If you’re looking for a trip to Mexico that doesn’t include a sandy beach, then look no further than the historic San Miguel de Allende. Also called ‘the Heart of Mexico,’ San Miguel de Allende was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and for good reason. This city is full of beautiful architecture, a dynamic art scene, delicious Mexican food, and plenty of activities to keep you busy.
From visiting La Parroquia to ogling street art to finding your favorite courtyard, let’s make your adventure a bucket list worthy one by taking a look at some of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende.
1. See a Show at Angela Peralta Theatre
The Angela Peralta Theatre is one of the most iconic landmarks in San Miguel de Allende. Named after Mexico’s opera queen, this small but stunning performing arts theatre is located at the heart of San Miguel de Allende. It is also the city’s first theatre, built in 1873.
Today, it hosts different performances and events from both local and visiting artists weekly. Visitors will also be greeted by the “Homage to the Arts” mural in the theatre’s main lobby.
2. Check Out the Books at Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende
The Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende is Mexico’s second largest bilingual library, with well-decorated reading rooms featuring over 50,000 Spanish and English books spanning different subjects and genres. What’s more, is that you can enjoy reading for free. They also host classes, workshops, and various cultural and artistic events. Aside from the reading rooms, they also have an inner courtyard, a cozy cafe (try out their latte!), a theater, and a computer center.
3. Go Wine Tasting at Bodega Dos Buhos
The Bodega Dos Buhos is a short taxi ride from the city, located at the base of the Los Picachos mountains. This family-owned vineyard produces 100% handmade wines and offers different wine tasting tours for visitors, such as their ‘Tasting of 5 Wines’ and ‘Afternoon Tea and Wine.’ After the tasting, you can opt for a meal for two with your choice of their homemade pizzas, salads, and lasagna.
4. Day Trip to Cañada de la Virgen
Cañada de la Virgen is an archaeological site once occupied by the Otomi civilization, located 30.6 km southwest of San Miguel de Allende. The site comprises five groups of monuments, starting from Complex A up to Complex E. The monuments were used for ceremonial and ritualistic purposes, as well as reading the alignment of the stars.
While visitors can go around without a guide, booking a guided tour from one of the operators in San Miguel de Allende is recommended, especially if you want to learn more about the site’s history. The tour takes you on a 3 km round trip walk and takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
5. Do a Tequila Tasting at Casa Dragones
Making memories in San Miguel de Allende comes in all sorts of packages, no matter how tiny they may seem. Located at Doce 18 Concept House, Casa Dragones‘ tasting room is the smallest tequila bar in the world.
This six-seat, must-see destination lets you experience three styles of their tequila when you book a tequila tasting. What’s more, you can even sign up for mixology classes if you’re looking to level up your cocktail mixing game.
6. Visit the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante
The Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante (also dubbed ‘Bellas Artes’ by the locals) is a converted 18th-century convent known for its large murals, including those by Mexican painter David Alfaro Siquieros.
Adding more to the visual experience are different sculptures, a lovely courtyard with a fountain, a cafe, and two art galleries showcasing the works of Luis Nishizawa and Dean Gazeley.
Shopping is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, and art and home decor are two of the top things to buy. The art scene in the city is thriving, with local artists producing a wide range of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces. The home decor stores offer a wide variety of items, from traditional Mexican furniture to ceramic dishware.
Here are some of the most popular places to pick up something for your house or a souvenir for a friend.
Located at the heart of downtown San Miguel de Allende, Doce 18 is a multi-concept house that showcases high-end boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants from Mexican and international brands.
Mixta features a diverse range of items like jewelry, clothing, home goods, art, and more, coming from Mexico and different parts of the world. Plus, each item is handmade, which makes for a perfect gift or souvenir. And their courtyard is pretty special too!
When it comes to interior designing and decoration, Core Design Studio is the place to be. Whether it be the living room, dining room, or any other part of your home, you’re sure to find the perfect items to bring your living space up a notch with their wide selection of decorations and appliances from local and international brands.
Located in Calle Jesus 27 at the heart of the city, the Mercado Collective offers handmade home decorations ranging in different styles from desert to Mexican to Moroccan and Tropical. They are also partnered with other artisans in a space called ‘The Collective’ that features different products like art and food.
Código Postal Design is located in a historical building on Canal Street, just steps away from San Miguel de Allende’s iconic cathedral. It is home to three upscale shops, each with different products to offer from home furnishings to jewelry to fashion and more.
8. Hike Through El Charco del Ingenio
El Charco del Ingenio is a botanical garden spanning 140 acres of nature preserve. What makes it a fantastic place for hiking are its many scenic trails, each with its own set of sights and surprises.
Some popular trails include the regional plants trail (wide variety of plant life, especially cactuses), the wetlands trail (diverse wildlife), and the canyon trails (majestic stone formations and scenic overlooks). Whichever trail your feet take you, it will surely not disappoint.
Fun fact: during his visit in 2004, the 14th Dalai Lama declared El Charco de Ingenio a “Peace Zone.”
9. Stroll Through El Jardin
What better way to feel the true pulse of San Miguel de Allende than going on a stroll at El Jardin. From its well-maintained gardens and flowers to live music shows to festivals and so much more, there’s always something exciting happening around every corner. Adding more to its charm are the locals (and tourists) that come here daily to hang out and socialize.
10. Take in the View at El Mirador
If you’re looking for one of the most (if not the most) scenic spots in the city, be sure to visit El Mirador (The Lookout). Just a 20-min walk southeast of the city center, this popular mountainside destination offers panoramic views of the city’s baroque-style architecture and lovely sunsets.
11. Soak in the Escondido Hot Springs
Escondido Hot Springs is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a relaxing experience. The hot springs are located in Santuario de Atotonilco, 12 km north of San Miguel de Allende.
There are 10 indoor and outdoor pools to choose from, ranging in temperature from 27 to 40 degrees Celsius. For a more relaxing experience, you can also book a massage or spa treatment.
12. Find Art at Fabrica La Aurora
Art grows in spaces where it is allowed to shine, and that is what Fabrica La Aurora is all about. Once a textile factory, it now houses cafes, shops, and galleries that boast the works of local and foreign artists. The artwork comes in all shapes and mediums, from paintings to sculptures to books and more. You might even get the chance to meet some of these talented artists.
13. See the Mexican Folk Art at Galeria Atotonilco
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Mexican folk art culture, look no further than Galeria Atotonilco. Just five miles north of town, this vibrantly-colored museum boasts a stunning 5000 sq. ft of exhibition space and is recognized as one of Mexico’s finest folk art galleries.
Their collection comes in all sorts of varieties and mediums, from painted wood to hammered copper to paper mache and more. As the gallery is only open via appointment, you have to book one in advance.
14. Visit the Iglesia de la Concepcion (Church of the Immaculate Conception)
The Iglesia de la Concepción, known locally as ‘Las Monjas’ (the Nuns), is a church in San Miguel de Allende known for its distinctive yellow dome. It was built by Zeferino Gutierrez between 1755 and 1891, and was said to have taken inspiration from the Church of Les Invalides in Paris. A number of wise sayings can be seen painted on the interior doorway as one enters the church. Inside, you’ll also find several magnificent oil paintings by Juan Rodriguez Juarez.
15. Tour the Ignacio Allende House
The Ignacio Allende House is a historic building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It was the home of Mexican independence leader Ignacio Allende from 1769 until he died in 1811. The house is now a museum, officially called the Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende.
The museum features exhibits on the life of Allende, the city’s history, and the Mexican War of Independence. Visitors can also see over 1047 original furnishings and artifacts from the Allende period. The Ignacio Allende House is an important part of Mexico’s history and well worth a visit for anyone interested in the country’s past.
16. Shop the Ignacio Ramírez Market
The Ignacio Ramírez Market in San Miguel de Allende is a fantastic place for purchasing local goods. This farmers’ market has a wide variety of items, including produce, meats, cheeses, and bread. In addition, they also sell traditional Mexican clothing and jewelry. The market is open every day except for Sunday, and it is just a short walk away from the heart of the city.
17. Visit the Instituto Allende
Visiting a new place like San Miguel de Allende is not just about exploring and seeing the treasures it has to offer. Sometimes, we also get to enrich ourselves and learn something new, and that is what Instituto Allende is all about. It is a visual arts school that has attracted aspiring art students (especially in America and Canada) since its doors opened in 1950. For visitors, the school’s beautiful architecture, galleries, garden, and cafe are definitely something worth checking out.
If you feel that you might be staying in the city for quite a while, you might want to consider signing up for some of their classes (for a fee). These include Spanish language lessons, painting, drawing, ceramics, to name a few. They also offer short courses for adults during the fall and spring on their Lifelong Learning Program.
18. Explore the La Esquina Toy Museum
La Esquina Toy Museum is a quaint museum devoted to preserving vintage, handcrafted Mexican toys from various regions. They have a lovely collection, with over one thousand colorful toys on display spread across three floors. What’s fascinating is that some of them are made from simple materials like grass and reeds.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to touch any of the toys on display (which can be a bummer, especially if you have kids with you). However, they do have a gift shop where you can purchase colorful hand-made goodies, from rag dolls to wooden trucks and more.
19. Get Pampered at La Gruta Spa
What better way to relax and recharge after exploring San Miguel de Allende than a trip to the La Gruta Spa. Set in gorgeous lush gardens, La Gruta consists of four thermal spring pools with varying temperatures. They also have a man-made cave called the ‘Gruta,’ said to be the source of the hot spring and the hottest of the four pools.
After you’re done soaking yourself in the relaxing waters of the pools, you can grab a bite of Mexican dishes like quesadillas at their restaurant, surrounded by nature. You can also book a spa/therapeutic massage if you’re looking to relax even more. Another unique experience they offer are temazcal ceremonies, which involves pouring water over hot volcanic rocks to produce steam inside a dome-shaped sweat lodge. How’s that for a unique thing to do in San Miguel de Allende?!?
20. Drink at a Rooftop Bar
If you’re looking for a great view with your cocktail, then you’ll want to check out one of San Miguel de Allende’s rooftop bars. Here are a few of my favorites:
Luna Rooftop Bar is located atop Hotel Rosewood and offers stunning cityscape views (especially during sunsets), delicious tapas, good music, and signature cocktails (try out their ‘Gin on Fire’ and ‘Mezcal Pepino’!)
Quince Rooftop Bar is another popular option, located at Cuna de Allende 15. It was also rated as the best rooftop resto/bar in the world twice (2018 & 2020). With its chic décor and impressive cocktail and sushi menu, Quince is the perfect place to while away an evening.
Trazo 1810 Rooftop Bar offers panoramic views of both the city and the surrounding countryside. It is located at the Hotel Boutique Casa 1810.
21. Tour the Mask Museum
The charming B&B Casa de la Cuesta complex, owned by husband and wife Bill and Heidi LeVasseur, is home to one of the most unique collections in San Miguel called the ‘Another Face of Mexico’ mask museum.
In a span of 25 years, Bill has amassed an extraordinary collection of over 500 Mexican ceremonial masks, all of which have been used in indigenous performances. He is also quite the expert when it comes to masks and masked dancing, which he eagerly shares with visitors wanting to learn more.
Visitors can visit the mask museum via appointment, so be sure to book in advance by calling +52 (415) 154-4324. For more details, be sure to check their website as well.
22. Shop for Bargains at Mercado de Artesanias
Looking for gifts or souvenirs for your travels does not mean you have to break the bank, especially in San Miguel de Allende. Enter the Mercado de Artesanias, an artisan’s market located on a narrow street spanning a few blocks northwest of La Parroquia (the city’s iconic landmark). There are a variety of stalls selling handmade products, from pottery and textiles to jewelry and woodwork. Prices are also negotiable, so it’s worth taking the time to browse and compare items before making a purchase. You can also munch on some grub while shopping in one of its many food stalls.
23. See Oratorio of San Felipe Neri
The Oratorio of San Felipe Neri is a 17th-century multi towered and domed church at the east end of Calle Insurgentes. It is known for its Baroque-style facade with indigenous influence fashioned in pale-pink sandstone. The eastern part of the church was once the site of an old chapel.
Inside the church are several paintings by Miguel Cabrera, which include a signed Virgin of Guadalupe. There are also 33 oil paintings depicting the life of 16th century Florentine San Felipe Neri, founder of the Oratorio Catholic order. Other must-see sights inside include a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Loreto, with a replica of the Santa Casa de Loreto in Italy, and a doorway holding the image of Our Lady of Solitude.
24. Take a Walk at Parque Benito Juarez
Another park that offers yet another tranquil place to relax and unwind from the city’s hustle and bustle is the Parque Benito Juarez. Considered the largest green space in San Miguel de Allende, this French-style park boasts fountains, and flower-lined paths, all within a sea of grass and trees native to the region. There’s tons of recreational facilities here, including basketball courts and a children’s playground.
Public events are often staged here, such as the La Calaca festival in November, the San Miguel de Allende Gastronomic Festival, and art events during the weekend.
25. Ogle Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (or La Parroquia) is one of San Miguel de Allende’s most recognizable landmarks, towering at the heart of the city with its pinkish color and wedding cake-like features. It stands out even more during the night, with the church all lit up from the outside.
The church’s facade was designed by indigenous stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez in the late 19th century. He drew inspiration from the postcards of Gothic churches in Europe and added his own interpretation to it.
The inside of the church is just as impressive, still retaining its 17th century layout and design. Some must-see sights here include the Señor de la Conquista, a life-sized statue of Jesus made from cornstalk paste, and a painting in the sacristy depicting the town’s founding in 1542 and its future move to the El Chorro neighborhood. There is also a small crypt under the altar, which houses the remains of former bishops and dignitaries, including one of Mexico’s former presidents. The crypt is open to the public yearly during the Day of the Dead (November 2).
26. Visit the Sanctuary of Atotonilco
The Sanctuary of Atotonilco is a church complex located in the small, rural community of Atotonilco, 11 km north of San Miguel. It is declared a World Heritage Site (along with San Miguel de Allende) and was built in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro.
One of the main features of the complex are the murals covering the interior walls and ceiling, earning the church the name ‘Sistine Chapel of Mexico.’ These were mainly done by Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre (with some collaboration from José María Barajas), which spanned thirty years.
Visiting the main part of the church is free; however, if you want to see more exquisite paintings, you can head to the side chapel for a fee.
27. Visit Templo de San Francisco
One of the most iconic churches in San Miguel, the Templo de San Francisco is a culmination of different architectural styles which spanned 20 years to finish, starting from 1779.
One of its selling points is its facade, adorned with intricately carved stone figures and columns. Inside, you’ll find painted scenes and figures of saints. Outside the church is a well-maintained garden with benches and a small fountain, perfect for catching your breath from exploring or just people-watching.
28. Stop by Botica De Santa Teresita
The Botica De Santa Teresita is one of the few apothecaries still existing in Mexico, located in Relox 28 at downtown San Miguel de Allende. It is also the oldest one, standing for almost 160 years and still retaining the original charm of what apothecaries were like back in the day. Apothecaries usually refer to the person who makes the medicine and the place where the said medicine is sold. Their products all use natural ingredients, which range from skincare to soaps to remedies and so much more.
29. See the Old Gas Pump (at the corner of Juarez and Mesones)
The rusty old gas pump at the corner of Juarez and Mesones in San Miguel is a peculiar sight. It was installed in 1943 and was said to be the first gas pump in the city. You can even see the price of the gas back then in its window (8¢ per gallon!). Although it is no longer in use, this fascinating relic will continue to catch the eyes of visitors for years to come.
30. See the Street Art of Colonia Guadalupe
San Miguel de Allende’s art scene is as vibrant as its culture and origin, and Colonia Guadalupe is just one proof of this. What makes this quiet neighborhood stand out are the elaborate murals painted on the street walls within the area, which are all thanks to the local artists and community-driven art projects.
Many of these murals feature different themes, from Mexican to Huichol mythology to the city’s multicultural origins and so much more.
31. See the Laundry Basins at Lavaderos del Chorro
The Lavaderos is just one of the many attractions in Paseo del Chorro, the site of an ancient spring where the San Miguel de Allende was founded. During the 18th century, the Canal family ordered the creation of laundries (lavaderos), baths, and a chapel (which sits at the top of the spring). Locals used the lavaderos back in the day to wash their clothes.
Nowadays, it offers a quiet spot for visitors, where you can hear the sound of birds and see its appealing Spanish-colonial architecture. There’s also an old building just below the chapel called Casa de Cultura, which now serves as a teaching hub for art, dance, and music.
32. Find your Favorite Courtyard
There are many beautiful courtyards in San Miguel de Allende, especially in the hotels where it is secluded away, waiting to enchant the next traveler.
Some popular ones include the on a Mixta with its dozen of planters; the pretty fountain courtyard of Quince; and the one at Maha Boho Chic. Of course, plenty of other captivating courtyards are just waiting to be found in the city, so be sure to wander around to find your favorite one!
. . .
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful city in Mexico with a lot to offer tourists. From the stunning architecture to the delicious food, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re looking for the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, be sure to check out the city’s many museums, galleries, and historical landmarks. You can also take part in the city’s vibrant nightlife by enjoying some of the best margaritas in town. Whichever path your feet take you, the Heart of Mexico will surely not disappoint!
Getting There: Guanajuato International Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you take a shuttle, a bus or a taxi.
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende Mexico: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Xacalli Hotel is a great choice in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For something on the less expensive side, try Meson Amelia located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Walking is the ideal mode of transportation in San Miguel de Allende. Taxis and Uber are available all over the city. For a more budget friendly option, you can take the public bus, taxi or rent a bike.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
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