Looking for things to do in San Miguel de Allende? This is my favorite city, so I put a list together for you! My first trip was in 2015, but I’ve been back many times since. Here is an overview of everything I learned/experienced!
Planning your trip
In 2015, Patrick and I did something we never thought we could bring ourselves to do – take a vacation! We clocked out for 10 days and visited Mexico – here is the result, a round-up of things to do in San Miguel de Allende!
Buy your flights. We used American Airline and for our first trip we flew into Mexico City and then used a car service to drive to San miguel (3 hour drive). This is good if you want to spend time in CDMX, but if not – I suggest flying into the Leon airport. It’s new airport, and way less busy than the CDMX airport. From there, we used a service to transport us to San Miguel (about 980 minute drive). Try to make this trip during the day.
Where to stay: There are plenty of beautiful hotels or you can rent an Air bnB. I’dve done both. Just make sure to to book within the city, not the outskirts. You’ll have more fun that way!
It’s always been one of my dreams to visit Mexico from a non-tourist point of view. I never pursued it, but knew the opportunity would present itself when the time was right. It arrived! My friends Yoli and Corky presented the idea early last year and I agreed without even pausing to take a breath. They found a house for us rent for a week – Casa Duende! It seemed perfect. The week they were going was the same week as my milestone birthday, plus Patrick and I have always wanted to visit Mexico for longer than a day (like we did on the cruises). But as each month passed, I grew more nervous. December happens to be our second busiest month of the year! How could we just drop everything and go?
Actually, it was pretty easy! Even though it was a vacation, after I came home, I realized it really was a business trip because the inspiration fueled my idea bucket to the ridges! Creativity and artfulness were EVERYWHERE, in every nook and cranny!
Airfare was about $500 round trip, and we flew into Benito Juarez airport in Mexico City. You can take a closer flight around SM, but the options are limited.
About the CDMX and Leon airports
San Miguel de Allende is as magical of a place as everyone says. I worried about getting around, speaking the language, Montezuma’s Revenge, all of it. What a waste of energy! It all unraveled effortlessly! We rented a house with four other couples. This place rocked. and we met new friends that also rented a room on the property: Gerre and Larry; Rebbeca (Corky’s roomie) and Mando (Yoli’s hubby).
We flew into Benito Juarez, exchanged some dollars for pesos (shop around for the best rate) and as we exited the baggage claim, our driver was there waiting for us with our name on a sign. We reserved this service through http://bajiogo.com – they specialize in trips to and from SM. This service was also used to visit Guanajuato for a day trip during the week. Great tour guides and drivers! OK, back to our drive into SM from the airport. It was a 3.5 hours drive and cost about $200, but otherwise we would have had to take a taxi, a charter bus, then a city bus and probably another taxi. And with all our luggage and being first-timers, it was well worth the $200.
However, on the way back to the airport, the eight of us chartered a large van and it was only $35 each.
Keep in mind that Mexico City is a much higher altitude than Phoenix, AZ. I made this little doodle drawing based off of my experience exiting the plane.
Bringing items home
The Mexican airports are VERY strict about bringing items on the plane. I literally saw people crying because their items were confiscated.
Make sure to pack your items in your checked suitcase or have them shipped home. Do not even try to pack them in a shopping bag/tote or backpack. It’s not worth it.
For our arrival into the city, we stopped halfway for snacks and shopping – like this ice cream shop with little animals!
What to expect, things to know
San Miguel is a walking city, like all of Mexico! The sidewalks are high, the streets are cobblestone. Invest in comfy shoes.
If you visit during the summer, bring light clothing. It is cool and breezy at night (bring alight jacket), but scorching during the day. Wear sunscreen and even wear a hat.
Always carry bottled water with you.
If staying at a hotel, you can ask for day trips to surrounding cities.
Be patient and gracious, it’s always busy there! Everyone is doing their best to take care of everyone.
Expect to climb stairs – for the bathrooms, many restaurants, etc.
I do not suggest eating street food if you are a new traveler to Mexico. Stick with restaurants because they use filtered water for everything.
While there is a lot to do, take time to sit and people watch. Soak up the experience!
If you feel comfortable, many places have free wifi so you don’t have to use your own data.
Always ask before taking pictures in shops, tag their business on Ig or FB!
Do not try to negotiate prices in shops, support these local businesses. I don’t even negotiate at the mercados, I think it is the artist in me!
Look up what is happening there during your stay. There is always some kind of traditional celebration happening!
Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
Most places take cards, but it’s good to have plenty of pesos on hand (500-1000 ($30-50) pesos is good for daily stuff. If you need to use the ATM, try to do that on a day other than Friday (it is super busy).
Places to eat in San Miguel de Allende
For our first night we ate at El Pegaso. I had a green poblano chile drizzled with white sauce and topped with walnuts. Super tasty. chocolate cake and espresso. I highly suggest this place – the food was scrumptious, and the walls were covered with artful nichos made by local artists. By the way, SM is very walkable, yet there are affordable taxis always ready to roll.
Because people always ask – I drank only bottled water (even when brusihing your teeth), and only did salads and produce at fine dining restaurants. You can buy produce and fruits at the local market, but you’ll to also buy some drops to put in the water to wash them with.
OH – let’s talk wifi! Ask for it at every restaurant you are at, don’t use your own data plan! This is a great way to save money when it comes to posting pictures online. A lot of places had crazy wifi passwords like Bz4,fptilZk – crazy, right? But that’s good because you know it’s secure!
All of these are amazing, delicous and affordable!
Lavanda Cafe – famous coffee shop, but it’s always crowded! But worth it!
Our Air BnB
Here’s our kitchen! some nights we ate out, others we had delivery from Gombo’s Pizza, and other nights we cooked! One night we were all exhausted and Yoli and her husband went out for a walk and brought back fresh tamales they bought outside the church.
I forgot to mention that we were there during the Virgin of Guadalupe’s birthday, so every night, the churches shot off a firecracker for each saint. It was a noisy vacation, but we got used to it, it all plays into the personality of the city!
If there was any challenge at all it was climbing these stairs every day. Argh, my chubby legs were crying! But they got used to it by the end of the week. All of SM is made of cobblestone streets going up and down. So you’ll get a great workout. TIP: Bring comfy shoes, no heels because they’ll just get stuck in the grooves of the cobblestones, you’ll break your foot or something!
Frida money, how cool is that? About the money, in el Centro (the center area of the city) there is a bank with ATMs in private rooms where you can get cash. Check the exchange rate before you go. For us is was 14 pesos to one dollar. That 500 peso Frida bill? Worth about $40.
Papel picado made from tin foil by artist Margarita Fick.
Mosaic tile staircase leading up to the rooftop.
Arts and workshops in San Miguel de Allende
Other classes can be found here. Also check Trip Advisor!
We all took a shrine class on my very first trip, this one was mine! We took this class from local artist, Rebecca Peterson!
When in doubt, bring a small watercolor set and paper, there is so much to sketch there! There are no craft stores in San Miguel, but there are little open air shops with supplies like glue, paper, glitter, pens, etc.
Art in San Miguel!
This city is filled wirh art – so many museums. Check out Museo La Esquina, it’s toy museum and is so fun!
San Miguel Mask Museum – A must-see if you are into handmade arts and crafts. so much inspo!
Casa Michoacana – Ceramics, table settings, folk art y mas.
Honestly, once you are in El Centro, you will discover many places to wander into and enjoy. Art galleries are everywhere in San Miguel!
Here I am with my friend, Corky. She is such a world traveler, she made our trip sooo fun, with lots of lasting memories!
Hanging in El Centro – La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
This is the epicenter of San Miguel There sits a beautiful church,La Parroquia, you can see from anywhere in the city. You’ll find a beautiful setting, lush trees, park benches. Perfect for people watching, painting, snacking. There is a bank with an ATM there, coffee shops, trinket shops, eateries and more. I love to go there in the evening because there are always strolling mariachis. and of course, you can go inside the church during open hours!
There are many other churches around San Miguel as well.
One morning at breakfast an artist named Carmelo would come by our table to try and sell us his wood work creations. It worked! We placed orders with him to return onour last day with virgin of Guadalupe statues!
More than Mexican food
I got a little tired of Mexican food one morning so I ordered a croissant breakfast sandwich -better than the French version!
There were so many different types of food in SM, lots of Mexican food of course, but also French, Italian, American and more. Don’t forget to stop at Cafe San Agustin for churros! SM is a very clean city, the residents take a lot of pride, it shows! There are clean, free bathrooms everywhere (restaurants, shopping plazas mostly), but in some public places they will charge a few pesos, so always have those on hand, as well as tissue paper!
Some public places like parks and such charge a few pesos, and then there will be a lady who will give you a few sheets to use.
If you need more, just sayin’…bring a little in your purse…other times, the tissue paper was in a dispenser by the sink. Check the stall to make sure there is paper there, if not, it is likely by the sink. Yah, speaking from experience here. Glad my mama always taught me to cary a pack of tissues in my purse!
I’m in love the with the co-co…co-co…here are cocoa beans!
At Cafe Contento, sipping on Mexican Frapuccinos!
At Abrazos buying fabric, here is their awesome tree/mannequin!
This store was like the Urban Outfitters of San Miguel – it’s called Mixta and they had a lot of cool hipster items.
Every street corner – no make that every CORNER, ever inch of San Miguel was so incredibly artful!
One of the shops used Patrick’s artwork as their business card. Go figure!
Look at this gorgeous hand painted dress from Sindashi. Even if you don’t buy anything, this place is a must-see. Each piece ish hand painted and they have something for every size. I bought a gorgeous hummingbird poncho there.
Me with my friend, Yoli!
This was another shop. When the lady wasn’t ringing up sales she was cranking out silk flowers and stitching them to scarves. I’m sorry I don’t have the store name. You can literally walk down any street and find shop after shop of goodness!
Paper crane mobile art installation.
My friend, Marisa Pawelko, well, she hosted a fabulous birthday breakfast for me! Her house was gorgeous! So much life, art and color!
Lots of fresh flowers everywhere!
Marisa took us to the artisans alley to shop. Sensory overload for sure!
This is an EPIC market that is in three or four sections. If you start at the bottom of the market, you’ll find produce and souvenirs. However, if you start at the top of the market, you’ll find a cute coffee shop, a mural and lots of artists workshops. This is where I always start. This is my favorite part of San Miguel – there is so much inspiration and shopping at very affordable prices!
Address: Lucas Balderas S/N, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Make sure to ask permission before taking any photos! I did here, and most artists werre really nice about it.
There were many tin artists. You could walk right up and see them at work, hand painting each piece to perfection. Seeing all of this made me want to come home and make stuff!
This is a collective space that has eateries, pastries, coffee, juices and smoothies, all organic. There is a little open air plaza where you can order and then sit at a community table ot eat. They have live music and there are always local artists set up selling their handmade wares. This is a perfect way to spend a quite Saturday morning.
This whole street is packed with things to do. There is an OXXO (like a 711) to buy soda, water, snacks, etc. Check out the t-shirt shop called Los Muertos Clothing – they wil make your shirt right there while you wait!
There are taxis everywhere, and you can also call Ubers.
Everywhere you go, you’ll find very kind and generous people. From the taxi drivers to people in the crowds. We met so many new people and made great connections! My first trip there, I turned 50. Everywhere we went they served me a cake!
When we returned home from shopping, Delia, our housekeeper baked a tres leches birthday cake for me! We all gobbled it down for lunch! After this we went out to dinner to La Sirena Gorda, where I had my third birthday cake of the day! After that we went to an art show by Marisa’s friend, Chi Kaplan.
More shopping. Frida was everywhere! We spent a day at Fabrica La Aurora, it’s a large compound filled with designers shops for interior design. Very pricey, but a feast for the eyes. You’ll see a lot of Spanish relics, paintings, furniture and more.
Lots of gorgeous textiles at Fabrica La Aurora too!
And piñata inspiration. Did you know original piñatas have seven cones (I know this one has six) so you can whack away the seven cardinal sins? Then you are rewarded with sweets!
This was another favorite store – Ave Maria (I think they are now closed after the pandemic)! They had so many cool items – from lamps made of telephones to candles and purses, I did a lot of Christmas shopping here! There are many shops in this area to see.
Every night we’d get back to our house and sit at the kitchen table and color. We all had blank journals and we doodled in each other’s books! Here was the spread I made for my friend Corky!
And here is one I made for Yoli!
This was a beautiful church we visited on our way back from Guanajuato.
On our last night we ate at Salsabor Prehispanic Delicatessen. (This placed closed) It’s run by artist Isis Rodriguez and famed chef, Alfonso Lopez De Anda. “I cook each ingredient separately so it is able to tell its own story, then it’s cooked with all the others so they all tell a story together…” He had us at ‘ingredient’!
He even made traditional Aztec hot chocolate for us!
I so wanted to buy this on my last day but I’ll have to return to get it!
So much crafty inspiration, look at this beaded pendant!
These were the lamps on our side tables in our bedroom. Sooo cute, I’m going to be searching these up on eBay to see if I can find any others I can buy to have at my house.
We flew home first class! We ate a yummy plane meal (especially when you are not expecting dinner!) and we watched the 100 Foot Journey. Perfect ending to a perfect trip! The biggest takeaway wasn’t the beauty or the sights, it was the fact of LETTING GO of routine to take a chance and break out of my comfort zone.
Only then was I able to tackle new challenges and see new things, meet new people, bond with friends. Most importantly, my husband!
Honestly, I was a little worried about us being on a trip with no work, kids, distractions. Would he get bored of me, would we run out of things to talk about? We didn’t!
We talked and talked and laughed and remember why we fell in love in the first place! We came home from our trip and went to a concert, went to a gallery opening, went downtown for breakfast, this trip pushed us to venture out and bring our vacation into daily life!
Here is one last funny story. On the first night, my friend, Yoli, was telling me about how awesome the shopping is, for me to get ready for a feast. I waved my hand at her and replied, “Aw, not me! I’m not really into shopping.” Yoli chuckled and said, “Let’s see what you say in a few days…” N
ow, look at this video I took when I got home!
A video posted by Kathy Cano-Murillo (@craftychica) on
OK, are you overloaded yet? NOTE: I’ve include some of my pictures in this post, to see all of them, visit my photo gallery here!
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