Visiting Mexico’s very first pueblo magico? Here’s our complete guide and detailed list of things to do in San Miguel de Allende.
Pastel colored colonial buildings and leafy green parks line the enchanting cobblestoned streets; church bell towers ring and the smell of jacaranda flowers fill the air. With a magical setting and a distinct European flair, San Miguel de Allende has stolen the hearts of many, including mine.
Culturally, San Miguel de Allende is a treasure trove of historical sites. In fact, the entire old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Thanks to its location in the central highlands, it has an eternal spring weather, and the city is surrounded by wineries and hot springs. It’s no wonder Condé Nast Travellers Magazine named it the “best city in the world” two years in a row!
In this blog post, we will explore some of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende: from wine tasting to horseback riding and catching sunset from a rooftop bar. So pack your bags and get ready to explore one of the most beautiful magic towns of Mexico.
Table of Contents
- Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
- 1. Admire the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
- 2. People Watch at El Jardin
- 3. Visit the Museum of San Miguel de Allende
- 4. Have a Beer at Rincon de Don Tomás
- 5. Snap Photos at Calle Aldama
- Things to Know Before Visiting San Miguel de Allende
- 6. Have Cocktails at Quince Rooftop
- 7. Hike up to the Mirador
- 8. Stay in a Historical Hacienda
- 9. Eat Churros at San Agustín
- 10. See the Templo de San Francisco
- 11. Visit the Museo de la Esquina
- 12. Relax at the Plaza Civica
- 13. Marvel at the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
- 14. Visit the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
- 15. Browse the Mercado Artesanía
- 16. Take Photos at the Casa de los Soles
- 17. See the Public Library
- 18. Explore Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez
- 19. Wander around Doce 18 Concept House
- 20. See the Sunset from Lunas Tapas Bar
- 21. Visit the Mask Museum
- 22. Wend down the Paseo del Chorro
- 22. Relax at Parque Benito Jurez
- Things to Do around San Miguel de Allende
- San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide
- How to Get to San Miguel de Allende
- How to Get Around San Miguel de Allende
- Best Time to Visit San Miguel de Allende
- How Long in San Miguel de Allende?
- Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
- Where to Eat in San Miguel de Allende
- Is it Worth Visiting San Miguel de Allende?
Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
1. Admire the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
All roads in San Miguel de Allende lead to the Parroquia de San Miguel. Sitting in the very heart of the city, the parish church is the icon and beacon of San Miguel de Allende. With a facade unlike any other church in Mexico, this landmark is characterized by its pink exterior and wedding cake towers designed by indigenous stone mason Zeferino Gutierrez. Free entry.
2. People Watch at El Jardin
The parish church overlooks el Jardin, a charming public square/park that is the social center of San Miguel de Allende. Filled with locals and expats alike, el Jardin is a great place to people watch and enjoy a leisurely afternoon. Sit under the shade of the immaculately landscaped trees, and listen to musicians play or watch kids run after pigeons.
3. Visit the Museum of San Miguel de Allende
History buffs will want to visit Museo de San Miguel de Allende across the street from el Jardin. Housed in the former home of Mexican independence hero, Ignacio Allende, this museum gives a good peek into the town’s rich history. Head up to the upper level to see replicas of Allende’s furnishings and possessions for an idea of how the wealthy lived during that period in time. Entry: 55 MXN (US$2.75).
4. Have a Beer at Rincon de Don Tomás
If you’re wondering which of the cafes/restaurants at the main square is worth checking out, I recommend El Rincón de Don Tomás. Take a seat at one of their outdoor tables, order a beer, and enjoy the perfect view of the Parroquia. The historical bar might not have a big menu (only serving breakfast items and snacks) but it’s got a great atmosphere and ice cold beer!
5. Snap Photos at Calle Aldama
For the best shot of San Miguel de Allende (and its iconic parish church), wander down Calle Aldama. This is where you can get that million-dollar shot of the cobblestoned street and its colorful buildings, backdropped by the Parroquia. You might find other Instagrammers trying to snap photos here. Be aware that it’s not a pedestrianized street, so don’t be a jerk and hog traffic.
Things to Know Before Visiting San Miguel de Allende
- The city is built on steep hills and paved with cobblestones, so pack sturdy walking shoes and be prepared to walk a lot up and down sloping streets.
- If you're renting a car (like we did), it's best to book a hotel with free parking space and leave your car there. Parking can be difficult to find and it's not easy to navigate the narrow streets. Check out my guide on where to stay in San Miguel de Allende.
- During our visit, the city was exceptionally quiet and we didn't see many tourists at all. But usually it can get crowded, so rise early and hit the museums as things usually start buzzing only around 11am.
- San Miguel de Allende is home to a substantial American expat community, and most service staff speak English. That said, some basic Spanish can come a long way here.
6. Have Cocktails at Quince Rooftop
One of the quintessential things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to catch sunset from the rooftops. The city has no shortage of slick rooftop bars vying for attention with swanky design and gastronomic menus.
Earning the top spot as #1 best rooftop restaurants in the world by Rooftop Guide is Quince Rooftop. Located right next to the Parroquia, it’s perched atop a 16th-century building and offers panoramic views of San Miguel de Allende. Cocktails are pricey, starting from 200 MXN (US$10).
7. Hike up to the Mirador
San Miguel de Allende might look pretty from street level, but wait till you see it from above! In spring, the jacaranda flowers bloom and add patches of violet color to the already colorful skyline. There are quite a few viewpoints around the town, but the nearest one is just a 15-minute walk from the main square.
Marked as “El Mirador” on Google Maps, this viewpoint may look near, but it’s a steep walk up. You’ll however be walking on the cobblestoned streets of the city (and not unpaved trails). It’s absolutely doable for people of all ages. Alternatively, you can catch the tranvia turistico, a tourist trolley bus, to the viewpoint (tickets are available at the tourist office overlooking the main square).
8. Stay in a Historical Hacienda
San Miguel de Allende has an air of elegance that attracts well-heeled travelers in droves. The city has no shortage of haciendas here that have been tastefully restored into boutique hotels. One of the best heritage hotels is Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende, housed in a former convent. Guest rooms feature vaulted ceilings, terracotta tiles, original brick work, and unique folk art.
A more modern take on this is Selina San Miguel de Allende, a hacienda turned hip yet nostalgic hotel with stylish interiors.The hotel bar is decorated with eye-catching murals and rooftop is massive and inviting. Here are more of the best hotels in San Miguel de Allende.
9. Eat Churros at San Agustín
Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’tmiss churros at the legendary San Agustín Chocolates & Churros. Café San Agustín is perhaps best known among Mexicans for its owner, Argentine actress Margarita Gralia, who is hugely popular in Mexico for her appearances in telenovelas and Playboy.
But it’s really the churros that draw in the crowds. Since the 1950s, this institution has been serving up Mexican breakfast favorites like churros and authentic Spanish hot chocolate (a rich and thick drink). They’re lauded the best in town, and I can attest to it!
10. See the Templo de San Francisco
Across the road from San Agustín is the eye-catching Templo de San Francisco, a neoclassical church that features carved stone figures and a churrigueresque facade. Built in the early 18th century, this was part of a Franciscan monastery complex. The main facade shows St Francis and symbols of the Franciscan order. Free entry.
11. Visit the Museo de la Esquina
Just a few blocks down the street is the Museo de la Esquina, a small but quirky vintage toy museum perfect for families. The toy collection has taken over half a century to amass and aims to preserve traditions by showcasing pieces from different regions of Mexico.
My 7-year-old daughter loved it, though she was missing the interactive elements (like workshops). And the toys are on display in glass units, so children might find it a torture not to be able to touch or play with them! Entry 60 MXN (US$23).
12. Relax at the Plaza Civica
One thing I love about San Miguel de Allende is the numerous parks and leafy squares in every other corner. Take a break at the grand civic square, also known as Plaza de la Soledad. It’s a great place to sit back and watch locals pottering about.
It was this plaza, and not the main square that was the hub of the town’s activity in its time, serving both as the market place and the meeting place. Today, a large statue of Ignacio Allende on a horse dominates the plaza.
13. Marvel at the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
Located right next to the civic plaza, this multi-towered and domed church dates from the 18th century. The pale-pink main facade is baroque with an indigenous influence.
But it’s what lies inside the church that draws visitors: the church houses 33 oil paintings showing scenes from the life of San Felipe Neri, the 16th-century Florentine who founded the Oratorio Catholic order. Free entry.
14. Visit the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
Behind the oratorio is the sprawling central market of San Miguel de Allende. It’s smaller than markets you’d find in Mexico City and Oaxaca, but this is a great place to get a sense of local life and taste regional dishes. The market is named after Ignacio Ramirez, the Mexican president who declared San Miguel the country’s first official Pueblo Mágico (magical town) in 2002. It’s a vibrant mishmash of stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to clothes.
15. Browse the Mercado Artesanía
If you’re looking for handicrafts, head to the Mercado Artesanía right next to the central market. This market is dedicated to selling crafts from all over Mexico. You’ll find everything from blown glass and pottery to hand-embroidered fabrics and leather goods. Outside of the artisanal market, you’ll find the photogenic Callejon de Loreto street, featuring colorful papel picado (paper flags).
16. Take Photos at the Casa de los Soles
Right outside the Mercado Artesanía is a unique guest house that’s getting Insta-famous for its huge collection of suns. The owners of Casa de los Soles are very friendly and anyone is welcome in for a look. Every inch of its walls is covered in images of the sun: from brightly painted pottery to metal frames. Free entry.
17. See the Public Library
The Biblioteca de San Miguel de Allende is easily the most photogenic library I’ve been. Entering the library, you’ll find a big, leafy courtyard that’s shaded so you can sit out and read. There are books of all genre, and a substantial collection of English books. You’ll also find an on-site cafe and a theater that hosts plays and talks.
But perhaps my favorite feature is the ceiling in the bookstore. Look up and you’ll find a stunning ochre painting on its ceiling depicting human bodies. Free entry.
18. Explore Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez
Housed in the former Convento de la Concepción, this cultural center is a two-story cloister with an enormous courtyard, large trees, and a gurgling fountain. It houses art exhibits and space for drawing, painting, sculpture and performing arts. You can also dine in these pleasant surroundings at the restaurant Las Musas, which serves pasta, salads, and desserts. Free entry.
19. Wander around Doce 18 Concept House
San Miguel de Allende’s latest attraction is the Dôce 18 Concept House, a modern reinvention of a historical property. The 18th-century building was a thriving family-run housewares factory in the 1940s; today it houses upscale fashion and design shops, its own boutique hotel, and a cafeteria with plenty of fancy fast-casual options. Free entry.
20. See the Sunset from Lunas Tapas Bar
The most popular spot in town to see sunset is Lunas Rooftop Tapas Bar at the elegant Rosewood Hotel. It’s a massive rooftop bar, so there’s plenty of space for everyone. Still, make sure to book at least a day in advance. They were fully booked when we visited, but they were kind enough to let us head up to see sunset.
There’s a sweeping view across the valley and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the hot-air balloons that dot the sky at sunset.
21. Visit the Mask Museum
A quirky thing to do in San Miguel is visiting the Mask Museum. This museum displays Bill LeVasseur’s extraordinary collection of over 500 Mexican ceremonial masks. Accompanying the mask collection are texts, photos, and videos showing more than 40 different dance ceremonies. All masks in the museum have been danced in indigenous performances and therefore are considered to be authentic.
Visits are by appointment only – with all proceeds from the entrance fee going toward local charities – so make sure to call ahead of your visit. Entry: 100 MXN (US$2.50).
22. Wend down the Paseo del Chorro
A secret corner of the city that I absolutely loved (and wanted to keep a secret) is the Paseo del Chorro. Perched on a steep hill, the winding ancient street snakes up to the spring that gives its name “El Chorro”. This was the spring where San Miguel was founded.
Today it gushes out of a fountain built in 1960, and there are public washing tubs here that are still sometimes used. The Paseo del Chorro also houses the Centro Cultural de San Miguel (cultural center) where classes in painting, music and dance are taught.
22. Relax at Parque Benito Jurez
Of all the leafy green spaces that dot the city, my favorite park is Parque Benito Juarez on the edge of the historical center. There’s a big and clean playground for kids, plenty of benches for chilling, and a basket ball court that’s busy in the evenings. We loved staying near this park, as it’s so pleasant to stroll here every afternoon.
Things to Do around San Miguel de Allende
While most of the museums and historical sites are concentrated in the old town, there’s a legion of interesting places to see in the outskirts, within a 30-minute drive.
24. Swim in Hot Springs
The city of San Miguel de Allende is surrounded by hot springs, bubbling with curative waters that provide a glorious respite especially in cold winter months. Just a 15-minute drive from town, La Gruta Spa is one of the most famous hot springs in Mexico, for good reason.
In total, there are four thermal pools located onsite at La Gruta San Miguel de Allende. The star attraction at La Gruta San Miguel de Allende is the cavern “La Gruta”. Entering through an entryway from the main pool, you’ll make your way through a white, narrow stone walkway that leads to a domed-shaped grotto where the source of the hot spring water is. Entry: 250 MXN (US$10).
Read my full guide on how to visit la Gruta hot springs.
25. Admire the Sanctuario de Atotonilco
For a fun-filled day trip from San Miguel de Allende, combine a visit to this impressive church with La Gruta Spa, as it’s located just 10 minutes away. Lauded as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, this famous religious sanctuaries forms part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.
This historic Catholic church has long been a place of pilgrimage for Mexicans from all over the country. The Sanctuary de Atotonilco was built on top of natural springs, and so the church has always been revered as a place of healing. Prepare to be When you step inside the Sanctuary de Atotonilco, you’ll also be shocked and awed by the gruesome religious artwork on display.
26. Go Wine Tasting at La Santísima Trinidad Winery
One of our favorite things to do in San Miguel de Allende is visiting the local wineries. Thanks to its location on the temperate highlands, the city is surrounded by prime grape-growing land, and the oldest winery here has been producing vintages for centuries.
If you only want to visit one winery, I recommend heading to La Santísima Trinidad, one of the most famous vineyards in the area. The sprawling area is centered on its lake, with a gourmet restaurant perched at one end, and beautiful lavender fields on the other. Spend the afternoon tasting excellent wine and gourmet platters of cheese and nibbles, enjoy a full meal, or even stay overnight here.
27. Discover Art at Fábrica Aurora
San Miguel de Allende is well known for its artistic side and it’s been a haven for artists from around the world. Fabrica Aurora is one of the best spots to get a feel for its artistic flair.
Located within a refurbished textile mill, this mammoth gallery has a constantly-changing selection of modern art. There’s a medley of shops, galleries, and cafes worth checking out. To see the artists at work, visit on a Thursday during their Open Studio day.
28. Hike in El Charco Botanical gardens
Located in the canyon surrounding San Miguel, the city’s 88-hectare botanical garden is a maze of cacti groves, marshes and dry woods crisscrossed with hiking trails. The namesake freshwater spring, El Charco del Ingenio de San Miguel, lies at the bottom of the deep canyon. My daughter especially liked hiking here!
One of the highlights is the Conservatory of Mexican Plants, which houses cacti and succulent species. Two-hour tours (in English) depart every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am (M$80). Prepare to spend at least 2-3 hours here as it’s a big area. It’s a 15-minute drive from the old town and a taxi to the gardens costs around 80 MXN (US$4).
29. Explore the Cañada de la Virgen
Just a 45-minute drive away, Cañada de la Virgen is a fascinating archaeological site that has only been recently excavated. Public access was first allowed in 2011. However, unlike its famous counterparts such as Chichen-Itzá, access is strictly controlled due to it sitting on private property.
Occupied by the Otomi people between 540 and 1050 A.D., the site consists of a complex of four pyramids (specially aligned with the movement of the planets), a ceremonial causeway and an ancient man-made pond. I recommend booking a guided tour with an archaeologist.
30. Go Horseback Riding
Poised in the central highlands, San Miguel de Allende is literally surrounded by dramatic canyons, winding rivers, and cattle ranches. The best way to explore its rugged countryside is on horseback and in true cowboy style.
Several tour operators offer horseback riding tours that take you out into the countryside and down exploring the bottom of Coyote Canyon, where the river La Virgen winds its way. Book a horseback riding adventure to gallop through the canyons, soak in healing springs, and enjoy an organic meal at the ranch.
San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide
Whether you’re traveling for a week or a year, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. It is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
How to Get to San Miguel de Allende
The nearest airport to San Miguel de Allende are Del Bajío International Airport in Guanajato (1.5 hours by car), and Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (1 hour) in Querétaro. Both are relatively small airports but serve major cities in the US, such as Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.
An alternative is flying into Mexico City, which is a 3-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. You can find much cheaper flights there from outside of Mexico. From there, take the excellent first-class bus from Mexico City on ETN or Primera Plus.
How to Get Around San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende may be spread out, but its historical center is relatively compact. If you stay in the old town, you can easily walk everywhere and you won’t need a vehicle. We rented a car from Guanajuato, and used it to explore outside the historical center.
An economy rental car in Mexico averages just $200 for a whole week, which is less than $25 a day. The current price for gas is 16.50 pesos per liter (about $2.50 per gallon). We always use DiscoverCars.com as they’ve consistently given us the best prices and customer service.
Uber is not fully available in San Miguel de Allende, but you can easily hail a taxi as they’re readily available around el Jardin area. Learn some Spanish phrases as most taxi drivers don’t speak English.
Best Time to Visit San Miguel de Allende
Thanks to its location in the central highlands of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is blessed with pleasant spring-like climate all year round. In general, anytime of the year is great to visit as San Miguel’s climate doesn’t vary too much throughout the year, with average high temperatures hovering between 73°F (23°C) and 88°F (31°C) no matter the season.
But we would recommend visiting between San Miguel de Allende November and April, when there’s less rainfall than the summer months. We visited in March and the weather was glorious. It was always sunny, but the high altitude meant a very dry climate.
How Long in San Miguel de Allende?
Considering there are SO many things to do in San Miguel de Allende, I would recommend spending at least 5 days or a week here. Yes, the historical town is small and compact, but it’s truly packed with historical treasure troves. Plus, its outskirts is dotted with a smattering of outdoorsy activities and unique experiences that nature lovers would love.
I also recommend combining a visit to San Miguel de Allende with Guanajuato (a 1.5-hour drive away) and Grutas de Tolantongo hot springs (a 3.5-hour drive away), another one of the coolest hot springs in Mexico. Check out my Guanajuato road trip itinerary. We explored all of them in one road trip and absolutely loved exploring this part of Mexico!
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
There are plenty of accommodation options in San Miguel de Allende to suit all budgets, from spacious Airbnbs to luxury boutique hotels. We recommend staying in the historic center (within a few blocks from el Jardin) so you can easily walk everywhere. For more recommendations, check out my guide to the best places to stay in San Miguel de Allende.
Luxury: Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende
One of the best hotels in San Miguel de Allende, this former convent is a tastefully designed hotel with rooms that feature vaulted ceilings, terracotta tiles, original brick work, and unique folk art. Even if you’re not staying here, visiting the bar is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende. Check rates here.
Luxury: Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique
Located close to the main square, Casa 1810 is another stylish boutique hotel that has preserved the character of San Miguel de Allende immaculately. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, and family rooms. We really enjoyed staying here! Check rates here.
Mid Range: Cantera 1910 Hotel Boutique
Cantera 1910 is a new boutique hotel in the very center of San Miguel, with freshly restored rooms and a boho chic decor. The on-site restaurant is located in a beautiful terrace, dishing up delicious Mexican breakfasts dishes in the day and contemporary dishes and cocktails for dinner. Check rates here.
Budget: Casa Liza
This historical hotel is located near Paseo del Chorro and it’s a steep walk from the main square. The colonial mansion has plenty of history and character, and prices are excellent! Check rates here.
Where to Eat in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende isn’t exactly known for its food, but it has its fair share of upscale restaurants and gastronomic bars. An interesting fact is that San Miguel de Allende is home to a large Italian population who migrated her during the war. You’ll find an overwhelming selection of Italian restaurants here, and many of them dish up quality, authentic dishes.
A long fixture in San Miguel de Allende’s bar scene, El Manantial (pictured) is a much-loved Mexican cantina that has been around since 1920. Besides serving the best margaritas in town, they also dish up some traditional Mexican dishes like tostadas. After 7pm, it turns into a bar (and no kids are allowed).
Restaurante del Parque
A favorite among expats, Restaurante del Parque is located next to the Parque Benito Juarez has a lush garden feel and a modern Mexican fusion menu. Don’t miss their soft shell crab tacos and cochinita pibil (a regional dish from the Yucatan Peninsula)!
El Rincon de Don Tomas
Located on the main square facing the Parroquia de San Miguel, this is my favorite spot for a casual beer and guacamole (with totopos). The longstanding establishment has a menu with mainly breakfast items, but it’s also worth coming here for an afternoon break.
Antigua Trattoria Romana
One of the most charming Italian restaurants in town, this trattoria serves up authentic Italian dishes from oven pizzas to home made pastas. This is a small restaurant that gets very busy in the evenings so a reservation is strongly advised.
Named the #1 rooftop restaurant in the world, Quince has a view unlike no other, and a contemporary global cuisine that promises to surprise. We were impressed by the cocktails and the sushi, but we would definitely try the steak the next time we visit!
Is it Worth Visiting San Miguel de Allende?
Without a doubt, San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places to visit in Mexico in my opinion. A trip to San Miguel de Allende is dreamy and magical, whether your interest lies in history, culture, or the great outdoors. For first-time visitors to Mexico, it’s definitely worthwhile adding San Miguel de Allende to your Mexico road trip itinerary.
I hope you’ve found this list of things to do in San Miguel de Allende to be useful. This is just a taste and you could easily spend weeks exploring all the town has to offer. But these should be enough to get you started! Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- 10 Best Hot Springs in Mexico
- How to Visit La Gruta Hot Springs San Miguel de Allende
- Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Guanajuato
- 10-Day Guanajuato Itinerary
- How to Get from Mexico City to Guanajuato
- Visiting Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
- 30 Things to Do in Oaxaca
- 30 Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas
- Best Restaurants in San Cristobal de las Casas
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
Inspired? Pin it!