Any city that was “built for relaxing” is somewhere you just can’t pass up.
For a country that’s so close to the US, Mexico couldn’t be more different than America. Take the freakishly photogenic city of San Miguel De Allende. Not to pick favorites, but it’s a total favorite. You won’t find cobbled alleyways and a European-look at home, but you’ll find them in Mexico. Apparently, you can just go here instead of Europe to feel like you’re in Spain. Shocker, right?
Headed to Mexico? Make sure you're not missing the best spots
Check out this Mexico Destination Guide.
Tons of people from America, Canada and Europe vacation here and decide to stay, till forever, and we really can’t blame them. And the whole city is 90% walkable, meaning no need to fuss about bus schedules or taxis. Still need a little more convincing? You asked for it. Pretty sure you’ll want to visit San Miguel De Allende after reading all about it:
- How To Get There
- Our Favorite Things To Do
- Places To Eat
- + A Nearby Adventure
How To Get There
From where you'll be living as an ILP volunteer, it's just a short bus ride, so it makes for an ideal weekend trip, just like a soak in the Los Grutas De Tolantongo or Querétaro (just a couple of our favorite weekend getaways).
Head to the central bus station and see if you can book tickets on a Premiere Plus bus (they are our fav). Tickets are very inexpensive. They don't have change usually, so bring small bills and coins.
You'll want to book tickets beforehand to make sure you get a spot, but sometimes you can show up same day and get on the bus you want.
Tip: if you can't book directly, you can catch a bus to Guanajuato (1 hour away) and spent a day there, then make your way to San Miguel De Allende (1.5ish hours from Guanajuato).
Past volunteers also suggest taking a taxi since it isn't that far from where they are living (about a 1.5 hour drive). The price isn't too bad if you split it with your ILP group and then you won't have to worry about your bus arrive on time or arriving late (that's a thing that happens on Mexico).
The fare is usually around $40 - $65.
Our Favorite Things To Do
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Rides
As if this vacation spot couldn’t be cooler, San Miguel is known for hot air ballon rides over the city. One ILP Head Teacher said it was pricey but was also “one of the most most beautiful things I have ever seen. 5/5 would do again”. You may want to check out a few ways to fundraise or save money so you can make this happen!
That ILP group booked with GloboSanMiguel who has a couple of tour options: their $137 package includes a hot air balloon ride and breakfast. Of course ... it's always free to just wake up early and watch!
This Pretty Pink Cathedral
You’ll want to take about 2,301 pictures of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, because it’s that pretty … and looks different in the morning, afternoon and evening so you may want to visit it more than once to get the best lighting.
Traffic can get crazy, so watch yourself while you're walking around and keep an eye out for weddings happening there: after you see this cathedral in person, you'll understand why so many people want to get married here.
Address: Plaza Principal S/N, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
The church overlooks "El Jardin" which is a big city square where you'll find vendors selling favorites like horchata, tacos and ice cream; maybe plan your visit here around lunch time or after dinner so you can admire the church and eat a treat.
Dreamy Streets and Alleyways
Don’t get me wrong, there is lots to see here, but one of the best things to do in Mexico (and this city) is just to walk around the lovely streets around sunset (with some aqua fresca or some tacos in hand, right?). On and don’t forget your camera because these sunset walks are pretttttttty.
El Jardin (right by the cathedral we talked about earlier) is a particularly picturesque street and square, with colorful buildings and a big, pedestrian walkway.
We suggest starting in El Jardin, then working you way towards the steep hills on the outskirts of the city. On your way, you'll peek down streets painted a rainbow of colors, plus beautiful homes, and picturesque doorways. It's a photographer's dream.
Find The Mojigangas!
Found at pretty much any celebration in San Miguel De Allende, Mojigangas are giant puppets that are hard to miss. Dressed up in a paper-mache face of makeup, fanciful clothes, sometimes the mojigangas are dressed up to look like famous figures (like Frida Kahlo) or just in celebratory clothes. Snap a picture if you find them!
A Cacti Garden + Toy Museum
Nothing can beat a cacti garden, except maybe a creepy toy museum. Head to the El Charco del Ingenio to get pictures with some cutie (and some huge) cacti and a pretty impressive view of the city!
Address: Paloma S/N, Las Colonias, 37720 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: 50 pesos (80 pesos with a tour)
Check out the website for other events; they things like seasonal birdwatching an a full-moon ceremony
— If you'll be downtown, it's best to take a taxi. If you'll be in the shopping malls at the upper part of the city, follow signs to the main entrance on Paloma Street ( you can walk there).
Next up is La Esquina Mexican Toy Museum; a quaint collection of vintage and handcrafted toys that are charming (and slightly creepy sometimes). Volunteers also mention meandering around the lovely little library nearby.
Address: Núñez 40, Centro, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto.,
Hours: 10:00 AM - 5:30 PMish (times fluctuate in Mexico)
Cost: 30 pesos
Places To Eat
We're a big fan of soaking up of the street food you'll find in Mexico, but there are a couple of cafes we'd recommend:
One of the most popular cafes in the city, this is a go-to spot for a sit down breakfast. Their poached eggs come highly recommended, same with the eggs benedict, as does their hot chocolate (and their lavender latte). You might need to wait in line, because this place is popular.
Address: Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 78, Centro, Zona Centro
Hours: 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM (Closes at 2:00 on Sundays)
Cafe San Augustin
Plan on a long line to get a plate of hot churros and chocolate at Cafe San Augustin! The place does serve food, but people really come for the churros and the melted pot of chocolate that is perfect for dipping. Plan on grabbing your order to go, and sitting outside on the street (with a good view) instead of sitting at a table.
Address: San Francisco 21, Zona Centro, 37700
Hours: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM (Open until Midnight Friday and Saturday)
A Nearby Adventure
Visit Thermal Pools Just Out Of Town
Take a taxi ride to the La Gruta Spa and soak up in the warm thermal pools. You’ll be able to spend a few hours on the pretty grounds and the pools — one pool has warm water in a tunnel that leads you into a cave. Rad, right? Pack up a towel and bathing suit and share a locker with your ILP group (to stash your other valuables in).
There's also a restaurant where you can grab snacks and lunch but it's a tiny bit pricey (but yummy). We suggest going early because this place is a local favorite and can get crowded.
Hours: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Cost: 150 pesos
Ready for more Mexico? Of course you are!
Have the chance to call this country home, teaching English part time and exploring part time. Volunteers have weekends off plus vacation days to explore nearby cities like San Miguel De Allende.