San Miguel de Allende is a city nestled in the hills and heart of Mexico. A destination rich in history and culture, surrounded by colonial baroque and neoclassical buildings, filled with an old world charm that makes its visitors feel like they are part of a Hollywood movie set.
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Located in the state of Guanajuato, this city is so magical, it is often referred to as “San Magic.”
Almost every home is filled with lush landscapes and balconies lined with terracotta pots, lavender, cacti, or bugambilias. It’s no mystery why many of the rich and famous flock to this southern Mexican city to purchase their second or third homes.
An Important Note for SMA Tourists
While San Miguel de Allende has kept its Mexican charm throughout the years, the increase in tourism and American residents means it is more Americanized than other small towns in the country.
With more expensive Airbnb properties, tourists shops, luxury homes, and high volumes of visitors, the small town has transformed dramatically over the years. In fact, some Mexicans feel that San Miguel de Allende is not a real or authentic representation of Mexico.
While the luxury properties and shops offered to tourists are absolutely spectacular, it is always important to remember and honor the local culture, history, religion, art, and warmth of the local people who call this place home.
Conde Nast Votes San Miguel de Allende the Best City in the World
San Miguel de Allende is the perfect city to unwind, learn something new and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. On average, the city of San Miguel de Allende accounts for 1.6 million of those visitors.
Why is tourism so high in this city? As mentioned earlier, San Miguel de Allende looks like the set of a Nancy Meyers’ film. The streets and buildings are painted in an array of colors such as: vermilion, amaranth, coral, lavender, azure, which captivate tourists primarily from the United States and Canada.
The culmination of all the history and beauty this city offers is why it was voted the best city and “Mexico’s Hidden Treasure” by Travel + Leisure.
Conde Nast Readers also voted it as the number one city for “small cities in the world.”
With all these awards, the name San Miguel de Allende is making its way to nearly every household.
San Miguel de Allende’s Influential Art Scene
Thanks to Chicago native Stirling Dickinson, San Miguel de Allende also has an influential art scene.
As an art connoisseur, Dickinson influenced American artists to come and visit the city during the early 1930s.
He also helped change San Miguel de Allende into a tourist destination for American artists who were looking for new inspiration and a fresh start.
Because of this, San Miguel de Allende (also known as “SMA”) began to see a boom of Americans residents, including retirees and young business owners.
Since then, tourism has continued to grow throughout the years especially with the addition of luxury homes, which have also been featured in Architectural Digest and The New York Times.
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Lavish Properties in San Miguel de Allende
This ten bedroom property feels like an homage to Mexico's history, with antiques from all over the country. Visitors will be greeted by a fusion of Mexican folk art, textiles from India and Afghanistan, as well as Italian and Spanish furniture.
Its unique design aesthetic has become a hotspot for weddings, and vacation rentals. The property was even highlighted in a New York Times article.
Hacienda Buena Fe
The Hacienda Buena Fe, which translates to “House of Good Faith,” began as a broken down property and has evolved into a must-see hacienda in San Miguel de Allende.
While it has an overall authentic Mexican aesthetic, it is in the details that one gets a glimpse into other parts of the world. Marble pavings echo those of Châteu de Versaille, small embellishments take inspiration from Arabic culture, and pilasters on the doors imitate those in Rome.
There is also a bathtub that imitates the Mudéjar-style like those in Tordesillas’ 14-century Royal Convent of Santa Clara.
Hacienda Buena Fe is a melting pot of cultural design aesthetics brought together. It is bright, cheerful, and has the ability to make you feel like you are traveling the world.
Places to Stay
Casa Proserpina, which means “house of spring” in Latin, has been rejuvenated into a luxurious and calming oasis.
Once you have arrived you are greeted by large wooden doors and large mustard yellow walls.
Beyond the main entrance are two Casitas: Casita Agua whose name derives from its blue accent decorations and Casita Fuego which consists of warmer tones and an open floor plan.
The final Casita is Casa Centro which contains a master bedroom, living rooms, dining rooms, two extra bedrooms and a stunning garden patio. It is a dream destination, and one you can rent for your next vacation.
*Something to keep in mind: Casa Proserpina sleeps 10 people total, which is why the price point is much higher than other properties. However, if you come with a large group it is only $125.00 a night per person in a central location in town.
Casa de los Soles
At the center of San Miguel de Allende is Casa de Los Soles. This hotel and apartment complex is similar to the style we have come to love in San Miguel de Allende. It’s relaxed, beautifully decorated, colorful, and full of life. Famous for its wall decorated in thousands of suns, this hotel is one of many iconic places in the city.
Casa Schuck Hotel
“An oasis in the heart of San Miguel de Allende.” This 18th-century villa is only a few minutes walk to the center of the city and has a stunning colonial-style aesthetic. With original terracotta tiles, fireplaces, gardens, bougainvillea trees, vintage and antique furniture, and brightly painted rooms, this hotel is sure to capture your heart. Unlike your traditional large hotels, Casa Schuck only has ten bedrooms and each of them has been individually decorated. If you’re looking for a unique bed and breakfast experience, this hotel is for you!
“A private and picturesque home away from home.” This vibrant hotel expresses the rich artistic spirit of San Miguel de Allende through its elegant Mexican design. Patios are filled with lush green plants, multiple seating areas with great views of the city, and easy access to food and drink services. For tequila lovers, there is an exceptional bar that serves high quality mezcal, tequila, and other spirits. After getting your drink, guests can enjoy a relaxing day at the pool that also offers its own dining experience. San Miguel de Allende’s Rosewood Hotel offers both luxury and privacy in any of its 67 rooms.
Casa de Sierra Nevada
Hidden away in the fairytale city of San Miguel de Allende is a hotel which prides itself on being both luxurious and historical. This 17th and 18th century building is composed of courtyards, gardens, terraces, a pool, contemporary Mexican restaurants, bars, tennis courts, a culinary school, a spa, and an artists' corner. It is the perfect place to bring your family and friends for a relaxing stay in St. Magic while also having the ability to try out some new activities such as ATV tours.
“The essence of Matilda is classic contemporary.” At this luxury hotel and spa you will experience gourmet dining, a private art collection, relaxing spa treatments, and a cool ambiance. Matilda is focused on representing the lifestyle of today’s traveler—someone who is worldly, luxurious and open to new experiences. Some of their fabulous suites come with living rooms, private balconies, terraces, dream bathrooms, smart TVs, private bars, and a gym. If this isn’t enough to prove Matilda is a great hotel, well Conde Nast Readers awarded Matilda as the number one hotel in Mexico in 2021.
This boutique hotel company made its mark in 2011 when its doors first opened. Since then, it has gone on to win two awards given by Travel + Leisure. The first was “2018 Top New Hotels” and the second was “2018 Most Romantic.” This pink paradise is full of plants, flowers, and charming details. Its rooftop at night is magical with a view of the city, candle lights, and a pool. Its suites are bright, cohesive, and elegant. Included in all suites is a gourmet breakfast and buffet which has some of your favorite Mexican dishes. Whether you are looking for a King suite or a smaller patio room, this hotel has everything you need for a romantic getaway.
“A house of hospitality and style in a city of revolution.” Established in 1693, this hotel is rich in beauty and history. Lush green plants fill the hotel patio, outside walls are white with wood accents, and the charm of this place is unlike anything else. Meson Hidalgo has created its guest rooms with individual personalities based on the saying “Si no es Chana, es Juana, y si no, su hermana.” (The saying translates to “If it’s not Chana, it’s Juana, and if not, it’s her sister” meaning “if it’s not one thing, it's another.”) These rooms have been carefully painted and decorated following each of their personalities. It has a perfect old Mexican aesthetic similar to that of the beloved San Miguel de Allende.
Iglesias to Visit
What captivates most people about San Miguel de Allende is its stunning architecture and one-of-a-kind churches.
Here are 3 churches we recommend visiting during your visit:
Parroquia de San Miguel de Allende. Known for its pink sandstone steeples which rise above the town's skyline, this neo-Gothic church is the postcard for the city. Having been rebuilt three times, this church has a fascinating history.
Iglesia de San Francisco. Having taken 20 years to complete, the architecture has a combination of design styles which make it a unique sight. Its facade is churrigueresque (lavishly ornamented style of the Spanish baroque period), while its bell tower was completed during the neoclassical style of 1799.
Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco. Often referred to as “The Sistine Chapel of Mexico,” the Sanctuary of Atotonilco is a stunning church, which houses some of the most stunning frescoes depicting the life of Christ. With paintings covering the ceiling and impressive architecture, this church is one you cannot miss. Located only seven miles outside San Miguel de Allende, this church plays an important role during Holy Week festivities.
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Festivities in SMA
San Miguel de Allende has a wealth of cultural festivities, which tourists can partake in throughout the year.
From local attractions to extravagant dinners and rooftops, this is an event-driven city.
During the first Thursday and Friday of March, the festival of El Señor de la Conquista takes place in San Miguel de Allende. Filled with dancers dressed in elaborate and colorful feathered headdresses, hypnotic drum beats, rattling of shells, burning scent of copal and conchero dances, this festival is full of energy. Originally created in the 16th century, this celebration is a way to show the acceptance of Jesus by the indigenous people while incorporating their own traditions.
Two weeks before Easter, San Miguel de Allende begins with events for Holy Week. Nearly eight miles outside the city, the sounds of drums and hymns can be heard in the village of Atotonilco marking the commencement of the Procession of Our Lord of the Column—in Spanish known as El Señor de la Columna. A life-size statue of Jesus is carried by faithful followers to San Miguel de Allende where mass is celebrated at night. Thousands participate in this event each year and is an important time for those in the city.
Semana Santa is incredibly important to locals in San Miguel de Allende, because of this there are a plethora of activities tourists can as well partake in. The Friday before Semana Santa the first activity begins. Dedicated to the Virgin of Sorrows, or la Dolorosa, altars are put together while visitors fix aguas frescas of limon, tamarindo, horchata, and jamaica. The next event is that of Jueves Santo in which seven churches are visited and at each one prayers are said in honor of the altars created for them. The day many anticipate is Good Friday or Viernes Santo. Filled with emotions, the procession of Santa Encuentro in which a reenactment of the Virgin Mary meeting her son on his way to Monte Calvario takes place. While Holy Week is celebrated around many parts of the world, San Miguel de Allende has many showstopping events.
Día de Los Locos. Within each of us lies a wild side. On June 13th, the city encourages people to express their “wild side” through costumes, music, satire, and folklore. It is believed this tradition began with town gardeners, during the days leading up to a harvest they would perform dances in honor of their patron saint. To onlookers, these dances appeared out of the ordinary and for a lack of better words, crazy. With more visitors coming to see the dance phenomenon, the gardeners began dressing up costumes to scare any unwanted visitors. Overtime, the festival evolved into a celebration of our inner strength and accepting the chaos in our lives.
At the beginning of September, locals in San Miguel de Allende, also referred to as “Sanmiguelenses”, have a full month of parties. A combination of Mexico’s independence day, the Feast of San Miguel, the Alborada (which represents the fight between the city’s patron saint Archangel San Miguel and Lucifer), and SMA’s version of running of the bulls.
One of the most well known traditions and celebrations is that of Día de Los Muertos. On November 1st and 2nd you will see streets filled with cempasuchil flowers, ofrendas, papel picado, and catrinas. It is in smaller towns such as San Miguel de Allende that we get to see more traditional and extravagant celebrations for Día de Los Muertos.
To finish out the year, we cannot forget about New Years Eve festivities. Both locals and tourists alike, join together at the central plaza to countdown the last few minutes of the year. Accompanied with music and pyrotechnics, this is one of the largest events the city has to offer.
What are Mojigangas?
Mojigangas are giant puppets (approximately 15 feet tall!) created using cardboard materials.
They originated from Spain and were brought to Mexico around the 1600s.
Today, you can spot them in the streets of San Miguel de Allende during a “callejoneada” (a walking parade) or for weddings and other fiestas.
In Spain, the puppets were used to make fun of public figures or for comedic relief during religious pilgrimmages.
Mojigangas symbolize joy and are often use to parody iconic figures like La Catrina, Frida, and los novios (wedding couples).
You can find them dancing down cobblestones streets during town festivals, often accompanied by mariachis.
Mojigangas can be found all throughout Mexico (but depending on the region, they refer to them by different names).
They have become especially popular in San Miguel de Allende where they have been used in celebrations for more than 100 years!
The mojigangas in the image above were created by @mojiganga_estudio—a 3rd generation “mojigangera” artisan family located in San Miguel de Allende.
Wineries in SMA
Alongside the festivities of San Miguel de Allende, there are many other relaxing activities for couples, friends, and families to enjoy. On the outskirts of the city, there are some incredible vineyards for all wine lovers.
Cuna de Tierra. First planted in the early ‘90s, this is the first and oldest vineyard in the state of Guanajuato. Located in the Dolores Hidalgo region, this quaint winery has won many awards.
Viñedo San Lucas. This restaurant, winery, and hotel located 16 miles from the city of San Miguel de Allende is a family friendly property. With an outdoor pool, playground, equestrian club, polo field, tennis and paddle courts there are many activities for all ages to enjoy.
Viñedo la Santísima Trinidad. This lush green property is home to many incredible agricultural areas including vineyards, and olive and lavender fields. Alongside them are polo fields, restaurants, workshops, and a boutique hotel which tourists can enjoy on the daily.
Viñedo Tres Raíces. Located in the heart of Bajío, you will find a beautiful landscape with a hotel, restaurant, and one of the newest wineries in Guanajuato. With its first vines planted in 2012, its wine production did not begin until 2016. Once its doors opened in 2018, this winery became a favorite for business, social, and family events.
Rooftops in SMA
With their spectacular views, music, and cocktails, the rooftops and terraces in San Miguel de Allende are some of the best and hottest stops in the city.
With a beautiful panoramic view of SMA, our recommendation is Bekeb. Located in the Casa Hoyos hotel and only three streets from the Jardín Principal, this restaurant and bar has a vibrant and fresh desert design. Focused on bringing local Mexican flavors to life, the cocktails offered here are based on ancient herbs and flowers, and of course, some of the best tequila around.
If you're looking to “dine among the stars” Quince Rooftop is the perfect place to be. Voted number one rooftop restaurant in the world 2018 and 2021 by Rooftop Guide it is the combination of food, drinks, views, and ambiance that brings locals and tourists back to this spot.
Silverio This urban coffee and mixology bar is a fairly new spot in San Miguel de Allende. Having opened in 2019, this vegan-friendly restaurant has a great ambiance. On the first floor, attendees get to experience a calm environment, filled with jazz, artistic designs, coffee and great food. On the second floor is where the mixology lab is with some delicious cocktails and a great view of the city. For those who like to try new things, this place is for you.
Luna Bar has one of the most breathtaking views of San Miguel de Allende. Located above the Rosewood Hotel, this Mediterranean inspired rooftop tapas bar is a must-visit on your next trip. With “sunset sessions” every Thursday in which a mixologist creates new cocktails and a DJ plays all night, it is the perfect place to enjoy a night out with friends.
With many glowing reviews, Bastardo is one of tourists’ favorite places to eat and drink outside the city center. Only a 16 minute drive from San Miguel de Allende, this vegan-friendly restaurant has a calm ambiance and rustic design aesthetic. Its drink menu is incredible! We recommend trying the “morita” and “summer pie” drinks.
Located in the Casa de Sierra Nevada Hotel, the Blue Bar has an elegant and extensive wine and spirits selection. Their inviting ambiance makes this a great for those who are looking to unwind with a cocktail in hand. This rooftop bar has both indoor and patio seating with each offering unique amenities. You can choose between a log fire seating arrangement, bar seating, patio seating with an unobscured view of the sky, or large table seating for all your friends or family to join. Make sure to ask for queso fundido + totopos con guacamole!
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Restaurants and Cafe’s
Similar to night life, there are ample places to dine in during the day. Whether you are looking for café’s, pizza, food stands, or anything in between, there are many hidden food gems in this city.
Here are some recommendations:
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, specialty coffee, and pastries, Zenteno Café has it all. Known for its unique coffee’s, this café was voted second best coffee house in San Miguel de Allende by Restaurant Guru. With the incredible aroma of coffee filling the shop and street, how could coffee lovers not want to stop by.
If you are looking for a coffee spot with some incredible pastries then you need to stop at Lavanda Café de Especialidad: El Restaurante. At Lavanda workers roast and serve the best Mexican coffee from around the country. As coffee enthusiasts, they emphasize the importance of working with and respecting the product and the coffee producers. You can visit both of their stores in SMA on your next visit. Local tip: only one of their stores sells breakfast, so if you're in the mood for some great coffee, a pastry, or some breakfast make sure to check out their shop on Hernández street!
La Doña San Miguel is a modern Mexican cocina which focuses on the best and most high quality ingredients. To ensure this, they purchase all their meat, fish, and poultry from high-end local suppliers around the San Miguel de Allende area. Not only is the quality of the food here superb but its rooftop seating area is beautiful. With an elegant Mexican design aesthetic - simple, lots of plants, candlelight, colorful tiles - it is a great place to enjoy a day outside and take in the view of the city.
If you are looking for a chic, alluring, elegant, and mysterious spot to eat, Atrio Rooftop Restaurant is the place to be. This restaurant has a darker design aesthetic with splashes of color coming from its food and drinks - which are visually stunning. Thanks to the best new chef in SMA, Arturo Sandoval, Atrio’s menu is a fusion of Mexican, Peruvian, and Spanish cuisines which will make you want to come back.
Located only a few feet away from El Jardín Principal is La Unica Restaurant. La Unica is a gourmet experience which foodies will love. Their unique menu “mar y tierra” (sea and earth) is inspired by the cuisine of Northern Mexico. While it is a gourmet Mexican restaurant, you can order a burger and fries to satisfy your craving for high end American food. La Unica has multiple locations aside from SMA, if you’re ever traveling through Madrid, Polanco, Puebla, and Cartagena make sure to stop by La Unica. To learn more, Forbes Mexico profiled this restaurant back in 2018 naming it an “eden” in SMA.
Having first opened their doors in 2016, Marsalas con Acentos is a perfect spot for lunch and especially Sunday brunch. The philosophy of this restaurant is based on simplicity, respect for their products, and their flavors and origins. Their menu is a fusion of Mediterranea, Asian, and Mexican cuisine with vegetarian and vegan friendly options. The restaurant itself has a beautiful beachy aesthetic with many blue, orange, and green details. Its calm atmosphere is the perfect place to spend your day enjoying a relaxing lunch.
Located in the Casa Blanca Hotel is Fatima Siete Rooftop. Fatima is described as “Mexican with a Moroccan twist,” meaning its menu and design aesthetic is both stunning and unique. Their menu was created by chef Mike Garcia who set off on a trip around the world to learn about different cuisines, techniques, and flavors from countries such as Spain, France, and Africa. With Fatima Siete he incorporates all of the information he has learned and locally sources many of his ingredients to bring in that Mexican style we all love.
If you’re a little tired of Mexican food, we recommend, Il Castello, a fairly new pizza spot. Made with brick ovens, the pizza here is rich in flavor. The small and intimate shop is perfect for a snack at any time of the day and as a bonus you can watch all the pizzas be made with care and love. This shop has some of the best local pizza in the city.
Day Activities in SMA
Between sampling different foods, drinking delicious cocktails, and walking the streets of San Miguel de Allende there are so many activities tourists can enjoy.
For adventure seekers, and those looking for an adrenaline filled day, SMA offers ATV tours. With these all-terrain vehicles, you will be able to visit Old San Miguel, and the hillsides and shores of lake Presa Allende; in addition to chapels and colonial ruins which date back four hundred and fifty years. Pro-tip: Be prepared to get a little dusty!
Those looking for a more relaxing day, SMA has a variety of museums for tourists to enjoy. One of the oldest museums is Museo Casa de Allende. The construction of this historic building began in 1760 by Domingo Narciso de Allende y Ayerdi as a wedding gift. However, during the time of Mexico’s independence the house was taken by the government but ultimately returned to the family. With so much history having taken place here, the National Institution of Anthropology and History proposed that this house be converted into a museum. Another museum you can visit is Museo La Esquina. Here visitors are able to see a collection of over 3,500 handmade folk toys that have been collected over the past 57 years. In each of the three rooms you are able to see the incredible artistic qualities, diversity, and creativity from all over the country. Alongside these, there are so many other museums you can enjoy on your visit to San Miguel de Allende.
Shopping in SMA
After a great vacation, going home can be a bittersweet moment. One of the best ways to make this easier is to bring something home from your vacation. San Miguel de Allende has plenty of unique stores for everyone to find something they love.
Mercado de Artesanias. Discover the world of handmade Mexican crafts and art at San Miguel de Allende’s well-known artisan market. We recommend visiting on a day when you’re touring the city on foot.
El Nuevo Mundo. A block from the main square is one of the oldest stores in SMA called El Nuevo Mundo. Here you can find a plethora of interesting handcrafted items from alebrijes to colorful textiles.
Tosma. Outside the city center you will find Tosma, a Saturday market that has artists, local produce, and live music. It is a great way to spend your weekend morning shopping and finding the best ingredients to cook with.
Fabrica La Aurora. Located in an old textile factory, this cultural center is a must-visit. Visitors will find artisan products, sculptures, and artworks from artists who have lived in San Miguel.
Meson Hidalgo. In addition to a boutique hotel, Meson Hidalgo offers an amazing shopping experience. Created by designer Laura Kirar, Meson Hidalgo, offers a wide range of products such as: fashion accessories, furniture, rugs and textiles, vintage and more.
Mixta Boutique. An adorable boutique filled with a mixture of unique items. Shoppers can browse for textiles, jewelry, clothing, art and more.
How long to Spend in San Miguel de Allende
We recommend at least a four day stay in the city, so you have time to walk through its colorful streets, get to know its surroundings, and partake in some fun activities.
Ideally, a six day stay would allow you to partake in more activities, both in and around the city.
As with any vacation, to truly get to know the city you are in, especially with all the rich culture and history, it is beneficial to stay longer than a few days.
How to Get Around San Miguel de Allende
The city can mostly be accessed by foot. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes like leather huaraches (Luisa’s preference) or tennis shoes because there are tons of cobblestones.
If you do need a chofer or driver, feel free to download our FREE travel app, where we’ll share more contacts with you all there.
Cover Image Credit: Casa Proserpina
Eliana Flores-Barber Mexican-American writer and photographer based out of California. She graduated from Emerson College with a journalism degree and an art history minor. Her love of storytelling comes from her grandparents who always shared stories of their family history and life in Mexico. When she is not working, you can find her on the tennis court.
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