things to do in san miguel de allende

Have you ever arrived somewhere you’ve never been before and felt like you’d come home? It’s happened to me three times: Santa Fe, where we now live, the west of Ireland, and most recently, San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico.

what to do in san miguel de allende mexico
A cobblestone street in San Miguel de Allende (image by M.Garside/Unsplash)

We arrived in San Miguel at the unlikely hour of 4:15am. As our driver navigated the narrow pre-dawn streets still alive with people, I fell in love. There’s something magnetic about this city that draws a lot of expats from both the USA and Canada.

When we began exploring the city five hours later I felt no different. Why does San Miguel call to me? I think it’s the quality of the high desert light, much like my beloved Santa Fe, the European feel of the Spanish Colonial architecture, and the feeling of vitality in the streets. Here are a few suggestions for things to do in San Miguel de Allende so that you can have one too.


San Miguel is a walking city. The narrow, often hilly streets in El Centro, the oldest district in this over 400-year-old city are paved in cobblestones. As you walk, pay attention to the uneven surfaces to avoid mishaps. San Miguel has been dubbed “The City of the Fallen Woman,” by some. But, occasionally stop and look at the wonderful old Colonial era buildings and then look up.. Elegant wrought iron balconies often dressed with colorful flowers in terra cotta pots greet your eyes. Look higher and you’ll see lush rooftop terraces. As you walk by the massive, often antique, doors on the attached buildings you’ll wonder what secrets they hide. Sometimes, one will be open and you’ll get a view into the lush courtyard beyond. Pocket parks with elegant espaliered trees are tucked here and there.

A colourful street (image by J.Melgoza/Unsplash)

Explore Spanish Colonial churches as well as some of the numerous historic public buildings you’ll encounter. The Instituto Allende, the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante” part of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes is in a former convent circa 1765, and the Biblioteca are all worth a visit. Take a walk in the lush Parque Benito Juarez with its romantic wrought iron benches and ponds. Tired? Treat yourself to a rich cup of coffee or espresso in one of the city’s many cafes. San Augustin Chocolates & Churros in El Centro, owned by a Mexican movie star is a popular stop.


As you walk, stop in the shops that call to you. Mexico is known for its handcrafts including folk art. Some of the most popular items to take home with you include hand woven rugs; Talevera and other pottery; silken Santa Rosa candles; morbidly whimsical muerto figures and tableaus, especially popular for Dia de los Muertos in early November; mirrors handmade from tile or tin; tin and iron candle sticks; hand blown glass hurricane lamps as well as and hand carved wooden furniture and accessories.

Colorful wares in San Miguel (image courtesy of Steve Collins).

Women will love San Miguel Shoes. The locally-made shoes were designed to make walking on the cobbles easier.


San Miguel is a gourmand’s dream. Walking through the city, you’ll catch the occasional aroma of street food cooking at a stand. Treat yourself to a barbacoa taco or other inexpensive treat as you stroll. Mexican food is not just tacos and enchiladas. Try the complicated flavors of a mole, a velvety guacamole, or melt in your mouth cochinita pibil, a dish redolent with the tang of citrus and the pungency of anise.

A cozy restaurant in San Miguel (image courtesy of Steve Collins).

You can find restaurants in all price ranges from moderate at around 100 pesos (about $8 USD) to more elegant options where entrees are in the 200 peso range and higher. We enjoyed food in the entire price spectrum while we were there. Our meals ran from street food to creative, upscale Mexican cuisine at Moxi, where Mexican uber chef, Enrique Olvera of Mexico City’s celebrated Pujol has been wowing diners for years.


San Miguel offers a plethora of lodgings that offer local charm. If you are more of a modernist, the chic trendy Hotel Matilda is the city’s only contemporary upscale hotel. Guests at this upscale hostelry are totally pampered by the accommodating staff. Rooms are comfortable and bathrooms are sumptuous. Want a sensuous private patio? Opt for Suite J. Lying on one of the chaise lounges after luxuriating in the soaking is priceless. The hotel is renowned for its contemporary art collection and it’s unique spa with an apothecary concierge who formulates individualized patients for clients.

Hotel Matilda
Hotel Matilda (image courtesy of Hotel Matilda)

If you want to get farther afield, there are hot springs within a half-hour of the city as well as an archeological remains and an ancient pyramid to explore.

San Miguel is a velvet city and I left part of my soul there. It’s calling me back.

Search for hotels in San Miguel de Allende.


About the guest writer

Billie Frank is a freelance food and travel writer based in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Author’s note: We were guests of the Hotel Matilda. Their generous hospitality did not affect this post in any way.

6 Responses

  • I am taking a small group to San Miguel in two weeks. This will be my first visit, but I have been getting the vibe of Santa Fe through my research of San Miguel. My gut tells me San Miguel will be a city I visit again and again! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Billie and Steve, thank you for this review of San Miguel de Allende. You captured it beautifully in words and photos. I am missing it terribly.

  • Ugh … I was so close to San Miguel Allende in Guanajuato and didn’t see it. I guess I’ll have a new place to go next time I’m in Mexico!

  • Billie, some of your readers are going to want to know more about San Miguel. My new book on the expat experience, LIVING IN SAN MIGUEL: THE HEART OF THE MATTER, offers an intimate look at issues everyone thinking about settling in this historic town must consider. Health care, cost of living, crime, housing, and many others are answered with frankness and insight. Available in print, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes formats. There’s a sample on my website.

  • Hi Billie,
    Thanks for contributing this post. San Miguel de Allende sounds absolutely gorgeous. Hope to make it there some day!


  • Thanks so much Keith for sharing my San Miguel de Allende musings with Velvet Escape readers. We really fell in love with the city and surrounding area and love spreading the word.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Appeared In