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Maximize your time on your next trip to San Miguel de Allende

by sanmigueltimes
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The city of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, affectionally nicknamed San Miguel, offers gorgeous colonial architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, and the main square’s iconic pink parish, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. The city’s charm draws visitors from all corners of the globe, many of whom spend the winter or move full time, adding a cosmopolitan air to a town brimming with character. A go-to for romantics, creatives, and foodies, San Miguel has rightly been voted the World’s Best City multiple times in the past by Travel + Leisure readers. 

At Journey Mexico, a luxury travel company, I specialize in seamless experiences that connect discerning travelers with Mexico’s cultural and historic heritage, natural wealth, and active adventures. After countless trips to San Miguel, here are my 12 top tips for maximizing your visit. 

Fly Under the Radar

Many travelers make the four-hour journey from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, but it’s worth remembering that Guanajuato Airport (BJX) is just a 1.5 drive away and has connectivity through California, Chicago, and Texas. 

 Skip the Rental Car

San Miguel is essentially a small town, with many of its cobblestone streets and winding alleyways closed off for pedestrian use. I recommend skipping the rental car — limited parking downtown can be stressful and you can get to most places on foot within 20 minutes.   

People walking around the main square of San Miguel de Allende by Parroquia
In San Miguel, a top pedestrian destination is the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the city’s famous cathedral. Anna Haines/Travel + Leisure

Take it Slow

Downtown San Miguel is ideal for wandering, checking out cafes, boutiques, and galleries as you go. Leave room for spontaneous stops, as a lot of the coolest venues can be found in old buildings that have turned into multifunctional spaces, including art galleries, stores, cafés, bars, and restaurants.

Listen to Live (Free) Music

Live music is king in San Miguel, with many bars and restaurants hosting bands, solo musicians, or DJs. At sunset, the heartfelt croons of mariachis fill the main square. If you’re lucky, you might catch a callejoneada, a celebration in which wedding parties parade through the streets with a band and colorful adornments.

Mariachi band in front of cathedral
A mariachi band performs on the steps of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel cathedral. Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Make Reservations

Book ahead if you’ve got your heart set on a particular bar or restaurant. This is a must on weekends, and I’d strongly suggest reserving for weekdays too — Opentable is great for easy online reservations.  

Buy From Local Artists

Downtown San Miguel is brimming with art galleries and specialty shops, but make sure to visit the artisan markets too. Browse colorful papier-mâché creations, handmade blown-glass hearts, and brass trinkets, from the city’s emblematic “burning heart” design to larger pieces like lighting fixtures and geometrical stars.  

Ornate handcrafted metal hearts for sale in a shop in the city center of San Miguel de Allende..
Ornate “burning hearts” are a popular motif in San Miguel de Allende. Jason Gallant/Getty Images

Pack Mindfully

In a town where cobblestone streets are part of the allure, skip the heels and opt for comfortable shoes. Packing lots of layers is also key — while you can get away with shorts and a t-shirt in the daytime, it can get chilly after the sun goes down, especially in winter. You can stay warm and enjoy amazing views from the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende’s Luna Rooftop, a tapas bar where cozy wool blankets are provided.  

Perfect Your Drink Order

Travelers can sit down for intimate tequila tastings at Casa Dragones, a premium small-batch, San Miguel-based producer. Or, shake up the dynamic with mixology tastings and classes at Bekeb or Hotel Matilda‘s Monkey Bar. 

Sip Local Wines

Just outside the city, Cuna de Tierra’s vineyard is known as the state of Guanajuato’s first winery (it released its first wines for sale in 2008). Sit down for the gourmet lunch and wine pairing with beautiful landscape views.

Aerial view of Cuna de Tierra vineyard
Cuna de Tierra vineyard is a 40-minute drive from the city center of San Miguel de Allende. Courtesy of Cuna de Tierra

Get Cooking

The city’s gastronomic offerings range from taco carts to fine dining to creative culinary classes. I love arranging for travelers to meet private chefs to shop together at the local markets and make mole from scratch, as well as eating out in restaurants like Moxi, Áperi, and Zumo. San Miguel’s rooftop bars are a must for sunset drinks: try Trazo 1810 for 360-degree panoramas views.

Study Mexican Folk Art

Learn about San Miguel’s iconic mojigangas, huge papier-mâché puppets, and make your own mini-mojiganga at Casa de Sierra Nevada, A Belmond Hotel, San Miguel de Allende with resident artist Hermes Arroyo. 

Mojiganga at the festival of Valle del Maiz in San Miguel de Allende
Mojiganga puppets at the Valle del Maiz festival, in San Miguel de Allende. Kobby Dagan/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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