City Guide to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Part 2 | Must See Attractions
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a charming and historical Spanish Colonial town with so much to see and experience. Check out what we found in and loved about the city and get a map to personalize you're own itinerary!
Disclosure: We may receive a commission for links on our blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very appreciative when you do. Thanks again for your support, we hope you find our posts and information helpful!
- Sightseeing Map
- Puente de los Héroes (Heroes Bridge)
- Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante (aka Bella Artes)
- El Jardin
- Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
- Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende
- Bomba de Gasolina
- Plaza San Arvino and the San Miguel de Allende Goose
- Casa del Inquisidor (Inquisitor's House)
- Mirador Cruz del Pueblo and El Mirador (San Miguel de Allende Lookouts)
- El Pípila Monument
- Juárez Park
- Lavaderos del Chorro
We arrived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico bright eyed and bushy tailed and made our way through the beautiful Spanish Colonial streets. From the main bus terminal, the walk into city center was short and we were soon surrounded by orange, yellow, and red traditional and historic homes and businesses. The many large doors with unique knockers and handles caught our attention and we were lucky enough to pass a few open doors that allowed us to peek into beautiful courtyards!
The town was beautiful and we were so excited to be there, that we stopped continually on our walk to take pictures and see what lay around the next corner and inside every open courtyard! However, we had a place we needed to be, as what brought us to San Miguel de Allende in the first place was a house sit. Thus, although we wanted to explore the town further, we had Chris and Stephanie (check them out at Pack Your Satchells!), their son, and two cats (Dave and Jack), waiting for our arrival. Our exploration would have to wait…
The best part for us about house sitting and the reason we do it full time now, is that we love being able to live like a local. It seems to us, a more genuine experience to live in someones home, rather than stay in a hotel. We get the comfort of having the companionship of a loving pet, plus the convenience of having all of the amenities of our personal residence (Sergio here: well, if we had one anyway!): a full kitchen, modern home appliances, a workspace, etc. Plus, we’re located in a residential area, making it easier to explore areas most tourists don’t get to see. Not to mention, we’ve met such great people all over the world, many who we continue to stay in contact with!
Must See Attractions in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Since we’re organized and appreciate planning, we tend to do our homework on a city before arriving. We want to know about the city, it’s history, how to move about it, tips for visiting, what the must see attractions and off the beaten path destinations are. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our City Guide to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Part 1 | Travel Tips and Tourist Information where we cover all the things to know before you visit San Miguel de Allende.
Plus, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in San Miguel de Allende (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Mexican Pesos (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Exploring San Miguel de Allende
Every city has its own feel, culture, and set of things to see. Therefore, when we first looked at everything we could possibly do in San Miguel de Allende, we were perplexed that there were only a few central attractions. However, what we quickly learned (primarily because we prefer to walk when possible) is that San Miguel de Allende is less a city with specific key destinations, and more a city to experience through wandering.
So, while we’re going to share with you our must see San Miguel de Allende attractions, the biggest impact on your visit is probably going to be what you experience in between each destination. Looking back at our time in San Miguel de Allende, the most memorable times we had were the walks up and down the preserved Spanish Colonial cobblestone streets, the views from the roof-top terraces while enjoying a traditional meal, conversations with kind locals, and trying delicious street food that always seemed to be available nearby. Oh, and we can’t forget to mention the spectacular sunrises!
Tip: It’s common to say hello to people when you pass them on the street. In the morning, greet people by saying “Buenos dias” and in the afternoon by saying “Buenas tardes”. We found the interactions, smiles, and returned greetings to be a perfect addition to our day! For more helpful words and phrases in Spanish check our article on San Miguel de Allende, Mexico Travel Tips & Tourist Information.
Puente de los Héroes (Heroes Bridge)
Puente de los Héroes was built by the city of San Miguel de Allende in commemoration for those who fought in the War for Mexican Independence. The bridge itself blends perfectly into the surrounding colonial architecture.
From the street below, the archway of the bridge frames the vines and flowers growing along the sidewall perfectly with the towers of the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante. And, with just a short climb up a set of steps, from the top the view captures the stunning architecture of the cultural center beautifully. Turn around and from the other side of the bridge you’ll have a wonderful view of the city as it has grown around the historic ‘centro’.
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante (aka Bellas Artes)
Located just a couple of blocks from El Jardin, Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante was once a nunnery, but is now a well known art school and public courtyard. It’s a bit of a mouth full to say, so the local’s refer to it more often as Bellas Artes. It’s free to visit and the cloisters that surround the wonderful courtyard are a sight in and of themselves. While there, don’t miss the murals by the Mexican social realist, Davíd Alfaro Siquieros.
San Miguel de Allende is centered around El Jardin, and often is the point of reference for directions and locations. As in, ‘go two blocks north of El Jardin’, or ‘it’s located four blocks from El Jardin’. It’s not only a favorite meeting spot of locals and visitors, but also a hot-spot since it offers free WiFi (the north side of the garden). The square offers plenty of places to rest your feet or escape the sun in the shade of the manicured trees. Surrounding El Jardin are many museums, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, and street vendors selling everything from snacks and souvenirs to balloons and tourist pictures with a donkey!
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is the church that can be seen from almost anywhere in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Spot it and head towards the pink spires that rise above all other buildings in the historic center and you’ll be making your way to this iconic and much loved landmark. The church’s 17th century Gothic architecture is very impressive and it's easy to see why it’s on the must-see list of most tourists. We arrived at dawn and were treated to a beautiful sunrise. With the pink exterior, the church glowed in the light of the new day’s sun!
Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende
The Historic Museum of San Miguel de Allende is on the perimeter of El Jardin and shouldn’t be overlooked by those who want to learn of and walk through a piece of Mexico’s history. The building is the birthplace and 18th century home of Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga, who was a Spanish army officer and leader in the War for Mexican Independence in the early 1800s. It’s now a museum of his life, the time of war in San Miguel de Allende, and furnishings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Check the museum’s website for the latest visitor information.
Tip: Entrance was $37 Pesos when we visited, however if you visit on a Sunday tickets are free!
Bomba de Gasolina (Gas Pump)
Bomba de Gasolina is a gas pump that was originally installed in 1943! There’s no need to go to a museum to see this relic, as it still stands on the corner of Juárez and Meones streets. If you look closely, you can still see the price of gas at the time it was decommissioned; only $0.37 Pesos per liter!
Plaza San Arvino and the San Miguel de Allende Goose
As you might imagine, a giant (estimated at 60 feet tall) goose (or is it a duck or a swan?) on top of a building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico stirred up controversy when word spread that it was going to be built. Although, since outside of the restrictive historical central area of the city, construction regulations are almost non-existent, there wasn’t much that could be done. So, while this Goose, or as it’s become known locally “El Pato”, might not be a Spanish Colonial accent to the widely orange, yellow, and red skyline of San Miguel de Allende, it looks like El Pato isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
El Pato was built atop Plaza San Arvino which is home to a variety of businesses, including the Hotel Buenos Sueños. We’re unsure if it’s still operational, but either way you can still see it from the street outside, or from one of the many view points along the main highway (Libramiento José Manuel Zavala).
Casa del Inquisidor (Inquisitor's House)
Casa del Inquisidor is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Mexico. The home was built in 1780 and its intricate balconies, doors, and windows have been preserved magnificently well. This is a private home and not open to the public, but if you’re a fan of historical architecture, then be sure to put the Casa del Inquisidor on your itinerary!
Mirador Cruz del Pueblo and El Mirador (San Miguel de Allende Lookouts)
There are two main vista/lookouts in San Miguel de Allende, which in Spanish are known as Miradores (literally, ‘lookouts’).
Mirador Cruz del Pueblo
Mirador Cruz del Pueblo is reached by a long series of steps up a steep hillside. The path is lined with colorful colonial homes and the hike is rewarded with a fantastic view of the entire city. If you plan to visit, be sure you’re steady on your feet, because the last segment of this walk is actually up a dirt hill, not paved steps.
In contrast, El Mirador is a more formal and well-maintained site that offers an equally impressive lookout over the city. It can easily be reached by foot or taxi, and tour buses/trolleys stop here as well. The view is best where it’s unobstructed by trees, so be sure to make your way down the sidewalk to find the best lookout. Once you’ve taken in the view of San Miguel de Allende and the towering Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, there are benches to relax on for a few minutes or vendors ready to sell you beautifully handcrafted Mexican goods.
El Pípila Monument (Glorieta El Pípila)
El Pípila Monument (Glorieta El Pípila) is in the center of the busy roundabout where the roads Lib. Jose Manuel Zavala, Salida A Celaya, and Celaya-Dolores Hidalgo meet within San Miguel de Allende.
El Pípila (1782-1863) moved to San Miguel de Allende to work in the Mellado silver mine. He later moved to the city of Guanjuato, where during the Mexican War of Independence the Spanish had barricaded themselves in a granary that proved to be a fortress with its high stone walls. The story goes that Pípila found the weakness of the fortress: a wooden door. Some say he was accompanied by other miners, but legend has it that he alone used tar and a torch to set the door on fire and break through. His act of heroism led to the fall of the Spanish at this stronghold.
Juárez Park, also known as the French Park, offers a great escape from the busy city center of San Miguel de Allende. If you’re looking for fountains to enjoy, local painters to admire, winding paths to wander, a game of basketball, or a fitness class, then this is the place for you!
Visit in February for the annual Candelaria plant sale, or in November for the La Calaca (Skull) Festival. While there, don’t forget to look at the top of the trees to see the white egrets that call the green space home. Interestingly, the city has tried unsuccessfully to evacuate them from the park.
Lavaderos del Chorro
Located on El Chorro street, the Lavaderos are some of the most beautiful public washes you’re likely to see. Legend has it that this is where Friar Juan of San Miguel found his dog drinking water from a spring. Therefore, many consider this site to be the beginning and center of San Miguel de Allende. You may also notice that this area is a bit more humid and far more green and lush than the rest of the city, making it a great place to take a break from the intense heat of the sun!
The Colonial style Lavederos were constructed in the eighteenth century and as of our visit, were still operational. Additionally, the water chambers are now being used for cultural and art classes. So, even if you aren’t looking to wash, we still recommend visiting the area for the lovely cobblestone walkways, the views from the balcony, near by Juárez Park, and of course the white egrets high atop the trees!
Tip: If you make your way above Lavaderos del Chorro you’ll find a quaint and charming church that’s said to have held the first Christian services in the city. Plus, if you continue up the steps on the right-hand side, you’ll climb your way to El Mirador (the well known vista/lookout with great views of the city).
Hot Air Balloons Over San Miguel de Allende
What could be better than seeing the beautiful Spanish Colonial Centro of San Miguel de Allende at sunrise? How about witnessing the ardent colors from a hot air balloon as you float across the magical landscape at sunrise?! As we walked around the city at sunrise and for a couple of hours thereafter, we saw several hot air balloons slowly making their way across the sky as if from a scene of one of Hayao Miyazaki’s colorful animated films.
If you’re interested in soaring above the city, be sure to book your tickets ahead of time. Here are two operators to get you started, although be sure and do your research as we’re unaffiliated and haven’t used either one.
Tip: Be sure to ask each operator what their flight route is, as we’ve heard that several companies fly near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico but only some fly directly over it. Of course, there’s always the matter of the wind direction affecting your flight route.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a historical Spanish Colonial town that is loved by Mexicans and foreigners alike. The cobblestone streets, Colonial architecture, and buildings painted in traditional colors will make you feel as if you’re walking in another world and time (much more so if you venture out early and before other tourists!). Moreover, when you meet or pass locals, be sure and give a greeting (“Buenos dias” in the morning and “Buenas tardes” in the afternoon) and you'll receive smiles and generosity that'll follow you throughout the day.
It's a fantastic place to start your adventures in Mexico, especially if you want to ease into it. The long history of expats has influenced the city, making it easier to acclimate to a new culture and language. Just don’t lean on the 'familiar' too much and be sure to venture out into the parts of the city that are less touristy. You’re bound to find great views, delicious food, and welcoming people!