Visitors love San Miguel de Allende, often at first sight
This post was updated on 3/15/21 to include COVID-19 information and to reflect new information about the destination.
Located in central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende has no beaches or blue waters like the Mexican resorts of Cancun, Cozumel, or Los Cabos. And it isn’t easy to get to directly from many U.S. or Canadian cities. You might have to book a connecting flight in Houston or Mexico City.
Yet, once tourists visit, they tend to fall in love with this magical city in central Mexico. First-time visitors become repeaters; others go home and pack their bags to return, permanently. Almost twenty percent of people living in San Miguel de Allende are expatriates. Here are ten reasons why:
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Miguel de Allende is named after General Ignacio Allende, a prominent figure in Mexico’s War of Independence. The city’s rich history dates back to 1542 when it played an important role as a hub in the silver trade.
The UNESCO recognition notes: San Miguel de Allende acted as a melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences.
San Miguel de Allende is known for its well-preserved (and very photogenic) Colonial and Spanish architecture. Many religious and civic buildings were built in the style of Mexican Baroque.
The tallest building in the city, with a façade of pink limestone, is the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel. The façade for this local parish church was inspired by Gothic cathedrals in Europe. According to legend, its architect, Zeferino Gutierrez used picture postcards for inspiration..
3) Eclectic shops
The shops in San Miguel de Allende are a mix of art and sculpture galleries, furniture shops, artisanal souvenir emporiums, modern boutiques, and old stores like this pharmacy (Botica De Santa Teresita) that has doled out inexpensive homeopathic remedies for centuries.
The Handicraft Market, located only a few blocks away from El Jardin, the main square, showcases the crafts of some 45 vendors.
4) Cultural mix
With a temperate climate, vibrant arts scene, and moderate cost-of-living, San Miguel de Allende is not only rich in Mexican culture but attracts foreign retirees, artists and writers, predominantly from the U.S. and Canada. With the economic downturn, more tourists are coming from other cities in Mexico and other countries.
The city offers many weekend festivals that celebrate the music and dance of other cultures.
5) Food & dining
Because San Miguel de Allende is so popular with tourists, there has been a proliferation of foodie destinations, from street foods to gourmet restaurants. The Restaurant, overseen by celebrity chef Danny Masterton, is a popular choice with visitors. Housed in a colonial courtyard, this chef dishes up “global comfort food,” with both contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes on the menu.
The municipal market, Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, is another do-not-miss destination to learn about the culture and foods of the region. It offers local food products, clothes, and a variety of items and even has a sit-down eatery.
More recently, the area has been gaining popularity as a wine-growing region, with a small La Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) located not far from the city center.
With temperate weather and wonderful light, described by some as “eternal spring,” many of San Miguel de Allende’s restaurants and bars are located on rooftops, offering beautiful city views, especially at night. This is Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the Rosewood Resort, perfect for a drink before or after dinner.
After World War II, many soldiers took advantage of the GI bill and enrolled in art schools in San Miguel, the first of which opened here in 1938. There is still a very vibrant arts community with many studios and galleries with working artists and artisans.
The Fabrica La Aurora is a center of art and design center housed in a former textile factory. Additionally, the streets are lined with inviting shops selling all kinds of one-of-a-kind crafts.
The historic center of San Miguel de Allende encompasses 24 blocks of narrow streets, alleys, and paths without any traffic lights. Although the city is quite walkable in terms of distances, the uneven cobblestone streets can be perilous, especially for someone wearing the wrong shoes. (Do as I say not as I do! Don’t depend on flip-flops or loose sandals.)
9) Jacaranda Trees
Blossoming lavender-colored jacaranda trees are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
If you’re lucky to visit between March and April, you’ll see these beautiful trees are in full bloom in San Miguel de Allende.
10) Dramatic sunrises and sunsets
Because of the light and changing colors of the foothills of the Sierra Madre, sunrises and sunsets in San Miguel de Allende can be quite dramatic.
IF YOU GO
San Miguel de Allende is rich in history and sophisticated in terms of its cuisine and culture. Fun to explore by foot, there are beautiful 5-star luxury accommodations such as Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada, Hotel Matilda and Rosewood San Miguel de Allende.
Several new hotels opened in 2020: Hotel Madi, Casa Quebrada, and Hotel MX San Miguel de Allende. Casa Hoyas, El Meson del Quijote, and Essentia Hotel opened in 2019 adding to the hotel inventory in the city,. Those planning lengthier stays may want to consider a vacation rental property.
The town is about 60 miles (a 90-minute drive)from Leon/Bajio Airport(BJX) in Leon. The airport in Queretaro is another option (a drive of approximately 75 minutes).
For further information about San Miguel de Allende, see the official website of Guanajuato Tourism. (San Miguel de Allende is located in the state of Guanajuato).
San Miguel de Allende COVID – 19 Update
San Miguel de Allende
- To reduce the risk of COVID-19, San Miguel de Allende was closed to non-residents from March to June 2020. On May 25, 2020, the city launched its “Health First” certification, which entailed local health and safety officials evaluating each location and certifying compliance with sanitary protocols for reopening.
- San Miguel de Allende is located in the State of Guanajuato, which reopened for tourism on September 28th, 2020. It is mandatory to wear face masks at all times in public places in San Miguel de Allende and the entire State of Guanajuato.
- COVID-19 testing is available at a number of medical facilities and at some hotels in San Miguel de Allende.
- Since COVID-19 infection rates are prone to rapid change, before you go, check the respective websites or call properties to find out about specific health and safety protocols in place, other travel restrictions, and COVID-19 testing capabilities.
**We couldn’t find updated COVID-19 information on the Guanajuato Tourism Board website. If you are planning a trip, we advise you to contact the tourism board directly and also check with the hotel where you will be staying. A Guanajuato government website (only available in Spanish) indicates that the state is currently a yellow zone.
- In response to the global impact of COVID-19, on March 20th, 2020, the U.S. announced the temporary closing of the U.S. and Mexico land border to nonessential travel for anyone crossing by car, commuter rail, and ferry travel. However, airports remain open to international and domestic flights.
- COVID-19 testing is not required for entry although there is a cursory health screening upon arrival.
- Air passengers entering returning to the U.S. from Mexico are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their return flight. Masks are required on planes and on all public transportation.
- Most hotels and resorts have instituted strict protocols to protect the health and safety of their guests. Be sure to check the respective website of any property you intend to visit and call the front desk if you have questions or concerns. You’ll find that many upscale resorts offer transportation services to and from the airport.
- Mexico is currently under a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) Travel Advisory. See the website of the U.S. Department of State for more information and updates.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 (Very High)Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19, advising visitors to avoid all travel to Mexico, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Watch this wonderful video about the beauty of San Miguel de Allende by Jack Alterman.
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