Best Things to do in San Miguel de Allende: How to Spend Two Perfect Days

Home » Best Things to do in San Miguel de Allende: How to Spend Two Perfect Days

Last Updated on March 9, 2024 by Paroma

Wondering about the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico? Then all you have to do is to read this perfectly crafted itinerary showcasing the top attractions that San Miguel de Allende has to offer as well as some not so well known hidden gems. If that is not all, this list also includes the best places to shop and dine in San Miguel de Allende for you to spend a memorable 48 hours. Keep on reading to find out why you should absolutely visit San Miguel de Allende and how to make the most of your two days there.

 

best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, What to do in San Miguel de allende in 2 days

 

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WHY VISIT SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE?

San Miguel de Allende, a city bursting with art, architecture and colors is located in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It is located somewhat evenly in between two regional airports (Querétaro and BJX) and is a 1.5 hour drive from the city of Guanajuato, another UNESCO proclaimed world heritage site (you can read my one day in Guanajuato guide to learn more about this charming city).

 

If you love Baroque/Neoclassical architecture and are a sucker for art, San Miguel de Allende is the place to be. Sure it does not have pristine beaches like Tulum, or a tantalizing food scene like Oaxaca and is pint sized compared to the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City, but what it lacks in all these departments is amply made up for by its aesthetics, cobbled streets flanked with art galleries, museums and vibrant shopping plazas, eye popping street art, regal architecture and a burgeoning food culture brimming with creativity (think jazzy rooftop bars and hip, stylish restaurants).

 

San Miguel de Allende had a rough start at the beginning of the 20th century, where an influenza pandemic nearly decimated the city. With time foreign artists flocked here, seduced by its architecture and establishment of art institutes like Instituto Allende and the Escuela de Bellas Artes that further cemented its claim as one of the major centers of creative arts in Mexico.

 

Today, the city is a darling of the American and Canadian expat community (a local told me that expats account for 10% of the population) and tourists come from far and wide to enjoy this charming city. A portion of the old town in San Miguel de Allende was designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2008, which further boosted its tourism prospects.

 

Wandering down the cobbled streets of this extremely walkable town, the vibrant colors reminded me of my day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara (which by the way is in Jalisco, the state right next to Guanajuato) and my getaway to Oaxaca which shares many similarities with this town. San Miguel de Allende is an extremely pretty city with friendly locals, artisan stores, quirky museums, all of which are easily explored on foot. I hope this guide on the best things to do in San Miguel Allende provides you the impetus you need to book those flight tickets and get going!

 

A view of San Miguel de Allende

 

 

GETTING TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

There are no direct flights from USA to San Miguel de Allende, but let that not deter you. Getting to your destination is quite easy and there are different ways to do it, via train, flight or car. Here’s the best/easiest/fastest way to get there:

 

FROM QRO/BJX AIRPORTS 

San Miguel de Allende is roughly equidistant between Querétaro Intercontinental (QRO) and Guanajuato International (BJX) airports and is about and 1.5 hour drive by car. Most major airlines go to either of these airports via stops in either Houston (USA) or Mexico City. If you live in the Bay Area in California, you can fly the low budget carrier Volaris that will take you directly to BJX airport (flight time is 3 hours 40 minutes).

 

Once you get to either of these airports, the safest and fastest way to get to your hotel in San Miguel de Allende is by pre-booking a shuttle. The most reliable shuttle service is BAJIOGO which operates exclusively out of SMdA and provides both round trip service (QRO/BJX airport to your hotel and back) or a one-way ride. You can do a prepayment via phone (they send details via Whatsapp) or pay the driver in cash.

 

Their rates are super reasonable with a one way service from hotel to airport being 510 MX pesos for a shared ride in a very comfortable van. The driver spoke English fluently, was extremely courteous and punctual for pickup and my ride from my hotel to BJX airport was a breeze. I highly recommend BAJIOGO for all your airport transfer needs.

 

FROM GUANAJUATO

The city of Guanajuato is about a 1.5 hr drive from San Miguel de Allende and 20 minutes from the BJX airport. If like me, you want to spend a day in Guanajuato (and you absolutely should), then the cheapest way to get to San Miguel de Allende is via bus.

 

You have to take a taxi or walk it out to the Central bus station (Central de Autobuses de Guanajuato) which is a 17-20 minute walk from the city center and then board the Primera Plus bus bound to to SMdA. All buses are extremely comfortable with toilets onboard and cost about 174-198 pesos (~10-13 USD) for a one way ride to San Miguel de Allende which takes about an hour 20 minutes.

 

During my stay in Guanajuato, I didn’t risk walking to the bus stop in the rain (it was raining quite a bit the morning of my departure) and so I Ubered it out to SMdA. My Uber cost about 1010 pesos (~53 USD) but strangely enough the drivers (I had to cancel one cause he was taking forever to get to my hotel) kept on insisting a full cash payment despite me paying online via the app, as is the norm.

 

I firmly refused to pay again and ultimately got my ride, but based on my personal experience, I feel this Uber ride was an overindulgence as well as an hassle and you are better off taking a taxi to the bus station and hopping onto the bus from there. Do bear in mind that the bus stop in San Miguel de Allende is not exactly in Zona Centro/city center, so you have to take a taxi to your hotel from there too. Keep ample cash on you for any taxi rides since credit cards are not accepted by drivers.

 

FROM MEXICO CITY

You can fly directly into Mexico City since there are plenty of flight options and take an ETN bus from Terminal Central De Autobuses Del Norte in Mexico City to SMdA. The ride time is 4-5 hours with the longer travel time involving a stop in Querétaro. A one way ticket costs about 720 MXN pesos.

 

CONDUCTED TOURS

I really don’t recommend a conducted tour of San Miguel de Allende but if you are someone who wants a day trip without the hassle of transportation or just want to visit multiple destinations in Mexico in a short time, a guided tour with free pick up service might just be right for you. Here are some to consider:

Whole day trip from Mexico City to SMdA with transportation provided

Day trip to Dolores Hidalgo and SMdA from Guanajuato

 

Historic city center of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

 

PLANNING A TRIP TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE? HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Now that I have gotten your interest piqued in this gorgeous artsy town in Mexico, here are some of my helpful tips for first time visitors to make the most of their trip, be it 48 hours or more:

 

IS IT SAFE TO VISIT SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE?

The answer is a resounding YES! Zona Centro (historic city center) is filled with tourists and is well lit even at night. It is very safe to walk around even 10-15 minutes outside of the city center during the day to residential neighborhoods, as I did to find some colorful murals (keep on reading to find out where). At night, I recommend staying within the city center and exercising general caution. Overall, I felt extremely safe during my stay as a solo female traveler in San Miguel de Allende and would revisit in a heartbeat!

 

IS TWO DAYS ENOUGH FOR SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE?

With so many things to do in San Miguel de Allende (both in Zona Centro and the outskirts), two days might feel too rushed. I recommend three full days or more to soak it all in. However, I did manage to see quite a bit of the town during my 48 hours here, which is a pretty good idea for a first time visit to get a taste of this town. As long as you have the luxury of time, money and life itself, you can always come back.

 

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE?

San Miguel de Allende is busy year round thanks to a warm, dry weather (think average highs between 70-80 F/21-26 C and clear, sunny skies). Day of the Dead (Nov 1-2) is the busiest time of the year when this tiny town is drowned in tourists eager to see the parades. I recommend visiting sometime between January-May to avoid summer crowds (it can also get pretty hot in this landlocked part of the state). I went in February and got some rain in the evening. 

 

San Miguel de Allende garden

 

GETTING AROUND SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

San Miguel de Allende is divided conveniently into blocks that are bordered by cobbled streets. It is an extremely walkable town if you have the common sense to pack in a pair of sturdy walking shoes or sneakers. For attractions outside the city center, you can get into a taxi or an Uber or even walk it out.

 

There is also a trolley service on Juarez 21 that operates every Tuesday and Thursday and you can buy tickets at the trolley stop itself. This trolley ride is about 1.5 hours. I walked all over town so I cannot vouch for how good the trolley service is.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

The historic city center (Zona Centro) is the place to stay. Not only is it packed with all the best attractions, but it is also very safe and has tons of amazing boutique hotels to make your stay memorable and comfortable.

 

I recommend opting for Casa de Los Olivos in the heart of Zona Centro-I loved my stay in this boutique hotel where breakfast is served on the terrace with a beautiful view of the city. My room was spacious with minimal, purposeful decor and the staff was extremely friendly.

 

The other two hotels that I have heard good things about are Casa Mision de San Miguel and Meśon Hidalgo (recommended by a friend who has excellent taste in everything). I really wanted to stay in the latter (just look at the colorful rooms!) but they were all booked during the time I was visiting.

 

Casa Quebrada, Villa Mirasol (provides hotel shuttle), Casa Hoyos (with an excellent rooftop bar),Hacienda Las Amantes, Hacienda de las Flores and Mansion San Miguel are all indulgent to affordable boutique hotels in the city center for a comfortable, memorable stay in San Miguel de Allende.

 

Two days in San Miguel de Allende, where to stay in San Miguel de Allende, best hotels in San Miguel de Allende

 

 

BEST THINGS TO DO IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE IN TWO DAYS

There is a lot to see and do in this charming town in Guanajuato in both city center and outskirts. With just 48 hours at your service, my best advice would be to stick mostly to the city center since it is home to some of the best attractions in San Miguel de Allende. Here are all the amazing things to do during your visit, some of which are slightly off the beaten path and will take you by surprise:

 

HEAD STRAIGHT TO EXPLANADA DEL JARDIN PRINCIPAL ALLENDE

El Jardín is the bustling main plaza of San Miguel de Allende where you will not only see tons of people hanging out and street musicians doing their thing, but also the visually arresting neo-Gothic church, aka Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. Originally built in 1709, the main facade of the church was constructed in 1880 and 1890 by Don Zeferino Gutiérrez. You can do some people watching from one of the park benches over coffee from one of the many cafes dotting the plaza (I recommend Café Umarán). 

 

Best things to do in San Miguel de Allende: visit the EXPLANADA DEL JARDIN PRINCIPAL ALLENDE and Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

 

 

ADMIRE THE BAROQUE FACADE OF TEMPLO DE SAN FRANCISCO DE ASIS

The ornate church of Saint Francis of Assisi is a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the main plaza and is a classic example of Baroque architecture. Franciscan saints adorn the main facade with St. Francis sculpted at the very top. This is a nice, quiet area amongst a lot of greenery and perfect for relaxing.

 

TEMPLO DE SAN FRANCISCO DE ASIS, San Miguel de Allende

 

CHECK OUT THE STUNNING COLOSSAL MURAL IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY

There is something very special about the public library in San Miguel de Allende and whatever you do, don’t skip it. Also known as Biblioteca Pública, this is housed in the former convent of Santa Ana and has the second largest collection of English language books in Mexico. However, there are two well kept secrets about the library, first of which is this gigantic mural sprawling all over the ceiling in the gift shop which is completely free to enter and which you have to see to believe. 

 

Second (and this is something I didn’t know of at all till it was too late), is that the library organizes a tour of select private homes and gardens in San Miguel de Allende every Friday at noon. Tickets can be purchased before hand at the library itself and all details can be found here. If you are an arts and architecture buff, this is honestly one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende that most tourists are not privy to.

 

Mural in San Miguel de Allende Public library: free things to do in San Miguel de Allende

 

FREE THINGS TO DO IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE: ART GALLERIES

Being a haven for US and Canadian retirees and expats makes San Miguel de Allende somewhat pricey compared to other parts of central Mexico, such as Guadalajara or even nearby Guanajuato. Museum entrance fees range from 75-80 pesos and dining and shopping cost a pretty penny too. Despite all this, there are some amazing art galleries here that are completely free of cost and perfect for visitors on a budget. These are as follows:

 

1) Casa de Cultura de Banamex: This art gallery and cultural center is located inside a Baroque-Neoclassical style building known as Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal constructed in the 18th century by Mariano Loreto de la Canal y Landeta. This is a two storeyed building where you have rotating exposition of paintings as well as some historic artwork. There is also a tranquil courtyard in the middle and a small gift shop. 

 

2) Casa Europa Mexico: This is an open space for both art as well as performing arts and concerts year round. Must visit for catching some lovely paintings for free!

 

3) Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez (Escuela de Bellas Artes/ El Nigromante): Housed in the former Sisters of the Conception convent, this art institution was established in 1938 by Peruvian Felipe Cossío del Pomar and American Stirling Dickinson. This was one of the seminal art institutes that changed the fortune of San Miguel de Allende as American exchange students came here to study and live.

 

Today, this cultural center today is part of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) and is referred to by locals as “Bellas Artes”. It is a two-story building with a giant large courtyard in the center adorned by a beautiful fountain. It is home to special exhibits, breathtaking murals, and classrooms for drawing, painting, sculpture, lithography, textiles, ceramics, learning musical instruments, performing arts and a cozy cafe. During my visit, there was a very interesting exhibit on the art of storytelling  and rebellion via quilts which I enjoyed thoroughly.

 

Best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, free things to do in San Miguel de Allende, art galleries, Bella Artes

 

UNLEASH YOUR INNER CHILD AT THE MUSEO LA ESQUINA

There are two main museums in San Miguel de Allende and both are worth visiting. However, with only two days in hand and plenty of other things to do, you might want to give the Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende (also known as Casa de Allende Historical Museum and former home of Ignacio Allende, one of the four main figures in Mexico’s battle for independence) a miss and head straight to the Museo La Esquina/Toy & Puppet Museum for an afternoon of playful whimsy.

 

This huge museum with an entry fee of 80 pesos is undoubtedly one of the best attractions in town, with all three floors choc-filled with rows and rows of puppets, masks and toys made from all kinds of natural materials, fibers, wood, stone and metal by artisans and toymakers all over Mexico. Finally the gift shop is equally fun and the perfect place to pick up a local souvenir or two.

 

Toy Museum/Museo La Esquina of San Miguel de Allende

 

RESERVE A TEQUILA TASTING AND PRIVATE HOUSE TOUR AT LA CASA DRAGONES

Although I have had my fair share of tequila tasting in the village of Tequila, I would gladly go back to San Miguel de Allende for another round at La Casa Dragones, one of the oldest houses in this town that dates back to 1671. Now renovated and all spruced up, it is home to a distillery and offers a combo experience of tequila tasting as well as a tour of the interiors led by an Education specialist. Details can be found here.

 

SHOPPING IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

San Miguel de Allende embodies Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings”, but that is sadly only if you have a ton of $$$ at your disposal. Sure, there are lots of pretty shops and boutique stores, but most are geared towards American and Canadian shoppers with prices to match. Despite all of this, I suggest staying away from cookie cutter souvenir stores and checking out some of my favorite places to shop when visiting, which is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende. Here are my suggestions:

 

1) Mercado de Artesanías: This artisan market is your go to place if you want to pick up any kind of souvenir or gift on a budget. With dozens of vendors and stalls under one roof, you will be spoiled for choices. This part of Mexico is known for its ceramics and hammered metalwork and you are certain to be greeted with rows and rows of metal heart magnets and decor since San Miguel de Allende is often referred to as the “Heart of Mexico”. Come bearing cash since credit cards are no bueno here.

 

Pro Tip: Right across the street from this arts market is the specialty coffee shop Lavanda Café de Especialidad. Do try out their fun drinks if you are in the mood for an afternoon pick me up.

 

2) Doce 18 Concept House: This is an amalgamation of a bunch of high end artisan stores selling everything from furniture to clothes and accessories and home decor under one roof, i.e. a stylish 18th century property that used to be the home of Isaac Cohen, a Syrian immigrant for over 100 years. If all that shopping exhausts you, stop by the stylish bakery Pania and accompanying food hall to get a bite to eat.

 

3) Mixta and La Modernista: Started by an Australian expat over 14 years ago, Mixta is one of the most beautiful stores to shop in San Miguel de Allende. Here several rooms laden with furniture, clothes, accessories and home decor from all over the world surround one of the most serene courtyards you will ever see. Mixta was voted was one of the top 50 most beautiful stores in the world and is not to be missed even if the price tag deters you from buying anything.

 

A few hundred feet down the same street of Pila Seca, stands La Modernista which is a very funky, eclectic store selling clothes, shoes, prints and other knick knacks. If you love colorful vibrant things, do check this store out for its youthful, modern vibe. 

 

4) Plazas of Atrio and Quince rooftop restaurants: San Miguel de Allende has these mini shopping plazas where a restaurant occupies the second floor of a building with retail stores surrounding a central courtyard. I managed to explore two such beautiful atriums of Atrio and Quince rooftop restaurants filled with lots of beautiful shops stocked with lovely things and artwork.

 

5) Morena Corazon: This jewelry store has some incredibly beautiful metal and beaded huichol jewelry, colorful masks and huichol tapestry work that you need to see to believe. I ended up coughing $$$ for a pair of pretty earrings while exercising superhuman restrain to not buy more.

 

6) Azul Cobalto Galería (cash only): This store specialises in local ceramics which are a perfect gift for friends and family back home.

 

Markets of San Miguel de Allende, where to shop in San Miguel de Allende

 

WHERE TO EAT IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Much like Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende is not known for its culinary prowess and there is no particular special dish that this town is famous for. Instead, the huge influx of expats has given rise to upscale restaurants and bars which happily coexist with more local, low key establishments serving traditional Mexican food. During my two days in San Miguel, I savored the food at several of these places and would gladly come back for those that I missed on this first trip. Here are some of my dining recommendations on where to eat in the city center for your two days in San Miguel de Allende:

 

RESTAURANTS AND CAFES

Cumpanio: an expat favorite brunch spot with adjacent bakery Panio is a great place to start your day

La Sacristía Cafe: This tiny cafe has yummy chocolate tarts, pastries and coffee

Chocolates y Churros San Agustín: A few blocks away from the toy museum, this place sees people queing up for the delicious nutella filled churros and thick, drinking chocolate (kind of like what I had in Madrid ages ago). There is a much faster moving separate line for to go orders or come in a little late in the afternoon to snag a seat at the counter.

Atrio: This restaurant overlooks a beautiful courtyard in a plaza and serves delicious Asian flavor inspired food as well as yummy cocktails. A must try for lunch or dinner

Andaza: Even if you can’t spare the moolah to stay at the posh Casa de Sierra Nevada, you can definitely indulge yourself a bit and dine at the indoor Andaza restaurant in a covered colonial style setting courtyard. I got in without a reservation (perks of being a solo traveler) and had a nice, quiet dinner as it rained heavily outside.

El Manantial: This is one of the must visit restaurants serving local food and doing it right in San Miguel de Allende. The crazy beautiful mural, ambiance, drinks and the tacos are just mind blowing! 

 

ROOFTOP BARS

Both Tunki and Bekeb rooftop bars are solid choices when it comes to drinks with a view in the city center. Tunki is part of Casa de Sierra Nevada specializing in Peruvian drinks while Bekeb is inside the boutique hotel Casa Hoyos. Bekeb serves cocktails made of local flavors of Mexico and has a food menu too. Reservations are highly recommended for both and sunset is a great time to snag that seat for a refreshing drink and to take in the view.

 

Best places to eat in San Miguel de Allende in 2 days

 

 

BEST THINGS TO DO IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE OUTSIDE THE CITY CENTER

Although the city center is where almost all the action is, if you venture out a bit intrepidly into residential neighborhoods and beyond, you will be rewarded with some of the best kept secrets and attractions of San Miguel de Allende. There are quite a few things to see and do outside the city center, but here are my recommendations for the top 3 ones that you should attempt, depending on what floats your boat:

 

FABRICA LA AURORA

This renovated textile mill is home to cafes, shops & galleries with artwork by local artists. If you are an art lover, definitely check this place out to see hundreds of art work under one roof. Geek & Coffee is popular cafe here which you can check out too. I am literally kicking myself in the shins for not having visited this place since I was pretty close to it during my mural hunting trip. If you end up visiting this art center during your trip to San Miguel de Allende, please let me know of your experience.

 

best things to do in San Miguel de Allende in 48 hours

 

 

MURALS OF SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE (AND WHERE TO FIND THEM)

This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende and one that I chanced upon quite serendipitously, thanks to a traveling couple whom I had met on the flight and who were SMdA veterans. They were kind enough to let me tag along with them as they ventured out of the city center in search of stunning murals in the residential neighborhood of Guadalupe, a 10-15 minute walk north of the city center.

 

Most travel posts on San Miguel de Allende do not mention where to find dozens of these jaw dropping murals, because tourists rarely venture out of the city center in search of them. The murals can be found all along Tata Nacho and Cri-cri streets around Pedro’s Gym (Cri-cri 28, Guadalupe, 37710 Guadalupe, Gto., Mexico) and in a second cluster around Black Estudio Art (Julián Carrillo 7A, Guadalupe, 37710 Guadalupe, Gto., Mexico).

 

These gigantic, colorful murals add so much life and vibrance to this quiet neighborhood and are such a visual feast! Since this is a residential neighborhood, please be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of people living here before indulging in a photography frenzy (i.e. posing for “the ‘gram”).

 

If you love street art, take a look at some of my other mural centric posts:

 

 

Murals of San Miguel de Allende

 

Where to find murals in san Miguel de Allende, best things to do in San Miguel de Allende

Where to see Murals in San Miguel de Allende

 

EL CHARCO DEL INGENIO JARDÍN BOTÁNICO Y ÁREA NATURAL PROTEGIDA 

This botanical garden and nature preserve lies to the east of the city center and is about a 40 minute walk. There is a spring fed pool here nestled amidst a canyon which is home to a wide array of cacti, succulents and rare and endangered Mexican flora. If you are a nature or plant lover, then you can walk or take a taxi to this preserve to spend a day amongst native shrubs, scenic overlooks, guided tours and hiking trails. I was short on time so I skipped this attraction during my 2 days in San Miguel de Allende.

 

 

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE GUIDED TOURS AND DAY TRIPS

Being one of the top tourist and expat destinations in Mexico, there are year round guided tours (public and private) offered in San Miguel de Allende. From walking tours to specialty food tours, this town has it all. Here are the most popular and top rated ones (within the historic city center and day trips):

 

GUIDED TOURS WITHIN THE CITY CENTER

Historical & Cultural Walking Tour of San Miguel de Allende

Chocolate Tasting and Walking Tour

Landmarks and Lunch Walking Tour

Evening Food Tour

Downtown Food Tour

Tacos and Tequilas Tour

Tour of 2 Vineyards with Wine Tasting

Walking Tour of Houses and Gardens

 

DAY TRIPS FROM SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Hiking in the Canyon with Lunch

Cañada de la Virgen Archaeological Site Tour

Guanajuato City Tour from San Miguel de Allende

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende in 48 hours and are planning a trip of yours soon. Thanks so much for stopping by and safe travels!

 

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This is a guide to the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in two days. Includes the top attractions, where to shop, eat and find the most eye popping murals! #sanmigueldeallende #mexico #guanajuato #murals #mexicotravel

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