Guanajuato Mexico

Discovering Mexico’s colonial heart – #2: San Miguel de Allende

Cobblestone streets flanked by colorful colonial buildings, beautifully decorated doors openning to flowered gardens, lovely wrought-iron street lamps, religious statues carved directly into the buildings’ façades, colorful domes overlooking the city… San Miguel de Allende is a little gem from colonial times !

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If we loved Guanajuato, what should we say about San Miguel de Allende !? Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and incredibly well preserved, the city of San Miguel seems to be the ultimate mexican colonial town! Not a single advertizing sign or traffic light to pollute the harmonious beauty of the city: it is like walking around an open-air museum!

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Located at about 100 kilometers of Guanajuato and 275 kilometres of Mexico City, San Miguel is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway from the Mexican capital! A cosmopolitan atmosphere reigns over this little town where many people – Mexican and foreigns – come to settle when they retire to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the city. The city also attracts many artists.

We arrived by bus from Guanajuato and we spent a lovely day in this little gem for the colonial era. As soon as we arrived, I started wondering how the city had become so rich, just like I had in Guanajuato. Even though the gold and silver mines are also involved, the story is quite different from Guanajuato’s.

A few history words

Like we saw in the previous article, Guanajuato became a prosperous town thanks to the direct exploitation of nearby gold and silver mines. San Miguel also benefited from the discovery of mines in the region, but in another way

In the middle of the 16th century, after silver and gold were discovered, a road was built from Zacatecas (where some of the mines were located) to the capital, Mexico City. The city of San Miguel was crossed by this road. The city became prosperous as they began to fulfill travellers’ needs and to provide supplies to mining towns.

The city reached its golden age in the 18th century and that’s when the beautiful houses and churches that we can still see today were built.

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We arrived before noon and as we only had one day there, we first went to the tourist office located on the main square (plaza Allende) to get some information about the city. We were lucky to be attended to by a very dynamic lady who gave us many tips and good addresses as well as a map of the city. Thanks to her we really had the feeling to make the most of our time in San Miguel.

We mainly walked around the beautiful streets of the city. Each time we reached a new crossing, we did not know which way to go: everything was beautiful! This city is paradise for photography lovers… We also had enough time to visit an amazing botanic garden in which we discovered an impressive quantity of cacti! We ended our day “en beauté”, at the terrace of an hotel that offered an amazing view over the city.

Here is what we discovered in San Miguel de Allende.

1. Amazing coffee to start the day at Juan’s Cafe

  • Calle Relox 37, Zona Centro, San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

As we had woken up quite early that day to catch our bus, we needed a good cup of coffee to properly start our day. Juan’s Café was one of the places recommended by the lady of the tourist office and we loved it! As we are great coffee fans, we are very often disappointed but here it was perfect!

The place was lovely as well. It is a great address to keep in mind if you are going to San Miguel. The coffee shop is easy to reach as it is located close to the main square.

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2. Walking around the colorful streets

After drinking this amazing coffee, we were ready to go and explore the city. The weather was lovely, sun and blue sky. We were about to spend a great day! We started exploring the little streets by the main square and taking tons of pictures. I had rarely seen such a photogenic city. I loved the warm tones in which were painted the walls but beauty also came from little details…

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I particularly liked for instance the signs indicating the names of the streets as well as these lovely street lamps.

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I love the little VW Beetle and they are everywhere in Mexico! They even used to be used by taxi drivers in Mexico City. I also liked these sculptures at the corner of buildings. There were many like this one in the whole city.

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As the city is built on hills, we keep going up and down while exploring the city but when we reach the top we have a beautiful view on the city.

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A small selection of San Miguel’s beautiful doors…

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And when these lovely doors are open, we discover treasures! Many buildings have been transformed into hotels or restaurants. As we were passing by, we caught sight of beautiful inner courts and gardens. The first picture below is the entrance to a hotel called “L’ôtel”. I checked their website out of curiosity… I keep the address in mind for the day I win at the lotery… If you are curious like me, you can access their site here.

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What most struck me in San Miguel, was the harmony of the city. The walls are painted in the same tones, everything looks beautiful…

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La Parroquia

As we came back to the main square (la Plaza Allende), we admired the baroque chuch called “Parroquia”.

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Oratorio de San Felipe Neri

We also discovered this little haven of peace a few steps away from the main square. This lovely garden is a great place to rest a few minutes in the shadow.

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3. Walking around the botanic garden “El Charco del Ingenio”

The lady from the tourist office also recommended us this lovely garden. As it was located outside the center of the city, we took a taxi to get there. Within 15 minutes, we had arrived.

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We found out that this botanic garden was a huge natural reserve with protected varieties of cacti as well as other plants, some of which are endangered.

This reserve is located in an arid valley close to the city. As we were walking around the cacti alley, we realized that it was hot. Very hot. The sun was very strong and there was almost no shade. We felt like we had just arrived in a desert. It’s a good thing I had brought a hat and water with me. The experience must be more pleasant in the morning when it is not that hot.

We then started following this little path. I was already busy taking pictures when I heard a scream: “A snake!!” Oups… It’s a good thing that I did not see it… We quickly went the other direction and started walking with heavy steps to scare away the potential other snakes…

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I was impressed by the great variety of cacti! I did not know there were so many! Fruits grow on some varieties. Some other cacti can be eaten. The “nopal” is a variety that we frequently find on the menue of mexican restaurants!

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When the view cleared, we realized how beautiful this arid landscape was.

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We kept walking and we discovered this canyon.

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After walking around the reserve for about two hours, we were very hot! All we wanted was to have something to drink in a cool place.

  • More info on the official website here.

5. Lunch at the terrace of Rosewood

Once again, thanks to the lady of the tourist office, we discovered an amazing place: the hotel “Rosewood”. She told us about the terrace of the hotel which offers an amazing view on the city. We were not disappointed!

We stayed a long time at this terrace to rest and enjoy the amazing view. Binoculars were even placed on each table not to miss anything of the beautiful view!

It was 4pm, the Mexican time for lunch! Not only was the view amazing but the dishes were also delicious! We had a ceviche and a burger (after a terrible experience in Guanajuato, I finally had a delicious burger…).

Another great address to keep in mind if you are going to San Miguel !

  • Calle Nemesio Diez #11, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto.
  • More info here.

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We then walked back to the center where we stayed for a while before going back to the bus station to return to Guanajuato.

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Continue reading

  • Previous stop: Guanajuato. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Mexico.
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2 Comments

  • Reply Discovering Mexico’s colonial heart – #1 : Guanajuato - La petite valise d'Aurélie 19 February 2016 at 16 h 48 min

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  • Reply Discovering Mexico’s colonial heart – #1 : Guanajuato – La petite valise d'Aurélie 27 December 2015 at 21 h 40 min

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