San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide

Mexico  #5 in Best Places to Visit in January
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Courtesy of Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images/Blend Images

Best Things To Do in San Miguel de Allende

Cultivating your creative side is easier than ever in San Miguel de Allende, where artists and expats can be found sculpting and painting among the colonial architecture and cobblestone walkways. Start your day at El Jardin, the city's central plaza, where you might find yourself amid a mariachi concert or a local festival. Once you've had your fill of people-watching and exploring the shops that line the city center, make sure to stop at the mask museum or spend the evening at a performance in the Public Library's Santa Ana Theatre. 

How we rank Things to Do

Updated March 27, 2017

  • #1
    El Jardin (Zocalo)
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    #1 in San Miguel de Allende
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Tours, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Tours, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    El Jardin is San Miguel's main plaza, located in the heart of the city. At the Zocalo, as El Jardin is often called, you can spend time people-watching, perusing the nearby shops and restaurants and reorienting yourself should the town's winding roads lead you astray.

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  • #2
    Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
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    #2 in San Miguel de Allende
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Intricate, pink pinnacles poking through the skyline will help you locate the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, a towering parish church overlooking El Jardin from the southern side of the plaza. The prominent church's neo-Gothic design is the vision of the self-taught stonemason and architect Zeferino Gutiérrez, who is rumored to have used European lithographs of Belgian and German churches for artistic inspiration.

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  • #3
    Fabrica La Aurora
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    #3 in San Miguel de Allende
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    A textile mill from 1902 to 1991, Fabrica La Aurora has since become an art-lover's paradise in northern San Miguel. Just a short walk north from El Jardin, the converted factory shows evidence of the site's history, including oil-stained floors and traces of cotton tucked into crevices. If you're looking to shop, you'll be satisfied by the diverse selection at furniture, jewelry and contemporary art stores that pepper the complex. After you've spent plenty of time eyeing paintings and sculptures, switch your focus from palette to palate with a stop at one of Fabrica La Aurora's restaurants like the Food Factory or Café de la Aurora.

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  • #4
    Instituto Allende
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    #4 in San Miguel de Allende
    Cafes, Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The picturesque Instituto Allende has been drawing art students to San Miguel de Allende for more than 50 years. Originally built in 1736 as the home of the noble Condes de la Canal family, the sprawling campus became an art and language school more than two centuries later. When the institute opened in 1951, American veterans flocked to the mountainside town after learning that the Insituto Allende qualified for study under the GI Bill. It wasn't long before word of the beautiful aesthetics spread and aspiring artists were heading to the school in droves.

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  • #5
    Public Library (Biblitoecta Pública de San Miguel de Allende)
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    #5 in San Miguel de Allende
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you wouldn't normally include a library on your vacation itinerary, you might want to reconsider when you're in San Miguel. The city's Public Library has an extensive collection of both Spanish- and English-language books and films, and offers a quiet respite from the sights and sounds of the city. In 1954, Canadian expat Helen Wale invited Mexican children to read through a collection of magazines in her home. Soon, the volume of visitors outgrew the space. In 1958, the library moved to its current location in an 18th-century building several blocks north of El Jardin in central San Miguel. Today, in addition to its abundant bilingual media, the library offers free classes for children on subjects like computers, painting and piano. The library also hosts cultural events and English-language tours that guide visitors through the neighborhood's colonial architecture. 

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  • #6
    El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden
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    #6 in San Miguel de Allende
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Much of San Miguel's splendor can be discovered in its abundance of manmade beauty, but at El Charco del Ingenio, nature is the aesthetic draw. At this more than 170-acre botanical garden set in an ecological preserve, you'll have the chance to spot wildlife, walk along greenery-lined trails and learn about various species of local cacti. Meanwhile, the San Miguel community often gathers in the garden to watch performances, partake in ceremonies and attend environmental education programs. Recent travelers recommend enjoying a hike through the park, picnicking alongside the waterfalls or spending an evening at a concert in the outdoor amphitheater.

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  • #7
    Escondido Place
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    #7 in San Miguel de Allende
    Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Spas, Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Spas, Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    When the buzz of the city's nearly countless cafes and shops leaves you in need of some quiet time, travel 7 miles northwest from San Miguel's center to Escondido Place. This retreat boasts 10 indoor and outdoor thermal pools fed by natural hot springs, and lush vegetation and colorful flowers surround the grounds. Decompress in grottos containing water that reaches up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Recent travelers suggest adjusting to the water temperatures by working your way from the least warm pools to the warmest and then back again when you're ready to leave.

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  • #8
    Another Face of Mexico (La Otra Cara de México)
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    #8 in San Miguel de Allende
    Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The artsy culture of San Miguel permeates many of the city's quirky museums. One prime example of the town's imaginative culture is the Another Face of Mexico (La Otra Cara de México) mask museum. The owners, American expats Heidi and Bill LeVasseur, curate an extensive collection of approximately 500 ceremonial masks that all together comprise an eclectic display. Indigenous textiles, handmade paper and traditional dolls can also be found throughout the gallery.

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  • #9 in San Miguel de Allende
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Steps south of El Jardin, you'll find the birthplace of Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga, a Spanish army officer who fought as a leader for Mexican independence in the early 1800s. Originally built in the 18th century, the officer's childhood home has served as a museum since its February 1990 restoration by the country's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of History and Anthropology). The museum's two floors of exhibits offer insight into the life of Ignacio Allende and furnishings and paintings from the 16th, 17th 18th centuries that highlight San Miguel's turbulent history.

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  • #10
    Cañada de la Virgen
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    #10 in San Miguel de Allende
    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Home to a 40-acre archaeological site, Cañada de La Virgen is a sprawling nature preserve located just 15 miles west of San Miguel de Allende. Explore the site and you'll find seven pyramid structures across four complexes: House of the Thirteen Heavens, House of the Longest Night, House of the Wind, and a fourth complex that has yet to be excavated. These complexes at the basin of the Laja River were occupied by the Otomí and Toltec Indians from 540 to 1050 A.D. Cañada's archaeological zone is preserved by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Mexico's National Institute of History and Anthropology).

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  • #11
    La Esquina Toy Museum
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    #11 in San Miguel de Allende
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Childhood amusement is on display at La Esquina Toy Museum, where the collection includes more than 1,000 handcrafted toys. The popular museum was dreamed up by San Miguel resident Angelica Tijerina when he began collecting trinkets and playthings that his father brought home from travels around the country. La Esquina, located only a few short blocks east of El Jardin, has three main rooms organized by region with exhibits that reflect Mexico's diversity. The first room, called The Dollhouse, displays dolls made from cloth and other materials. The second room, Unforgettable Mates, focuses on toys mirroring transportation — from horses to trucks. In La Esquina's third room, The Fair, visitors will find toy Ferris wheels, piggy banks and musical instruments.

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