Moon San Miguel de Allende

With Guanajuato & Querétaro


By Julie Meade

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Immerse yourself in San Miguel’s baroque architecture, thriving art scene, and local flavors with Moon San Miguel de Allende. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible, strategic itineraries, from a week covering the best of San Miguel to three days exploring the art and architecture of the city
  • The top sights and unique experiences: Admire colonial architecture and browse contemporary art galleries and streetside markets. Soak in a hot spring, sample mezcal, and snack on gorditas. Stroll the Franciscan missions of the Sierra Gorda or enjoy the mariachis serenading diners on the sidewalks. Celebrate Mexico’s independence at the colorful parades of the fiestas patrias, or indulge in handmade tamales before siesta time
  • Focused advice from expat Julie Doherty Meade, who shares her passion for the vida mexicana
  • In-depth coverage of San Miguel de Allende and vicinity, Guanajuato, and Querétaro
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, culture, history, and neighborhoods
  • Essential insight for travelers on health and safety, transportation, and accommodations, as well as a handy Spanish phrasebook
With Moon San Miguel de Allende’s practical tips and an insider’s view on the best things to do and see, you can plan your trip your way.

Looking for más Mexico? Check out Moon Cancún & Cozumel, Moon Los Cabos, or Moon Mexico City.


cultural center at El Chorro

colonial-era architecture in Guanajuato

DISCOVER San Miguel de Allende


Planning Your Trip


The Best of San Miguel de Allende


Three Days of Design



The Bajío Palate

hillside in Guanajuato.

As evening falls across the Sierra de Guanajuato, the brilliant blue skies above San Miguel de Allende warm to a rosy pink. Birds streak across the dimming sky, and clanging iron bells herald the end of the day. As the dry air drops to a pleasant chill, mariachis tune their instruments and the sidewalks hum with diners, gallerygoers, and revelers. This is Mexico mágico, a place both contemporary and old-fashioned, alive and thriving on the high plains.

San Miguel de Allende is located in Mexico’s semiarid central highlands, a gateway between the vast northern deserts and bustling southern states. Built with the spoils of the colonial-era silver trade, San Miguel and its neighboring cities—Guanajuato and Querétaro—are some of the country’s most splendid, renowned for their fine Mexican baroque architecture and historic city centers. The region is also known as the cradle of the Mexican independence movement: From the steps of the cathedral in nearby Dolores, revolutionary hero Miguel Hidalgo raised his famous call to arms against the Spanish crown, igniting the country in war.

celebrations during Día de San Miguel Arcángel

colorful tiles

traditional dancers in the central plaza in San Miguel

San Miguel is a quintessentially Mexican place, where tacos and tamales are standard fare, the midday siesta is still respected, and religious festivals are frequent, ritualistic, and raucous. Yet tradition and modernity are intertwined in San Miguel today, where a large expatriate population and a spate of new boutique hotels and concept shops have brought a sleek patina to a town once known for its quaintness. Here, the old cobblestone streets are now a mix of cultures and people: the modern art gallery and the antique apothecary, the French bistros and the buzzing taco stands, the young art students and the foreign retirees. And this mix of cultures and their joyous conviviality are precisely what makes San Miguel de Allende such a rewarding place to visit, to spend a season, and to become a part of la vida mexicana.

colorful pedestrian alley in Guanajuato

artisan embroidering in Tequisquiapan.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel


1 People-Watching in San Miguel de Allende’s Jardín: This sun-drenched public plaza is the most popular gathering spot in town. It’s also the best place to start a walking tour of the city’s historic district (click here).

2 Historic Architecture: With their unique Mexican baroque churches and well-preserved colonial-era mansions and haciendas, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Querétaro are known for some of the most spectacular architecture in Mexico (click here).

3 Shop for Art and Craftwork: With a range of shops specializing in everything from traditional Mexican crafts (click here) to contemporary design, as well as a slew of artist-run galleries, San Miguel de Allende (click here) is the ultimate shopping destination.

4 Soak in the Hot Springs: Spend a day soaking in the clear natural hot springs outside San Miguel de Allende; many believe the water has healing properties (click here).

5 Celebrate the Visual Arts: San Miguel de Allende’s enthusiastic art scene is cozy, fun, and inclusive, celebrating local artists without the pretension of a big city (click here).

6 Festival Internacional Cervantino: Every October, Guanajuato hosts Mexico’s largest and most prestigious performing arts festival, with a bonanza of performances held in the Teatro Juarez (pictured) and other venues across the city (click here).

7 Countryside Excursions: Experience the Bajío’s countryside on horseback (click here) or a guided tour to the Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site and nature preserve (pictured, click here).

8 Echoes of Independence: Some of the most famous moments in the Mexican war for independence from Spain took place here. Visiting the region’s historic sites provides an engaging look at this important era in Mexican history (click here).

9 Renew Your Spirit: Retreats like LifePath Center (pictured) are just one of the many ways to relax, learn, and spend some time off the grid in San Miguel (click here).

10 Savor Regional Cuisine: Mexico is one of the world’s top food destinations. Sample the Bajío’s local specialties (click here), eat at one of San Miguel’s top restaurants (click here), or take a cooking class (click here) to immerse yourself in this burgeoning culinary scene.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is a small colonial town, known for its beautiful light, charming atmosphere, and artsy expatriate community. Irresistibly romantic yet surprisingly modern, San Miguel offers a little something for everyone, whether you are an artist, a history buff, or just looking for a great place to relax. Tour colonial-era architecture, visit contemporary art galleries, shop for traditional crafts, or linger over coffee in a sidewalk café. While there, visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing afternoon in the desert, visit the fascinating former mining camps in Mineral de Pozos, or take a horseback ride through the desert chaparral.

Día de Muertos altars in San Miguel de Allende’s jardín


Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s historic silver cities, built with the wealth of New Spain’s lucrative mineral mines. It boasts a magnificent mix of baroque, neoclassical, and contemporary art and architecture as well as one of the world’s most unusual urban maps. Here, the centro histórico was built within a steep ravine; automobile traffic passes through underground tunnels while pedestrians navigate a dizzying mess of hills and alleyways above. Home to a prestigious public university, Guanajuato is a spirited college town with a youthful atmosphere and an impressive tradition in the arts; it’s particularly well-known for the spectacular Festival Internacional Cervantino, held every fall.


Querétaro is a handsome, bustling city, which is generally overlooked by tourists despite its important role in Mexican history and its remarkably well-preserved centro histórico, filled with sunny plazas and ornate baroque mansions, convents, and churches. A popular choice for Mexico City natives looking to relocate to a safer and more low-key metropolis, Querétaro has a cosmopolitan side, with some great restaurants, galleries, and museums, yet it remains old-fashioned and unpretentious all the same. From Querétaro, visit the charming country town of San Sebastián Bernal and its eponymous monolith, stopping at one of the wineries or cheese producers along the way.

When to Go

San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding region are year-round destinations, though climate and costs vary depending on the season you choose to visit. North American winter is typically the tourist high season in San Miguel de Allende, when the region is cool, dry, and sunny. From December through April, large numbers of part-time residents from the United States and Canada arrive for their annual sojourn in San Miguel, and regular tourism surges. If you plan to visit San Miguel de Allende between November and April, make your hotel reservations in advance.

Throughout the region, the weather heats up significantly during the month of May, and tourism is more sluggish until the rainy season begins, around mid-June. With the rains, the climate cools off pleasantly, making it a nice time to visit. Although hotels and restaurants aren’t as full during the summer as they are during the winter, there is still a pleasant buzz of international tourism. Summer is also a popular time for college students to take language classes or volunteer in San Miguel or Guanajuato.

One thing to keep in mind when planning your trip to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, or other nearby towns is that these destinations are popular with national tourists as well as international tourists. During long weekends, San Miguel is often thronged with families from Monterrey or Mexico City, while big holidays can transform the city with crowds of revelers. You will need to make advance hotel reservations if you plan to visit during Holy Week in the spring, Independence Day weekend in September, or during the Christmas season in December, or if you plan to visit Guanajuato in October, when the city hosts the annual Festival Internacional Cervantino.

Before You Go
Passports and Visas

Since 2008, all foreign visitors must have a valid passport to enter Mexico. At the port of entry, immigration officials issue each visitor a six-month temporary tourist permit, or tourist card. You must keep your stamped tourist card and return it at the airport when you check in for your flight out of the country. If you enter by car, you must stop at an immigration office at the border to pick up your tourist card and, likewise, return it to immigration officials on your way home.


San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and other towns in northern Guanajuato state can be accessed by air via León’s Del Bajío International Airport (BJX). Equidistant to San Miguel de Allende is the Querétaro International Airport (QRO), about half an hour outside Querétaro. Most travelers arrive in León, which offers more international flights than Querétaro, though both ports are about 90 minutes from San Miguel de Allende. The city of Guanajuato is about half an hour from the BJX terminal. Several tour operators offer shuttle service to and from the airport to San Miguel de Allende. For some travelers, it is easiest to book flights to Mexico City and then use ground transportation to reach their destination, which can also be arranged via tour operators in San Miguel de Allende.

There is plenty of bus service to and from the region, which is located in the very center of Mexico, including frequent departures to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Querétaro from Mexico City. There is also frequent service between Bajío cities, including hourly departures to Querétaro and Guanajuato from San Miguel.

The Best of San Miguel de Allende

The perfect place for a getaway, San Miguel de Allende unites recreation, relaxation, and culture. In five days, you can see the city’s historic sights, visit the countryside, eat memorable meals on rooftop restaurants and patio cafés, even take a day trip—and still have time to relax, soak in the hot springs, and thumb through a novel. The key is to plan, but not excessively: In this charming little town, you’ll often encounter your most memorable moments by chance.

Day 1

Every tour of San Miguel de Allende should begin in the jardín, the city’s heart both geographically and spiritually. The always-busy plaza is quietest in the mornings, though loyally attended by newspaper vendors and flocks of pudgy pigeons. Have a traditional Mexican breakfast beneath colonial-era arcades at Rincón Don Tomás while admiring the pink sandstone spires of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, San Miguel’s singular neo-Gothic parish church.

the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Now it’s time to perfect the art of the not-totally-aimless wander through the centro histórico, San Miguel’s 500-year-old downtown district. You might choose to begin at the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante” (also known as Bellas Artes), an art school and exhibition space, then visit the adjoining Templo de la Inmaculada Concepción, San Miguel’s largest domed church. Stroll east along Mesones toward the Oratorio San Felipe Neri and the Templo de San Francisco, two gorgeous baroque temples, then visit the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, a colorful food and flower market in the center of town.

the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante,” popularly known as Bellas Artes

Spend a leisurely afternoon browsing the goods for sale at San Miguel’s unique boutiques and galleries, like luxurious handwoven textiles at Juana Cata, contemporary Oaxacan art at Noel Cayetano Arte Contemporáneo, or interesting contemporary designs at eclectic boutique Mixta. Follow up the visual feast with a fine dinner at The Restaurant, one of nicest eateries in town and a truly beautiful one to boot, located in the patio of a colonial-era mansion.

Day 2

Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, give yourself the luxury of a lazy morning, lingering over a latte and a copy of Atención San Miguel at Lavanda. When you are ready to get moving, take a taxi to El Charco del Ingenio, the botanical gardens and ecological preserve located just above the city center. Spend some time amid the flowering cactus of El Charco’s winding nature trails, framed by sweeping views of the city below.

Rest your legs over in the colorful dining room of Mexican restaurant Marchanta, then consider retiring for a well-earned siesta. After your nap (or in lieu of it), visit the galleries in the Instituto Allende, the country’s oldest art school, and climb the shady staircases of El Chorro, the site of San Miguel’s founding. Enjoy a shady respite in Parque Juárez amid the cries of snowy egrets and the giggles of local children.

End the day in classic San Miguel style: on a rooftop with a view. Just beside the jardín, stylish La Azotea is a deservedly popular place for cocktails, snacks, and sunsets, with beautiful views of downtown. For a more low-key evening, wrap up the day with a fiery mezcal and some fried grasshoppers at relaxed Oaxacan bar and restaurant Salón Oaxaca, which also has a lovely open-air roof deck.

Day 3

Have a fresh, filling breakfast at stylish bistro and bakery Cumpanio, then join anthropologist Albert Coffee for a tour of the interesting Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site just outside San Miguel de Allende. Alternatively, visit the archaeological site on a daylong horseback ride with Coyote Canyon Adventures, exploring the gorgeous desert chaparral on your way to the pyramids.

Back in San Miguel, you might want to book a treatment at Float Sano or Jasmine Day Spa. If you’d rather stretch your legs, head to the Fábrica La Aurora, a unique art and design center housed in a turn-of-the-20th-century former textile factory. You could spend the whole afternoon exploring its labyrinthine hallways, chockablock with art studios, design shops, and galleries.

In the evening, make it a point to attend an art opening, concert, or film screening: There’s almost always something happening in San Miguel, and it’s fun to rub elbows with locals at these well-attended events. Afterward, keep up the spirited mood at El Manantial, an atmospheric old cantina that serves local mezcal alongside some of the best fish tacos in town.

Day 4

By the time you’ve spent a few days in San Miguel, you’ve likely fallen in step with the city’s easygoing rhythm. Now it’s time to pick up the pace in Guanajuato, a lively college town just an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of San Miguel. Start your tour in the Jardín de la Unión, the city’s music-filled central plaza, then cross the street to visit the Templo de San Diego, which has numerous large-format oil paintings from the 17th century through the post-independence era, many by anonymous artists. Back outside, walk north toward the Plaza de la Paz, following Avenida Juárez until you arrive at the atmospheric Mercado Hidalgo. Grab a snack in the market, then head to the interesting regional museum inside the historic Alhóndiga de Granaditas, just a block away.

downtown Guanajuato

Have an artfully prepared lunch at modern-Mexican restaurant Mestizo, then spend the afternoon popping into museums, galleries, and shops along Positos Street; a highlight is the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the childhood home of the famous muralist. Continue wandering toward the center of town, checking out the fine art galleries and climbing the iconic staircase on the main campus of the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Head back to the center of town to relax with a shot of top-shelf tequila at Bar Tradicional Luna, where you’ll get a front-row view of the mariachi bands strolling the Jardín de la Unión plaza. Finish up the evening with tapas and cocktails at El Midi Bistró, a stylish French restaurant in the cultural and culinary center Casa Cuatro. At this second-floor spot, there’s a full bar, a cool crowd, and often live music in the evenings.


On Sale
Nov 13, 2018
Page Count
300 pages
Moon Travel

Julie Meade

About the Author

Julie Doherty Meade grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and spent her childhood hiking, camping, and traveling throughout the Golden State. After graduating from college, she took her first trip to Mexico, where she was immediately drawn to the country's warm people and fascinating culture. The following year, Julie returned to Mexico and decided to extend her stay indefinitely.

For almost ten years, Julie lived, worked, and traveled throughout Mexico. She saw Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos speak to a crowd in San Cristóbal de las Casas, helped run a fine art gallery in San Miguel de Allende, and taught English to five-year-olds in Mexico City. During her years in the capital, she was schooled in advanced Mexican slang, developed a strong affinity for early-morning café con leche in old Chinese coffee shops, and spent hours seeking out the best bookstores, most interesting architecture, and tastiest bites in the city's diverse neighborhoods.

Julie currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Arturo, her son, Mariano, and her chihuahua, Tequila. She writes and copyedits for several New York publications and visits Mexico every chance she gets. Julie is also the author of Moon San Miguel de Allende.

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