Due to its colossal population of American and Canadian expats (around 10%!), San Miguel de Allende is derided as a destination by travellers looking for a more ‘authentic’ Mexican experience, but it is a beautiful town and it is worth staying a while.
Here’s how to get the most out of a visit to San Miguel:
- Learn something – plenty of expats come here to study art or learn Spanish. The Instituto Allende offers all kinds of classes in everything from painting to traditional textile making. We got a taste of silver making with Jose Antonio Lopez.
- Shop for local souvenirs – San Miguel is famed for its fabulous shopping and you’ll find beautiful handicrafts from all over Mexico, as well as unique products by local designers at Ave Maria.
- Meet locals – it’s undeniable that there are a lot of expats around and you’ll hear English nearly as much as Spanish, but it’s not hard to meet Mexicans if you try. Want some tips? Start with our new friend Giovanna.
- Master the art of Mexican cooking – San Miguel doesn’t have a great dining scene – a lot of restaurants serve up ‘international’ cuisine and Tex-Mex to appeal to expat palates. Why not enrol in a traditional Mexican cooking course (we tried Marilau’s), rent a place with a great kitchen, and cook to your stomach’s content?
- Stroll the streets – San Miguel oozes plenty of colonial charm from its cobblestone streets and splendid churches and is a delight to stroll. Don’t believe us? See this post and check out this video. Take a walk in the late afternoon to see the colours are their most stunning.
- Hang out in El Jardin – there is always something going on in the pretty garden and adjacent main square: from folkloric performances and wedding parties to mariachis serenading couples in love. Simply sit back and soak it all up for a while.
- Do taco-stand hops – taste an array of terrific tacos and tostadas at the many taco stands that dot San Miguel’s streets. Most set up just before sun set and some don’t close until well after midnight. Look for the ones where loads of locals are eating or head straight to our favourite.
- Sip tequila to the sound of rancheros – listen to singer Benjamin Lara sing melancholy songs at his atmospheric bar until the wee hours.
- Join a gang – perhaps you’re here because you want to hang out with expats, you want to buy a house in San Miguel de Allende and retire, or maybe, like Richard Lander, you’re an anthropologist at heart – either way, get a guide to the local Gangs of San Miguel de Allende here.