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Top 12 Activities You Can’t Miss in San Miguel de Allende

Jun 02, 2023

With its beautiful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and picture-perfect mountains, San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico's most attractive and beloved cities. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, the city invites guests from all over the world to explore all it has to offer. While the destination has always been postcard-perfect, in the last few years, San Miguel de Allende has elevated itself to world-class status. Pueblo Bonito Vantage San Miguel de Allende is set to top the city’s list of luxury hotels with a fantastic restaurant and superlative wellness amenities, all within walking distance of galleries, museums, historical sites, shopping, and gardens and more. And it doesn’t hurt that the weather is more or less perfect 365 days a year. Most visitors recognize the city from the iconic church that sits at its heart. From here, you can explore the dozens of art galleries, viewpoints for 360-degree panoramas, festivals, botanical gardens, and other attractions. Here’s our list of The Top 12 Things to See and Do while you’re here.

  1. Parish of San Miguel Arcángel

Look up to see the iconic structure that is often considered the heart of the city, rising like a blush-colored beacon in front of the mountains. The Parish of San Miguel Arcángel, perched atop the city, is one of the most beautiful architectural landmarks in all of Mexico.

The base of the church dates from the late 17th century, but the tapered pinnacles were designed by Belgian-inspired local stonemason, Zeferino Gutierrez in the late 1800s. One of the best-known images within the church, hanging by the main altar, is that of Cristo de la Conquista. It was made in Patzcuaro sometime around the 16th century. You may be able to peek into the church's crypt where several Mexican war heroes are buried. Entrance is free.

  1. Cañada de la Virgen

Opened to the public less than 10 years ago, San Miguel de Allende's Cañada de la Virgen is one of the best-kept archaeological secrets of Mexico. The original residents of this pre-Hispanic city are still unknown, but it was believed that it was occupied between approximately AD 540 and 1050.

Perfect mathematically, architecturally, and astronomically, experts in these fields remain in awe of the structure. The complex includes the House of the Thirteen Heaves, the House of the Longest Night, and the House of the Wind. These were residences, ceremonial spaces, and tombs. It is believed that the site was also a destination for pilgrims, who made the long journey to learn from its resident astronomer priests.

  1. El Jardin

If you want to get a feel for the soul of San Miguel de Allende, start with the garden. The central square, over which the Parish looks, is known as El Jardin, and it keeps the city’s pulse. Framed by historical buildings, with a lush garden in the center, El Jardin is the city’s social center, a place for live music, dancing, and coming together at all hours of the day or night. Street vendors pop up all over the square selling local wares, while groups of mariachis parade back and forth.

You won't want to miss the historic buildings that fringe its borders, either, from the iconic Parish to the family home of Ignacio Allende, who led the Mexican war of Independence.

  1. Fábrica La Aurora

A textile mill from 1902 to 1991 embodies everything San Miguel de Allende has to offer art lovers. Fábrica La Aurora, just a short walk from the Parish, is proud of its oil-stained floorsa remnant of the pastbut has adapted to the present-day art scene in San Miguel de Allende. Peruse the jewelry, furniture, and contemporary art stores there and be sure to leave time to have a bite to eat at the on-site Food Factory or Cafe de la Aurora. But more than just an art gallery, Fábrica La Aurora is a place for the community to come together and watch artists at work, talk to local artisans during one of its community events, or even take a class.

  1. El Charco de Ingenio

Just outside the city, a more natural beauty awaits in El Charco de Ingenio, a 170-acre botanical garden in a designated nature preserve. Planted in 1990, the garden was an immediate way to protect native plants and support their role in the local environment but ended up doubling as a haven for nature lovers and historians; the Dalai Lama designated it a Peace Zone in 2004. Indeed, more than a place to visit and see native plants and wildlife, it is also a place for locals and tourists to hike, picnic, meditate, and be still. The garden often hosts ceremonies, performances, and environmental education programs, and is only a mile from the center of the city. 

  1. Instituto Allende

When we said San Miguel de Allende was a haven for artists, we weren’t exaggerating. The Instituto Allende, tucked into the home of the Condes de la Canal family dating back to the early 18th century, is an art institute that opened in the 1950s. Today, it serves as an educational center for aspiring artists, and many come from abroad to earn a degree there in visual arts. There are abbreviated courses, as well, including classes in watercolors, acrylics, sculpture, Mexican textiles, and more. The campus is free and open to visitors on weekdays and Saturday mornings.

  1. Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel de Allende

A library may not seem like a bucket list item for your Mexico vacation, but the Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende is a worthy stop. Steeped in historic significance, the library started in the 1950s, when a Canadian expat welcomed local children to read magazines in her home. More and more visitors started coming, until finally, a few years later, the library had to move to a larger building just north of El Jardin, where it is today. Its shelves are stocked with bilingual books and other media, and the library often hosts free classes for kids on a variety of subjects. Not only that, the library is also home to the Santa Ana Theater, which hosts international films and various concerts. If you're in the market for an English-speaking tour guide to enrich your sightseeing, the library is a good place to start.

  1. Sanctuary of Atotonilco

One of the most breathtaking pieces of religious art can be found just 15 minutes from San Miguel de Allende. In the nearby town of Atotonilco, stands a magnificent church, known today as the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. The sanctuary was built by theologist Luis Felipe Neri Alfaro, who came to San Miguel de Allende in the middle of the 18th century to continue his religious studies. The sanctuary stands today in the Mexican Baroque style, with the exterior designed to look like a Spanish fortress, but the true beauty lies within. Stepping through the heavy wooden doors, visitors are wowed by the folk-art murals that plaster nearly every inch of the interior. Alfaro remained the priest of the sanctuary for 36 years and was buried in in the wall of the church beside the main altar.

  1. Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende

The Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende is one of the most important buildings in the city. Just south of El Jardin, the building was once the birthplace of Ignacio Jose de Allende y Unzaga, a Spanish army officer who fought for the side of Mexican independence. In 1990, the historic (and beloved) home was turned into a museum and remains so today. Its two floors are dedicated to the life of Allende and include a gallery of paintings from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It also covers the archaeological heritage of Mexico, including the Mesoamerican and regional cultures, as well as the founding of the town in the 16th century.

  1. Walking Tours

San Miguel de Allende's Centro Histórico is essentially an outdoor museum, its narrow cobblestone streets flanked on either side by brightly colored, colonial-style architecture. And from almost any vantage point downtown, you're able to catch a glimpse of the soaring spires of La Parroquia. It's easy to put together a DIY walking tour. Simply start walking and see where you end up. But if you'd like to add a little extra depth, you can always join one of our guided walking tours, offered through our Pueblo Bonito Vantage V Life program. It is a perfect way for first timers to get a lay of the land and a bit of historical context. Be sure to check with the concierge for more information upon your arrival.

  1. Angela Peralta Theatre

Bearing the name of one of the biggest stars in Mexican opera, the Angela Peralta Theatre is a San Miguel de Allende landmark and a must-see destination, especially if you’re interested in seeing a local performance. Opened in 1873, the historic theater has undergone extensive renovations and is a beautiful place to listen to concerts. One of the best times to visit San Miguel de Allende is during the International Jazz Festival in November, when the theater is packed with music lovers who flock to see musicians from all over the world.

  1. El Mirador

San Miguel de Allende is filled with fantastic viewpoints, but one the best in the city is the El Mirador outlook. You’ll find fantastic panoramic views of the entire city, various vendors selling souvenirs and drinks, and a handful of cafes and restaurants. There is parking at El Mirador, but it fills up fast. You can also get there by taxi, Uber, or simply by hiking up the steep streets from the Parque Benito Juarez area.

For more information on these and other top spots in San Miguel de Allende, be sure to speak with our concierge when you arrive. Keep up with the latest regarding the Pueblo Bonito Vantage San Miguel de Allende property, slated to open in 2024.