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

Free Things To Do in San Miguel de Allende

If you have extra time, Fabrica La Aurora is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in San Miguel de Allende
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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 Jardín is San Miguel's main plaza, located in the heart of the city. At the Zocalo, as El Jardín 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.

    Depending on when you find yourself in El Jardín, you may witness a political rally or have the chance to listen in on a live concert. According to one TripAdvisor reviewer, there's always something happening in El Jardín: "You'll hear mariachi bands, you'll see dance performances, you'll find arts and artisans, and religious ceremonies and every other possible entertainment experience here in the center of San Miguel." Early evenings and weekend afternoons are particularly busy times in the plaza; this is when you'll find expats and locals catching up with friends or simply relaxing on the wrought-iron benches.

  • #2
    Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
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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 Arcángel, 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.

    Visitors often use the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel as a point of reference when navigating the city's winding streets. But when you're not relying on the church for navigation, travelers recommend spending extra time gazing at the castle-like structure. "What's really great is how it changes throughout the day from the moving sun. It changes colors and illuminations," one TripAdvisor reviewer said.

  • #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.

    You'll find plenty of ways to experience La Aurora: observe artists during their creative process, attend an evening party or take a class in fine arts technique. Recent visitors recommend heading over on Open Studio day; held each Thursday, Open Studio day is your best chance to spot artists at work. And according to one TripAdvisor reviewer: "You might be lucky enough to be in town for one of the Aurora's renowned fiestas, attracting several thousand partygoers for an evening of art, design, music, food and drink." Luckily, you can find something to do at La Aurora every day; some artists offer classes in watercolor, painting and sculpture. More information can be found on Fabrica La Aurora's website.

  • #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.

    Located less than half a mile southwest of the city center, the Instituto Allende is open to all travelers looking to take workshops, explore the property and peer into galleries. You'll find plenty of open space on campus in the form of parks and gardens, as well as artsy cafes and restaurants. One recent TripAdvisor reviewer described the atmosphere as full of "beautiful architecture, meandering passages, galleries, a nice cafe, and an amazing view of the Parroquia from the back patio."

  • #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. 

    Inside the library, you'll find a courtyard cafe (good for a quick bite) and the Santa Ana Theatre, which shows international films and hosts concerts by San Miguel's popular musicians. With its large number of events, the site has become a cultural artery for residents and visitors alike. "This is more than a library. It's a memorable gathering point for Spanish and English speakers of all ages to share books, chess, movies, music and food," one TripAdvisor reviewer wrote.

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