What Is So Special about San Miguel de Allende?

· Our in-depth guide to visiting San Miguel de Allende: in our opinion, one of the best places to visit in Mexico, and one of the best places in Mexico for day of the dead. ·

Date
Sep, 10, 2021

San Miguel de Allende, located in the state of Guanajuato, is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. From its adorable cobblestone streets to its time-tested colonial architecture, San Miguel de Allende has something for every traveler. This guide is going to look at some of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, some logistics for planning your trip, and offer some tips for checking out Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende.

This is our Travel Guide for one of the most gorgeous places in Mexico.

Watch us celebrate Day of the Dead in our San Miguel Vlog

What Is So Special about San Miguel de Allende?

When many people think about the best places to visit in Mexico, they tend to think of the beaches. This makes sense! Mexico has some of the best beaches in the world, and some people feel no need to look any further than places like Tulum in the east and Puerto Vallarta in the west. While we definitely love traveling to the best beaches in Mexico, we think most of the best places to visit in Mexico are inland. If this is your first time traveling to Central Mexico, this guide is for you.

San Miguel de Allende is easily one of the best places to visit in Mexico for first-time visitors.

San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places to visit in Mexico, is filled with excellent cultural things to do, and can be reached pretty easily from the United States and Europe. Not to mention San Miguel de Allende weather is pretty much perfect all year round! On top of that, San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places to visit in Mexico for Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s coolest holidays? If all of this sounds good to you, keep reading!


How to Get to San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is still a relatively small city, and as a result it doesn’t have its own international airport. To fly to San Miguel de Allende, you have three main airport options: Queretaro International Airport (QRO), Guanajuato International Airport (BJX), and Mexico City International Airport (MEX). Queretaro is about an hour and a half southeast of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato is about an hour and a half west, and Mexico City is about three and a half hours southeast.


Fly to Mexico City International Airport

Mexico City is the biggest city in Mexico and is home to the biggest airport in the country. Flying into Mexico City is usually going to be your cheapest option due to the number of flight options from all over the world. In my extensive guide on finding cheap airfare, I wrote about the concept of hub airports and how they can often save you hundreds of dollars on your airfare. Odds are, Mexico City International Airport is going to be your cheapest and most convenient option. If you buy a flight into Mexico City International Airport, you’ll need to take a 4-hour bus north to San Miguel de Allende. The bus stops in the city of Queretaro on the way, but is direct other than that. The best bus company to use for this route is ETN, and you can buy your tickets directly at the bus terminal at Mexico City International Airport.

Fly to Queretaro International Airport

The second-best option of how to get to San Miguel de Allende is flying into Queretaro International Airport. This airport is significantly closer than Mexico City, and still tends to have several flight options to choose from. In this case, however, you’re probably going to need to expect at least one layover in your flight itinerary. From Queretaro International Airport to San Miguel de Allende is about an hour and a half, and there is no bus line servicing this route from the airport. Instead, I would recommend booking a transfer service online. These often cost as little as $20 per person each way and are a comfortable way to get from the airport to San Miguel de Allende!

Fly to Guanajuato International Airport

The third-best option for how to get to San Miguel de Allende is flying into Guanajuato International Airport. This airport is about an hour and a half west of San Miguel de Allende and is still a good choice to fly into, even though it’s the least recommended option on this list. While there is a direct bus from the airport to San Miguel de Allende, it only departs once per day at 9:30am. This bus is on Primera Plus, and if the timing works for you, you should definitely take it. However, odds are that you won’t be arriving in Guanajuato before 9:30am if you’re coming in on an international flight, so you’ll be left booking a private transfer, just like Queretaro. The only difference, as far as I know, is that Queretaro is less prone to traffic and is a very small airport, leading to quick baggage claim times and no lines. We got our baggage within 10 minutes of deplaning in Queretaro!

If you choose to fly into Guanajuato or Queretaro, you may need to use a budget airline. If you have any fears or concerns about using budget airlines, I get it…but you don’t need to worry. They’re perfectly safe, and actually my favorite way to fly. If you’re interested in learning more about how budget airlines work or how to avoid fees when using budget airlines, check out my in-depth post on using budget airlines here.


Best Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende


1. Absorb the Colonial Architecture and Atmosphere

Arguably, the thing that does the most to make San Miguel de Allende one of the best places to visit in Mexico is the beautiful colonial architecture and the overall vibe that fill the city. Almost every street in San Miguel de Allende is made of cobblestone, and many of the buildings date all the way back to the 1500s. Walking around San Miguel de Allende, there is a beautiful site and spectacular story behind every corner, which makes this city one of my favorite places to visit in all of Mexico. From the Parroquia in the center of town to many of the colorful buildings scattered around, you will be overwhelmed by the tranquil beauty of San Miguel de Allende – I promise.

Almost every street in San Miguel de Allende is made of gorgeous cobblestone.

While walking around on your own is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, going on an organized walking tour may be even more enticing to you if you’re interested in learning about the things you see and the historical significance behind different parts of the city. We went on a tour with Joseph Toone and had a fantastic time. Joseph is an American guy that’s been living in San Miguel de Allende for over a decade, and his knowledge about the city is just unending. If you’re looking to learn, you won’t find a better tour guide!


2. Swim in the Hot Springs at La Gruta

Surrounding San Miguel de Allende, there are several thermal spas that are definitely worth checking out. These spas source water directly from hot springs and offer enough things to do to fill up a whole day! Our favorite of these spas is La Gruta, located about 30 to 45 minutes north of San Miguel de Allende. The water in these baths is supposed to be very good for your skin and body and has been used for healing purposes for centuries. At La Gruta, there are several warm pools, a cave-like grotto, a restaurant, snack bars, tables and lounge chairs, lockers, and a full service spa. We recommend checking out the natural spas towards the end of your trip so that you can unwind and relax before traveling home!

To get to La Gruta, you can either take an Uber or a taxi. As the spa is outside of the city, there probably won’t be any Ubers available to take you home. But that’s okay! You can have the employee at the counter call a taxi for you to get home. Just make sure to stick to whatever price the employee tells you, because for 2 out of the 3 taxis that took us home, the driver tried to increase the price!


3. Take a Cooking Class

While this doesn’t need to be specific to San Miguel de Allende, we personally know of a great cooking class to check out. A class at Marilau Cooking School, located in a walkable location from the center of the city, is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende. Marilau is a very sweet woman who is capable of teaching the class in either Spanish or English, and she’s been doing it for decades. I think the best part of her cooking class is that you get to pick the courses you want to cook from a list of options before arriving for the class. This customizable menu is a huge perk, and the food is absolutely fantastic. If you’re looking for a cool cultural experience in San Miguel de Allende, send Marilau a message.

Marilau teaches cooking classes in both Spanish & English and customizes the dishes to your liking.


4. Hop onto a Four-Wheeler Tour

Central Mexico is filled with mountains and rolling hills. San Miguel de Allende, specifically, is a very hilly place, which makes great terrain for a four-wheeler! This is a very common activity in the city, and there are four-wheeler tours every day headed all over the place. Some tours are intense while others are very laid back. You can really find whatever you want! Some tours even head to a great viewpoint to catch the sunset before heading back into the city. We took a tour with De Travesia and enjoyed our experienced. It was very laid back and designed more to have fun on the four-wheeler than it was to learn. Still, we got to ride by a bunch of beautiful scenery!

Man and woman riding a red ATV in the fields outside of San Miguel de Allende


5. Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop Bar

Speaking of popular things to do in San Miguel de Allende, checking out a sunrise from one of the rooftop bars is an absolute must! There are rooftop bars all throughout the city, and you’re bound to find one that has availability for walk-ins. If you want one of the best views of the sunset in San Miguel de Allende, you should head to Luna Tapas Bar on the top of the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende Hotel. This hotel is considered to be not just the best in the city, but often even the best hotel in the entire country. If you want a table here, be sure to call several weeks in advance to save your space. On our first trip to San Miguel de Allende we naively assumed that we’d be able to show up and grab a table, and we were very wrong. We made sure not to make that mistake the second time around!


6. Walk Around the Zocalo at Night

In Mexico, the zocalo is essentially the central square of the city. Pretty much every city in Mexico has one, and it is almost always the center of life and activity in the city. The zocalo in San Miguel de Allende is arguably one of the most lively zocalos we have been to in all of Mexico, and there are people hanging out there all day, every day. While visiting in the day time is a nice activity, nothing beats heading to the zocalo at night. The Parroquia is all lit up, the square is just filled with people, and there are street food vendors everywhere. Visiting the zocalo is completely free, of course, meaning that you can splurge a little on street food. We highly recommend Doriesquites…but more on that later.


Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is one of the most culturally significant holidays in all of Mexico. In fact, it is not just one day; depending where you go, the celebration of Day of the Dead can span anywhere from 2 to 4 days. While many people tend to think that Day of the Dead is a mexican Halloween, this is simply not the case at all. This celebration is a very unique blend of indigenous and Catholic practices, as people all throughout Mexico create offerings to recognize their ancestors who have passed away. The celebration is really beautiful, and depending on your location can range from a solemn and sacred ritual to an absolute rager. We wrote an entire post on the celebration of Day of the Dead that you should make sure you check out before visiting San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende is widely regarded as one of the best places for Day of the Dead in Mexico because of its historically grand celebrations.

We had the opportunity to visit San Miguel de Allende with a couple of friends during Day of the Dead in 2020, and even amid the pandemic it was still a really cool experience. In a normal year, you can expect large scale parades, special meals, an organized map of official ofrendas (offerings), and more. The zocalo is incredibly lively during this time, and I personally think there is no better time to visit San Miguel de Allende. We can easily see why San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places for Day of the Dead, and honestly, Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende is one of the things that makes the city one of the best places to visit in Mexico.

We had the opportunity to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. Watch OUR VLOG to see us chugging Mezcal and soaking in San Miguel de Allende.


Best Places to Eat in San Miguel de Allende


Bovine

PRICE: $$$

Bovine is an awesome Brasserie located right off of the zocalo. We ate here on the first night of our most recent trip to San Miguel de Allende and really enjoyed everything they had to offer. While it is definitely a pricey place, the food is fantastic and is worth the money if you’re looking for and can afford a nice dinner out. Call ahead or use Opentable to make a reservation in advance.


The Restaurant

PRICE: $$

The Restaurant (yes, that’s its name) is also located right off of the zocalo and the food is really incredible. The Restaurant is widely considered to be one of the best places to eat in San Miguel de Allende and once you taste the food, you’ll probably agree. The seating is mostly in an outdoor courtyard and the ambiance is pretty relaxed, though still refined. I’d recommend making a reservation in advance by visiting their website or giving them a call.

Luna Tapas Bar

PRICE: $$$$

I already mentioned Luna Tapas Bar earlier when I was listing the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, but this place serves food that is just as great as the view of the sunset. The menu is pretty expansive for being a tapas bar, and you really can’t go wrong with anything they have. The drinks here are also pretty great, so be sure to check out a cocktail list. Like I mentioned before, this place can be very hard to get into, so be sure to book your table weeks in advance to be safe.


La Choperia

PRICE: $$

La Choperia is one of my personal favorite spots in the city to grab a bite. During my first visit, I stopped here to grab a burger and a beer and watch some football on their big TVs. The place clearly left an impression on me, because I made sure to go back again on my next visit. The food and beers here are really tasty, they have big TVs to watch sports games, and often even have live entertainment. No reservation necessary!

Restaurante 1826

PRICE: $$$$

Just like the Luna Tapas Bar, Restaurante 1826 is located inside of the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende Hotel. This restaurant has really great options at any time of the day. For breakfast, I highly recommend trying their French toast. Personally, I’d ask for it a little bit gooey on the inside; you’ll thank me later. If you’re heading for dinner, the menu changes frequently and I can’t give recommendations, but everything that we tried was delicious. I’ve heard that reservations are usually necessary here, but when we visited we were one of only two tables being served at the time, so you might be able to get away without a reservation.


Street Food in the Zocalo

PRICE: $

The zocalo. How many times will this place come up in this guide? Like I’ve said before, the zocalo is one of the centers of life and culture in San Miguel de Allende, and the street food at night is absolutely worth the trip. Our personal favorite is Doriesquites, which is basically a Mexican walking taco. If you’re interested in reading about more street foods before your trip, be sure to check out my guide to the best street foods in Mexico!


How to Get Around San Miguel de Allende

BY FOOT | TAXI | UBER | DIDI

Though it is one of the best places in Mexico to visit, San Miguel de Allende is still a very small city and is very walkable. For the vast majority of things you plan to do during your visit, you’ll probably just be able to walk! The city is a bit hilly and may not be an easy place for some people to do extensive walking, though. If this is the case, there are plentiful Ubers, Didis, and taxis in the city.

Uber works the same in Mexico as it does in the United States, except drastically cheaper! We highly recommend using Uber to get anywhere you want to go in the area, whether it is inside San Miguel or somewhere on the outskirts. Just keep in mind that if you’re heading away from the city, there may not be many Ubers around to pick you up. I’d see if your Uber driver is willing to wait for you for a set price. If you’ve never used Uber while traveling internationally.


Is San Miguel de Allende Safe for Tourists?

“Is San Miguel de Allende safe for tourists?” A lot of people wonder! Many people have heard that when you go to Mexico you don’t leave the resort.

Firstly, let me tell you that is the biggest load of false information I have ever heard.

Mexico is one of the most amazing countries in the world, and staying on a resort doesn’t even count as visiting this awesome country. San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places to visit in all of Mexico, first of all, and you have very little to worry about while staying here. It’s certainly safer than any American city I have ever been to!

Like I’ve said before, Central Mexico is filled with most of the best places to visit in Mexico, and you should leave your fear at home. You need to take general precautions like anywhere – don’t carry massive wads of cash and don’t flash your diamonds and pearls – but the odds of anything bad happening to you in San Miguel de Allende might be lower than your odds of getting attacked by a shark. It is not only very safe, but it feels that way too.

So if you are asking yourself “Is San Miguel de Allende Safe for Tourists?” I can confidently tell you that it is.


Our Final Tips for Visiting San Miguel de Allende


What to Wear

Firstly, the weather in San Miguel de Allende is beautiful all year long. You can get away with generally warm-weather clothing here any month of the year. Like many places in the region, San Miguel de Allende has been called a “city of eternal spring” because the weather really doesn’t stray too far from mild and comfortable. With that being said, the weather in San Miguel de Allende tends to change between day and night, meaning you’ll probably want some long pants and a sweater if you’re heading out after the sunset.

Don’t Overbook Yourself

Secondly, I’d advise you not to overbook yourself during your visit to San Miguel de Allende. This city has so much to see and do, but part of its splendor is its ability to naturally relax you and help you to decompress. While all of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende that I listed are worth checking out, that doesn’t mean you need to do them all. Pick the few that interest you the most, and plan to relax or explore the rest of the time.

Live Like the Locals

Finally, lean into the local culture and mix with local people. Mexican culture is very warm and hospitable, and Mexican people tend to love when foreigners show an interest in their culture. Speaking a little Spanish helps, too.

woman in flower crown overlooking a mexican bridge at sunset
woman in flower crown overlooking a mexican bridge at sunset
woman in flower crown overlooking a mexican bridge at sunset

That’s all we have for you about planning the perfect trip to San Miguel de Allende! Hopefully this post helps you to plan the ultimate trip to one of the most beautiful places in Mexico.

If you’re planning a trip to San Miguel de Allende, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!

Greg

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China, and the United States. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries all around the world.

2 Comments

  1. Reply

    Dave Jackson

    March 10, 2023

    Great blog, you inspired us to visit & now we are here we can confirm it is as beautiful as you describe 😊

    • Reply

      Greg

      March 15, 2023

      Hi Dave! Thank you for letting me know! I hope you have an amazing trip. We absolutely love SMA and are jealous of you right now!

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Greg | The Author

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China and the U.S. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries.

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