A Guide to San Miguel de Allende; An Artist’s Paradise
February 13, 2017
San Miguel de Allende is in the eastern part of the state of Guanajuato. The town is super artsy and has attracted foreign retirees, writers, artists and tourists alike. There are over 12,000 foreigners believed to live or own homes here. The city is filled with historical buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century, narrow cobblestone streets and colorful shops.
Getting there and around // San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is only 2 hours away from San Luis Potosí and about 3-hour bus ride away from Mexico City. The closest airports to San Miguel are Léon (BJX) and Querétaro (QTO) and you can take a shuttle or cab ride from either airport for around ($30/BJX) & ($60/BJX).
The cobblestone streets were never designed for cars making it quite difficult to drive around. While we did drive to San Miguel our hotel included parking, otherwise, it is pretty difficult to find a spot. Getting around can most easily be done by walking and believe me you want to walk with cute hidden art shops and cafes around every corner.
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel is quite pricey in comparison to other Mexican cities. That being said the cheapest option is either staying at an air bnb or a hostel. San Miguel has a plethora of beautiful boutique hotels though and if you have room in your budget I would recommend staying at one.
We stayed at the Coqueta Boutique Hotel (cost around $150 USD a night) and couldn’t be happier with our decision. It was only a block or two away from the main city center making walking around the city super convenient. The only downside being so close to the main center was the constant ringing of the church bells. They didn’t bother me much because I can literally sleep through anything, but if you are a light sleeper you might want to book a little farther away from El Jardin.
Where to Eat in San Miguel de Allende
There are seriously so many delicious and unique places to eat it is so hard to choose. You could honestly wander around anywhere and find an amazing place. If you are more of a planner I have listed a few restaurants that are delicious.
Even if you just came here for the beautiful building and it’s theme of lavender flavored everything, it is totally worth it. We did wait about 40 minutes to get it, so get there early and be sure to put your name in at the barista counter. This was B’s favorite breakfast he has had so far in Mexico. (Hours 8:30 a.m. – 4p.m.)
La Parada La Parada was super shmancy. I am a huge fan of ceviche and we tried the sea bass ceviche with sweet potato and man was it delicious. They also had Inca Kola which gave me a nice throwback to my first ever trip abroad to Peru. (Hours: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
La Grotta La Grotta is a quaint little spot with great service and delicious food. We also would highly recommend the garlic mushrooms for an entrada! (Hours: 1 – 11 p.m.)
La Mezcaleria We were unable to make it La Mezcaleria but we heard that this place has a great mescal selection, great margaritas, and a grasshopper appetizer! (Hours: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.)
Rose Hotel // Luna Rooftop Bar You can get this beautiful view without paying the price to stay in the hotel. Drinks are US prices, but totally worth it for this view. Make sure you get there about an hour before the sunset because people start queuing up around that time. (Hours: 1- 11 p.m.)
What to do in San Miguel de Allende
There are so many great activities to do in San Miguel and we wish we were able to spend more than a weekend here to participate in all the great activities. Here are a few activities that we enjoyed when we were here for the weekend and would recommend.
El Jardin & Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
El Jardin is the living beating heart of the city. This is where you will learn about San Miguel through ceremonial marriage parades led by a large puppet bride and groom, listen to the mariachi band swoon or simply watch the young Mexican couples make out on a bench. Buy some elote, helado, or a floral crown and soak it all up.
Take a Walk
The city is exquisite! Take the time to walk around and check out the best shops and cafes or to simply stare at the colored walls enveloped in flowers. When walking make sure to peek inside all of the open doors to find hidden shops and leafy camouflaged courtyards. Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes to prevent twisted ankles on all cobblestone streets. Unless of course, you are an expert in heels, which seems to be a genetic trait for most Mexican women.
Mercado de Artesanias
Before you make any purchases around town or in the Jardin or anywhere else in San Miguel de Allende for that matter, go check out the artisan market. Everything here is about 1/3 of the price of shops in the city center and you are also free to barter. We didn’t see any foreigners when we were there either, so that is always a good sign. We picked up some goodies for our home for an amazing price.
The Other Face of Mexico: Mask Museum
(La Otra Cara de México)
The Other Face of Mexico is a hand-curated mask museum in San Miguel with over 500 ceremonial masks. The museum is owned by the LeVasseurs, expat living in Mexico for over 20 years. The LeVasseurs collected the masks by traveling around Mexico. They give the tours themselves and answered all of our questions. While you are not allowed to take photos around the museum, but there were plenty on display around the house that you are allowed to document.
You must call ahead to book an appointment to visit the gallery +52 (415) 154-4324. The cost is 100 pesos per person and is donated to a local charity.
They also own a beautiful bed and breakfast that is attached to the mask museum if you are interested in staying there. The cost is $180 a night and it includes a large breakfast. They have a beautiful view of the city as well.
El Charco Botanical Garden
You need to check out the el charco botanical garden. It is a steep climb and I would recommend you get a taxi ride. I know you are fit and athletic, but believe me, take a taxi, you will thank me later. Plus you want to save all your energy for walking around the 170-acre botanical park. We were staying close to the city center and it cost us about 60 pesos to get a taxi to the top.
The Sistine Chapel of Mexico: Santuario de Atotnilco
The Santuario de Atotnilco is about 25 miles outside of San Miguel and can either drive there yourself or take a day tour from San Miguel. You can walk into the church for free but if you want to see the murals that dub Santuario de Antotilco the “Sistine chapel of Mexico” you need to ask the woman selling jewelry if you can see the other part of the church. The price is 50 pesos each, in which a man will move a bench, hand you a pamphlet and open a door for you to enter. There is no sign, so you must ask.
We didn’t actually end up going to the hot springs because we forgot our swimming suits at home. Learn more about the La Gruta hot springs here and El Escondido here.