San Miguel de Allende, established in the 16th century, is renowned for its colonial elegance and modern conveniences and was voted America’s Capital of Culture in 2019. The city is one of Mexico’s most beautiful and adored cities, with magnificent colonial buildings, bursts of color, cobbled streets, sloping mountains and delicious local cuisine. The city’s historical splendor and significant contribution to the Mexican War of Independence led to its designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This colonial gem of cobbled streets and magnificent churches, perched high in the cold highlands, attracts artists and travelers from all over the world with its vibrancy, charm and energy. San Miguel de Allende is undoubtedly a refuge, a magnificent paradise, and one that will leave an impressive mark on the mind. It explodes like a burst of color from the lush rolling hills of central Mexico. Let’s find out all there is to explore in this dynamic city.
Explore the cobbled streets
Many agree that San Miguel’s allure and character comes from its cobbled streets. Everything seems to attract people, but the cobblestones stand out for their skillfully arranged next to each other. Visitors cannot help but be amazed or overwhelmed with emotion as they explore every corner of this place, with its wonderfully painted and vibrant dwellings decorated with flowers, potted plants, ivy and cacti. Visitors can admire the colossal and dramatic cathedrals and structures that make up this iconic and historically significant baroque and neoclassical cityscape from several streets.
Visitors can also admire the colorful street art of San Miguel de Allende, which focuses on symbolic storytelling and native customs with a touch of comedy and playfulness while meandering along the cobbled streets.
Admire the colonial architecture
The structures of San Miguel de Allende combine stunning design with the history of the city. People will undoubtedly be amazed by the architectural details of historic buildings.
Parish of San Miguel Arcangel
Perhaps one of Mexico’s most exquisite architectural specimens is the parish of San Miguel Arcangel, built atop the city. This well-known building emerges like a blushing beacon and gladly serves as the main attraction of the city.
The foundation of the church dates from the 17th century, but Zeferino Gutierrez, a regional stonemason, constructed the tapering cornerstones of the church in the late 1800s. He was apparently inspired by a Belgian cathedral for design.
The statue of Cristo de la Conquista, located next to the main altar, is among the most important works of art in the church.
San Francisco Temple
As visitors wander the colonial-era alleys of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, look out for the ornate but decaying exterior of the Templo de San Francisco on the corner of Plaza San Francisco. This seemingly simple 18th century church, adorned with a depiction of Saint Francis of Assisi, is actually quite magnificent from an architectural point of view. The magnificent entrance gate was created in the Churrigueresque manner, often referred to as ultra-baroque, while the spire was erected in the Moorish style.
Just 15 minutes from the town of San Miguel de Allende is one of the finest works of religious art. The Atotonilco Sanctuary, a majestic church that once stood in the surrounding village of Atotonilco, still stands today.
The theologian Luis Felipe Neri Alfaro built the sanctuary while pursuing his religious studies in the city in the 18th century. The church stands in the Mexican Baroque style, with a fortress-like facade. However, the real beauty is inside.
Visitors are stunned by the folk art that covers virtually every surface as soon as they step through the heavy wooden doors. The Last Judgment is depicted in the frescoes of the narthex.
Palace of Fine Arts
On the site of the old National Theater, the Palacio de Bellas Artes was built to commemorate a century of Mexico’s liberation from Spain. The distinctive architecture of Bellas Artes is one of its most notable and breathtaking features, but it is not a unique design style from the turn of the last century. Rather, it incorporates elements of Art Deco, Neoclassicism, and Art Nouveau. Many sculptures, including those of Agust Querol Subirats and Leonardo Bistolfi, adorn the facade and interiors.
Taste the kitchen
Culinary options in San Miguel de Allende are diverse and the town is full of exquisite restaurants, even though it is a relatively small town. The place has perfect locations for some of the best food tours you can do in Mexico City.
Head straight to chef Marcela Bolao’s restaurant and ask for the à la carte menu for one of the best brunches in the area. The weekend menu at Marsala includes mimosas, croque monsieurs, baked egg dishes and pork croquettes.
The restaurant, located on the patio of a colonial-era estate, has been a staple of the San Miguel dining scene for over a decade. Try the Mahi Mahi Veracruz or the Parmesan-crusted shrimp risotto with fresh vegetables. Grass-fed meat, homemade pickles, and a ton of garlicky fries are included in a weekly burger night.
Moxi sets itself apart from other restaurants in San Miguel by emphasizing regional foods and global cooking methods. Try cheese ravioli with fresh wild mushrooms and smoked chicken with sesame seed sauce. A charming dining room with draperies and soft lambent lighting serves specialties such as duck tamales with chili and black bean sauce.
Panio’s is one of the best bakeries in San Miguel de Allende, with French influences. Panio’s selections combine traditional viennoiserie, pastry and baking methods with delights like cinnamon rolls, éclairs and croissants. Conchas, garibaldis, orejas, and the traditional Day of the Dead flatbread, pan de Muerto, are also great options for classic Mexican desserts.
San Miguel de Allende is a gem of a city that is as historically important and vibrant as it is culturally diverse and has every reason to make Mexico your first international vacation. To experience all the city has to offer, a visit is well worth it.