Top Attractions and best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
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“A world of its own”—this is how Mexico Tourism Board describes their home country. Home to some of the greatest historical civilizations and presently one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world, Mexico is teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, archaeological ruins, precolonial buildings, and culture festivals.
Somewhere in the central portion of the Mexican landmass is the small and rustic municipality of San Miguel de Allende. Like majority of the smaller Mexican towns, this one is characterized by quiet but colorful streets, Spanish architecture, and a quaint local way of life.
In 2008, the entirety of San Miguel de Allende was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and, more recently, in 2017, it was recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as the World’s Best City, standing out amongst thousands of cities in the whole planet!
The town’s name is derived from two prominent figures in Mexican history: 16th-century friar Juan de San Miguel, and a martyr who fought for the country’s independence, Ignacio Allende.
Towards the 20th century, decades after Mexico has gained sovereignty, San Miguel de Allende was actually abandoned by nearly all of its residents because of an influenza pandemic. Fortunately, foreign artists took interest in the colonial structures of the town; they moved in, began establishing arts institutes, and it was only a short matter of time before the town was transformed into a cultural and artistic hub. And indeed, today, San Miguel de Allende is popular for its history and arts.
Things to do in San Miguel de Allende
If you are a history or arts junkie or simply want to visit Mexico away from the capital, here is a list of the best things to do in this heritage town:
Visit Catholic churches
Much like the Philippines, the Spanish colonizers spent about three centuries in Mexico. The Spanish influence continues to be felt until today, with the presence of Spanish Catholic churches in most, if not all, cities.
San Miguel de Allende has several of these, most notable of which include:
- Church of the Immaculate Conception – One of the largest churches in town, the Church of the Immaculate Conception is often referred to as “Las Monjas” (literally translates to “the nuns”), in reference to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception convent founded in the 18th
- The Holy School of Christ – Also called Santa Escuela de Cristo, this is one of the smaller Catholic churches in the municipality.
- Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel – This parish church is known for its predominantly pink spires and bell tower. It dates back to the 17th century and dominates much of San Miguel de Allende’s skyline.
If you have been following my blog for a while, then you probably know by now that wine is an integral part of Spanish culture. The same goes for Mexico, whose culture is influenced by the European nation. Ten minutes from downtown San Miguel de Allende is Rancho Toyan, which offers tours of its vineyards, and a wine tasting adventure of their cellar of authentic organic wine located 14 meters underground.
Spend the afternoon in Parque Benito Juarez
This rustic park is covered with trees, stone monuments, and enveloped in a relaxing, small-town atmosphere. Perfect for strolling and watching the locals take their dogs out on a walk, this is the best spot in town for a quiet cultural immersion. On the weekends, you may chance upon local artists selling their works.
Take a walking tour of Paseo and Lavaderos del Chorro
“Lavadero” is a word that we Filipinos understand. And just like what the name of this tourist destination denotes, the Lavaderos del Chorro is a place with public laundry basins. It was believed to be constructed in the 18th century. Besides a being a place for labanderos, this landmark is more like a park with its beautiful paseos, fountains, and gardens.
Appreciate local art in Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante
Located along Calle del Dr. Ignacio, the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante is an 18th-century convent that was converted into a cultural center that holds art galleries and exhibits. The long hallways of the building are covered with colorful murals, and walking along the garden is already a tour in itself.
Try out local cuisine
In the early centuries of the world, Europeans, particularly the Spanish and the Portuguese, expanded their territories in almost all the nations in the world in search for, among many others, spices. When they reached South America in their conquest and established colonies, the Spanish love for spice was inevitably passed down to Mexican cuisine.
Most Mexican dishes are made of an interesting combination of vegetables and spices. Famous restaurants in San Miguel de Allende include Nicasio Comedor Mexicano, Mario’s Mariscos Frescos, and Muro Café. And, no, there is more to Mexican cuisine than tacos.
Have a history lesson in local museums
Visit the trendy Museum of Masks, or spend a few hours in the Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende. The former not only exhibits Mexican mask-making, which has its roots in indigenous culture but also sells masks in the folk gallery.
Take more history lessons in Pyramids Cañada de la Virgen
A famous tourist destination and archeological site in San Miguel de Allende is the Pyramids of Cañada de la Virgen, which is believed to be home to the native Otomi people during 530 AD. It was opened to the public in 2011, and much of the complex is still closed to the public.
Watch the butterflies of Botanical Garden El Charco del Ingenio
This landmark is known for its cactus gardens and its bird and butterfly sanctuary. The cactus garden is one of the largest collections in Mexico and serves as home to all Mexican cactus varieties, including endangered ones. Meanwhile, the bird and butterfly sanctuary includes an interactive exhibit and informational tour on the species endemic to the country.
Conclude your day at El Mirador
If you want to spice up your little walking tour of San Miguel de Allende, go to El Mirador, a small hiking trail in the center of the municipality. At the top, you would see a panoramic view of the quiet town below, and I don’t need to explain how wonderful that view is from that perspective.
Find Hotels in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico according to your budget via Agoda.
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