Last Updated on May 11, 2023

Located in the far eastern portion of Guanajuato, 270 kilometers northwest of Mexico City, 6,200 feet above sea level, San Miguel de Allende is one of the hippiest towns in Mexico. It manages to seamlessly blend the best aspects of small-town life with the cosmopolitan pleasures of a larger city.

Its vibrant street life finds artists, expats and other creatives sculpting and painting among the colonial architecture and cobblestone walkways. History is on view here as well with most of the buildings in the central part of the town dating back to the 19th century. San Miguel de Allende was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Because of the easy highway route from Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende is popular with weekenders from the capital. So, too, are trips in the other direction with private transportation provided for those wanting to experience Mexico City from San Miguel de Allende.

Let’s look at some of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende you’ll want to include on your bucket list for visiting.

Best Things to do in San Miguel de Allende

La Begoña Lake Mexico

La Begoña, the San Miguel de Allende lake on the western outskirts of town, was created by damming the Laja River. Poor management of La Begoña Lake Mexico and historically heavy rainfall in 2021 have resulted in an aquatic invasive lily from the Amazon Basin overrunning this once idyllic San Miguel de Allende lake previously popular for fishing, swimming and recreation.

No longer. While efforts are being made to remove the exotic invasive plant and restore the lake to a healthier ecosystem, swimming was not recommended as of 2022.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

The centerpiece and most well-known site in San Miguel de Allende is its stunning parish church, characterized by its coral-salmon colored wedding cake towers soaring over the town. The pinnacles were designed in the late 19th century based on a postcard of a Belgian church (and you would almost believe you’re in Belgium by the looks of this cathedral). The rest of the church dates back to the 17th century.

El Jardín

This is the town’s busy main plaza situated in the heart of the city. Also known as the Zocalo, it’s the place for people watching and perusing lovely shops and restaurants.

The square is also home to political rallies, live concerts, mariachi bands, arts and artisans and religious ceremonies. You’ll find locals and visitors alike relaxing on the plaza’s lovely wrought iron benches.

Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende

Just steps from El Jardín, this historic museum was once the birthplace and home 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 restoration in February 1990.

The museum’s two floors of exhibits offer insight into the life of Ignacio Allende, along with furnishings and paintings from the 16th, 17th 18th centuries that highlight San Miguel’s fascinating, but turbulent history.

Mercado de Artesanías

This colorful and vibrant artisan market carries everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, meats, spices to local arts and crafts. Visitors will also find unusual jewelry pieces made from Mexican jade or shaped like skulls.

Hand-painted, traditional Mexican ceramics are everywhere, surrounded by colorful hanging lamps, Oaxacan rugs and clothing. Even the souvenirs at the vendor’s stalls here are hand-painted.

Street food is available, along with vendors selling local honey and handmade sweets. There are numbers restaurants in the area for a sit-down lunch.  

La Otra Cara de México

The artsy culture of San Miguel also reaches the city’s quirky museums. The name, translating to ‘The Other Face of Mexico,’ is actually a mask museum, owned by American expats who have curated an extensive collection of 500 ceremonial masks from their 25 years of travels throughout the country.

Of special note, all masks in the museum have been worn in indigenous performances, therefore are considered authentic by the collectors. Of the many hundreds in the collection, some are occasionally for sale.

La Esquina Toy Museum

If you’re looking for something the kids (big or little) can enjoy on vacation, this museum houses more than 1,000 handcrafted historic toys. Located just a few blocks from El Jardin, the museum features three main rooms organized by region with exhibits celebrating Mexico’s diversity.

The Dollhouse Room, of no surprise, displays dollhouses and dolls, another room, Unforgettable Mates, focuses on toys mirroring transportation, and the third room, The Fair, offers guests a look at toy Ferris wheels, piggy banks and musical instruments.

El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden

This stunning 170-acre botanical garden set in an ecological preserve is home to a wide range of native plants and trees. Walking the trails give visitors the opportunity to learn about the different species of both flora and fauna. The gardens also host performances, ceremonies and environmental education programs.

For those who want to venture out a bit, hiking through the park will enable you to picnic alongside waterfalls or spend an evening enjoying an outdoor amphitheater concert.

San Miguel Parque de Aventuras

Outdoorsy types will be in seventh heaven with this ecotourism, nature and adventure park located in nearby San Miguel, Guanajuato.

Guests can book individual guided activities like zip lines and suspension bridges, ATV rides, horseback riding, biking, hiking or balloon flights or combine activities into a package. The zip line circuit, the most popular adventure, includes seven lines and a hanging bridge over a canyon sitting 150 meters (almost 500 feet) high!

Instituto Allende

Art students have been flocking to this picturesque institute for more than 50 years. Originally built in 1736, it was the home of the noble Condes de la Canal family. More than two centuries later, the sprawling campus became a renowned art and language school.

When the institute opened in 1951, American veterans flocked to the mountainside town after learning that the institute 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, Instituto Allende is open to all travelers looking to take workshops, explore the property and peer into galleries. You’ll find some neat artsy cafes here to boot.

Escondido Place

Just seven miles from San Miguel’s city center, Escondido Place is a welcoming retreat for those in need of more peaceful, quiet time. The natural wonder features 10 indoor and outdoor thermal pools fed by natural hot springs surrounded by lush vegetation and a myriad of colorful flowers. Some of the grotto’s waters reach up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit – a heavenly delight!

Guests can opt for massages or body treatments as well.

Cañada de la Virgen

This 40-acre archeological site is located on a nature preserve 15 miles west of San Miguel de Allende. Excavations began in 1995, though public access wasn’t allowed until 2011. The archeological site includes 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.

Unlike its famous counterparts like Chichen Itza, access to the site is strictly controlled as it sits on private versus public property.

Bodega Dos Buhos

Located in the Mexican Altiplano at the base of the Los Picachos Mountains, this organic vineyard and family-owned winery produces artisanal wines from their own fields. In addition, the property includes 55,000 fruit trees, mostly peach and apricot, almonds, and an experimental field of apples and pears.

The altitude of 6,500 feet is ideal for the production of Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Aglianico, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato Giallo and 15 more varieties.

Wine lovers will be pleased that they can visit the winery for tastings and a tour. In addition, a picnic can be prepared by the winery’s chef to be enjoyed with suggested pairings.

Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende provides a variety of boutique and major brand hotel options near the downtown area. Use the map below to find the best one for you.

Booking.com

Author

  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.