Photograph by Maria Sward, Getty Images
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A view of an intricate church in San Miguel de Allende.

Photograph by Maria Sward, Getty Images

Discover the Best of San Miguel de Allende

Ten can't-miss activities in this colonial-era Mexican city.

San Miguel de Allende has been attracting artists and writers since the 1930s. By the 1960s it was a bohemian hotspot. Today the colonial town's art colleges, language schools, live music, and fine international cuisine continue to attract expatriates, cultured tourists, and affluent hipsters from Mexico City.

When to Go

The temperate climate ranges from sunny yet cool in the winter tourist season to rainy and warm in summer, when the desert hills soften to vivid green. Summer is the quietest season, though the town is still busy on weekends. If you don't like crowds, don't plan your visit during the Christmas holidays.

Celebrate

During the winter holiday celebrations, the central plaza booms with free live music and rollicking crowds who come to watch elaborate fireworks displays, or castillos, explode around the church spires. For a traditional religious festival, replete with penitent pilgrims and candlelit processions, visit the Sanctuary of Atoltonilco during the Easter holidays.

What to Eat

San Miguel differs from a typical Mexican town as its culinary reputation doesn't rest on a regional delicacy but rather on a diversity of international options, ranging from hole-in-the wall Italian to high-end Mexican prepared by Enrique Olivera and other top chefs. For economical and traditional fare, check out the market food stalls, or fondas, at the Mercado San Juan de Dios.

Souvenir to Take Home

The state of Guanajuato is a mining region and the town's boutiques and markets feature fine silver jewelry, as well as stamped tin and brass picture frames, lanterns, and boxes. If you're looking for something quirky, pick up a handbag or wallet from a local craftsman who works with upcycled candy wrappers and beer tabs.

Sustainable Travel Tip

Walk. Navigating the city's narrow cobblestone streets is no fun in a car, and most destinations are within strolling distance of downtown. Locals complain that the sudden popularity of short term rentals is driving up rent in the historic downtown area, and chasing out long-term residents. To help preserve the community that makes San Miguel special, consider staying in a traditional hotel.

Instagram-Worthy View

From Parque Juarez, a winding stone staircase leads up the hill to the El Mirador overlook. The reward for this steep hike is an idyllic view of the town stretching across the valley below, cupolas and cathedral spires lit by the setting sun.