- San Miguel de Allende Best Things to Do
Best Old Town Walking Tour
Best Day Tours
Best Places to Stay
Best Art Galleries
Best Flights, Buses, Trains
- San Miguel de Allende Cost of Living
- Best Travel or Retire Cheap to Paradise Locations in the World
San Miguel de Allende Best Things to Do
This is Dan from Vagabond Buddha. Here are the things in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that you must see and do.
Best Old Town Walking Tour of San Miguel de Allende
Here is a Google Map of the old town walking tour:
Click ==>>this link<<== on your smartphone to get started on your walking tour. Here is the first stop on this tour:
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel: This church is the most famous building in San Miguel. It originally had a traditional facade dating back to 1564. But in 1880, the present neo-gothic facade was added by an indigenous bricklayer and self-taught architect, Zeferino Gutierrez. The church faces Jardin Principal, a gorgeous little park with a French wrought iron gazebo and benches in the center. In the evening, there is often a Mariachi band performing here for tips.
Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende: This Museum is located in the home of General Allende. Allende is an honored victorious General of Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain. San Miguel added Allende’s name to the city name in 1826 to honor him. The museum focuses on local history from the prehistoric period until modern times. Some of the rooms are preserved as they were when Allende lived here.
Bellas Artes: Many US soldiers moved to San Miguel after World War II to study art on the GI Bill. Bellas Artes is an art school that was started in the old Sisters of Conception Convent. The art school attracted US soldiers as students and resulted in San Miguel becoming an artists mecca. Many of the soldiers returned to San Miguel to retire. Since that time the town has gradually attracted artists, writers, foreign retirees, and tourists as the economy has shifted from an agricultural to a tourist economy. There are roughly 25,000 foreigners living in San Miguel, about half of them are American. In 2013, Conde Nast Magazine designated San Miguel one of the best places in the World to visit.
Church of the Immaculate Conception: This was the Church associated with the above Sisters of Conception. Dona Maria Josefa of the wealthy Canal family of San Miguel founded the convent so she could become a nun after her parents died. She employed the wildly flamboyant Francisco Martinez Gudino to build the church in 1755. However, his extravagant interior was pilfered during the Reform Wars.
Casa Mayorazgo de la Canal: This is the former colonial home of one of the richest families in New Spain (colonial era Mexico). Today it is the Banamex Cultural Center and houses a collection of historically significant paintings and is a forum for various events and expositions throughout the year. They wouldn’t let me take photographs of the courtyard, but it was amazing.
Teatro Angela Peralta: Angela Peralta was a Mexican Opera singer and composer who performed all over the world. In the 1860’s she sang in the opera houses of Rome, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, Naples, Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Alexandria, and Cairo. Angela sang at this theatre’s inauguration in 1875. Eight years later, Angela and 76 members of her troupe died in a yellow fever epidemic in Mazatlan. Angela married her lover Julián Montiel y Duarte a moment before she passed away. There are still various live performances here including music, dance, comedy, and opera. Check the schedule and ticket prices here on the web page.
Temple of the Oratory of San Felipe Neri: Formerly, the Roman Catholic Church was comfortable with separating their worshippers based upon skin color and race. This was formerly a church where the mulatto (mixed race) population of San Miguel was allowed to worship. Later, the church was updated with three gold leaf altars funded in 1735 by the wealthy Canal family. The updates were modeled after the Holy House in Loreto, Italy.
San Francisco Church: While the San Francisco Church was being built from 1779 to 1799 the Churrigueresco extravagance of the entry facade went out of style. So the tower the style was changed to neoclassical as the church was completed in 1799.
Parque Benito Juárez: The historical walk ends with this park built in Benito Juarez’s honor. Juarez was the 26th President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872. He was a lawyer and the only indigenous President (Zapotec, Oaxaca) to ever serve. He was a liberal and held power during the liberal reformation that separated church from state in Mexico. While he was in power, there was a French invasion supported by Mexican conservatives (e.g., colonial families). Mexicans consider this the second attempt by European powers to rule Mexico. The liberals eventually pushed France out of Mexico. Juarez remains a symbol in Mexico of resistance to foreign power.
Lavaderos de Chorro: At the base of El Chorro you will see water basins along the north wall. This is a community laundry were people have gathered to do their laundry since the 17th century. This is the last stop on the self-guided old town walking tour of San Miguel de Allende.
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Best Day Tours from San Miguel de Allende
Jesus Nazareno de Atotonilco: This sanctuary is located 14 kilometers outside of San Miguel de Allende. The main feature of the complex is the 18th century rich Mexican Baroque mural work on the ceiling. The murals tell the story of Jesus’ ministry and death according to the bible. The mural work has been called the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico.” The bus to Atotonilco takes 30 minutes and costs 12 pesos (0.60 USD). You catch the bus on this corner Animas & Calzada de La Luz. The bus will have the word “Atotonilco” on the front windshield and departs every hour starting at 9 AM to 2 PM. You can catch the bus back to San Miguel at the same spot it dropped you. We had a nice lunch in Atotonilco at a Mexican restaurant where the bus dropped us ($4 USD for 2 people).
Canada de la Virgen Archaeological Site: Just 25 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende is a prehistoric pyramid dating back to 540 AD. Take a guarded tour learning more about the culture from that time.
Best Nightlife in San Miguel de Allende (Bar Hopping)
Here is a Google Map of the best nightlife bar hopping tour of San Miguel de Allende:
Best Irish Pub: Limerick Pub: If you are Irish or celebrate Saint Paddy’s day all year, this is where you can tell a limerick or two.
Best Happy Hour: Berlin Bar and Bistro: This was a lovely place, filled with lovely people, enjoying happy hour drinks and food. Plus it has some of the best art on the walls we saw anywhere in San Miguel de Allende, including museums and art galleries. You must visit this place when you are in San Miguel de Allende.
Best Dance Club: Mama Mia Club: Several dance floors with different kinds of music to dance to. This is Latin America so don’t expect much to happen before midnight. Get a buzz on and show up ready to dance.
Best Rooftop View of the Pink Church and Principal Plaza: Restaurante Cielo. The above photo is the view.
Best Place to See and Be Seen While you Max Out Your Credit Credit: Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar (in the Rosewood): I wanted to insult this place, because it is so big and beautiful (like a Vegas hotel) and too far from the colonial center, but we loved the view of the rolling hills from the rooftop lounge. Go at sunset and enjoy the view of the parish church and Immaculate Conception. The cocktails were about $8 USD, beers were $3 USD.
Best Dive Bar: La Cucaracha (The Cockroach): This is a real dive bar. We went at happy hour and it was full of people you expect to see at a dive bar. They had free chips and salsa spiked with pig meat (be careful vegetarians). Two beers were 60 pesos ($3 USD). No chairs were flying while we were there and there was no pool table. Otherwise, this is a legit dive bar.
Best Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende
Casa Nostra Restaurant: This is a little pricey but the food is delicious so they can get away with it. We walked in without reservations so we had to eat upstairs in the cocktail lounge on the roof. Delicious, chic, with unmatched service.
Nectar: This was the highest rated vegan-vegetarian place online. It was delicious and there was no waiting. The food has that something extra that you rarely experience anymore. A chef who loves food and makes every dish as if s/he is going to eat it him/herself.
Lavanda Café: We found this online as the best-reviewed breakfast house. We had walked by it before and seen the line out front so we were not surprised to read the food was good. It was a little pricey but the food was nice. It was worth the 30 minute wait at 10 AM on Saturday morning.
El Correo: When Qiang Hui gets hungry she needs to eat within about 30 minutes or she can get sick. We wandered into this place without any research so we were worried the food would be marginal. We were surprised how good the food was and the prices also seemed fair. This is just a block off the main square and it is decorated nicely so we were expecting to pay through the nose. That didn’t happen.
Atrio: When you face the front of the pink church in the middle of town, this is on the right side. It is on the second story so has a perfect view of the church as you eat. Everything we tried was great. Order the truffle mash as a side dish, in fact, order 2 or three. This might be the best dish you ever eat in your life. I am not kidding.
Buenos Aires Bistro: Qiang Hui enjoyed pork ribs here. She said they have a chili oil with a great aroma but not too spicy.
Orquidea Thai Restaurant: Are you feeling like Thai food? The flavor here is really good but they were unwilling or unable to make us a really spicy dish. It was barely mild. These are Thai people so I know they know how to make super hot food. Maybe if we went back they would believe we can take a really spicy dish? You see this happen in the USA also. Some Thai restaurants will refuse to make you a really spicy dish until you return several times and keep begging for it.
Best Places to stay in San Miguel de Allende
I decided to share the above video of the most expensive hotels with you. My idea was that there must be some really cool Colonial Spanish Hacienda courtyards in town. If some of the boutique hotels were created by renovating old colonial mansions, this is where you might be able to find them. Here is a Google Map tour of some of the most expensive hotels in old town San Miguel de Allende:
Click ==>>this link<<== on your smartphone to get started on your walking tour of the most expensive hotels in San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Here is the first stop on this tour:
Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique $213/4264MX: This hotel was in the courtyard behind one of the most flamboyant art galleries in SMA. Because of its location, the cool art gallery, and the age of the building, we thought the courtyard would be amazing. It seemed a little small for the property size.
Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada $200/3993MX: This has a big beautiful courtyard with ivy crawling up the walls and a water fountain in the center. This would be my first pick of the luxury hotels on this walking tour.
Clandestino Hotel: $179/3596MX: The courtyard wasn’t much here but the location was nice and they only have 8 rooms. It felt more authentic and more consistent with the colonial theme of the area. This would be my second pick.
Hotel Matilda $340USD/6782 MX: This looks like it was just remodeled and should be on the beach in Miami. Personally, when I am experiencing a colonial-era town I prefer to have a colonial atmosphere around me. It just felt odd to me, pretentious.
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende $294/5894MX: We didn’t even bother to go inside during the luxury hotel tour because it was too far from the colonial center of town. It looked like all new construction rather than a colonial experience. The lounge on the top floor was worth the visit because it had an amazing view of the rolling hills and churches in the colonial center. We visited the lounge on the top floor of the Rosewood in our best nightlife tour.
Okay, that is the end of the most expensive hotels in the colonial center, let’s look at some other cheaper options.
Casa Relox 23: This would be more my style at around $60 USD per night on the day I searched. A small 1 bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a dining room table, done in the colonial style and decor, right in the best part of town.
Backpacker Hostel: This is a well-reviewed hostel in a great area for about $10 USD per night.
Airbnb Apartment: Above is where we stayed at $16 USD per night. We travel all year. I work on my laptop from wherever I am in the world. When you travel 11+ months per year, you feel stupid spending hundreds of dollars per night. It is not a vacation, it is our life. Plus, I like to have a large table for my second computer monitor and I need great wifi. I also work for hours at a time. I also love to cook one or two meals per day so I like having my own kitchen. This place was in a quiet area and had everything we needed for our lifestyle. (If you are new to Airbnb, use this code www.airbnb.com/c/dbell50 for a big discount).
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Best Art Galleries in San Miguel de Allende
What kind of art do you enjoy most? Why don’t I just take you on a tour? Then you visit the galleries on my tour that sound most interesting to you? Here is a Google Map tour of some of my favorite art galleries in San Miguel de Allende:
Click ==>>this link<<== on your smartphone to get started on your walking tour of my best-suggested art galleries in San Miguel de Allende (SMA).
Galería Izamal: This gallery has a mixture of modern, impressionism, and other forms of expression. The above photo is the work of Roberto Lopez Fuentavilla. You can find his works at this gallery and at his own studio in San Miguel de Allende at 8 Jesus Centro.
Gallery in Casa 1810: This gallery has modern art and sculpture. This is an art gallery you must walk through to get to Casa 1810 Hotel.
Galería San Francisco: This gallery has something for everyone and even has art classes if you want to explore your talent.
Galería Arte Contemporáneo: This gallery displays the works of David Rueffert.
Havana Cigars: Have you ever smoked a Romeo and Juliet cigar from Cuba?
Showroom Romeo Tabuena: This gallery has some beautiful abstract art and sculpture.
Galeria Casa Diana: This gallery has several three-dimensional pieces if you enjoy that sort of expression. Several would be nice if you need some parallelism in a large space. The contents of Casa Diana is very eclectic and fresh and done in the setting of a beautiful colonial home.
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Best Flights, Buses, Trains
San Miguel de Allende is one of the most beautiful colonial cities I have seen anywhere in the Americas. It is also a mecca for artists from all over the world. Because of this great artistic influence, you will find beauty in whatever direction you turn your head. You must come here while in Mexico.
Guanajuato International Airport (BJX) is the closest international airport to San Miguel de Allende. You can fly into BJX and catch an Uber to the Guanajuato Central Bus Station. The Bus to San Miguel de Allende is about 90 minutes and costs about 55MX which is about $3 USD.. The schedule of buses is on this web page.
The other option is to fly into the Mexico City International Airport and take the bus direct to San Miguel de Allende (SMA). You will need to take an Uber from the airport to the Mexico City Norte Bus Station to catch a bus to SMA. The bus takes about 4 hours to get to SMA and costs about 155MX which is $8 USD. Here is the schedule of buses.
These are nice buses so don’t think Greyhound in the USA.
International Flights: Whether you fly into Mexico City or Guanajuato, you will find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner. The cheapest day of the week to depart from most places in the world is often Tuesday or Wednesday. When you land in Mexico City, make sure to get a Mexican SIM card (they call them ‘chips’ here), so you aren’t paying International roaming rates when you use my Google Maps of Mexico. I got an AT&T chip and it has been great so far.
National Flights: The cheapest flights within Mexico are also all on Skyscanner. The cheapest day to fly is often Tuesday or Wednesday. If you are flying from within Mexico, always check bus prices and times. A bus trip of less than 6 hours can be faster and cheaper than flying plus you can see the countryside. Here are a few of the bus companies we use: ETN, Primera.
Buses: If you are traveling around Mexico, like us, you can catch a nice bus to/from many places in Mexico to/from San Miguel Allende. The ETN bus company has bus routes all over Mexico. For bus times and prices in English visit the English ETN website. My rule is to take the bus unless it takes more than 6 hours to get to any destination. If it is more than 6 hours I check Skyscanner for airports and prices. We have also taken Primera buses.
Uber: I suggest using Uber when you are in Mexico. Uber is safer because there is a record that the person picked you up and dropped you off. Plus, you don’t have to speak English or negotiate the price. Uber takes you door to door, and no money is exchanged with the driver.
Train: There is only one remaining passenger train in Mexico and it does not go through Mexico City. See my ‘tours’ link below.
If you would like to learn how to make money online, or how to live internationally possibly with less money than you spend at home, please subscribe to Vagabond Buddha or get a free copy of my Ebook.
Thank you for stopping by Vagabond Buddha, Dan
I am not offering you these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different if significant inflation or deflation occurs or the market changes after this post. I will not update these numbers until I am on the ground again here, if ever.