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Mexico does not lack beautiful towns, but few can rival the colorful display of distinctive architecture, texture, and colors to be found in San Miguel de Allende. Named a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site in 2008, the colonial city, located in the central highlands of Mexico, was founded in the 16th century and is filled with buildings from the Baroque to Neo-Gothic styles. But you don’t need to be an art history buff to appreciate San Miguel de Allende’s good looks. This one-day walking tour, punctuated with good food and drinks, will take you to the best of this stunning city’s historic center.
Starting point: La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Begin the day at La Colmena Panaderia, a grab-and-go Mexican bakery near the center of San Miguel de Allende near the corner of Relox and Mesones streets. Head down Relox Street in the direction of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel to enjoy the view of this very unusual church. The traditional colonial-style appearance of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel was transformed into the pink neo-Gothic one we celebrate today by Zeferino Gutiérrez, an enthusiastic bricklayer and self-taught architect influenced by pictures of European cathedrals, in 1880. Admission is free, and you can visit the crypt below the altar if you ask nicely and are ready to pay a small fee.
Once out of La Parroquia, don’t blow by La Santa Escuela de Cristo, a smaller pink and ochre church located next door. Take in the bell tower from outside and walk in to admire the decor. Both churches are located on San Miguel de Allende’s main square, El Jardín. Full of beautiful topiary trees, El Jardín is a great spot for people watching in the shade.
Mid-morning stroll and visit to a colonial mansion
From El Jardín, walk down Cuna de Allende and past the Museo Histórico Casa de Allende (the former house of Mexican Independence leader Ignacio Allende), where you can get a solid history lesson on the town for the low admission fee of $3. Whether you visit the museum or not, make sure to stop at Maria Xoconostle for a mid-morning coffee break and an eyeful of architectural beauty. The restaurant is part of an original 18th-century colonial home, the Posada Carmina. The rest of the structure is a family-run boutique lodging called Hotel Carmina. Take in the original architectural details of the warm, orange-colored home from the inner sanctuary of a courtyard to the high arches while enjoying your beverage.
Coming out of Maria Xoconostle, take a right out and head farther down Cuna de Allende to the corner of Aldama Street. This colorful thoroughfare filled with colonial homes is a great spot for an Insta session as it offers views of the steeple of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and the dome of the church of the Immaculate Conception (known as Las Monjas, or “the nuns”). Wandering the cobblestone streets from here is a great way to get an intimate look at San Miguel de Allende’s pretty nooks and crannies.
Most of the houses on the streets of the historic center of San Miguel de Allende are painted in warm tones like sunny yellow, burnt orange, deep reds, and violets, and many are covered in thick layers of bright pink bougainvillea and other vines. Enjoy the town’s vibrancy during your stroll and pay attention to the small details, like the black iron gates that guard windows and doors and the lintels. Some reflect the simple lines of modern times while others embrace a more ornate design. Look up and admire the traditional folk art of Papel picado, which are the colorful and patterned tissue paper flags. They zigzag from one side of the street to the next in a joyful display.
Late lunch with an iconic view
Walking back toward the main square, head to Quince, a stunning rooftop spot for modern eats and refreshing cocktails with breathtaking views of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel’s spires.
End the day with a view from higher ground
Leaving Quince, head right down Cuna de Allende, take a left onto Cuadrante Street, and finally a right onto Aldama Street. A 10-minute walk will bring you to the beautiful and peaceful Benito Juarez Park in the southern part of the city. There, check out the 18th-century red public basins known as Lavaderos del Chorro, a historical landmark, where residents have been hand-washing their laundry for decades.
From Lavaderos del Chorro, head east through the adjacent El Chorro park and follow Callejón Chorro before turning left on Salida Real a Querétaro. The nine-minute walk is a little steep and is worth it for one main reason: You’re going to a view point. From El Mirador, you’ll have a picture-perfect view of the town unfolding below.
La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel can be seen from almost any angle, as can most of the historic center. This hilltop view is the perfect ending to a day spent walking the charming town of San Miguel de Allende.
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