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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Colonial beauty

This city has no beaches nor magnificent monuments. Here you won't find high-end museums nor impressive natural landscapes. In all honesty, the list of places to see around here is relatively lean - nevertheless San Miguel de Allende has made it to become one of the most special destinations in all Mexico. Located in the center of the country, around 280km (175km) from the national capital and 75km (47mi) away from Guanajuato, people don't come to San Miguel to see a museum, a church or a particular sight; those who come here just come to see and live San Miguel de Allende.

Founded in 1542, and converted in World Heritage Site, this is nothing but one of the most beautiful colonial cities in the whole country. The city, which took its name in honor to Ignacio Allende, one of the heroes of the Mexican independence, played an important role as a regional hub during the silver's heyday and was one of the first to be freed from Spanish control during the Independence War.

San MIguel Allende
San MIguel Allende

Nowadays, a very reasonable share of the local population of 130,000 inhabitants is made of foreigners (up to 20% according to some estimates) - people that, captivated by its climate and tranquility, decided to move here permanently after getting to know San Miguel. This is a city, generally speaking, well organized, well illuminated and seat of several festivals throughout the year. The main festivities in the area are the Fiestas de San Miguel de Allende, celebrated for a week in anticipation of the Saint Michael the Archangel day, on September 29th.

Templo de San Felipe Neri
Templo de San Felipe Neri

The growing influx of tourists has promoted an increase of accommodation options: the vast majority consisting in charming boutique-hotels, set up in colonial houses. The city also hosts a high density of small art galleries, besides gourmet and handcraft stores. The increasing popularity of the city among tourists have also motivated the opening of several good restaurants in the area, some of them led by nationally renowned chefs.

San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende

Overall, San Miguel is better explored on foot, and the most obvious place to start its discovery is the Jardín Principal. This is the heart of the city, with beautifully forged iron benches where you can rest under the shadow of the trees, to the sound of the rhythms created by a mix of mariachis and other musicians that take turns through the different areas of the square. In front of the Jardín Principal, the Saint Michael Parish Church is considered the icon of the city. Built during the 17th century in neo-gothic style, the church houses a crypt qualified by Emperor Maximilian as "worthy of kings". The facade of the structure, remodeled in the later part of the 19th century, is illuminated on a exceptionally beautiful fashion at night.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Only 500 meters (550 yards) south of the central square, the Benito Juarez Park offers another place of relaxation, in an area of the city surrounded by pretty houses and small hotels. Its collective tanks are still used every now and then by local folks to wash their clothes and get some comfort on the hottest summer days. A small distance away, hiking the stairs near the Casa de Cultura and the Santa Cruz del Chorro Chapel, lies the main viewpoint of the city, from where almost the entire San Miguel can be observed, including its main churches and the streets that make its historic center.

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