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Top 5 Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende – And 1 to Avoid

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4 months ago

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico’s Guanajuato state is one of the most charming cities in Latin America. For me, it’s the old-world colonial vibe mixed in with the natural landscape that makes this town so special.

There is quite a lot to do in San Miguel de Allende, so we’ve done the hard work and rounded up the top things to do in San Miguel de Allende – and 1 to avoid.

Alleyway San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is filled with charming alleyways.

1. Visit Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

It’s not often that we put the site to visit in a place as number one, but Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel (or St Mike’s, as I like to call it) really is very special. If you’ve seen a picture of San Miguel de Allende, it’s very likely the pink spires of this church that are featured. It’s the pink hue of the stone that makes this site incredibly unique worldwide.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
The pink hue is unrivalled

You might pick up on some similarities with European neo-Gothic architecture. This is because this church was inspired by a church in Cologne, Germany.

Mexicans and Americans alike have worked out that this is the perfect church for a wedding in Mexico because they light up the church differently inside during ceremonies. It really was awe-inspiring. Be aware, though, that the church is closed to tourists when services are on.

San Miguel de Allende Parroquia
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel by day

Travel tip: If you can only visit once, visit Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel at night. The coves and spires are lit up in an incredibly dramatic way at night.

The honest truth is that the inside is objectively beautiful, but the paintings aren’t particularly special. And it has been looted many times over the years. It’s the exterior of the building that is the cause for amazement. But a good tour of the church will fascinate you.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel at night Jardin Allende

If you’re looking to take unobstructed photos, get there no later than 8 am to avoid the crowds. And take your photos from the left and right of the church inside the gate. They ring the bells every 15 minutes. It’s great the first few times…

2. Spend time soaking in Jardin Allende

Jardin Allende is easily one of the best city parks in Mexico. It’s the beating heart of San Miguel de Allende. There is something new and different on every corner. Browse the street vendors, get an antojito or two (a small snack), have a little dance – you can do it all here.

hanging lanturns colonial architecture

There is usually a parade that runs through the town and always crosses Jardin Allende that features giant, plush dolls that are worn by humans. They really add to the character of the town, albeit in the strangest possible way.

And I hope you like Mariachi music: Mariachi bands are quite literally on every corner. You can learn about them during a food tour.

Soumaya soqueros

Admittedly, San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places in Mexico; so it’s no surprise that the town has a huge population of mostly Americans and Canadians. This means goods and services are bit more expensive than in other parts of Mexico.

If you’re at Jardin Allende at night, the music and lights come on to create an incredible ambience.

colonial architecture in san miguel de allende
The stunning streets of San Miguel de Allende

Local tip: Get a drink at Los Milagros if you’re looking for a window-seat view of the whole square.

You can also buy their art straight off the walls (you might be inspired). During fiestas patrias and other major holidays, Jardin Allende is lit up with fireworks. You should check out how to plan your trip to San Miguel de Allende.

3. Visit Casa Dragones

If you’re from the U.S., you’re probably familiar with Casa Dragones tequila. The building itself is so perfectly manicured that it makes you want to look up and around.

You’ll need to book in advance if you want to do their tasting. We peppered them with questions about tequila (it wasn’t a test, we were just curious) and we got very considered responses. They really know their stuff.

Travel tip: What you want to do at Casa Dragones is the tequila tasting in the historical house, not in their other venue. Make sure you ask for this. The tasting went for about 75 minutes.

street flowers greenery san miguel de allende

4. Check out the artistry all over the city

The murals at the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante are amazing. It’s probably the best of the free things to do in San Miguel de Allende. If you love murals, Dan has written up an amazing tour of murals in Mexico City, but to experience the best of San Miguel’s art, go on a short arts and snacks walking tour.

The Murals at the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante

With San Miguel de Allende becoming ever more popular among tourists, the scourge of souvenir shops selling the same items is starting to take hold, but San Miguel has some incredibly special artisans if you know where to look.

We would recommend Recreo. They manufacture all of their clothes in San Miguel de Allende. They source their fabrics locally, and you’ll find their color palette reflects the pinks, light browns, creams and ochres of the town. Their prices are very much on the higher end.

San Miguel de Allende Jeff Koons art

If you’re looking for somewhere really unique to visit in San Miguel de Allende that tourists don’t usually find themselves in, walk along Ancha de San Antonio for the best mix of local shops, restaurants, cafes and art galleries. The quality of goods here is far better than in Jardin Allende.

Travel tip: Actually walk into the little alleyways. They’re all filled with beautiful art.

5. Try all of the incredible street food

San Miguel de Allende is dotted with amazing street food all over the town. You have to look a little harder for the best of them, but we’ve got you covered.

grilled corn mexico
Corn for sale on the streets of San Miguel de Allende

The best street tacos in San Miguel de Allende is Tacos La Güera on the corner of Nemesio Diez and Ancha de San Antonio. This is easy to miss because it’s a cart on the corner of the street (but it also happens to be the street that the Rosewood Hotel is on).

Make sure to get the molcajeteada sauce (tomatoes, garlic and peppers) and all of the tacos that they sell (fried, not fried – everything). He’s open from the morning until about 3 pm most days.

Get the empanadas at Panaderia La Buena Vida which we think is probably the best bakery in San Miguel de Allende. Get there early because they only sell what they make in the morning (and the empanadas are so much better fresh out of the oven). I also absolutely loved the guava pastries.

bread basket panaderia la buena visa

If you’re in San Miguel de Allende on a Saturday, you’ll find Panaderia La Buena Vida selling their famous orange-glaze donuts at the Saturday market just next to Mercado Sano (it’s on Ancha de San Antonio which is where we recommended you walk along).

And if you’re wondering whether street food is safe in Mexico (specifically in San Miguel de Allende), the answer is that it varies. There are some incredible food tours in San Miguel de Allende which will cover you.

You should always be cautious about food quality, but you can usually tell if something is off (no one around, open containers, unsavory smells). Stick to the options we’ve provided if you’re concerned.

If you’re looking for something like a sandwich but Mexican-style, go to Tortitlan. Make sure you get something with their string cheese because it elevates the flavor profile of anything they offer.

And the one to avoid…

El Mirador is objectively a serene place to sit and relax as the sun descends on San Miguel de Allende. You’ll get a full panoramic view of the whole town, including St Mike’s. But it’s hardly the best town view in Mexico.

Though Google Maps will tell you that it’s only about a 20-minute walk from Jardin Allende, it is a steep climb to get there and it’s usually packed with people on the main road so it might be more difficult for some. A taxi or a bus is fine, but it will be difficult if you do this to arrive before sunset (which is when you should go, if you do want to go).

Local tip: If you do walk to El Mirador, don’t take the main street that everybody else is taking.

Walk through some of the side streets and meander your way up to the top. It’ll be much calmer and much more enjoyable.

Mural of people washing in San Miguel de Allende
The murals in San Miguel are a better sight

On your way up, try to take the road that passes El Chorro. It’s a crooked street which is slightly reminiscent of Lombard Street in San Francisco. On your way back, you’ll see the craft markets (mercado de Artesanías) which most tourist guides will tell you to go to.

We didn’t find anything that couldn’t be found in a souvenir shop so we would skip this one and instead go to the unique arts and crafts shops in town, of which there are many.

View of the San Miguel skyline from the Rosewood Hotel

If I’m being completely honest, I had a much more enjoyable view at the Luna Rooftop at the Rosewood Hotel. A short 15-minute walk from the historic centre, I would much rather enjoy the view with a cocktail.

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