Perhaps most known as the expat capital of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende in the centre of the country has lots of pleasant things to offer the slow traveller. With a pleasant climate, beautiful colonial architecture, a developed art scene and some good eats, it's no wonder so many tourists, both from within Mexico and beyond are drawn there. Here's our quick guide to San Miguel de Allende of what to see, do and eat.
Many Mexicans I met told me that San Miguel de Allende was widely considered the most beautiful town in all of Mexico, most notably for its very well preserved colonial architecture. Indeed, it is quite beautiful, and the local pink sandstone used in the construction of several local buildings is particularly striking and most obvious in the town's main church with its unusual Moorish-inspired tower.
Just spending some time wandering around the impeccably clean streets of San Miguel de Allende and admiring the mostly 16th century architecture is definitely worthwhile.
While there isn't any street art in the very centre of town, just bit to the north in the Guadalupe neighbourhood, there are a few well-kept pieces to be spotted on the sides of the residential buildings. This one, by the Axolotl Collective was a definite favourite.
It might not sound like the most exciting place, but the public library is a nice place to hang out and get out of the sun. With an impressively large selection of books in English, a nice café, several places to sit for free in the shade and some interesting murals depicting indigenous mythology adorning its interior walls, it's worth popping in to, even if only briefly.
El Mercado de Artesanías
Looking for some handmade souvenirs from Mexico? This market running several blocks of the pedestrianised Calle Lucas Balderas has all kinds of locally made handicrafts for sale. Best of all, the people selling their wares are not pushy at all and will happily let you browse uninterrupted if you wish.
Come sunset, all the newbies in town flock to the viewpoint on Real a Queretaro near the corner with Piedras Chinas to the south-east of the town centre to watch the sun disappear behind the hills and turn the whole town a pinkish-orange with its fading light. If you hadn't noticed before, it's here that you really see the beauty of San Miguel de Allende!
Though they don't have anything specifically vegan on the menu, the staff at this relaxed courtyard restaurant hidden from the street were super helpful and willing to veganise a few things for us to make for a tasty and filling meal. Their giant salad, normally something I wouldn't go for, was actually very satisfying. The ambiance is really lovely, and it makes for a great escape from some of the busier tourist traps in town.
Out in the Guadalupe neighbourhood to the north of the centre of town, this fully organic restaurant and extensive shop has several vegetarian options which are easy to veganise. In the shop, as well as fresh produce and a nice selection of healthcare products, they have a few a few ready made cold dishes such as lentil salads, hummus and savoury dishes that happen to be vegan.
While this place didn't obviously have anything vegan from looking at the menu, we got lucky by having a vegan waiter who told us a few things that happened to be vegan anyway and could easily be veganised. The guacamole with spirulina was excellent and their chorizo is actually soy-based and is secretly vegan which opened up a whole world of possibilites for us! The location is very pleasant with a modern and minimal aesthetic, making for a nice place for a special evening out.
We happily stumbled across this place and were surprised to discover they offer some vegan ice creams though they don't overtly advertise the fact. They have a small range of soy-based ice creams including a deliciously creamy amaranth one, as well as some wine based ice creams.
This popular fully vegetarian restaurant and tea room attached to an antiques shop is a lovely place to a light afternoon meal, and marks all their vegan options, which make up almost half of the menu. There are soups and sandwiches as well as more typical Mexican dishes such as chilaquiles, all of which was good. The setting is lovely too, in a well maintained garden which is meant to attract birds and other local wildlife who may join you at your table for a while!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Casa Primavera which was a bit out of town, but offered a very convenient free shuttle service into town once an hour, on the hour. The room was spacious and well equipped, the wifi was reliable and there was even a pool. but breakfast was not included. Other options for somewhere in the town so that you can walk everywhere are Hotel La Morada with great views of the Cathedral Tower in a wonderfully maintained colonial building or Clandestino Hotel for a pet-friendly environment only for adults.
Have you been to San Miguel de Allende? What have I missed out?