San Miguel de Allende… the grandiose magical colonial town that is so reflective of Mexican culture, and our travel guide for this town is finally here!
San Miguel de Allende is one of the most splendid colonial cities, not only in Mexico but in the world. Known for its cobbled streets, colorful corners, big doors with out-of-this-world iron and woodwork, its art galleries, its famous restaurants and dream hotels, not to leave out the breathtaking views of the town everywhere. This town is undoubtedly a place to experience in a lifetime.
Out of all that it greatly offers, however, there are some obligatory visits and reasons in themselves to visit San Miguel de Allende, such as the parish of San Miguel Arcángel, and the Cañada de la Virgen archaeological zone. Here we leave you some ideas to visit the magnificent city of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.
The first reason to visit San Miguel de Allende is simply because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, simple as that. And it is not only us telling you this. In recent years, this city has been awarded with countless awards, such as "Best Small City in the World" by Condé Nast, or the second "Best City in the World" by the World's Best Awards. This, of course, thanks to the many gifts that this beautiful city has to offer. From its majestic parish of San Miguel Arcángel (Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel) and the other beautiful temples and churches of the city, to the centuries-old buildings that embellish its streets, its art galleries, its world-class museums, its cultural spaces, its historical sites, and its popular festivals, in San Miguel de Allende culture, art, and history are lived in every step.
Another aspect that influences the charm of this town is the fact that it has a relatively small population. According to census data from 2010, San Miguel de Allende had 69,811 inhabitants, making it the size of a small city. Thanks to this, San Miguel offers the comforts of a city with the flavor of a township, local life.
For travelers who look for and enjoy the art that is food, the local culinary offer in San Miguel de Allende is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons to visit San Miguel de Allende. This beautiful colonial city offers everything from local specialties, Guanajuato classics, international flavors, and haute cuisine.
Regardless of whether you are looking for a terrace with incredible views to enjoy a unique cocktail, dine in an exclusive place with unforgettable signature cuisine, or eat delicious meals in the company of your loved ones with Mexican delicacies, you will surely find something ideal for you. Moreover, as it is common in all of Mexico, the gastronomy is not limited to restaurant kitchens: the churros, corn in a cup, or ice cream that are sold in the streets of this incredible town are part of the culinary experience, too.
Now, let us walk you to the places of interest in San Miguel de Allende. Walking around this town one can admire the color of its streets and its cobblestones creating a perfect contrast to the sobriety of the towers of its churches that appear through the large corridors of houses. While enjoying these views, you cannot miss the opportunity of walking around the city’s zocalo, or downtown plaza, where you will find the famous Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. If you traveled to San Miguel de Allende and did not admire the iconic parish, were you really there?
Let us tell you a little about the history of this parish now that we’re in the subject. The original parish was actually built in 1564, but the inside was modified later, in the middle of the 19th century. Then, in 1890, the neo-Gothic style façade that we all see today was created, in pink quarry; It was created by Zeferino Gutiérrez, who took inspiration from European Gothic cathedrals, a very famous one in Barcelona to be precise (yes, we are referring to La Sagrada Familia). Fun fact: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's brother was a parish priest in this same parish. In addition, Ignacio Allende, Juan and Ignacio Aldama were baptized right here as well.
Located in the historic center of this town is another great place to soak up the history of San Miguel, the Museo Histórico Casa de Allende (Casa de Allende Historical Museum) is a museum named after its most illustrious inhabitant, Ignacio Allende. Museo Histórico Casa de Allende is a 17th century mansion that mixes baroque and neoclassical styles; just admiring its structure and taking a walk around its patio with archery is already a delight. The museum is furnished to show you how a Creole family lived during the Colony. Among its rooms there is also a pulpería (store) and an apothecary. In addition to the colonial era, this museum also addresses some parts of the regional pre-Hispanic cultures.
Continuing our tour around the city, we’ve mentioned before how San Miguel de Allende houses thousands of art galleries. In San Miguel, one can find galleries where only products are exhibited and sold, or workshops where you can even talk to the artists and ask them anything you want. There is one gallery in every corner! However, if you would like to find a place that does not require a lot of walking, be sure to check out La Aurora Factory. This building was once a textile factory and today houses dozens of art galleries that will ensure you do not leave empty-handed. Here there is something for all tastes: antiques, unique decoration objects, quarry or glass handicrafts, works of contemporary art, jewelry, Italian-style mosaics, and unusual gifts, just to mention a few examples. The factory is located approximately half a mile from the historic center, but the detour will be worth it. Also, if you work up an appetite, you have a choice of several restaurants and cafes with indoor or outdoor spaces.
Although we have tried to keep you in San Miguel de Allende’s city center, there are also some places worth highlighting that are just outside the town. Located eight miles from the city of San Miguel de Allende you can also find the Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, or Sanctuary of Jesus Nazarene of Atotonilco, a religious complex from the 18th century, which is a World Heritage Site along with the historic center of San Miguel. Its importance is due to the baroque architecture and art that can be admired here, which serve as a symbol of New Spain. You will fall in love and be amazed by the oil murals inside, created over 30 years by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre.
If, what you are looking for is the pre-Hispanic culture, a visit to San Miguel de Allende is incomplete without visiting Cañada de la Virgen. This is an archaeological zone located a short hour-drive from the city, which had its splendor between the years 600 and 900. In this place there are constructions that once functioned to observe the sky and analyze the agrarian cycles for Otomi-Hñahñu peoples. Here, you can complement your visit outside the archaeological site with a horseback ride through a ravine with a semi-desert landscape and you can even practice rappelling in this natural region.
If you are still up to visiting around this town, we highly recommend a 15-minute drive to visit El Charco del Ingenio, a nature reserve that houses a botanical garden specialized in the Altiplano region, where you can admire unusual magueys (agaves), succulents, and cacti, some of which endangered. You can also go through a labyrinth of aromas or walk among rocks, ravines, and natural pools; the site covers 70 hectares, so you won't be short of places to admire. In this region, remains of pottery and traces of the pre-Hispanic era have been found. El Charco del Ingenio preserves the ruins of a hacienda and a 19th-century dam, as well as a 20th-century aqueduct. Moreover, it is one of the five sites in Mexico that were consecrated as Zones of Peace in 2004 by the Dalai Lama.
Before ending our list of reasons to visit and places to be in San Miguel de Allende, we would like to highlight how this town turns everything to art, including your stay. The hotel offer in San Miguel de Allende is not only vast, but attractive in itself. There are large hotels housed in historic properties, tiny boutique-style accommodations with designs that make you fall in love, or places that mix tradition with modernity and are full of “instagrammable” corners. In any of San Miguel de Allende’s hotels you can completely disconnect for a weekend, between legendary meals and wellness treatments.
Three local accommodations were on the list of the best city hotels in Mexico by the World's Best Awards 2020: Rosewood, Hotel Matilda, and Amparo. The first is a luxury hotel that, even if you don't stay there, we recommend you visit for its restaurants or spa treatments. The last two are boutique accommodations, intimate, beautiful and full of attention to details. Though there are thousands more to choose from and, no matter the hotel you pick, you will definitely earn an experience in your trip!
So, what do you think about San Miguel de Allende? Is this a place you have visited or would like to visit? What part of San Miguel interested you the most? If you have ever been here, do you have any experiences to share? We would love to read them! We hope that this list full of places definitely worth visiting encourages you to explore this exceptional awe-inspiring cultural wonder! Also, if you are around Guanajuato, don’t forget to check out our Guanajuato City blog!
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