel, not least because it has six Patron Saints—and Easter week is, of course, one of the biggest. The festivals during Easter week will include a variety of celebrations, parties and street performances.
Third Saturday in September – sees what is probably San Miguel’s biggest festival—that of it’s Patron Saint Archangel Saint Michael. The celebrations last all weekend and include bull-fights, cock-fights, street performers, dances, music and the very famous “pamplonadas“, which include letting loose bulls to run through the streets, chasing the crowds around a pre-determined route. Beware! Accidents tend to happen every year during this event, some of them can be fatal. Stay clear of the bull-run if you’re not prepared to run hard, fast and possibly be prepared to dodge an agitated two-ton bull.
Telephone: Connect to the guide about Communications in Mexico on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines are found throughout the downtown area of San Miguel. During business hours, they and the local Casas de Cambio will buy traveler’s cheques and cash from you as well. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico and WiFi is increasingly commonplace–from cafes, shops, hotels, and some cities even offer free WiFi in some defined public spaces.
WiFi Access at the Library: The town’s central library (biblioteca) offers free WiFi (wireless internet) access, so if you have a laptop and need access to the web for email or other information, you can get online at the library. It gets busy in the afternoons, when school children go there to study and use the internet access too.
San Miguel’s food scene compares with Mexico City for its variety and high quality of culinary offerings. With its large expat community, international and fusion flavors are very popular, but traditional regional specialities are always plentiful. Live music and art are often part of the ambience.
El Correo. Simple yet delicious Mexican regional food at very reasonable prices. Casual dining, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Correo 23. Tel: (415) 152 4951.
Mama Mia. Italian, Mexican, American food. A generous menu selection of pizza, pasta, steaks and seafood. Casual dining, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Umaran 8. Tel: (415) 152 2063.
Chamonix. Mexican fused with French and Asian flavors. Diez de Sollano, Centro. (415) 154 8363.
La Bugambilia. Fine Mexican cuisine in a beautiful historic home. Full bar, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Av. Hidalgo 42. Tel: (415) 152 0127.
Cafe Colon. A local favorite serving value meals for breakfast and lunch. Casual cafe setting. Av. Mesones 25, Centro.
Locally Hosted Parties – Check with your hotels about public parties they may be hosting during your stay. Traditional Mexican theme night parties are popular with the locals, and there’s a chance you could join a really special night out – the real Mexican way, and certainly on the eve of September 16th – Mexico’s Independence Day! Hosted parties usually include dinner, dancing, a show and / or live music (usually authentic Mexican Mariachis) plus all drinks for a fixed fee and are always excellent value for money! Ask at your hotel to find out what is happening locally.
Nightclub Scene – San Miguel has a number of nightclubs, although they are closed during the week unless there is a festival or major event going on. Thursday-Saturday nights a number of nightclubs in San Miguel open their doors to clubbers who are mainly revelers from nearby towns and Mexico City dwellers on a weekend break in San Miguel.
Night Bars / Restaurants – There’s a good variety of late night entertainment in San Miguel to keep you happy and entertained; bars and restaurants tend to stay open later at the weekends (Thursday-Saturday) and on occasions when there are festivals or special events happening in town.
San Miguel is principally known for its fine artwork and crafts which is widely available throughout the town with niche and boutique shops selling an ample range of high quality art-related goods.
San Miguel enjoys year-round, warm-to-hot & dry weather. The climate is ideal for taking part in a variety of outdoor sports and activities and for taking in the local culture, architecture and scenery. Rain is seldom a feature here; thunderstorms happen infrequently during the months of April thru November, but tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off. Winter evenings and early mornings can be quite cool – so pack some warm pullovers if you’re visiting during the winter months.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico