San Miguel de Allende is a city that manages to be both quaint and cosmopolitan at the same time. Once an important stop on the silver route between Zacatecas and Mexico City, its historic center is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. With its narrow cobblestone streets, leafy courtyards, fine architectural details and sumptuous interiors, San Miguel de Allende is arguably the prettiest town in Mexico.
In 2008 UNESCO recognized San Miguel de Allende and the neighboring Sanctuary of Jesus de Atotonilco as World Heritage of Humanity sites, citing the town’s religious and civil architecture as a demonstration of the evolution of different trends and styles, from Baroque to late 19th century Neo-Gothic.
Located in Guanajuato state, 265 km (165 miles) northeast of Mexico City and 96 km (60 miles) from the state capital, Guanajuato city, San Miguel is located within Mexico’s hilly central highlands. San Miguel de Allende has no international airport so visitors usually fly into either the Leon/Bajio airport or the Mexico City airport and then take a bus. This is not a major drawback and may in fact add to the city’s charm: the sound of an airplane coming in for a landing never disrupts the pealing of church bells, plus the effort required to get here makes it all the more enjoyable.
Walking is undoubtedly the best way to explore San Miguel. A car can be more of a hindrance than a help in town, though it can be useful for day trips to the nearby cities of Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo or Queretaro. When your feet get tired, hop on the sightseeing trolley that departs from the tourism office on the north side of the Jardín Principal. After a tour of the main points of interest, it will take you to the Mirador, a lookout point where you’ll be able to have a panoramic view of the city.
There is a substantial expat community in San Miguel, so it’s easy to find services in English and hotels and restaurants cater to the Americans, Canadians and Europeans who flock here. It is still very much a Mexican town, however, where locals cheerily co-exist with the foreigners who visit or call this city home.
San Miguel is a preferred destination of art lovers. Whether you’re an aspiring or accomplished artist, or just prefer to admire the creations of others, you’ll be happy here. Studio openings, courses and workshops form a vital part of the thriving arts scene. Galleries, boutiques and shops selling a wide range of art and handicrafts are plentiful so it won’t be hard to find souvenirs to take home with you.
San Miguel de Allende has an air of tranquility about it, belying the fact that there is always something happening. This is the perfect city for an extended stay. Take a Spanish course or some art classes and make yourself at home. It is safe to walk around day and night and the climate is pleasant year-round.