San Miguel de Allende
Whether it’s the beautifully preserved colonial architecture, the mix of art galleries, eclectic shops, gourmet restaurants or charming plazas that creates the magical allure of San Miguel, the magnetic pull of this splendid city is hard to resist. Recently voted as one of the best cities in the world, San Miguel is a highlight of any trip to central Mexico.
One of the most attractive aspects of San Miguel is its walkability, allowing visitors to easily explore the charming cobblestone streets, stunning colonial architecture and vibrantly-coloured buildings of the historic centre. Named after General Ignacio Allende, an important figure in Mexico’s battle for Independence, the city’s history dates back to 1542, when it played a significant role as the hub of the thriving silver industry. In recognition of its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, San Miguel was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
The main plaza, El Jardin lies at the heart of the city. Here you will find the central cathedral carved from pink limestone, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, which is the city’s tallest building and looks like something out of a gothic fairy tale. Full of balloon sellers and ice cream vendors, this lively public space is a wonderful place to relax at a cafe under the arched portales, among the gossiping locals, while a Mariachi band plays in the background. Parque Benito Juarez is a tranquil place for a stroll and other highlights include the colourful flower markets, and the yellow-domed Las Monjas Church. But we feel the greatest pleasure to be found in San Miguel is simply walking around the town centre, where you will come across traditional old pharmacies, modern boutiques and handicraft shops dotted among the art galleries and museums.
The temperature here is eternally spring, attracting many artists, writers and retirees, particularly from the US and Canada, who love the incandescent light, as well as the romantic and artistic vibe. The arts community is vibrant with many galleries, studios and art schools and we’d recommend a visit to Fabrica La Aurora, an art and design centre housed in a former textiles factory and great for browsing artisan crafts.
Weekend festivals are regular events with music, parades, dancing and fireworks bringing the streets to life. The culinary scene here is thriving from street food to gourmet restaurants, as well as the local markets giving the visitor an insight into the culture and food of the region. Owing to the temperate climate, many of San Miguels’ bars and restaurants can be found located on rooftops offering splendid city views.
Wine lovers will also be interested to visit the surrounding vineyards. Producers here are beginning to gain recognition in the wine world and it’s possible to take tours of the largest wineries against a backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains.