It’s easy to fall in love with San Miguel de Allende. The beautiful colors, Baroque architecture and incredible rooftop restaurants all contribute to the charm of the city. Artisans have been flocking to San Miguel de Allende for almost 80 years because of its artistic beauty and mild climate. My mother even mentioned that she would like to visit San Miguel de Allende one day to see the art scene and visit the galleries. I made it easy for her to fulfill her dream by moving just 45 minutes down the road to Queretaro. Now she can visit anytime she wants!
Voted as the Best Small City in the World by Conde Naste Travelers five times in the last six years (2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022), there’s something magical about this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So what is there to do in San Miguel de Allende? I’ve put together this 4-day itinerary for you to experience the best of San Miguel and its surroundings.
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How to Get to San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel does not have its own airport, so getting here takes a little more planning. It’s located smack dab between two international airports, one in Queretaro (QRO), and one in Leon (BJX). From Queretaro, it’s just over an hour’s drive, and you can easily hire a taxi or private transfer to take you. From Leon airport it’s almost an hour and half drive away. Private transport is available.
Private transfers are more expensive, but the cars or vans are usually very nice, clean and have air conditioning.
We do not recommend asking your hotel to send a pickup. We have heard horror stories about the vehicles being dirty and not air conditioning.
Your total time after arriving at either airport, getting through immigration and customs, and getting to your hotel or Airbnb in San Miguel will be around three hours, give or take.
When to Visit San Miguel de Allende
There’s no wrong time to visit San Miguel! San Miguel de Allende is a popular vacation spot for Mexicans and foreigners. Holidays are always spectacular in San Miguel, but they are the busiest time. The Easter holidays (one week before and one week after) is the most crowded. The week of Day of the Dead is also really busy.
Funny enough, the low season in San Miguel de Allende is during July and August when wine harvest festivals take place. You may think it’s because it’s too hot, but it really isn’t. With nighttime rains, the daytime temperatures never go above mid-80s, and the nights are in the 50s. So if you are looking to escape the heat where you are, visit San Miguel de Allende!
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel has plenty of boutique hotels for you to choose from within walking distance of everything. Check out Booking.com for great choices and prices.
Day 1: Walk Around Centro
Arrive, unpack, grab a hat, and wander around the streets of San Miguel. The streets and old mansions are an attraction of their own. Walking is the easiest way to enjoy San Miguel but watch your step on the cobblestones. Take some time to admire the doorknobs, light fixtures, and inner courtyards of the unique shops and boutique hotels.
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel or La Parroquia, will be your central point in San Miguel de Allende. Built by Mexican architect Zeferino Gutiérrez based off of a European postcard he saw. The church was built in the 17th century, but the façade made of pink sandstone and often visually referred to looking like a wedding cake, was built in the 19th century. Jardin Allende, the park right in front of La Parroquia, is a good place to relax with a coffee or ice cream while watching the locals (Mexicans and expats) gather for photos and chats.
There’s several other churches to peruse around San Miguel de Allende. If you have seen the movie Once Upon a Time In Mexico with Antonio Banderas, you’ll recognize not only la Parroquia, but Templo de Oratorio de San Felipe Neri on Calle Insurgentes (this is also where they did the bus scene), the shell shaped Templo de Nuestra Señora de La Salud during the fight scene with El Machete, and Parque Benito Juarez during the motorcycle chase scene.
For more film locations in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Queretaro, read our post: Once Upon a Time in Mexico Film Locations.
Rooftop Dining in San Miguel de Allende
For dinner, make a reservation at one of the many rooftop restaurants around San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel has a vibrant international food scene and one of the most gorgeous skylines you will ever experience. Two restaurants right next to the La Parroquia we recommend are La Posadita for traditional Mexican cuisine and Quince for Mexican-Asian fusion and nightlife. Read Dine at These Fantastic San Miguel Restaurants for other fantastic restaurant suggestions.
Tip: make a reservation 30 minutes before sunset (google the sunset time) so you can watch the light dance across the rooftops before the lights are illuminated. Also, bring a sweater. Even in summer, the temperatures drop to the 50s at night.
Day 2: Shopping and Sightseeing in San Miguel de Allende
Now that you are rested, let’s really explore San Miguel de Allende. If you like street art, book a tour through the San Antonio or Guadalupe neighborhoods. Hidden cafes and colorful bougainvillea trees add to the magic of these revived neighborhoods.
Take a private walking tour with a local that begins in front of the Parroquia. Learn the history of San Miguel and see numerous landmarks around Centro.
In the mood to shop? The Mercado de las Artesanias stretches from Calle Hidalgo to Mercado Ignacio Ramirez along Calla Lucas Balderas. Choose from silver ítems, blown glass, Talavera ceramics, hand-embroidered clothing and linens, and many other fine art pieces. Hopefully, you brought an extra suitcase!
For more architecture and gallery recommendations around San Miguel, check out our post: Artistic Expressions in San Miguel de Allende
Food and Drink in San Miguel de Allende
Oaxaca may be famous for its mezcal, but the state of Guanajuato is one of the nine states approved to call their liquid concoction of distilled agave juice “mezcal”. We recommend going to San Miguel Mezcaleria. The bartenders know their stuff and you can try different kinds of mezcals like Espadin, Tobala, or Tobaziche. San Miguel Mezcaleria even has a tasting of Mexican spirits with food that lasts 90 minutes.
Mexicans are avid beer drinkers. You can find the usual Modelo and Indio (two excellent beers), but also try some of the craft beers from Cerveceria Allende and Dos Aves. Dos Aves is open for tour and tasting. You can try these at San Miguel Mezcaleria, too.
Food Tours and Splurge Dining
If food is your passion, try this Tacos and Tequila Food Walking Tour. We’ve had several of our own tour guests recommend this tour as it tells you about the history of San Miguel while trying some local places not often mentioned in Tripadvisor or travel magazines. You could also try a cooking class to learn how to make salsas, tamales, or flan. Choose between a traditional Mexican cook or a private chef to learn the Art of Mexican flavors.
For dinner, I would recommend splurging either at another rooftop location (to get a different view) or at one of the top restaurants like Aperi or Moxi (a restaurant by Enrique Olvera of Pujol) for their delicious tasting menus.
Day 3: Explore Outside San Miguel de Allende
The city of San Miguel is great, but there’s so much more to see! You’ve probably heard that it is not safe in the state of Guanajuato, and there have been some incidences in the southern part of the state near Michoacan. We travel to and around San Miguel on a weekly basis for our wine tours, and we have never seen anything that would cause alarm. Here’s a list of some activities you may want to book ahead, and maybe even extend your stay in San Miguel de Allende.
Spa Day at La Gruta Spa or The Mayan Baths
Did you know San Miguel de Allende has natural hot springs just outside the city limit? After traveling and walking on cobblestones, you may need a day of pampering. Book a reservation at either La Gruta Spa or the Mayan Baths (both are highly recommended) and let the water ease your aching muscles. To make a reservation, you will need to call (or have the concierge of your hotel call), and then take a taxi out to the spa locations. The spa can call a taxi to take you back to your hotel when you are ready to leave.
If you have a nice taxi driver, ask him/her to stop in Atotonilco for 15-20 minutes to see the Sistine Chapel of Mexico. This church has every inch of it covered in frescoes. It’s very impressive.
Day Trip to Dolores Hidalgo
45 minutes northwest of San Miguel de Allende is the pueblo magico of Dolores Hidalgo. This little town is much more laidback than San Miguel and not as busy. You can visit historic museums about Father Hidalgo who shouted the Cry of Independence that started the Mexican War of Independence, the Wine Museum, the mercado, and eat some unique ice cream flavors like ceviche, mezcal, and mole in the main plaza. They have other recognizable flavors, too. You don’t need more than a few hours in Dolores Hidalgo. You can take a taxi to the town, go on a tour to both Dolores Hidalgo and Atotonilco, or combine it with some wineries for a full day of exploration on a Dolores Hidalgo Wine Tour with Heart of Mexico Wine Tours.
If nature is your thing, visit Via Organica to see how local farmers grow crops and make tortillas and tamales. This non-profit organization is working on several projects to promote nutrition and save valuable heirloom varieties. A tour of the farm and lunch are included. This is more than a half day excursion.
Finca Luna Serena- Olive Farm
Smi-arid regions are perfect for growing olive trees. Finca Luna Serena is an olive farm 20 minutes outside of San Miguel de Allende. It was started by an expat couple over 30 years ago, and today they make their own olive oil (and it’s really good!). Take a tour, taste some olive oil, and stay for a meal (breakfast or lunch) made with produce from from their garden and, of course, their own olive oil. Check out their website to see what other events they are hosting like cooking classes and festivals: Finca Luna Serena
El Charco del Ingenio- Botanical Gardens
Spend the morning in nature at El Charco del Ingenio. These botanical gardens feature the native flora of the Central mexico region. Birdwatching is also a popular activity and keep an ear out for the tiny chirps of hummingbirds. You can visit on your own for 50 pesos (less than $3 USD), or take a guided tour in English on Tuesdays or Thursdays from 10am-12pm for 150 pesos ($8 USD).
Canada de la Virgin
Did you know San Miguel has its own pyramid? If ancient history is your thing, then you may want to visit Canada de la Virgin. An archeologist leads tours that can last from 2-4 hours. Be aware that there is no shade out by the pyramids. Wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water, and also an umbrella to make your own shade. Tours start late in the morning, and finish mid-afternoon.
Maybe you just need a day to relax! San Miguel de Allende is surrounded by boutique wineries with excellent wines and restaurants. Heart of Mexico Wine Tours can take you a Wine Lover’s Tour of San Miguel to the three best wineries for a day of wine and food you’ll absolutely love. These are full-day tours, and you might want to plan for a light dinner afterwards as you get plenty of food (and wine!) on the tour.
The low season in San Miguel de Allende is during July and August when wine harvest festivals take place.
Day 4: What’s Left on Your List?
Is there anything you missed? Maybe the galleries at La Fabrica de Aurora, an activity out of town, one of the many restaurants or bars that someone said “you have to go here”? What about a hot air balloon ride at sunrise? Take today to just check off one of the many activities you were planning on. As you can see, there’s plenty to do and it’s tough to cram it all into four days.
Extend your trip to one of these places
Since you are here in the middle of Mexico, why not pair another UNESCO World Heritage Site to your San Miguel de Allende trip? You could spend a day sightseeing, but it would be better to spend a few extra days in one of these two cities:
Located an hour from San Miguel de Allende to the west (back towards BJX airport), Guanajuato City is absolutely beautiful and mostly a walkable city. The cars drive through tunnels under the city, so you can wander at your leisure with some esquites (a common snack of corn on the cob cut off into a cup with mayo and chili powder) past beautiful Baroque buildings and shops. Guanajuato City us the birthplace of muralist Diego Rivera. Other museums and sights you may want to check out are the Mummy Museum, Don Quixote Museum, Callejon de Beso, and Teatro Juarez for impromptu musical performances. Book a private guide and transfer to show you the best of Guanajuato City. Read about this magnificent university town in our post Guanajuato City- Travel Guide on What Not to Miss.
Located an hour to the southeast (and back towards the QRO airport) is Queretaro with its soaring pink sandstone aqueduct and 204-block historic Centro. The historical center is 3 times the size of San Miguel. Visit the Museum of the Conspirators or the Calendar Museum for its collection of 1940s political and advertisement calendars, dine at fantastic restaurants, and explore the unique city streets with its European grid-like and indigenous twisting pattern.
There’s also plenty to do outside the city of Queretaro. Visit the cute town of Tequisquiapan and cheese producers to taste local cheese, or hike one of the tallest monoliths in the world, Peña de Bernal. Afterwards, grab some gorditas, micheladas, and cajeta (goat’s milk caramel). Wine lovers will be impressed with the varieties of wine grown in this region including Tempranillo, Malbec, Verdejo and Gewurztraminer. For more information on Queretaro, check out our 4-Day Itinerary for Exploring Queretaro.
Are 4 Days Enough for San Miguel de Allende?
As you can see there’s plenty to do here on a 4-day vacation to San Miguel de Allende, but we encourage you to see more of this beautiful region. This is the real Mexico full of history, wine, and fine dining cuisine. A full week divided between two UNESCO World Heritage Site cities is recommended to really get a feel for the area.
If you feel overwhelmed with planning a trip, contact us to help you plan your 3–8-day trip to Central Mexico. With two airports to choose from and an assortment of boutique hotels, restaurants and activities, you’ll see why so many people fall in love with Mexico and especially San Miguel de Allende.