San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

  • Stayed November 2018
  • Accommodation: Alcatraz Hostel – super cheap, in a great location. Staff were all really lovely, they don’t speak much English but they do make the effort to try to chat (as I did too with my poor Spanish). Nice patio area and guest kitchen. The dorms are just OK though. Only two plug sockets for the five beds in my room, though it wasn’t an issue for me as the hostel didn’t have many guests staying, and no night lights or AC or free towels (as listed on booking.com). Always seemed to be issues with the toilet getting blocked or not flushing too – not ideal with only one bathroom for the two dorms. Free breakfast provided was a bonus. You get what you pay for…. Not sure I’d stay here again.

San Miguel de Allende is muy hermoso: be-yew-ti-ful! Probably one of the most instagrammable places I’ve visited during my travels. This is Mexico folks, but it’s the pretty, expat-town version, and even though Mexico is cheaper than some countries, you are going to pay more for most things here in San Miguel. Not for nothing has San Miguel been voted the no. 1 city in the world by readers of Travel + Leisure. It’s a compact city, an easy place to get around by foot, and some streets are closed to cars which makes walking around a more pleasurable experience.

Declared a World Heritage site by Unesco, the historic centre has cobble streets galore, lovingly preserved colonial houses in hues of orange and red, and striking architecture such as the  Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, which dominates the Plaza Principal (‘The Jardin’ as it is known locally), the main square which is the life and soul of the city. San Miguel is a city made for mooching (a mindless stroll for those of you unfamiliar with the term…) but the Plaza Principal was made for sitting, watching the world go by, preferably with a cocktail or ice cream in hand. You will see it all here: carts selling fresh corn, hat and trinket sellers, local families, travellers, and numerous mariachi bands ready to play for you in exchange for your pesos.

Those of you like me who love art should definitely head to Fabrica La Aurora, a complex consisting of design shops, galleries with impressive collections on display and two cafes on site. Only a short walk from the centre, you will know you have arrived when you spot the large horse sculpture at the gate and a couple of other art pieces on the grounds. A great place for a lazy afternoon’s meander. The Mercado de Artesanias (Artisans Market) is also worth checking out. Amongst the usual tourist souvenirs, there are hand made goods to buy which could make for great presents.

Some cafe/restaurant recommendations for you: first up, El Cafe de la Mancha is a fab little cafe specialising in coffee in a chilled setting. I had a Japanese siphon coffee which was amazing and Avocado on Toast (a treat I’ve missed on my months on the road). Baja Fish Taquito is a good budget choice and it has a rooftop terrace with views of the city and delicious pescadillas. When I visited, they were offering various meal deals, for example, if you bought three tacos you got a free drink. Obviously the places immediately surrounding the Plaza Principal are very touristy with prices to reflect that, but you can find some excellent places if you walk away from the Plaza. I hear good things about La Posadita but I didn’t make there. Los Milagros was a decent Mexican with tasty food and live music every night. Ten Ten Pie is a good spot for an afternoon beer, guacamole and people watching. If your budget is very tight, then hit up the food carts that always seemed to be doing good business around the Plaza.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay in San Miguel but wished I’d spent a night or two less here and more nights in Guanajuato, a gem of a place that I visited next. Guanajuato post coming soon…

*Note: Though San Miguel de Allende feels safe, you should still maintain the usual precautions when travelling. A guy I met in my hostel had the unfortunate experience of getting robbed at the bus station around midnight when he’d just arrived in the city. The male traveller he met on the bus unwisely decided to fight back and his hand was slashed with a machete which meant he spent his first few days in the city in the local hospital. Be cautious at night and if a robbery is attempted, just hand over your money. Better to lose your money, than your life.

Selection of pictures from my stay:   

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