San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Named after Juan de San Miguel and General Ignacio Allende
San Miguel Allende is a wonderful colonial city to visit any time of the year. The climate is perfect year round to meander around the city and explore the fine restaurants and art galleries and enjoy the city on foot.
It is a charming place where Mexican and the 10,000 American and Canadian residents have mingled easily and produced a gentrified city with a reputation for fine arts and a higher cultural appreciation.
Elevation – 6,000 to 6,400 ft
Climate – Semi Arid
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Max/Min Temperatures variations: January 71/45, April 82/54, July 76/56, October 75/54
Monthly variation: Slightly hotter and humid in the summer
Rainy season: June to October
Money – Bank ATM’s
Airport –Festivals (Date then name
Semana Santa – Week preceding Easter
While all of Latin America celebrates Holy Week, Semana Santa in San Miguel is particularly attractive for Mexicans and tourists with daily parades and festivities. September 29th honors the town’s patron saint and celebrates with traditional dancing, cultural activities and even a running of the bulls down city streets. The San Miguel Music Festival is held every December and features Mexican and International artists.
Medical – Numerous Doctors throughout the city
San Miguel is an old silver mining city originally known as San Miguel El Grande and was founded by the Franciscan order in 1542 after a monk named Juan de San Miguel. It was an important trading center for gold and silver along the silver route, the Antigua Camino Real, used to transport precious metals to Spain from other towns such as Zacatecas. The city reached its colonial height in the mid- 1700’s with a population of over 30,000 people – larger than any colony in the US or Canada at the time. The elaborate homes, colonial mansions and magnificent churches were built and enjoyed by the wealthy traders and merchants blessed with the silver trade along the route.
As the silver deposits dried up in San Miguel in the 1800’s, the city’s population and wealth dwindled and many buildings came into a state of disrepair. The War of Independence declared in the nearby town of Delores Hidalgo on September 16th, 1810 forever changed the political and economic climate of the country. In 1826 the city was renamed to San Miguel de Allende after General Ignacio Allende, a native son and lieutenant in Padre Miguel Hidalgo’s army fighting against Spanish rule.
San Miguel Allende is a wonderful colonial city to visit any time of the year. The climate is perfect year round to meander around the city and explore the fine restaurants and art galleries and enjoy the city on foot. It is a charming place where Mexican and the 10,000 American and Canadian residents have mingled easily and produced a gentrified city with a reputation for fine arts and a higher cultural appreciation.
Our favorite pastime when we visit is to walk along the colorful cobblestone streets and photograph the abundant remarkable churches and colonial buildings. The skyline is full of interesting steeples and colonial décor, interesting angles and colors that make every photo a keeper. The abundant squares provide good resting spots and places to people watch as the residents play, stop for a moment or travel to and fro from work to home.
San Miguel is located in the State of Guanajuato in the center of Mexico. Because of its 6000 ft plus altitude, San Miguel provides an inviting climate to base yourself. The temperatures remain constant, fluctuating approximately 12° F (6 ° C) between summer and winter. Rainfall increases from June to September with downpours rather than constant drizzle. It is close to other major cities and towns, (Guanajuato, San Luis Potasi, Delores Hidalgo, Queretaro) and provides a good base to explore this region.
This colonial gem has been lovingly restored. In 1926 San Miguel was declared a national monument and the central historical district has strict building and restoration codes used to preserve its wealthy and historical past. There are no street lights, neon signs, McDonald’s or any “modern building style”. After the Second World War the town was “discovered” by returning veterans and their families and a small but steady migration of expats persists today, attracted to the quaint small city with almost perfect climate.
Today San Miguel, population 80,000 boasts a number of organizations that cater to the English speaking community. Clubs, groups, charitable and artistic organizations are plentiful and the library, Biblioteca de San Miguel is superb with the second largest collection of English books in Mexico and a free internet connection. There are numerous galleries, exhibits and festivals that attract tourists as well as entertain the locals year round.
Walking Around Town
We strongly suggest you put on your best sneakers or walking shoes and take a taxi or collective (van taxi) to the historic district. Ask to be let off at “The Jardin” the main Zocalo or city square in front of the city’s trademark “La Parroquia” church, Church of St. Michael the Archangel, with its highly ornate neo-gothic architecture. Take a moment to sit and enjoy the city life in one of the many wrought iron benches that border the square looking towards the ornate bandstand in the center. Here, like many Zocalo in Mexico, shoe shine stands, vendors of balloons and sweets dot the border of the square. Old men chat together and read newspapers. Kids kick balls or balloons for a few feet or chase pigeons that seem to be playing tag with the kids. Business people are walking briskly; tourists are taking pictures and looking amazed at the church that dominates one whole side of the square.
And while it is seductive to just sit for the whole day and watch life unfold in this city, take a walk around the church, and take a visit inside. Built in the seventeenth century, the neo-gothic facade was added later in 1888. Inside are tombs of church bishops and important political persons, including a president, who were born in this city. They are not open to the public except on November 2nd – Day of the Dead.
Walk along the twisting cobblestone streets and enjoy the street scenes; Colonial houses with tiny balconies with overflowing flowerpots, colorful and ornate doorways and small interesting specialty shops. Follow the church bells to new and different sites. The churches are plentiful and differ in design and feel. Sample fresh buns from the bakeries as you go or buy a popsicle known as a paletta. Pop into a small gallery or art shop that dot the area. Some of the best art and crafts are here – not just cheap tourist trinkets.
When you get hungry, try some of the small intimate cafes. Menus are usually posted outside and you can menu-hop until you find the perfect plate at the perfect price. In San Miguel you can get away with spending just a few dollars for a local meal or be knocked off your feet with high cuisine at one of the many international restaurants.
We enjoy a local pub off the main square on the east flank for a Dos XX’s or two after a hard day of shopping and photography. It is an old dark cantina with brown sepia toned photos; San Miguel landscapes from the past, a few standard prints of Poncho Villa. The patrons and staff laugh and are eager to talk to you practicing their English. At times the juke box blares old Mexican songs of bravery, loyalty and love; A table bursts into song, a couple dance slowly and intimately or a few more tourists enter the swinging western doors from the square outside.