Skip to Content

35 Magical Things to Do in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

The old-fashioned tour trolley rumbles along the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Look inside those open doors!” gushes our trolley guide.

Hidden behind the large half-open doors, we glimpse magnificent Baroque and neo-Gothic mansions, built around garden courtyards with fountains. Many house boutique hotels, designer shops, restaurants and art galleries.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Miguel is one of Mexico’s most beautiful colonial cities. Its entire historic center – more than 24 blocks – looks as if it popped right out of a fairytale.

And taking a trolley ride through the city is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende when you first arrive.

Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende’s buildings are a picturesque blend of architectural styles (from Baroque and neo-Gothic to colorful colonial)

Apart from being fun, the trolley ride gives you a good overview of the key San Miguel de Allende attractions.

You can then return to the different sights and enjoy exploring them at a more leisurely pace. 

About San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende (aka “SMA”) is found at 6,000 feet above sea level in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico.

It has no beaches.

So why visit San Miguel de Allende?

Because it makes up for in spades – with its art, architecture, culture and wonderfully pleasant, not-too-hot, not-too-cold climate.

There are many wonderful attractions in San Miguel de Allende to explore
We left our hearts in San Miguel de Allende

Why San Miguel de Allende is a must-visit destination

San Miguel de Allende is not only safe but also one of the world’s hottest (as in most fabulous) spots to visit.

It’s raked in oodles of awards for “best city”:

  • In 2023, it took the #5 spot in Travel + Leisure’s list of the 25 best cities in the world. The year before, it took the #2 spot – beating out Florence, Kyoto, and Rome.
  • Condé Nast Traveler named SMA the “best small city in the world” in 2022 for the third consecutive year. (In 2023, it was voted the #3 small city in the world in the publication’s Readers’ Choice Awards.)
  • Previously in 2013, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted it the world’s best city for its “great atmosphere, excellent restaurants, culture and ambience galore.”
Things to do in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende at the magic hour

When you’re ready to explore beyond Mexico’s sun-and-sand holiday destinations, San Miguel de Allende should be at the top of your list.

Colorful San Miguel de Allende
The colors of SMA are a visual treat for the eyes

Try to stay a few days.

If that’s not possible, you can at least visit on a day tour from Mexico City.

35 Things to do in San Miguel de Allende

Okay, ready now to take a closer look at what to do in San Miguel de Allende?

1) Take the trolley

A trolley tour is a good way to get a quick look at the main things to see in San Miguel de Allende.
A trolley tour is a good way to get a quick look at the main things to see in San Miguel de Allende

Let’s start with a little more about that trolley ride – one of the first things we enjoy upon arriving in the city.

We crane our necks to see where the guide is pointing.

The city was an important center along the old silver route – when Spanish mines supplied more than a third of the world’s silver.

Today, the heart of San Miguel de Allende is studded with well-preserved 17th and 18th century buildings lining higgledy-piggledy cobbled roads.

Most buildings are painted in orange, rust and pink colors; strict guidelines ensure renovations conform to historical standards.

Yellow, red, ochre, pink -- San Miguel de Allende's buildings are so bright and colorful!
Yellow, red, ochre, pink – San Miguel de Allende’s buildings are so bright and colorful!

The problem is there are too many beautiful buildings vying for our attention to let us focus on just one!

Our heads swivel like a bobblehead doll clinging to the dashboard of an old car.

The bumpety-bump trolley tour shows us the best places to see in San Miguel de Allende – but it’s much too quick.

The only solution is to revisit some of those sights on foot immediately afterward…

San Miguel de Allende trolley tour

Tours: Two companies offer tours on an old-fashioned trolley: Tranvia Touristica and Transportadora Turistica Imperial.

Duration: The tours are about 90 minutes long.

To book: Check with the San Miguel de Allende tourist office on the northern side of El Jardin for days and times of the English-speaking tours.

Map showing the San Miguel de Allende tourist office

See the location pin of the tourist office (Consejo Turistico de San Miguel de Allende) on Google Maps.

2) Gawk at La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

Of all San Miguel de Allende attractions, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel is a highlight
Of all the attractions in San Miguel de Allende, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel is a highlight

The San Miguel de Allende church known as La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (Church of St. Michael) is the town’s most iconic sight.

If there’s one thing you absolutely must see in San Miguel de Allende, it’s this.

Mind you, you can’t exactly miss it. Just look for the soaring pink spires rising up from the church’s pink neo-Gothic façade.

The local stone mason who built the church was inspired by a postcard picture of Gaudi’s famous church in Barcelona – the quirky Sagrada Familia – or so the legend goes.

If there’s no service going on, you’re welcome to enter the church and have a look inside too. But you won’t be able to take pictures of the interior.

Guided walking tours of San Miguel de Allende

A great way to learn more about the history of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (and to see other top sights in SMA) is to go on this guided historical and cultural walking tour.

In two hours, the tour introduces you to the very best of San Miguel de Allende.

If you’d prefer a private guide, you might like this two-hour private walking tour.

3) Retire here

San Miguel de Allende is a very desirable city in which to live

Some 80,000 residents live in the actual town (about 140,000 residents in the wider metro area).

About 10% are expatriates. Most are from the United States; the others are mainly from Canada and Europe.

They came to visit San Miguel de Allende. Then they stayed.

They paint, sculpt, teach Spanish, make jewelry and offer art and culinary classes. They run bakeries, restaurants and beguiling boutique hotels. They raise funds for restoration projects and volunteer locally.

Expats teach Spanish to English-speaking visitors in San Miguel de Allende
Expats teach Spanish to English-speaking visitors

Basically, they’ve helped turn this Mexican colonial city into a thriving, friendly, cultural community.

If you’re looking for a great place to retire, consider San Miguel de Allende.

You’ll be in good company!

Teachers, artists, university professors... They all love to retire in San Miguel de Allende
Teachers, artists, university professors… They all love to retire in San Miguel de Allende

The cost of living is generally cheaper than in the U.S. (although housing prices have gone through the roof in recent years as more expats move to live here).

And the climate is mild year-round, averaging in the 70s F most days.

It’s no wonder so many expats choose to retire in San Miguel de Allende!

4) Tour the San Miguel de Allende Mask Museum

Face masks at the San Miguel de Allende Mask Museum
The ceremonial masks at the museum have been crafted by local artisans across Mexico

One of those very interesting expats (mentioned in #3 above) is Bill LeVasseur.

One moment, the former advertising executive and his wife were building a retirement home in San Miguel.

The next, he became the curator of a remarkable non-profit mask museum.

(LeVasseur has spent more that 30 years collecting Mexican masks. His passion for ceremonial Mexican masks has also led to frequent speaking engagements at American universities).

The Mask Museum of San Migue de Allende showcases more than 500 indigenous Mexican masks.

We set up an appointment to visit, and Le Vasseur invites us to first meet over a glass of wine at his B&B, Casa de la Cuesta (which his retirement home morphed into).

He tells us how he’s traveled all across rural Mexico, collecting ceremonial masks used in dances and rituals. Then he tours us around the museum, which is just across the lane.

Mask with bristles at the Mask Museum in San Miguel de Allende
This mask looks like the head of a jaguar

The variety of masks is bewildering.

We see masks adorned with bull horns and boar bristles, and death masks with devil figures.

One strange mask is actually a thick wooden belt. It has a horse’s head the size of a football sticking out the front.

It represents a Spanish general on his horse, leading the Christian charge against the Moors when they occupied Spain.

The whole exhibition is a fascinating introduction to the important role that Mexican mask folk art plays in Mexico’s many native cultures.

Visiting the museum is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting things to do in San Miguel de Allende!

Mask Museum, San Miguel de Allende

How to visit: Visits to the mask museum are by appointment only.

Cost: You’re asked to make a donation of 100 pesos p.p.

For more information and to book: See San Miguel Mask Museum.

5) Read a book in the library

Run by volunteers, the public library (Biblioteca Publica) in San Miguel de Allende has the second largest collection of English and Spanish books in Mexico.

But wait. It’s not just a library.

Offering English language versions of many different newspapers, a café and an inviting courtyard with seating areas, the library is also a central gathering place for expat residents to meet and socialize.

For you as a visitor, it’s a great place to orient yourself in SMA.

The colorful ceiling and wall frescoes inside are worth checking out too.

For book nerds (that’s George!), popping into the library will be one of your favorite things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

6) Admire the Sanctuary of Atotonilco

Things to do in San Miguel de Allende? See the Sanctuary of Atotonilco
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sanctuary of Atotonilco is painted inside with intricate murals and frescoes

You’ll find the Sanctuary of Atotonilco about a 15-minute drive away from San Miguel de Allende.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the church is decorated with the most amazing frescoes.

They’re so beautiful that the church has been dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico” – and we were inspired to write a whole post just on the Atotonilco church complex.

If you’d like to leave the driving to someone else – and go on a guided tour – this three-hour San Miguel driving tour takes you to several colonial sights and lookouts. It finishes up with a visit to the Santuario de Atotonilco out of town.

7) See the Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception was built by a teenage girl in the 1700s as part of a convent
The Church of the Immaculate Conception was built by a teenage girl in the 1700s as part of a convent

The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepcion) is another impressive church to see.

Like La Parroquia (#2 above), it’s found in the heart of San Miguel de Allende, next to a striking yellow convent on Canal Street. The church is crowned by a cupola and decorated with Corinthian columns.

Back in the 1700s, the enormously wealthy Canal family had a 16-year-old daughter who wanted to be a nun. She asked the King of Spain if she could build a convent for 72 nuns,” our tour guide rattles off.

Known locally as Las Monjas (The Nuns), the church still operates for the sisters of the convent.

8) Dig the plants at the botanical garden

Okay, don’t actually “dig” the plants.

But if all that art and architecture begin to overwhelm, you can find serenity outdoors at El Charco del Ingenio.

Created by a private citizens’ initiative, this 67-hectare botanical garden and nature preserve sits on the town’s outskirts. It’s home to a sprawling array of cacti from around the world.

Cacti at the San Miguel de Allende botanical gardens
Cacti at the San Miguel de Allende botanical gardens

The man-size, Y-shaped cucharilla – which is over 300 years old – gets our vote as the most unusual cactus.

Miles of hiking trails also wind through the peaceful countryside, which overlooks a river carved into a valley floor – home to egrets and ducks.

Sip a cactus juice – refreshed, you can then can easily tackle the scenic 15-minute walk back to town.

El Charco del Ingenio

Opening days: The San Miguel de Allende botanical garden is open every day of the year from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Admission cost: Small (50 pesos).

Tours: Guided tours are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am.

For more information: See El Charco del Ingenio.

9) Try fried grasshoppers

Fried grasshoppers
Fried grasshoppers anyone? George says they taste good! Janice passes…

This is definitely one of the more unusual things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

Fried grasshoppers are a popular local snack.

They’re good as a salty crunchy topping on guacamole – or so we’re told…

10) Check out the lovely hotels

The pool at L'Otel in San Miguel de Allende
You find a mix of thoroughly modern and traditional boutique hotels in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is home to many fabulous and artsy hotels and B&Bs.

They usually have very pretty courtyards, and you should pop in and take a peek at some of them.

They make for great photo backgrounds too.

11) Go horseback riding

Horseback riding in San Miguel de Allende
Who wants to go horseback riding?

Yep. One of the best outdoor things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to go horseback riding.

Several tour operators offer horseback riding tours that take you out into the countryside and down exploring the bottom of Coyote Canyon, where the river La Virgen winds its way.

Operating since 2000, Coyote Canyon Adventures is a well-known company which gets excellent reviews.

Book a half-day horseback riding adventure with them to gallop through traditional cattle ranches (if you wish), ride down into the canyon and enjoy an organic ranch-style lunch.

12) People-watch at El Jardin

Many of the locals ride ATVs to get around the city of San Miguel de Allende.
Many of the locals ride ATVs to get around the city

This one is pretty easy. You’ll probably do it anyway without any planning.

Plant yourself on a bench among the rose bushes of El Jardin – the main garden square – and engage in some good old-fashioned people-watching.

We’re particularly amused by the residents who putter by on ATVs (very practical vehicles, by the way, for those hilly cobbled streets).

13) Sip drinks at a rooftop bar

At sunset, there's no better bar in San Miguel de Allende than Luna
At sunset, there’s no better bar in San Miguel de Allende than Luna

At sunset, rooftop bars are popular for drinking in the views (as well as the margaritas).

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar nails the rooftop bar experience.

On top of the deluxe Rosewood hotel – overlooking the Gothic-inspired La Parroquia church, twinkling lights and terracotta roofs – Luna is hands-down the best place at sunset for stupendous views of the city.

Bartenders mix up inventive cocktails like hibiscus and tamarind margaritas.

Their “Oasis San Miguel” drink even contains artisanal ice cubes made of green tea, lemon and Angelica.

Perhaps order Baja-style lobster tacos and other tapas to go with those drinks?

Cocktails and tapas anyone?

And when the sun sets, you’ll be totally transfixed by the changing light and colors. Watch as the sky first turns gold, then pink and finally a deep velvet purple.

If you get chilly, heat lamps and cozy blankets add warmth as you settle back into down-filled cushions.

Yes, this San Miguel de Allende rooftop bar is magic, pure and simple!

Luna has beautiful views of the pink Parroquia San Miguel de Allende church
Luna has beautiful views of the pink Parroquia San Miguel de Allende church

14) Volunteer

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer in the city – it’s one of the most heartwarming things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

Perhaps help look after children at Centro Infantil de los Angeles, a free daycare center and preschool for children of low-income working parents.

Or volunteer at Feed the Hungry SMA.

This U.S. backed non-profit organization has been preparing and delivering school meals in mostly rural communities for more than 35 years. Helping hands are needed to assemble direct mail campaigns, pack food and deliver meals.

15) Smile at the Toy Museum

Doll at the Toy Museum in San Miguel de Allende
The Toy Museum is probably the most whimsical San Miguel de Allende museum

Want to feel like a kid again?

With such a cultural side, it’s probably no surprise that there are several museums in San Miguel de Allende.

But the most fun one is its delightful toy museum, the Museo La Esquina. We loved it so much we even wrote a separate post on this Mexican toy museum in SMA.

16) Browse the local market

Named after a famous Mexican poet, the Ignacio Ramirez market is the oldest market in San Miguel de Allende.
Join the locals (and tourists) at the Ignacio Ramirez market; you never know what you may find!

Named after a famous Mexican poet, the Ignacio Ramirez market is full of fresh and exotic Mexican fruits and vegetables, flowers, spices, cheeses and snacks. (The roasted corn on the cob, dusted with chili and lime, is especially tasty!)

You’ll also find clothes, shoes, talavera pottery, children’s toys, embroidered bags and more.

It’s the oldest market in San Miguel de Allende – bustling with life and very popular with locals and tourists alike.

Drink a fresh-squeezed orange juice. Watch what people buy to make for dinner at night. Breathe in the different spicy and floral scents as you wander the aisles.

And enjoy…

17) Visit Fabrica La Aurora

Love arts and crafts? Then you’ll love Fabrica La Aurora

If you like art, then make your way to Fabrica La Aurora, one of the top San Miguel de Allende tourist attractions for arts and crafts lovers.

It’s a very interesting collection of art studios, art galleries, jewelry shops, home decorating stores and cafés – all housed within an old fabric factory.

You’ll see all sorts of high-end original paintings, hand-woven textiles and sculptures.

On the first Saturday of each month, there’s a special Fabrica “Art Walk.” The studios and shops stay open late, live music is played and drinks and snacks are offered.

For art lovers, it’s a must-do in San Miguel de Allende.

18) Eat at great restaurants

There are many great San Miguel de Allende restaurants!
Pizza, steak, seafood or tapas – there are many great San Miguel de Allende restaurants!

Don’t get us started on the food scene – we may not stop! But we’ll try to be brief…

From lowly (but delish!) tacos to imaginative tasting menus, San Miguel de Allende is a foodie paradise.

One of the yummiest facts about Mexican food is that it can be very creative and sophisticated – and San Miguel’s restaurants are proof of this.

One of the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende is The Restaurant.

Award-winning, The Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende dishes up creative international plates.
Award-winning, The Restaurant dishes up creative international plates

With a lovely Moroccan courtyard setting near the main square, it’s popular with expats (try the tuna tartare with wasabi, corn and avocado).

When it pours with rain one evening, the candle-lit, cave-like La Grotta is our cozy refuge. Here they serve soul-satisfying, wood-oven pizza.

Where to eat in San Miguel de Allende?

Check out these articles for more restaurant options:

  • On Travel + Leisure: See the restaurant section in the magazine’s “San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide”
  • On International Living: “Colonial Mexico’s Foodie Haven: Where to Eat in San Miguel de Allende”
  • On Will Fly For Food: “22 Must-Visit Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico”

Want to try a bit of everything on a food tour?

Check out this top-notch downtown food walking tour offered by Taste of San Miguel (San Miguel Food Tours).

In a small group limited to eight people, you’ll visit family-owned restaurants. Sample a traditional soup, cochinita pibil, ceviche, Oaxacan black mole, churros, chocolate and more!

Or maybe you’d love a selection of sweet and savory chocolate tastings as you explore the historical landmarks of San Miguel de Allende? The group size for this chocolate culinary adventure is capped at 12 participants.

Or how about tasting the best mole enchiladas and authentic tacos? 

If this makes you drool, check out this San Miguel walking-and-food tour, featuring five local food stops.

It even includes the local-style fruit sorbet (nieve de garrafa) and two traditional desserts.

19) Drink in the view from El Mirador

For a bird’s eye look at San Miguel del Allende, make your way to El Mirador – a terrace with panoramic views of the city.
It’s worth huffing and puffing your way up to El Mirador for the fabulous views!

For a bird’s eye look at San Miguel del Allende, make your way to El Mirador – a terrace with panoramic views of the city.

SMA is amazing at street level. But from above, it possibly looks even better.

To get there, you’ll need to take the steep walk for about 20 minutes from the main square (El Jardin). It’s a little bit of a cardio workout, but hey, you want to burn off some of those churro-induced calories, right?

Alternatively, the trolley (see #1) also rumbles its way up to the Mirador. Or you can just take a taxi.

20) Soar in a hot air balloon

One of the most adventurous things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to soar above the town in a hot air balloon.

Globo San Miguel has been offering top-rated hot air balloon rides over San Miguel de Allende for more than 30 years now.

They’ve been in the commercial balloon biz internationally for 45+ years, and they get great reviews for their professionalism and customer service.

It’s fascinating to watch the balloon get inflated.

(We went hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, in Turkey, and the anticipation watching the whole procedure was almost as exciting as the ride itself!)

21) Tour the archaeological site of Cañada de la Virgen

Visiting the Canada de la Virgen archaeological site is one of the most interesting things to do in San Miguel de Allende!
The House of the 13 Heavens at the Canada de la Virgen archaeological site

Canada de la Virgen is a fascinating archaeological site, located about 15 miles from San Miguel de Allende.

Here you’ll find a complex of four pyramids, with a ceremonial causeway and an ancient man-made pond. 

Occupied by the Otomi people between 540 and 1050 A.D., the pyramids are specially aligned with the movement of the planets. 

To appreciate the newly discovered 40-acre site, you need to walk about two miles.

Keep your eyes open for wild stallions galloping in the distance!

Canada de la Virgen tour

The best way to explore Canada de la Virgen is on a guided tour with an archaeologist or anthropologist. They can explain the Otomi culture and their astronomical beliefs.

Coyote Canyon Adventures is recommended; see their guided half-day tour.

Also highly recommended is Albert Coffee Archaetours. Archaeologist Dr. Coffee was invited to help excavate the site when it was first discovered.

22) Go wine tasting at nearby vineyards

Wine anyone?

Not only is San Miguel known for its art scene and architecture, it’s also an up-and-coming destination for wine lovers.

One of the best day trips from San Miguel de Allende is visiting the local wineries.

There are several different wine areas to explore.

Cuna de Tierra is one of the most popular wineries – it’s also the oldest winery in Guanajuato state. Their red wines are award-winning. Make sure to visit their wine cellar.

Other wineries nearby include San José la Vista Vineyard and Tres Raices.

If you head towards Queretaro, you’ll find the popular San Lucas & San Francisco sister wineries. Here you can enjoy wine tasting and also visit their lavender workshop.

Two more wine tasting areas to explore are Celaya and Dolores Hidalgo.

23) Shop for souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesanias

Mexican blankets for sale at the Mercado de Artesanias.
Mexican blankets for sale at the Mercado de Artesanias

If you’re passionate about supporting local artisans then this is the place for you!

You’ll find all kinds of goods like bags, hand-embroidered shawls, jewelry, clothing, pottery and so much more.

There are also street food vendors here if you’re in need of a snack, but the market is mostly known for its great Mexican souvenirs – some of the best in San Miguel de Allende.

Many items are small and easily packable, which means they’ll travel well in your suitcase.

A walk through this local market is a must when you visit San Miguel de Allende.

24) Enjoy a tacos-and-tequila tour

Tequila awaits on a tacos-and-tequila tasting tour in San Miguel de Allende
Tequila awaits on a tacos-and-tequila tasting tour

Is there a better pairing than tacos and tequila? We think not.

This tacos-and-tequila tour is a fun afternoon of history, culture and copious amounts of food and drink.

Visit family-owned restaurants and try some of the locals’ favorite dishes alongside delicious cocktails.

The tour lasts for three to four hours, and you’ll want to wear comfortable travel sandals or shoes since you’ll be doing lots of walking.

This is one of the most fun activities in San Miguel de Allende – don’t miss it!

25) Soak in natural hot springs

Two options for hot springs are nearby – Escondido Place and La Gruta Spa.

They pump water from natural hot springs into man-made pools, some of which are made to look like caves.

Bring your own towel, otherwise you have to buy one there (and they’re overpriced).

Both hot springs have restaurants onsite as well as spas where you can get a massage.

They’re popular places to visit in San Miguel de Allende, so get there early if you want the place to yourself. They’re favorite spots for families and children later in the day.

If you’d like to combine horseback riding with a soak in the hot springs on an activity-packed day trip, check out this combination trail riding and hot springs tour.

26) Photograph the Templo del Oratorio

Ochre and burnt orange Templo del Oratorio in San Miguel de Allende
The ochre and burnt orange colors of this church against the blue sky are stunning!

The Oratorio de San Felipe Neri church (or Templo del Oratorio) dates back to the 18th century, and the only thing more impressive than the exterior of this historic building might be the interior.

On the east end of Insurgentes street near Plaza Civica, you can stand in awe of the domed baroque architecture. It’s one of the must-see places in San Miguel de Allende!

As the appearance of all the buildings in this historic district is strictly regulated, the exterior paint is made using the same method as in the 1600s.

Inside the church, you can see 33 different oil paintings of Saint Philip Neri (San Felipe Neri) throughout his life. He’s the 16th century Italian priest who founded the Congregation of the Oratory.

27) Take a day trip from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato

Some people think Guanajuato is even prettier than San Miguel de Allende!

For another great day trip from San Miguel de Allende, check out the small colonial town of Guanajuato.

Located just under two hours away from SMA, it makes for a fun change of scene.

Some of our favorite attractions in Guanajuato include the magnificent marigold-yellow Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, the Diego Rivera Museum and the Juarez Theater.

The Monument to Peace statue in Guanajuato's Plaza de la Paz (with the Basilica in the background)
The Monument to Peace statue in Guanajuato’s Plaza de la Paz (with the Basilica in the background)

If you want a deluxe experience, this private Guanajuato City tour includes transportation, your own tour guide, all entrance fees and lunch.

28) Learn about the local craft beer scene

Craft beer has become popular in many cities over the last few years, and San Miguel is no exception.

The most popular craft brewery is Cervecería Dos Aves.

Since they opened in 2012, they’ve accumulated an impressive number of awards for their many different beers – from a Belgian golden strong ale to stout.

You can find their beers at many local restaurants.

Or have a beer at their local taproom – this is one of the most fun things to do in San Miguel de Allende, guaranteed!

Learn about the ingredients that go into making beer and enjoy a beer tasting. You might even get to meet the brewers!

29) Chill out at a café

Couple at a cafe in San Miguel de Allende
Mastering the art of lingering at a café

Coffee brewing happens to be an art in San Miguel de Allende.

And hanging out at a local café, watching the flurry of people go about their business, is a much-loved pastime in SMA.

So pop into a café for a cappuccino, beer or glass of wine and rest your feet for a few minutes. Maybe eat a bite too.

It’s a great way to take a break from a full day of San Miguel de Allende sightseeing.

Best cafés in San Miguel de Allende

Some of our fave coffee shops are:

  • Ki’bok Coffee – For rooftop views and terrific coffee
  • Inside Café – For its excellent lattes, grilled cheese sandwiches, breakfasts and rooftop location
  • La Sacristia – For its pretty outdoor courtyard (and its coffee, of course!)
  • Lavanda Café – For delicious breakfasts, chocolate lavender cake and specialty coffees

30) Visit the home of Ignacio Allende

Ignacio Allende was an officer in the Spanish army who turned revolutionary – he supported the fight for Mexican independence against Spain.

He was eventually beheaded by the Spaniards, and you can learn more about him in the family home of Ignacio Allende (built in 1764), now a museum.

This may be a simple museum, but it’s a good stop and worth at least a quick visit if you’re interested in the first Mexican Revolution.

Casa de Ignacio Allende

Language: Signs in the house are in Spanish and English (but all the video content is in Spanish).

Hours: Wednesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Admission cost: Entrance to the museum is very cheap (70 pesos or a little under $4.00 USD).

For more information: See Casa de Allende Historical Museum

31) Take a day trip to Santiago de Queretaro

People walk the cobbled streets and take photos of the colonial architecture in Queretaro, Mexico.
Wandering and taking photos of the beautiful architecture go hand-in-hand in Queretaro

Another one of the fun things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to take a day trip to Santiago de Queretaro.

It’s a little more than an hour’s drive away. (By bus, it takes longer.)

This city is known for its beautiful, well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. It’s clean, well-maintained and absolutely gorgeous. The historic city center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are plenty of local restaurants, boutiques and museums to explore while you spend the day walking the quaint streets.

It’s worth making the trip to Queretaro if you have more than 3 days in San Miguel de Allende.

32) Check out the whimsical street art

If you’re up for a scavenger hunt, why not check out some of the popular street art? A 10-minute walk from the historic center of SMA brings you to the neighborhood of Guadalupe.

This is a spot known for its art scene, and many building walls are decorated with huge murals. It’s fun to wander the streets and be surprised by the next mural that pops into view.

The mural program was started to tame the rough edges of once-gritty Guadalupe.

Now, artists live in Guadalupe and many people visit each day to check out the beautiful paintings.

33) Pop into Doce 18

Pink beaded earrings for sale at Doce 18
Doce 18 brings together fashion, design, art, food and hospitality in one cool space

A place where you can eat, drink, shop local and stay? Sign us up!

Doce 18 is a very cool modern space that’s home to fine dining, casual and grab-and-go options for food. In the center, there’s a gorgeous bar for drinks.

You’ll also find over 15 different designer boutiques plus a beautiful modern-style hotel.

The whole space has a modern/industrial design vibe with lots of greenery and exposed brick walls. It’s definitely one of the must-see places in San Miguel de Allende.

34) Take a cooking class

If you’re interested in food, one of the best San Miguel de Allende activities is taking a cooking class with a local chef.

To learn how to whip up mole sauce and other traditional Mexican dishes – and to enjoy the meal afterward with a glass of wine (of course!) – here’s a small group cook-and-dine class that gets a lot of rave reviews!

Also check out Pura Vida Kitchen. Here, you can learn how to cook with local vegetables, making dishes like salsa and guacamole.

For classes on traditional Mexican foods like tamales and mole, you’ll love learning from Marilau at Mexican Ancestry Cooking School.

Want to learn some new tricks while cooking in an 18th-century mansion? Sazón Cooking School may be for you. Their classes include Mexican specialties, healthy Mexican cooking and regional cuisine.

Finally, professional Chef David Jahnke offers cooking courses on basic to advanced cooking techniques as well as traditional Mexican dishes.

35) Stroll the streets

Strolling the streets always reveals delightful surprises

But our favorite experience?

Simply soaking up the colonial charm while getting lost in San Miguel’s tangle of atmospheric narrow streets.

Just strolling the cobblestone lanes and alleys – peering into various nooks and crannies – is really one of the top things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

Blue fountains? Colonnaded passageways? You never know what you’ll come across around the next corner.

An ancient winding street we walk along one evening leads up to Paseo del Chorro, with old water chambers and a clock tower.

And when the sun sets and the town’s wrought-iron lamplights cast a golden glow, the town feels absolutely magical.

If you decide then and there that you’re never going to leave, or will return to live here permanently, you wouldn’t be the first person to do so.

Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende?

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada

Room at the Casa De Sierra Nevada
Room at the Casa De Sierra Nevada

We stayed at this luxury colonial-style hotel. Exquisite!

You can find out more in our review of the Belmond Casa De Sierra Nevada.

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada: Check rates and availability

Rosewood San Miguel

The Rosewood San Miguel has 67 rooms and suites with wood beam ceilings and authentic art works.
The Rosewood has 67 rooms and suites with wood beam ceilings and authentic art works

Another one of the best hotels in San Miguel de Allende is the Rosewood San Miguel, a swank historic-looking hacienda.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende: Check rates and availability

Casa de la Cuesta

Owned and run by the San Miguel de Allende Mask Museum’s curator and his wife, Casa de la Cuesta is one of the best B&Bs in San Miguel de Allende. It’s very charming (we had a look around) and it gets great reviews!

Casa de la Cuesta: Check rates and availability

Hotel Matilda

Contemporary room in Hotel Matilda, San Miguel de Allende
The sophisticated Hotel Matilda offers a contemporary stay in San Miguel de Allende

With 32 modern rooms and suites, this stylish boutique hotel has a pool for lounging and an excellent restaurant.

Hotel Matilda: Check rates and availability

Best time to visit San Miguel de Allende

The busiest time for tourists is from November to April, when the weather is milder and it rains less. However, the town can get crowded, and you’ll likely pay more for a place to stay.

For more budget-conscious travelers, going during the off-season isn’t a bad idea. Hotels are generally cheaper, though you’ll have to deal with slightly hotter weather and more rain, especially in July and August. 

If you want to experience local festivals, think about visiting during a big event like the San Miguel de Allende Jazz Festival in November or the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in March.

How to get to San Miguel de Allende

Fly to San Miguel de Allende

The closest major airport is Leon International Airport (BJX) in Guanajuato. It’s a 90-minute drive from San Miguel de Allende.

American Airlines, United Airlines, Volaris and AeroMexico all fly into this airport

Alternatively, you can fly to Mexico City or Guadalajara. Both cities are a four-hour drive away. Some travelers find this a cheaper option for getting to San Miguel de Allende.

From there, if you’re not renting a car, you can take a private transfer (from Mexico City) or from Guadalajara. Or you can take the bus – a great option (covered next).

Bus to San Miguel de Allende

There’s an excellent bus system connecting San Miguel de Allende with Mexico City and Guadalajara.

The first-class bus service in Mexico is almost like flying business class – really! Check ETN or Primera Plus.

We took ETN to Guanajuato, stayed in Guanajuato for several days, then took another ETN bus to San Miguel de Allende.

How many days do you need in San Miguel de Allende?

You really need three days in San Miguel de Allende to experience the best of what it has to offer.

In three days, you can immerse yourself in the splendor of its churches and cathedrals, enjoy rooftop lounges, visit some of its museums and galleries – and get a taste of this wonderful city.

San Miguel de Allende is one of the best cities to visit in Mexico (if not the world)
San Miguel de Allende is one of the best cities to visit in Mexico, if not the world!

Day trip to San Miguel de Allende

If your schedule is tight and you can only spend one day in San Miguel de Allende, consider a day trip from Mexico City.

While we’d advise spending more than just a day, a brief visit to San Miguel de Allende is certainly better than missing it altogether!

The drive is just over three hours in each direction.

So going with a tour company can maximize your experience – ensuring you catch all the good stuff in your limited time in SMA. Read reviews and book your day trip to SMA here. They’ll take care of your whole San Miguel de Allende itinerary. 

Last words on visiting San Miguel de Allende

No doubt you can see why the city is so popular among travelers!

San Miguel de Allende is a must-visit in Mexico.

Strolling its cobblestone streets, you’re met with a blend of history, art and vibrant local life. The Parroquia, with its stunning architecture, is a standout.

But the town is more than just sights – it’s an experience. Throw in the local eateries, the bustling art scene and the oh-so pleasant climate, and you’ve got a traveler’s paradise.

If you’ve yet to visit San Miguel de Allende, you’ll want to add this beautiful city to your Mexico bucket list.

Experience more of Mexico!

Cabo San Lucas: Check out the best luxury resorts in Los Cabos (from classic luxury to all-inclusive options). And find the best (and cheapest) shuttle services from the Cabo airport to your hotel.

Zihuatanejo: Want a great beach vacay? See the best beaches in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.

Mexico City: Fabulous museums. Gorgeous art galleries. A rich historical center. And great restaurants! See how to best spend your time if you have three days in Mexico City.

Puerto Vallarta: Where to stay? You’ll love these beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta. There are tons of great places to eat in PV too.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


Hey, do you love SMA? Then pin this!

The best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
What to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico? Plenty of things!

We’ve also written about San Miguel de Allende for Cruise & Travel Lifestyles and Compass magazines. And we’re super excited that our articles won a couple of travel writing awards!


Photo credits: 3 to 5, 8, 11, 15 to 22, 27, 31, 40 to 44, 46, 51, 53 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 2, 6, 10 52, 60 Visit San Miguel | 9, 12, 28 to 30, 56 Rosewood San Miguel | 24 Casa Schuck | 25 L’Otel | 26 Coyote Canyon Adventures | 33 Fabrica La Aurora | 35 The Restaurant | 38 Erik Reinecke, Wikimedia | 48 to 50 Doce 18 | 55 Belmond | 57 to 59 Hotel Matilda


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Marvin

Monday 7th of February 2022

I'll steal this from Phil Coulson, "It's a magical place." Something about the colors and the light. Or maybe it's the margaritas.

Janice and George

Monday 7th of February 2022

Lovely! Thank you...

Tammy Ourand

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

We spent 2 months in SMA - December and January 2019…

I can not understand why this is a desired retirement community.

The winter months get down to 32 degrees at night. There is no heating in the majority of homes and hotels, including the high end hotels. With that being said - you will have bitterly cold showers for your morning. We showered in mid-afternoons most of our stay.

There are fireworks being shot off any given day, any given hour. I’m talking the sonic boom type of explosions that rattle your soul in the middle of the night. While it’s charming for the first few days, it quickly gets old at 3 am day after day.

The locals set fire to the fields - no one could seem to explain this phenomenon to us. If you are sensitive to air pollution, be warned this is not the place for you.

We loved SMA as a destination for a few days. But our 2-month booking was entirely too long and the thought of retirement in such a cold and polluted environment really confused us. We met retirees who had bought into the dream and bought homes in the area - only to give up the dream a year or 2 later. There were lots of nice homes for sale.

I’d say, please visit for an extended stay before you decide it’s a place for retirement.

Janice and George

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

You're right. Visiting a place on holidays is very different from living in that destination!

When traveling, we've often thought - Wouldn't it be lovely to retire here? But then when you're on holiday, you don't contend with things like banking, doctors, grocery shopping, pharmacies, house insurance and repairs, lawyers, car ownership and all the host of things you deal with when you live in a place (and these can be more challenging in a foreign country). We agree with your advice that it would always be wise to rent an apartment or home first in your desired retirement destination (preferably for more than just one winter) before buying something and making the permanent move.

When we visited SMA in January, the temps did dip down at night, but we quite enjoyed snuggling in warm blankets, and then being blessed with sunny daytime temps in the very comfortable 70s. And we had hot showers :-).

Thanks for sharing your experience. The fun part about just a 2-month booking is that you have the freedom to try out a new place for your next winter getaway :-).

Cacinda Maloney

Sunday 11th of January 2015

Oh how I love San Miguel de Allende!! I have actually stayed at Bill's place, La Casa de Cuesta, that I found years ago, it was fabulous and the mask museum was a plus!!! (as well as the most fantastic breakfast I can ever remember!)

Beatrice

Monday 1st of December 2014

Vibrant, colourful and adventurous...

Becky Padmore

Monday 1st of December 2014

What a characterful looking place and I love the masks! :-) Must add to my wish list!

Janice and George

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

The mask museum is pretty cool - definitely a must-do when visiting San Miguel de Allende!