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Vamonos to Mexico » Travel Guide » What is so Special About San Miguel de Allende?

What is so Special About San Miguel de Allende?

  • Joel CZ 
  • 20 min read
things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
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There’s no doubt that San Miguel de Allende is one of the favorite cities for tourism in Guanajuato, where you will find many things to do.

Each step here will take you through the most important scenarios of Mexico’s history, its magnificent architecture, culture, gastronomy, and even hot springs to relax.

The colonial town of San Miguel de Allende has been awarded three years in a row by Conde Nast Traveller magazine as the best small city in the world.

This is due to its baroque architecture, culture, and historic old town with beautiful cafés, elegant restaurants, and modern art galleries.

Where is San Miguel de Allende?

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
A typical street in San Miguel de Allende

This gorgeous town sits in the mountainous region of central Mexico, about 100 km from Guanajuato city, 120 km from Leon, and 275 km from Mexico City.

It is located at an altitude of 1,870 meters above sea level, with thermal and alkaline water springs, such as El Chorro, Cieneguita, Montecillo, Atotonilco, Taboada, and El Cortijo.

Keep in mind that San Miguel de Allende has no airport. The nearest one is in Leon Guanajuato or Mexico City.

Weather and flora

The average temperature ranges between 16°C and 22°C, with the prevailing climate in the Municipality being dry-temperate.

It is moderately warm with rainy summers, while winters are cool.

The rainy season begins in June and lasts until mid-October. San Miguel’s flora comprises oak forest, high thorny scrubland, prickly pear cactus, and medium grassland with shrubs.

Why isn’t San Miguel de Allende a Magical Town?

Before 2008, San Miguel de Allende was a Pueblo Mágico.

However, with the Unesco nomination as a World Heritage City, the Guanajuato government decided to stop participating in that program to focus entirely on Unesco’s requirements and preserve its title.

Among the top 20 best things to do in San Miguel de Allende Guanajuato is to enjoy its gastronomy and admire its buildings. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Visit the San Miguel Arcangel Church

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
Visiting this iconic Church

The symbol of every Mexican town, big or small, is its main Catholic temple.

According to the Roman cult, the church of San Miguel Allende celebrates the Archangel Michael, the Chief of the Armies of God and patron of the Universal Church.

The church is in the city’s historic center, built during the seventeenth century.

At the end of the 19th century, it underwent a refurbishment.

The neo-Gothic style façade was superimposed on its former one, the work of the master stonemason Ceferino Gutiérrez from San Miguel.

2. Temple of San Francisco

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
Templo de San Francisco – Source: Noradoa / shutterstock.com

Also in the center of the city is the church dedicated to San Francisco de Asis.

The temple, built at the end of the 17th century, took more than 20 years to erect, showing the changes in architectural art during the period.

The façade is of styptic baroque style, while the bell tower and the dome, works of the notable architect Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras, are of neoclassical lines.

3. Temple of “Nuestra Señora de la Salud”

El Templo de La Salud is on Insurgentes Street and offers a beautiful luminous spectacle at night. Its façade is made of neat churrigueresque stonework.

The humility of stone has replaced the luxury of its old gold altars. In one of the interior corners, there is a small chapel of the Virgen de las Tres Aves (Virgin of the Three Birds) that surprises for its beauty.

According to the tradition of San Miguel de Allende, the bell of Nuestra Señora de la Salud is the oldest among the city’s temples.

4. Civic Plaza

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
The plaza’s kiosk – Source: Roberto Galan / shutterstock.com

This square dating from the mid-sixteenth century is the largest esplanade in downtown San Miguel de Allende.

It was the neuralgic point of the city until that role passed to the Central Garden.

The center of the plaza is presided over by the equestrian statue of Ignacio Allende.

In one of its corners is a building that was the seat of the Colegio de San Francisco de Sales in the past.

This school was one of the first in the New World. The philosophy of the Enlightenment was taught, and remarkable figures of the Independence, such as Allende and the brothers Juan and Ignacio Aldama, passed through its classrooms.

5. Municipal Palace

In this building, the first Mexican City Council met in 1810 after the declaration of Independence.

This historic first town council held in the then called Villa de San Miguel El Grande, was convened by Miguel Hidalgo and presided over by Ignacio Aldama, with the participation of, among others, Ignacio Allende, Juan José Umarán, Manuel Castin Blanqui and Benito de Torres.

The Municipal Palace is located in the building that was the Casa Consistorial in 1736.

6. Allende’s House Museum

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Source: Ger Aguilar / shutterstock.com

The hero of Mexican Independence, Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga, was born on January 21, 1769, in the town that now bears his last name.

His parents, Domingo Narciso de Allende, a well-to-do Spanish merchant, and his mother, María Ana de Unzaga, lived in a stately 18th-century mansion with beautiful neoclassical facades and spacious rooms.

The mansion changed owners for more than 200 years until 1979, when the government of the state of Guanajuato bought it from the last owner.

However, it now houses a museum that recreates the independence era, and you can visit the room where the hero gave his “birth cries.”

7. House of the Mayorazgo

The Catholic Monarchs established the mayorazgo (entailed estate) in Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, and the Spaniards took it to colonial America.

It was created as a privilege for the nobility to facilitate acquiring and consolidating properties and their subsequent inheritance.

The Casa del Mayorazgo de La Canal, built in the historic center at the end of the 18th century by order of the nobleman Manuel Tomás de la Canal, is one of the purest examples of New Spanish Baroque art in San Miguel de Allende.

8. Crafts Market in San Miguel de Allende

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
Beautiful Talavera pottery – Source: R.M. Nunes / shutterstock.com

A few blocks from the old town is this market, where you can buy food and handicrafts at considerably lower prices than in the stores of the historic center, as long as you have learned to bargain.

There you can get beautifully painted pewter and ceramics, embroidered clothing, tableware, costume jewelry, stone, metal, glasswork, and much more.

The site stands out for the vendors’ colorfulness, warmth, and friendliness.

You can also grab a quick bite to eat, such as “enchilado corn,” or sample San Miguel’s jams and marmalades (plum and mint are the best).

9. Explore El Charco del Ingenio

It is a natural reserve of more than 60 hectares, a few minutes from the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.

It has a Botanical Garden with an impressive collection of more than 1,300 species of cactus and succulent plants, one of the largest in the country. 

You can also admire a canyon, a reservoir, and the ruins of a colonial-era aqueduct.

If you dare to go on a full moon night, you may stumble upon the Headless Horseman, one of the mythical inhabitants of the place.

However, if you don’t see the horseman, you might get lucky with a relative of the Loch Ness Monster, who locals say occasionally leaves the reservoir’s depths to peek out of the surface.

10. Archaeological Zone of La Cañada de la Virgen

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
Source: Marcos E Ramos Ponciano / shutterstock.com

This site is located about 15 km from San Miguel de Allende, and consisting of buildings and ruins believed to have been erected by Toltec-Chichimeca communities along the Laja River basin.

Archeologists and experts in pre-Hispanic astronomy think that the place was “The House of the 13 Heavens,” ruled by the Sun, Venus, and the Moon.

11. Visit Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato

While in San Miguel de Allende, you can’t miss Dolores Hidalgo, less than 40 km away. 

On the morning of September 16, 1810, in the atrium of the parish of Dolores, the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called for an uprising against colonial domination.

That pronouncement went down in history as the Grito de Dolores, an event symbolizing the beginning of Mexican Independence.

If you happen to be there on November 23, you can enjoy the José Alfredo Jiménez International Festival, the greatest Mexican singer-songwriter and the most famous Dolores native of the 20th century.

Also, don’t miss the incomparable local ice cream.

12. Experience the festivity of the Virgin of the Conception

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
Me, enjoying the festivities

On August 8, the people of San Miguel celebrate the festivity of the Immaculate Conception in the parish of the same name.

The church of La Concepción dates from the middle of the 18th century and has a beautiful Gothic dome in two sections.

This festival includes singing, fireworks, and the delights of local food.

The interior features polychrome sculptures of saints and a collection of works by 18th-century painters.

13. Parade of the Fools

According to the Catholic calendar, the Day of San Antonio de Padua is June 13.

A “special” event is celebrated on the Sunday following this date in San Miguel de Allende, the Desfile de Los Locos (Parade of the Fools).

People dress up in extravagant costumes, parodying some political or show business celebrity, and take to the streets shouting, singing, joking, and handing out candy to the spectators.

14. San Miguel de Allende Guanajuato International Film Festival

This festival is held during June, with regular Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende venues.

The event promotes quality cinema, especially in the area of new creators.

Typically, participating filmmakers compete in 6 categories, two in Feature Film (fiction and documentary) and 4 in Short Film (fiction, documentary, animation, and experimental).

Prizes consist of filmmaking equipment and materials. If you are a film buff, the festival is the perfect occasion to visit San Miguel de Allende.

15. Wool and Brass Fair

During the second half of November and for a week, this peculiar event is held, and local artisans who work with wool and brass exhibit their creations.

The exhibition of rugs, mirrors, jewelry, and ornaments takes place within the framework of a famous seven-day festival, including music, dance, theater, and many delicacies of Guanajuato’s gastronomy.

 16. Chamber Music Festival

This joyful music festival has been held since 1979, during August. String quartets (two violins, cello, and viola) and quintets (one more viola) from all over Mexico and North America usually participate.

It aims to promote new generations of musicians and has been attended by performers who are now consolidated in internationally renowned symphony orchestras.

17. Baroque Music Festival

Every March, renowned groups, instrument players, and performers from Mexico and the world gather in San Miguel de Allende for this Baroque music festival.

The extraordinary compositions of the time, from the genius of Bach, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Handel, and other famous authors, sound in the naves of the main churches, in the Casa de la Cultura, and different halls of historical importance, to the delight of music lovers and the general public, who throng the spaces.

18. International Jazz Festival

The traditional and colonial San Miguel de Allende also opens a space for jazz and blues in its busy annual calendar of events.

The festival usually takes place for a few days in November. American legends and significant Caribbean and Latin American jazz pieces are heard at the Angela Peralta Theater and the Ignacio Ramirez “El Nigromante” Auditorium through bands and soloists.

19. Easter Week

The celebration of the most important week of Catholic worship is particularly traditionalist and striking in San Miguel de Allende.

  • On Holy Thursday, the parishioners visit seven different churches in the so-called “Recorrido de Los Siete Templos” (Tour of the Seven Temples)
  • On Friday, the processions take place in which Jesus meets his mother, St. John, Mary Magdalene, and other characters mentioned in the Gospels
  • The same Friday, in the afternoon, is the procession of the Holy Burial, led by people dressed as Roman soldiers
  • On Easter Sunday is the burning of a doll symbolizing Judas in the midst of a joyful popular celebration

20. Experience the Christmas Festival

things to do in san miguel de allende guanajuato
San Miguel’s Santa Claus – Source: Roberto Galan / shutterstock.com

The last fortnight of the year is a continuous celebration in San Miguel de Allende.

Traditionally, the Christmas Festival begins on the 16th with the public posadas, lasting for nine days.

The people of San Miguel go on pilgrimages through the different neighborhoods and colonies of the city carrying images of St. Joseph, the Virgin, and the Archangel Gabriel.

Each urbanization takes great care to receive the best-decorated streets and serve the best punches, tamales, and sweets.

The popular festivities, which highlight Christmas and New Year’s Eve, include singing, wind music, and fireworks.

The 12 Best Hotels in San Miguel de Allende Guanajuato (with SPA)

Because traveling and exploring new places can be tiring, I put together this list of the best hotels to stay in and relax in SMA.

Most of them I know, but they all have excellent reviews.

1. Rosewood San Miguel

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Main patio and gardens, Rosewood San Miguel – Source: Eleni Mavrandoni / Shutterstock.com

Although this is an expensive high-end hotel, it is well worth it. Its imposing colonial-style architecture serves as the entrance to a complex where luxury and comfort go hand in hand to provide you with an unforgettable experience.

The rooms have all the amenities to make you feel at home: air conditioning, equipped bathrooms (with bathtub and toiletries), and balconies.

You can observe the beautiful gardens or the surrounding urban landscape.

With a privileged location, this hotel allows you to access the main tourist attractions in the area.

Just walk a couple of blocks, and you will be in Juarez Park, where you will see the exhibitions of local artists and, if you go on the right days, the San Miguel Allende Gastronomic Festival.

By the way, if gastronomy is your thing, Restaurant 1826 offers a wide variety of Mexican dishes prepared with fresh ingredients, where you can taste the traditional flavor.

2. Hotel Casa del Misionero

The hotel’s facade invites guests to rest in a simple and cozy atmosphere. It is an old mansion that offers comfort and convenience.

Its central location distinguishes it from others in a rustic atmosphere for a night on the town.

The rooms are simple and decorated with a unique style that will take you back to Colonial Mexico; a suite can accommodate up to six people.

It also offers breakfast with homemade seasoning, and from the terrace, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the downtown area.

3. Hotel Arcada San Miguel

If the reason for your visit is family or business, this hotel offers different options to stay comfortably and enjoy a good spa.

This place offers various services only five minutes from downtown, depending on your travel needs, as it has banquet rooms, a gym, a swimming pool, and conference rooms.

This also makes it a good option for business tourism.

If it is a family trip, there’s a children’s playground and an entertainment room with a pool table and mini-soccer fields.

In addition, the spa has a brick temazcal to make this activity a pleasant and relaxing experience.

4. Lool Beh Hostal Boutique & SPA

There is nothing better to relax than a good massage in a place that offers harmony and tranquility.

More than a hotel, this place is characterized as a bed & breakfast option. Its rooms are simple, in a minimalist atmosphere.

Although it is not precisely in the city’s heart, it is very well located – three blocks from the Historical Center – and easily accessible to the most popular places.

It also has a kitchen for guests who prefer to bring food and prepare it there.

5. Posada La Aldea Hotel

What you will enjoy most about this place are its gardens; spacious green areas that provide a feeling of relaxation.

Its location is strategic, as it is very close to the Historic Center.

It is decorated in a hacienda style and offers a good option for rest or business trips since it has a gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness center, event rooms, Mexican food restaurant, and spa.

Its rooms are comfortable and beautifully decorated in a rustic and colonial style, with rock walls that give you a sense of harmony and tranquility for a pleasant rest.

6. Real de Minas Hotel

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Source: jejim / Shutterstock.com

In a colonial-style construction stands this hotel that offers comfort and tranquility.

The hotel Real de Minas offers green areas, a gym, a pool, spa, among other services.

The rooms are very spacious and comfortable; it also has conference rooms if you are traveling for work.

Its location is approximately one km from downtown San Miguel de Allende, and if you want to walk, you will find craft stores, restaurants, cafes, and other establishments that make the trip shorter and more pleasant.

7. Hotel Grand Las Nubes by Inmense

Its stone and adobe walls will give you a sense of harmony and tranquility, making it an ideal place to rest away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

In the El Cortijo property, at kilometer 8.5 of the Dolores Hidalgo – San Miguel de Allende highway, you will find this place whose construction is mainly made of stone and adobe.

This hotel, located 15 minutes from the city, will provide you with a cozy atmosphere thanks to its comfortable rooms, green areas, swimming pool, restaurant, spa, and other amenities that will allow you to relax in a bohemian and rustic atmosphere.

The hotel also offers complimentary breakfast daily.

8. Suites & Spa Doña Urraca

This hotel is located just a few blocks from downtown and next to the handicrafts market.

It has an outdoor pool, restaurant, spa, hot tub, gym, and other amenities.

In addition, the rooms are comfortable, spacious, and cozy.

Its colonial-style architecture allows you to enjoy your stay in a delightful atmosphere, surrounded by extensive gardens with colorful plants that provide a sense of well-being.

9. Hacienda Taboada Hotel

The spaciousness of its green and rest areas represents an unbeatable option for a family vacation.

This large complex is located just 10 minutes from downtown San Miguel de Allende and represents a different option if you plan to escape the city’s stress and the hustle and bustle.

Its rooms are comfortable, spacious, and decorated in a contemporary style that will make your stay a pleasant experience, whether it is a family or business trip.

It has rooms for events or seminars, activities such as hot springs pools, horseback riding, tennis courts, playgrounds, spa, and everything for the family to spend a great vacation.

10. Hotel Imperio de Angeles

Another option for relaxation outside the city is this hotel, with spacious and comfortable facilities.

Like most of the buildings that characterize San Miguel de Allende, this hotel has a colonial architecture that houses comfortable executive or family recreation facilities.

It is located at km 2 of the highway to Celaya, 15 minutes from the Historic Center.

The rustic decoration of its impeccable rooms combines perfectly with the baroque style of the city; it also has a swimming pool, gymnasium, conference room, restaurant, and ample gardens, in case you need to organize events for large groups.

The spa area offers different massages that will make you enjoy a pleasant experience in an atmosphere of harmony and tranquility.

11. View Hotel Boutique & SPA

This hotel is ideal for traveling as a couple or family to enjoy a stay in an environment surrounded by nature.

Despite being relatively new, since it has been in operation for three years, View Hotel Boutique & Spa represents a cozy and pleasant lodging option only 5 minutes away from San Miguel de Allende.

Its 5 km of green areas are ideal for organizing social events such as weddings or family reunions.

Its decoration is vintage, with very well-cared details in its comfortable and cozy rooms; you can appreciate the beautiful sunsets in a country and rural atmosphere from its terraces.

It also has a heated pool and whirlpool; if you are looking for space, the hotel has four villas.

12. Villa Isabella Hotel Boutique

The historic architecture of its facilities and the modernity of its services make a perfect contrast to offer a pleasant stay.

Continuing with the concept of health tourism in SMA, Villa Isabella could not be left behind since it is located 10 minutes from downtown, at kilometer 3 of the road to Alcocer, away from the noise and city traffic.

It is very close to attractions such as the Botanical Garden El Charco del Ingenio, La Academia Hispanoamericana, El Mirador, La Esquina Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano and El Parque Juarez, among other places worth visiting.

This boutique hotel offers you a guaranteed rest in cozy rooms, television-free.

Among other things, it has a babysitting service for families traveling with children, a golf course, green areas with barbecue grills, a garden, a solarium terrace, an entertainment room with TV, a spa, and an outdoor pool.

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