Gallery Hopping, Tequila Sipping, and Mighty Monolith Hikes

Far from the bustle of metropolitan Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende presents itself as the charming heart of Mexico’s central highlands. Steeped in colonial history, culture, and a thriving arts scene, this UNESCO World Heritage site is like a time capsule in the best sense—replete with winding cobblestone streets and bustling plazas covered with colorful blooms.

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San Miguel de Allende has been picking up international steam thanks to its unique artistic community, which has earned the small city a reputation as a haven for creatives and artisans. Wander through its labyrinthine streets, and you’ll encounter galleries, studios, and workshops showcasing everything from traditional folk art to contemporary masterpieces.

For outdoor enthusiasts, San Miguel de Allende offers a gateway to breathtaking natural landscapes and hiking opportunities, like the soaring Peña de Bernal. The city also boasts a burgeoning culinary scene, with a growing list of top-notch restaurants, cafes, and rooftop bars serving up delectable dishes and drinks that fuse traditional Mexican flavors with international influences. Case in point: Casa Dragones, a renowned tequila distillery, calls San Miguel de Allende home, offering visitors the chance to sample some of Mexico’s finest spirits against the backdrop of colonial splendor.

La Casa Dragones: The renowned tequila distillery in the heart of San Miguel de Allende is headquartered in a historic stone stable that once housed the famed Dragones Calvary during Mexico's War of Independence. <p><button class=
La Casa Dragones: The renowned tequila distillery in the heart of San Miguel de Allende is headquartered in a historic stone stable that once housed the famed Dragones Calvary during Mexico’s War of Independence.

Douglas Friedman

“La Casa Dragones is a former 17th-century stable that housed the elite Dragones Calvary of the Mexican Independence and is an incredibly significant piece of Mexican history,” says founder Bertha González Nieves. “San Miguel is so special because it holds so much history, and is one of Mexico’s most beautiful cities.”

Whether you’re intrigued by its storied past, inspired by its artistic energy, or ready for some premium tequila tasting, San Miguel de Allende promises a one-of-a-kind journey that also doesn’t require more than a few days’ time. Here’s how to make the most of a long weekend spent exploring central Mexico’s most vibrant, historic, visitor-friendly town, with some key insider tips from González Nieves.

Founded in 1542 by a Franciscan monk, San Miguel de Allende's colorful core of colonial-era buildings is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1542 by a Franciscan monk, San Miguel de Allende's colorful core of colonial-era buildings is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Founded in 1542 by a Franciscan monk, San Miguel de Allende’s colorful core of colonial-era buildings is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How to Get to and Around San Miguel de Allende

For international travelers, the closest major airport is Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (QRO), located approximately 1.5 hours away by car. Alternatively, the larger Del Bajío International Airport (BJX) near León is about a 1.5- to 2-hour drive away. From either airport, you can arrange a private transfer, shuttle service, or rent a car to reach San Miguel de Allende.

Once you arrive in San Miguel de Allende, navigating the town is a breeze due to its compact size and pedestrian-friendly layout. Many of the attractions, restaurants, and shops are concentrated in the historic city center, allowing visitors to explore on foot. For longer distances or exploring the outskirts of town, taxis are available to book, or you can drive a rental car. Bicycle rentals also offer a fun and eco-friendly way to explore, but be warned that much of the city’s streets are cobblestoned, which could make for a bumpy ride.

Numerous attractions, restaurants, and shops are concentrated in central San Miguel de Allende's iconic cobblestone streets, beckoning visitors to explore the historic city on foot. Numerous attractions, restaurants, and shops are concentrated in central San Miguel de Allende's iconic cobblestone streets, beckoning visitors to explore the historic city on foot.

Numerous attractions, restaurants, and shops are concentrated in central San Miguel de Allende’s iconic cobblestone streets, beckoning visitors to explore the historic city on foot.

When to Visit San Miguel de Allende

The best times of the year to visit San Miguel de Allende are during spring and fall, especially around March to June and September to November. The weather is mild with comfortably warm temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for exploring the walkable city. You might also want to consider timing your visit to San Miguel with one of the city’s popular annual events, such as the Cervantes Festival in April or Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in early November.

Hotel Matilda draws savvy visitors to its stylish accommodations and one of the town's great courtyard watering holes, Monkey Bar. Hotel Matilda draws savvy visitors to its stylish accommodations and one of the town's great courtyard watering holes, Monkey Bar.

Hotel Matilda draws savvy visitors to its stylish accommodations and one of the town’s great courtyard watering holes, Monkey Bar.

Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende: Best Boutique Hotels

One of González Nieves’s favorite hotels in town, “Hotel Matilda celebrates the lifestyle of today’s international travelers and the contemporary Latin art scene, all while offering the best in Mexican hospitality,” she says. Renowned for its avant-garde design, vibrant atmosphere, and sleek-stylish accommodations, Hotel Matilda offers 32 luxurious rooms and suites adorned with contemporary artwork and high-end amenities.

Dining options at the hotel include the acclaimed Moxi Restaurant, led by renowned chef Enrique Olvera, which showcases innovative Mexican cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The hotel’s chic bar serves up an array of craft cocktails and premium spirits, providing the perfect setting for guests to unwind after a day of exploring the town’s enchanting streets. “One of my favorite cocktail experiences is located at the Monkey Bar in the beautiful courtyard of Hotel Matilda, where you can enjoy a Casa Dragones cocktail at the bar or by the pool,” González Nieves says.

Casa Hoyos features 16 uniquely designed guest rooms in a restored colonial building. Casa Hoyos features 16 uniquely designed guest rooms in a restored colonial building.

Casa Hoyos features 16 uniquely designed guest rooms in a restored colonial building.

Casa Hoyos, housed within a restored colonial building, features unique Mexican design and boldly colored tile accents. Each of its 16 rooms has its own aesthetic, featuring handcrafted furnishings and locally sourced artwork that capture San Miguel de Allende’s distinctive vibe. Guests can savor Mexican-Indian fusion cuisine at the hotel’s onsite restaurant, featuring bold flavors and local ingredients. Casa Hoyos also boasts a rooftop with a small pool and a renowned bar, Bebek, offering panoramic views of the skyline and the perfect setting to enjoy cocktails at the end of the day.

Where to Eat: Best Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in San Miguel de Allende

One of the best ways to start your day in San Miguel is with breakfast at Garambullo Fonda Gourmet, an open and airy cafe-restaurant with a plant-filled courtyard backed by a bright magenta brick wall. Choose from local pastries, fresh smoothies, or heartier breakfast dishes like chilaquiles or poached eggs on polenta.

For lunch, tiny, unassuming Tostévere makes some of the best tostadas in town. Peruse the handwritten menu, and get ready to indulge in pulpo (octopus) tostadas piled sky high, or opt for their popular short rib sandwich if tostadas aren’t your thing. Come thirsty, too, as Tostévere is known for its delicious cocktails.

A local favorite, and one of González Nieves’ top spots in town, Bovine Brasserie is actually an Australian steakhouse. “[Bovine] has a sophisticated atmosphere that embodies both simplicity and contrast,” she notes. For a truly unforgettable dining experience, guests can also enjoy a private, five-course pairing dinner at La Mesa Dragones, exclusively created to pair with Casa Dragones. “La Mesa Dragones is beautifully designed with walnut cabinets made of laton and wire mesh where our sipping tequilas are displayed,” González Nieves adds.

La Casa Dragones. Visitors can arrange rooftop tequila tastings, paired with gorgeous views of central San Miguel de Allende. <p>Douglas Friedman</p>La Casa Dragones. Visitors can arrange rooftop tequila tastings, paired with gorgeous views of central San Miguel de Allende. <p><button class=
La Casa Dragones. Visitors can arrange rooftop tequila tastings, paired with gorgeous views of central San Miguel de Allende.

Douglas Friedman

Where to Drink: Best Drinking Experiences in San Miguel de Allende

La Casa Dragones Tasting Room is located in a stunningly restored colonial building—some parts of it dating all the way back to 1671. Visitors can take part in one (or more) of the property’s guided experiences, from a tequila tasting that also includes a tour of the historic home, to a tasting focused on the premium brand’s barrel-aged expressions. As the sun sets, you can reserve a tasting on the rooftop with views of the city, or an after-dinner mixology experience that will teach you how to make dessert-inspired cocktails.

A quick 15-minute drive out of the city center, Cava Garambullo is a small natural winery—and one of the first to take root in Guanajuato when it started production over a decade ago. Unrelated to the cafe recommended above, garambullo is a tiny purple berry native to Mexico, and some winemakers incorporate it into their process. From its picturesque location in the Mexican highlands, Cava Garambullo offers visits, tastings, and occasional workshops and events on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Parroquia de San Miguel ArcángelParroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

​​Don’t-Miss: Top Attraction in San Miguel de Allende

Right in the heart of the city, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, often referred to simply as the Parroquia, stands as the iconic centerpiece of San Miguel de Allende. The historic neo-Gothic parish church captivates with its pink towers and intricate facade, showing off the city’s unique colonial architecture. Originally constructed in the 17th century, the Parroquia underwent a significant redesign in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its interior is equally beautiful, and a visit inside is a must while visiting the city—featuring stunning altars, ornate decorations, and beautiful stained glass windows.

Savvy Tip for Visitors to San Miguel de Allende

An incredibly walkable city, the best way to explore San Miguel de Allende is on foot. Pack shoes you don’t mind strolling around in all day long—and make sure to consider that much of the historic city center and its surrounding neighborhoods have cobblestoned streets. Sun protection is also vital, and we suggest bringing not only sunscreen but also a reliable hat and sunglasses.

San Miguel's arid climate is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and walking cobblestone lanes rife with charms, past and present. San Miguel's arid climate is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and walking cobblestone lanes rife with charms, past and present.

San Miguel’s arid climate is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and walking cobblestone lanes rife with charms, past and present.

Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende Over Three Days

Day 1: Ogle Art, Architecture, and Local History—and Go Treasure Hunting

Begin your day at the iconic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, which towers over the main square of El Jardín. Take in the intricate facade adorned with pink stones and venture inside to admire the intricate altars and stained glass windows. As you wander around the cobblestone streets surrounding the square, you’ll encounter a ton of small boutiques, cafes, and galleries housed in centuries-old buildings.

Next, delve into the artistic soul of San Miguel by visiting the Instituto Allende, a renowned art school housed in a former 18th-century convent. Marvel at the striking architecture while strolling the galleries, with works by both local and international artists. Take time to venture to Casa de Ignacio Allende, the birthplace of one of Mexico’s key figures in the struggle for independence. There, you can explore a museum dedicated to Allende’s life and legacy.

If you’re on the hunt for some treasures to bring home, check out the custom hats from Suki Palomina—a favorite of González Nieves—who tailors every hat to fit your head. In that same vein, Montserrat Messeguer is a local artisan with a boutique selling handmade leather shoes. Other handmade wares can be found aplenty at the Mercado de Artesanías (artisan market).

Cap off your day with a sunset stroll to El Mirador, an overlook offering panoramic views of the city’s terracotta rooftops and surrounding hills. Locals and visitors alike love coming to this spot at sunset for a stunning scene.

Towering over its namesake colonial town, 1,421-foot Peña de Bernal is one of the world's tallest monoliths—and the area's bucket list summit trek. Towering over its namesake colonial town, 1,421-foot Peña de Bernal is one of the world's tallest monoliths—and the area's bucket list summit trek.

Towering over its namesake colonial town, 1,421-foot Peña de Bernal is one of the world’s tallest monoliths—and the area’s bucket list summit trek.

Day 2: Explore Bernal and Climb Mexico’s Mightiest Monolith

Peña de Bernal, located near the town of Bernal in the state of Querétaro, Mexico, is one of the tallest monoliths in the world, rising 1,421 feet above the desert terrain. It’s a tough hike, but conquering Peña de Bernal offers breathtaking panoramic views from its summit—well worth it if you’re up for the steep two- to three-hour climb. Besides the hiking opportunity, Bernal is also a charming colonial town with cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a rich cultural heritage.

Start your journey from San Miguel de Allende early in the morning to make the most of the day here. After a scenic two-hour drive, you’ll arrive in Bernal and head toward the base of the monolith, where the trailhead awaits. Then ignore the burn as you take in the stunning landscape around you: rugged cliffs, desert plants, soaring birds of prey. Stop at the summit to catch your breath and take in the panorama—one of central Mexico’s finest.

A two-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende leads to the charming colonial town of Bernal—and the gateway to Mexico's mightiest monolith. A two-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende leads to the charming colonial town of Bernal—and the gateway to Mexico's mightiest monolith.

A two-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende leads to the charming colonial town of Bernal—and the gateway to Mexico’s mightiest monolith.

After descending from the peak, take some time to explore the town of Bernal, known for its handicrafts and local cuisine. Enjoy a meal at one of the town’s many restaurants serving savory Mexican dishes such as gorditas, enchiladas queretanas, and mole poblano. Remember to indulge in a refreshing agua fresca or traditional cajeta-filled churros. Before departing back for San Miguel de Allende, take a leisurely stroll through the town’s picturesque plaza.

Don't leave San Miguel Allende without sipping its top local tequila, Casa Dragones.<p>courtesy image</p>Don't leave San Miguel Allende without sipping its top local tequila, Casa Dragones.<p><button class=
Don’t leave San Miguel Allende without sipping its top local tequila, Casa Dragones.

courtesy image

Day 3: Shop, Rooftop Hop, and Sip Premium Tequila

Start your last day in San Miguel de Allende with breakfast at La Cabra Iluminada, a café with an idyllic, tree-clad courtyard offering affogatos and chai lattes. After breakfast, head to Doce 18 Concept House, located in Hotel Casa Arca. Another favorite of González Nieves, Doce 18 offers a wide variety of fashion and home decor pieces, handmade textiles, and silver jewelry. It helps that it’s located in the same building as Casa Dragones Tasting Room.

Pop in there next (make sure to reserve this experience ahead of time) to embark on an exclusive tequila tasting experience led by experts who will guide you through the nuances of Casa Dragones tequilas. Learn about the intricate process of crafting tequila, from the cultivation of blue agave to the art of distillation. Indulge in the smooth and refined taste of Casa Dragones Joven, a sipping tequila, known for its distinctive flavor profile and smoothness.

Doce 18 (top) offers a wide variety of fashion items, home decor pieces, and silver jewelry. The city's ubiquitous colorful textiles are another popular keepsake. Doce 18 (top) offers a wide variety of fashion items, home decor pieces, and silver jewelry. The city's ubiquitous colorful textiles are another popular keepsake.

Doce 18 (top) offers a wide variety of fashion items, home decor pieces, and silver jewelry. The city’s ubiquitous colorful textiles are another popular keepsake.

Following your tequila tasting, venture back out a little tipsy and ready to explore. Walk north about 15 minutes to the neighborhood of Guadalupe, where you can admire a wide range of street art lining cobblestoned lanes. Cross the river to try pulque, a long-savored alcoholic beverage made from fermented agave sap, at Pulques y Curados La Otomí.

As the sun begins to set, make your way to dinner at Luna Rooftop, at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, known for its 360-degree views of the city’s skyline as well as its Mexican-inspired tapas. After dinner, cap your night at Bebek, the rooftop bar at Casa Hoyos, to enjoy cocktails made by mixologist Fabiola Padilla, which are inspired by ancestral Mexican ingredients and traditions. Make sure to try her Milk Punch made with Casa Dragones Blanco before heading back for a good night’s rest.

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