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San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico in the Heart of Mexico

Updated on November 8, 2012

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The colonial silver town of San Miguel de Allende is the crown jewel of central Mexico. It boasts cobblestone streets, pastel-washed doors, art galleries nestled in every other nook, an enchanting main plaza known as El Jardin, and the Parroquia, a spired, fanciful-gothic confection of a church located in the center of town, whose bells toll at utterly unpredictable hours.

San Miguel de Allende is a small picturesque town in the Bajio mountains of central Mexico, about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City. Known for its numerous festivals and holidays, San Miguel is a favorite tourist destination. Popular fiestas include Semana Santa (Easter week), Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) and the colorful religious Posadas during the Christmas season.

San Miguel Mexico is popular with expatriates because of its rich culture, slow pace, beauty, proximity to the States and, of course, weather. San Miguel sits at 6,400 feet, keeping both the humidity and temperatures down. The average temperature year round is about 71 degrees F. This is a perfect place to sit back and enjoy a cup of Cafe con Leche or a decadent piece of Pastel de Tres Leches.

San Miguel de Allende Guanajuato Mexico

In the 1940’s San Miguel de Allende became a popular expatriate destination renown for its mild sunny climate, colonial architecture and prominent art schools.

Description: Panoramic view of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.  Source: Picture taken by Ruiz on December 2004.  Copyright:  2004 Ruiz (released under the cc-by-sa-2.0 license).
Description: Panoramic view of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Source: Picture taken by Ruiz on December 2004. Copyright: 2004 Ruiz (released under the cc-by-sa-2.0 license).

Cobblestone streets and centuries-old cathedrals color the landscape. A thriving art community boasts many galleries, classes and performances and the popular Instituto Allende offers lectures, field trips, concerts and all manner of art courses.

San Miguel de Allende has been designated an historical landmark since 1930. As such, the town has preserved its colonial heritage by banning new style construction, neon signs and other heralds of "modernization". The colonial buildings remain, today, in the same style as when they were originally constructed.

Thousands of people come to San Miguel de Allende every year to learn Spanish, study art, or take Mexican cooking classes. However, nothing can replace just walking down the narrow cobblestone streets.

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel
La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel

The “jardin", or the main plaza, is the center of the historic district and the location of the Parroquia, the distinctive and much photographed church that is a San Miguel landmark.

The construction of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel was started in 1689 with 1000 pesos. The building was completed in 1730, when the baroque-style towers were completed. In 1880, the neo-gothic tower of the Parroquia was added by command of the first Bishop of Leon, Father Diez de Sollano y Davalos, giving San Miguel's parish church its distinctive look that has made it an internationally recognized landmark. The master builder, Serefino Gutierrez based the design of the new construction from European postcards.

Falling in Love with San Miguel

Mexico Weather

San Miguel’s cobblestone-and-cathedral charisma has attracted Americans as early as the 1950s, when its well-regarded art institute offered to honor the G.I. Bill. But in the past decade or so, a steady stream of American immigration has turned into a surge.

While you are waiting for your next opportunity to visit San Miguel de Allende, bring a taste of Mexico home with some of our authentic Mexican recipes for such treats as homemade Mexican Tamales or the silky smooth confection of homemade Cajeta. You'll be hooked!

Plan a Mexico Vacation

Things to do in San Miguel:

La Parroquia - across from the el jardin (Central Garden)

This is the parish (parroquia) church of San Miguel Archangel after whom the town is named. The church was designed by a local who had no architectural training, but who had studied photographs of European churches – mostly from postcards.

Mercado de Artesanias - on Balderas at corner of Colegio

The Mercado Artesanias is a great place to shop for authentic Mexican crafts. It’s large, covering several blocks. You will find lots of articles of silver, beaded everything, hand painted pottery, papier mache and cast aluminum.

Biblioteca Publica (Public Library) - 25 Insurgentes

The "Biblioteca Publica" of San Miguel de Allende is, in addition to being a lending library, a community and cultural center, also housing a restaurant. The bilingual San Miguel Newspaper, ATENCION, is published there.

Galeria Aurora - Fabrica la Aurora, Calzada de la Aurora

The Fabrica La Aurora is a complex of galleries a short (and scenic) 10 min walk from the Jardin. There are more than 50 galleries housed in complex offering contemporary and older art, home furnishings, jewelry and photography. Many parts of the complex are open air so it's really fun to wander on a nice sunny day.

Tuesday Market - Next to Plaza Real de Conde

if you are in San Miguel de Allende on a Tuesday, you shouldn’t miss the massive Tuesday market. This is an enormous outdoor flea market that the locals shop at. It is not intended for the tourist, and you will be hard pressed to find a vendor that speaks English.

Under the multiple makeshift tents, you will find all kinds of wares, including vegetables, fruits, candy, clothing – many stalls of blue jeans, shoes, herbal remedies, cell phone accessories, perfumes, and much more

Seven Heaven - Sollano 31

Great jewelry - the owners are jewelry designers and will make things to order. Also they have unique ceramic tiles - very sculptural with unusual glazes.

Walking Tour of San Miguel - meet on the steps of the Parroquia - across from el jardin

The tour begins at the Parroqouia and includes most of the major churches and other historical buildings. Some of these being the Presidencia Municipal built in 1736, Santa Casa de Loreto with it's baroque facade and chapel that is a reproduction of it's namesake in Italy and the Casa del Inquisitor which denotes a marked French influence.

Plaza de Allende - The Jardine - corner of Correo and Reloj

You may find yourself spending a portion of every day either sitting in or walking through the Jardine. In the early morning it's full of newspaper readers, in the afternoons with mothers & children, late afternoon is for the older students, and night is for everyone in town.

Instituto Allende - Ancha de San Antonio #20

A large art & language school with an excellent gallery and a café.

Galeria de Arte Fotografico - Reloj 46

Really beautiful photography, limited edition books, exhibits.

Templo de Nuestra Senora de la Salud - corner of Mesones and Colegio

This church is dedicated to 'Our Lady of Health' and is very simple. Above the front door is a huge but rather unadorned clam shell (San Diego in Spain used shells for baptisms), it is one of the least adorned church facades in town.

Teatro Angela Peralta - Mesones near the corner of Hernandez Macias

An actual opera house in San Miguel - opened by the Mexican opera singer Angela Peralta.

Santuario de Atotonilco - main street of Atotonilco

This is a great church, even if you don't really care much for visiting churches. The painted walls and ceilings are truly fantastic. World Watch has adopted this church as one of the 100 most important historical buildings in the world and is supposed to be sending money for better trained restorers.

Casa de Don Ignacio Allende - Corner of Umaran and Cuna de Allende

This is the birthplace and family home of the revolutionary Ignacio Allende.

It's now a museum with not so very good standing exhibits. The best part of going through the house is the house itself. The first floor is rustic with only a few large rooms meant to be inhabited by animals and, I suppose the servants. The second floor is a more refined living space.

Voted the top place to retire outside the U.S. by CNN and Money Magazine, it's a magical Mexican city that has quickly become the place to go, not only for retirees, but for anyone looking to live to the beat of a different drum.

If you are interested in other travel destinations or cultures, see our articles on Nunavut in the Northwest Territories of Canada; the Vietnamese celebration of Tet Nguyen Dan, or even the North American holiday of Tartan Day, celebrating all things Scottish. And if you enjoy international cuisine be sure to read about Garam Masala of India, the delicious and imcomparable Parmigiano Reggiano cheese of Italy or the luxury of Kobe Beef from Japan.


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