Things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Visit San Miguel’s answer to the Sagrada Familia
The church of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel dominates San Miguel de Allende’s main square, the Jardin Principal. The church dates from the 17th century but its facade was replaced by local stonemason and architect Zeferino Gutierrez between 1880 and 1890. Some say he was inspired by Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, but work on that didn’t begin until 1882, making the story unlikely. Built from pink sandstone, its steps frequently occupied by balloon sellers, the resultant scene resembles something like a cross between Disney’s Cinderella castle and Pixar’s Up. It stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the town and you’ll either love it or hate it.
Take in the view
San Miguel is built on a hill, which means that with a bit of legwork (or a short ride in of of the plentiful taxis) you can take in a view of pretty much the entire town. The Mirador is located on the south-eastern edge of town. Alternatively, head for one of the town’s rooftop terraces and enjoy your view with a cocktail. Try the Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the Rosewood Hotel for a view of the Parroquia or the Sunset Bar & Lounge at the Casa Linda for a more relaxed feel.
Sing along to the Mariachi band in the Jardin Principal
San Miguel’s main square, unusually for Mexico, is known as the Jardin Principal rather than the Zocalo. Its function is the same, however, its benches serving as a meeting place for friends and families. Sundays are a good time to soak up the atmosphere and listen to a mariachi band. Mariachi bands, with their flamboyant outfits and distinctive vocal style, are popular throughout the country but originated in Jalisco, in west central Mexico. It’s an interactive experience – people sing along to the well-known folk songs and dance to the music. This definitely should be on your list of things to do in San Miguel de Allende. Lose your inhibitions and join in for a uniquely Mexican way to pass the time.
Visit an art gallery
This should be on your list of if you’re an art enthusiast. The city has long been a magnet for artists, with a sizeable ex-pat community (one in ten residents is American) supporting a thriving arts scene. The town’s predilection for the arts can be traced back to a young man from Chicago by the name of Stirling Dickinson, who arrived in 1937 and decided to make the town his home. An amateur painter, Dickinson opened the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes, an art institute and recruited hundreds of Americans to study there after World War Two. As a result, the once rundown houses have been restored and painted in a vibrant palette of russet, plum and mustard yellow and now many of them house art galleries and handicraft shops just waiting for you to browse.
Hit the cobbles
My final recommendation for things to do in San Miguel de Allende is a lot less specific than those above – but no trip to this city would be complete without walking the cobbled streets of the old town. Begin at the Parroquia in the heart of El Chorro district and just wander. There are many historic homes to enjoy, such as the Casa Allende, the Casa de Inquisidor and the Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal. You’ll also pass a wealth of churches and plazas, gardens and galleries. Make sure you stop off at the Mercado de Artesanias, near the fruit and veg market, for a souvenir of your trip.