Visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

If you've been following HonestlyWTF from the very beginning, you know the significance San Miguel de Allende has on me. My husband and I were married there a decade ago. So it seemed only right, on the eve of our ten year anniversary, that we return to the place we exchanged vows in front of our closest family and friends - this time, with our kids in tow. San Miguel de Allende is nestled in the Bajio mountains of central Mexico and known for its 19th century Spanish colonial architecture, vibrant artist community, narrow cobblestone streets, tinkling fountains, lush gardens and buildings painted in every color of a desert sunset. It's located in central Mexico so there aren't any beaches but there's plenty of culture and charm. We spent a week there and it still didn't feel like enough time . . .

Where To Stay

While there are some delightful boutique and luxury hotels in San Miguel de Allende, the best way to experience the town is to rent a hacienda or villa. Vacation rentals are common here and best of all, larger villas can accommodate big groups and are equipped with a staff to assist with cooking, cleaning and concierge services. Traditionally, the haciendas in San Miguel de Allende surround a central courtyard and most boast rooftop terraces with stunning views. Most homes have been restored with impeccable taste while still maintaining that beautiful, colonial charm. Casa San Jose is where we called home for the week and it was truly a special and stunning sanctuary. Every detail of the property was perfect. And after a long day of walking and exploring, we so appreciated the ability to walk back to our home to rest our feet enjoy a margarita, or two, poolside. I dream about our return . . .

Things To Do

Between the museums, local artisans, parks and shopping, there's no shortage of things to do in San Miguel de Allende. The town, albeit small, is chock full of cultural and family friendly activities. The best thing to do is explore SMA on foot - all the roads are cobblestoned so be sure to wear comfortable shoes! You'll discover the most charming cafés, boutiques and art galleries hidden in nondescript courtyards and dotted along tiny little side streets. One of our favorite activities to do with the kids was to visit the Toy Museum and a half day of horse back riding along the foothills of Coyote Canyon, just outside of town. Hanging out in El Jardin with the locals was also a post-dinner favorite. There was nothing better than playing in the square and listening to live mariachi music. Also, be sure to check in with the locals to ask about any in-town events! They'll be happy to share.

Activities

  • El Jardín: This is the social heart of the city. Located just outside the Parroquia, it's a popular meeting spot and venue for live music throughout the day and night. We basically navigate our way around the town based on how far destinations are from the Jardín.
  • Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel: San Miguel's iconic neo-Gothic, 17th-century church is best known for its soaring pink spires & lofty, ornate sanctuary.
  • Fabrica La Aurora: This former textile factory now houses contemporary painters, sculptors, artisans and antique vendors.
  • Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum: This is 100% a must visit. Owner and curator Bill LeVasseur has been collecting ceremonial Mexican masks for over 25 years and houses his massive collection in his home in San Miguel. It's an amazing and wonderfully educational experience - just be sure to call ahead to make a reservation.
  • La Esquina Toy Museum: Our kids absolutely loved this museum which is dedicated to the history and craft of traditional Mexican folk toys. Although you can't technically touch any of the toys in the museum (!!!) there's a lovely gift shop!
  • Parque Benito Juárez: This large, shady park is the perfect place to bring the kids. It was pretty pathways and a series of large play structures - great for burning some of that energy off!
  • Horseback riding: If you have the time, I highly recommend a half or full day of horseback riding. It was so much fun for the entire family - plus, having a home cooked meal on ranch was such an memorable experience!

SHOPPING

  • Mercado de Artesanías
  • Fabrica La Aurora
  • Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
  • Marquesa de Mancera
  • Trinitate
  • Muhna
  • Mixta
  • Bendita

 

Where To Eat & Drink

The food scene in San Miguel de Allende is continuing to evolve. While bought our own groceries at the local markets and ate most meals at home, we loved visiting some of our favorite local eateries for lunch, an ice cream or churro, or an afternoon snack and cocktail. I was surprised to see an influx of vegan and vegetarian eateries, which were all amazing and surprisingly delicious. And while I appreciate the occasional plant-based meal, I always come to Mexico on a mission to find the best taco . . . and I'm happy to say we came pretty close!

FOOD

  • Taco Lab: We ended come back here over and over again. Amazing fish tacos with incredibly fresh ingredients.
  • Don Tacos Tequila: Vegan tacos!! I loved the jackfruit taco. Plus, the guava margaritas were delicious!
  • San Agustín Chocolates & Churros: The most popular place in town. Prepare to stand in line no matter what time of day for hot Mexican chocolate and fresh churros. So good.
  • La Mezcalería: If you like mezcal, this is the spot. The food was incredible, although not the most kid-friendly.
  • The Restaurant: Chef Danny Masterton catered our wedding 10 years ago. The food is as elegant as the restaurant itself.
  • Lavanda Café: A great spot for breakfast or brunch. Don't miss the lavender coffee!
  • Los Milagros: A long standing institution, Los Milagros serves your classic Mexican fare. The food is decent and the atmosphere is fun!
  • Andy's Pastor Taco Cart: You might need to do some research to find out where this famous taco cart is posted up in the evenings. Whatever you do, find them. The make some of the best (and cheapest!) al pastor tacos I've had. Perfect late night bite!

DRINK

  • Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar: For some of the best views of San Miguel de Allende and the Parraoquia, go to Rosewood Hotel's rooftop bar.
  • La Canti: A dive bar where locals and tourists hang.
  • MÜI Bar: If you're tired of your standard margarita, MÜI serves up all the well crafted cocktails! The mixologists are super friendly as well.
  • La Azotea: This rooftop bar has a closer view of the Parroquia and has a lively vibe. Great for a late night bite, live DJ music and drinks!

All images by HonestlyWTF

Leave a Comment

23 Comments

  1. My goodness! What a true gem!
    This is definitely going on my wanderlust list! I just scrolled up and down the post like crazy, admiring all the gorgeous photos! Thank you so much for sharing information about the hot spots – a place definitely worth visiting!

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      It’s my pleasure to share it with you!! xx

      3.13.20
  2. txilibrin wrote:

    The farthest I made it while living in Mexico around there is Guanajuato, and I LOVED IT so much. San Miguel was in my list but didn’t have time, so many places to visitttttttttttt.

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      I know the feeling. So many places to visit, so little time. I love Guanajuato as well!

      3.13.20
  3. Meadow wrote:

    Beautiful!

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Brenda wrote:

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge and pictures. I have always wanted to go to San Miguel and one day will.

      3.13.20
  4. Shannon wrote:

    These photos are so gorgeous. What a beautiful place. I love how colorful everything is in Mexico. Thank you for sharing.

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Thank you and you’re welcome!

      3.13.20
    • Richard Sequeira wrote:

      Nice. I heard it is now very touristy. More expensive?
      We are 70s and scared. We went to Merida, studying Spanish and staying in historic district. Wonderful. We went to Cancun after since we hadn’t been there for 30 years. Atrocious. Expensive. hotel employees were great. Ugly Americans from LA, Miami, Texas. Loud, drunk, rude, and callous. I apologized to my Mexican hosts for those people, clearly migrating for a few days like big operators.

      3.14.20
  5. Donald Stoddad wrote:

    Love san m.been their once.would go again.

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Great!!

      3.13.20
  6. This is absolutely so beautiful!!! I had never heard of this place before! It’s so colourful and light! is light the right word? cant really think of anything else so describe it! the next time i visit mexico, definitely need to check it out! thanks for sharing!
    Beijinhos,
    Jessy

    https://dorky-and-weird.blogspot.com/

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      I hope that you get a chance to visit!!

      3.13.20
  7. Martin Spencer wrote:

    My wife and I have been visiting San Miguel on a semi regular basis since 1992. We love the charm and cultural heritage and the ever growing number of wonderful places to eat “antojitos mexicanos”.
    Over the years it has been a relatively safe city to visit. However, in the past 2 years it has been necessary to to be more alert, especially wandering the streets at night.
    We rent the same small departamento in el centro everytime, and have a number of close Mexican friends. We love sma.

    3.13.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Since 1992? Wow! Amazing!! Such a special place . . .

      3.13.20
  8. Fernando Rosas (619) 919.2228 wrote:

    Hey,

    Hola mis estimad@s amantes de lo “Eternamente Hermoso”!…’Miguelito’…is what the “local white man” that live there, call it! I personally been there 4 times,since I met Miguelito about 40 ago!…and didn’t went back, until 2013. Since then I have gone back everytime I can…and like I said…4 times!
    How do I get so lucky to go back?…well my dear Art Lovers, (San Miguel de Allende) is a work-of-art!…and fortunately for mua, my father-in-law still lives in Guanajuato, Guanajuato; and for those of you that know, it’s an hour drive to Miguelito. So I pretty much know how to move from GTO. to San Miguel de Allende & back. I’m a La Paz Baja California Sur, Mex. Native, moved to California’s Finest City…San Diego! (Sandy Ego)…some call it. Any who, the little house that my “suegro” lives in Gto., has just 6 bedrooms, and that would be our retirement home!…close to Miguelito!…count on me for any tips, on how to go down to one of the most safe places to visit…and live in Mexico!

    3.13.20
    Reply
  9. Bob Webb wrote:

    Has the city installed a sanitary sewer system? When we were there approx 20 yrs ago the sewage ran down to lake at the bottom of the mountain.

    3.14.20
    Reply
  10. Miriam A. Borton, MD wrote:

    Beautifully done!

    3.14.20
    Reply
  11. Florence Puente wrote:

    Thank you for posting this beautiful article and pictures especially during these difficult times. I just cancelled my trip to France with a very heart, but better safe than sorry. I have been to San Miguel de Allende and yes to me it is pure magic. I am overcome with joy when I am there. It is intoxicating! I am dreaming to return soon.

    Saludos,

    Florence

    3.15.20
    Reply
  12. Ramona Champion wrote:

    Your article and photos are fantastic and beautiful and make me miss it so …..but I think it’s a disservice not to give any update on the safety issues that should be considered by newcomers. Please advise regarding all the criminal activity I’ve read and heard about from residents that I know.
    I love San Miguel but have been hesitant to plan a return visit at the present time.
    How have these situations be improved or resolved?

    3.15.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      There was a slight uptick in violence in San Miguel de Allende and surrounding areas last year. But as far as what I’ve been reading and hearing from locals, they were drug related crimes, as they are in a lot of our favorite destinations in Mexico (Cabo, Tulum, Mexico City). These are targeted towards cartel rivals and not tourists. I will say when we were there in December, I didn’t feel unsafe whatsoever. Streets were busy as ever and nothing seems out of ordinary. Of course, we exercised the same amount of caution as we do at home in Oakland or when visiting any foreign country (i.e. walking around alone late at night, etc).

      3.15.20
  13. Jacqueline wrote:

    Wow! It’s so gorgeous and colorful there. x

    Jacqueline | Jackieomy.com

    3.18.20
    Reply
  14. Love San Miguel! My parents just moved there and I can’t wait to go back and explore more! Thanks for the recommendations!

    3.27.20
    Reply