SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE TRAVEL GUIDE
Places to Stay - Click here for price key
Above a restaurant/pharmacy, plain Jane Aquí Es Mexico ($, Hidalgo #28, tel. 415/154-9976) has absolutely no frills or charm, but it's cheap and just two blocks from the main plaza and downtown action.
Five minutes from the bus station and the bottom of Canal Street, Casa Hotel San Rafael ($, José María Arevalo #55, off Calzada de la Estación, tel. 415/152-3639) has acceptable budget digs.
Though often full, El Jardín de don Quijote ($, Calle Orizaba #17-A, tel. 415/152-3300) is a pleasant, family-run hotel at the entrance to Colonia San Antonio. It’s near the shops on Calle Ancha and a 10- to 15-minute walk from the town’s main plaza.
With an excellent location a block from the main plaza, Hotel San Miguelito ($, Calle Canal #9, Centro, tel. 415/154-8393) offers budget rooms with Wi-Fi, and arranges area tours.
A good value for a comfortable and charming B&B right in the middle of the downtown action, Casa Florida ($$$, Calle Hernández Macías #60, tel. 415/154-8195, www.casafloridasma.com) has four pretty, spacious rooms and several nice common areas, including a dining room where breakfast is served, and a rooftop patio with umbrella tables and good city views.
Hotel Posada de la Aldea ($$$, Calle Ancha de San Antonio #15, tel. 415/152-1022) has meeting rooms, restaurant, and a pool as well as comfortable rooms with amenities, including heat. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the main plaza, and near lots of shops. Free parking and Wi-Fi in guest rooms.
Hotel Real de Minas ($$$, Calle Ancha de San Antonio #1, at the corner of Calle Stirling Dickinson, tel. 415/152-2626, www.realdeminas.com) has a convention center with meeting rooms as well as a restaurant, lounge/bar, heated pool, concierge, game room, two tennis courts, soccer field, laundry service, and free parking. Room amenities include free Wi-Fi, room service, heat and a/c, ironing board and iron, hair dryer, cable TV, and safe.
Pricey and stylish, Dos Casas ($$$$, Calle Umarán at Quebrada, tel. 415/154-4073, www.doscasas.com.mx) has classy decor. This high-end hotel goes for more than US$400 per night, with seven tasteful suites, lots of amenities, and a rooftop bar--bistro.
Hotel Matilda ($$$$, Calle Aldama # 53, tel. 415/152-1015, www.hotelmatilda.com) is a gorgeous, sleek, modern new property. Expensive, but extremely beautiful and in the heart of downtown.
Places to Eat - Click here for price key
For a super meal deal ($), visit Los Alebrijes (see the Meal Deal page).
Very popular for breakfast, Café Monet ($$, Zacateros #83, tel. 415/154-8348) serves pancakes and egg dishes and home-baked goodies as well as sandwiches in a comfortable, art-filled venue.
La Media Naranja ($$, Hidalgo #83, second floor, centro, at the corner of Calzada de la Luz, tel. 415/152-2182) is my go-to spot for fresh and healthy soups, salads, and sandwiches. Recommended are the falafel sandwich and huge vegetarian and chicken burritos (two per order). They have Wi-Fi and a book exchange.
A favorite with the ex-pat population is El Pegaso ($$--$$$, corner of Corregidora at Correo). Perfectly steamed vegetables accompany grilled chicken and other dishes. There are daily specials that sometimes include curries or other Asia-inspired dishes. The bread is yummy, but the desserts sometimes disappoint.
La Brasserie ($$--$$$, Calle Jesús #11, tel. 415/152-3161; closed Sun. & Mon.). Good value on dinner specials; open between 5 and 10PM. Go on the earlier side for best selection of desserts and entrées; there are usually several choices of each. The same venue serves breakfast in the morning under the name La Parroquia: a bit pricey, but popular.
For reasonably good food (Mexican and some international dishes) and excellent views of downtown, eat at La Posadita ($$--$$$, Cuna de Allende #13, upstairs, tel. 415/154-8862, closed Wednesdays).
Los Milagros ($$--$$$, Calle Relox #17, centro, tel. 415/152-0097) serves traditional Mexican favorites in a large, covered patio. Belly up to the big bar at the back for a beer or a variety of mixed drinks.
Mama Mía ($$--$$$, Calle Umarán #8, centro, tel. 415/152-3679). Around for decades, Mama Mia still serves up live music in the evenings, as well as soccer games on the giant screen TV in the adjacent bar. The patio restaurant has some so-so dishes mixed in with better choices; avoid the pizza. A good bet is the expansive breakfast buffet, served daily, which includes made-to-order items like specialty quesadillas, and thick, chocolate-y café de olla (Mexican coffee).
OKO Noodle Bar ($$--$$$, Plaza Alhóndiga, at the Alhóndiga traffic circle, across from Mega, tel. 415/110-3283) is a casual, hip place that serves pretty good Asian dishes. Full bar. Closed Sundays.
TenTenPie ($$--$$$, Calle Cuna de Allende #21, centro, tel. 415/152-7189 is an old San Miguel standard that once was mentioned in Gourmet magazine. The emphasis is grilled meats and burgers, and they serve chocolate cake for dessert. There’s a second location on Calle Sterling Dickinson, in Col. San Antonio.
Hanks's ($$$, Hidalgo 12, tel. 415/152-2645, www.hanksmexico.com) is an attractive New Orleans-style bar and restaurant with attentive service and good food. The bar is a magnet for foreigners and upper-crust Mexicans, especially during the daily happy hour, 5—7PM. Light eaters and those on a budget can order two side dishes (meant to accompany entrées) for a 50-peso meal.
Hecho En México ($$$, Calle Ancha de San Antonio #8, tel. 415/154-6386) is open daily for lunch and dinner. The place is often full or half full of residents and visitors, even when other restaurants sit empty. Service is cordial and professional. The setting is cheerful, with the work of local artists on the walls. Food ranges from seafood to steaks and burgers, with plenty of soups and salads and usually a lunch combo. Great desserts, too. The frozen peanut butter pie is so rich you can share it among three or four people.
For an upscale meal visit Sollano 16, AKA The Restaurant ($$$$, Calle Sollano #16, tel. 415/154-7877, closed Mondays), on the patio of an 18th-century building. The food is modern and tasty, with excellent seafood, lamb, and nicely prepared vegetables. Classy.
Cafes and Bakeries
Blue Door Bakery AKA La Colmena (Calle Relox #19) is a large bakery with all of Mexico’s typical breads and cookies.
El Petit Four (Calle Mesones #99, tel. 415/154-4010, closed Mondays) is a small café serving coffee, drinks, and desserts. It’s across the street and down a few doors from the Angela Peralta Theater. Wi-Fi available.
Across from Bellas Artes, La Buena Vida Bakery (Calle Hernández Macías #72, Plaza Golondrinas, tel. 415/152-2211, closed Sundays) makes delicious scones, fruit turnovers, and other wonderful pastries as well as whole-grain breads and rolls.
La Mesa Grande (Calle Zacateros #49 at Pila Seca, centro, tel. 415/154-0838, www.lamesagrande.com) serves delicious pastries and breads any way you slice it, as well as sandwiches, pizza, and of course, coffee.
Pick up a coffee and muffin on the run from La Ventanita (Calle Sollano #11, tel. 415/154-7728), around the corner from the main plaza and La Parroquia. The organic coffee comes from Chiapas. Buy whole or ground coffee by the kilo as well.
In a beautiful old building across from the northwest corner of El Jardín, Starbucks (Corner of Calles Canal and Hidalgo) is the hangout of visitors from Mexico City and foreigners happy for a familiar brand. Wi-Fi friendly.
Musicians from around the world perform in the highly ranked San Miguel de Allende Chamber Music Festival (www.chambermusicfestival.com). Student programs allow young composers and musicians to develop their talents. Held late July through August for more than 30 years.
International performers entertain at reasonable prices during the five-day San Miguel Jazz & Blues Festival (www.sanmigueljazz.com.mx) each November.
Guanajuato Film Festival, AKA GIFF (www.guanajuatofilmfestival.com). The July event features films from a different country each year. Films (including shorts, features, documentaries, and more) tend toward the avant garde and are sometimes strange and violent. Most events, including film screenings, are free. A highlight is the scary movies held late at night in the town’s graveyard.
On the Sunday following the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua, June 13, San Miguel takes to the streets to watch the fabulous Los Locos parade. “Apache Indians” in feathered headdresses dance to the drummers, and other participants, dressed in wild and wacky costumes, throw candy to the crowds lining the streets between the San Antonio church and downtown.
Venues for Classes, Lectures, and More
Academia Hispano-Americana (Calle Mesones #4, tel. 415/152-4349, www.ahaspeakspanish.com) is an established Spanish-language school that offers students day trips and other extras.
If you want to learn Latin dancing, check out Arthur Murray Dance Studio (Salida a Celaya #59, tel. 415/185-8282, www.arthurmurraysanmiguel.com).
Bellas Artes (Hernández Macías #75, tel. 415/152-0289) offers yoga, art classes, and lectures.
In addition to Mexico’s second-largest collection of English-language books, la Biblioteca Pública (Calle Insurgentes #25) has movies and plays, lectures and recitals; its Café Santa Ana is a hangout for coffee, snacks, and backgammon.
Instituto Allende (Calle Ancha de San Antonio #20, tel. 415/152-0190, www.instituto-allende.edu.mx) offers art and Spanish classes and has a couple of good cafes. Once a month arts/crafts fair.
Inexpensive classes in folk dancing and art and music are given at La Casa de la Cultura (up a steep street at the upper end of Bajada del Chorro, near Parque Juárez.) Most of the students are locals, not foreigners.
Life Path Center (Rinconada de la Aldea #29, tel. 415/154-8465, www.lifepathretreats.com) provides workshops and classes and houses the offices of a variety of health care practitioners.
Warren Hardy Language School (Calle San Rafael #6, tel. 415/ 154-4017 or 415/152-4728, www.warrenhardy.com) is another popular school for learning Spanish. They have a unique and structured approach.
Things to Do
El Charco del Ingenio (one kilometer out of town, tel. 415/154-4715, www.elcharco.org.mx) is a 167-acre botanical garden featuring native plants. Great for walking, it sometimes hosts special concerts and events, and has a nice gift shop and small café. Guided tours Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10AM.
Clustered along the highway to Dolores Hidalgo are a number of hot springs open to the public. Among the most popular are La Gruta and Escondido Place. Both have a number of different spring-fed pools (some open-air, some underneath stone domes), picnicking areas, changing rooms, bathrooms, snack shops, and basic restaurants.
Two-hour house and garden tours depart from the Biblioteca Pública (Calle Insurgentes #25) Sundays at noon. Cost is 200 pesos per person. The tours usually visit two to three different homes, and proceeds benefit the library’s children’s programs. Call tel. 415/152-0293 for more info.
Outside the city center off the road to Celaya, La Cañada de la Virgen is well worth a morning or afternoon excursion. See http://www.mexicoguru.com/canada-de-la-virgen.php for details.
La Esquina Toy Museum (Calle Nunez #40, tel. 415/152-2602, www.museolaesquina.org.mx, closed Mondays and Tuesdays) has a collection of Mexican toys. Not terribly exciting, but the entrance fee is not expensive. They have a small gift shop.
Walking Tours of San Miguel’s historic center begin at El Jardín (the main plaza) across from La Parroquia. Meet at 9:45 for prompt 10AM departure. Two and a half hours, the English-language tour costs 150 pesos per person.
Camino Silvestre (Zacateros #46, tel. 415/122-3157) sells precious bird-related items: coffee cups with birds, bird feeders, books, and more.
Casa Michoacana Gallery (Calzada de la Aurora #23, tel. 415/154-5008) is a large space selling a wide variety of handcrafted items from Michoacán state.
Chaskis (Calle Juárez #15, tel. 415/154-9322), across the street from San Francisco church, sells scarves, sweaters, shawls, ponchos, knitted gloves, women’s blouses, and men’s guayabera shirts at reasonable prices. They also sell small purses, bags, and other inexpensive gifts.
El Tianguis (Tuesdays only: Behind the old Gigante supermarket at the Salida a Querétaro traffic circle). Find great prices on fresh fruits, vegetables, copal incense, honey, and used clothing at this once-a-week outdoor market.
At the opposite end of town, Fábrica La Aurora (Camino a La Aurora s/n, continuation of Calle Hidalgo, www.fabricalaaurora.com) is a warren of mainly high-end shops and galleries selling fine art, jewelry, and furnishings. Mostly contemporary pieces plus some antiques. There are a couple restaurants at the front and a nice café at the back of the property. Definitely worth a look.
La Victoriana (Hernández Macías #72-1, tel. 415/152-6903), across the street from Bellas Artes, sells natural creams, lotions, perfumes, and various essences and soaps that make nice gifts.
Mercado de Artesanías (Andador Lucas Balderas between Calles Relox and Colegio) is an outdoor handcrafts market. The vendors line stairs leading up to el Mercado Ignacio Ramírez: a great place to buy fresh flowers, fruit, hot snacks, and other staples. A few struggling vendors have stalls leading from Calle Relox (in the opposite direction) to Calle Hidalgo. Hard to see how they make a go of it, as no one seems to know they’re there and the tourist maps don’t show them.
At the west side of town en route to the bus station, Mercado San Juan de Dios (Calle San Rafael just off Avenida Guadalupe) attracts hardly any foreigners but has all the things used by locals. Have a look if you want off the tourist track.
Bar Berlin (Calle Umarán between Zacateros and Hernández Macias, centro) is very popular with ex-pats. I'm told that the guys come to look at the sexy young bartenders (female), the women for the generous glasses of house wine and yummy salads, as well as other bistro plates.
Hank's (see restaurants, above)
Across from Berlin, Limerick (Calle Umarán between Zacateros and Hernández Macias, centro) is a happening dance bar popular with both Mexican and foreign youths, a good place to make friends if you like a lively bar scene.
Located in a former cockfighting venue, The Ring (Calle Hidalgo #27, centro, tel. 415/152-1998) is a gay hangout. Open Thursday through Saturday nights after 10PM, more often during major holidays.
The Tourism Office is on the north side of the main plaza, at Calle Canal between Calles Hidalgo and Relox, tel. 415/152-0900.
The weekly Atención San Miguel (www.atencionsanmiguel.org) comes out on Friday morning with articles and listings of events for the coming weeks. You can read it online, too.
Look for the free, semi-annual San Miguel Walking and Shopping Guide, with ads and info about downtown businesses keyed to helpful walking maps.
Getting There and Around
The most important airport close to SMA is the Bajío Airport (code: BJX) between Leon and Guanajuato, a little more than one hour away from San Miguel. Mexico City’s airport (MEX) is about 3.5 hours to the south. You can get a bus direct to the airport (as opposed to the northern bus station) from Querétaro. Toluca (TLC) and Querétaro (QRO) also have airports.
BajioGo Shuttle (Calle de Jesús #11 between Umarán and Cuadrante, tel. 415/152-1999 or in the USA, tel. 202/609-9905, www.bajiogoshuttle.com) offers shuttle service to area airports. They also provide private drivers for other tours and destinations, tour guides, and air and bus tickets.
The two main first-class bus lines serving San Miguel de Allende are Primera Plus (tels. 415/152-0084 and 415/152-7323, www.primeraplus.com.mx) and ETN (www.etn.com.mx). Along with second-class buses, they depart from SMA's bus station, on the west side of town (Calzada de la Estación s/n). A taxi between downtown and the bus station is currently about 30 pesos, but subject to change.
Local taxi companies include TaxiPlus (tel. 415/152-4086) and San Miguel Taxi (tel. 415/152-0124).