Changing my mind about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Changing my mind about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico copy

A couple of years ago I visited San Miguel de Allende. I wrote a post on my visit at the time, saying that it was a pretty place, that it was well equipped as a Western retirement spot, but that I had found it overly ‘gringorized’. A few people weren’t happy with me saying that.

Coming back recently to visit my mother I have to admit I really loved my time there. What changed? A couple of things, most not really not having to do with San Miguel itself.

After a year of full-time travel, coming to San Miguel to visit my mom was a break. It’s a pretty place, has great restaurants, and, as I’ve said before, a great infrastructure for the expat. It was easy and fun and is definitely not a difficult destination. I think I called San Miguel ‘Mexico-lite’ somewhere. I stand by that. The difference this time is that’s exactly what I needed. So the real difference to me really enjoying San Miguel was my perspective.

yellow street, san miguel de allende, Mexico

The other thing that changed was the time of year I visited
. When I visited two years ago I came in March. That’s when all the expats are in San Miguel escaping winter in the Northern Hemisphere. This time I came in July. I saw less expats, less Western tourists, and more locals as well as Mexican tourists (who come here to escape the heat in other parts of Mexico). It didn’t feel overly gringorized.

street views in San Miguel de Allende

When you take away over-gringorization there’s not much that you can’t love about San Miguel. Colourful streets, beautiful monuments and churches, friendly locals, fantastic food (I always love coming back to Mexico for the food), and great weather. San Miguel is always cool in the shade, never humid (owing to its altitude). And the Western-effect does have its benefits: you’ll find all the things you would at home. Except cheaper. My mom has an organic store/restaurant right across the street. A block down there’s a gym where expats do aerobics every morning to the beat of Latin (not Mexican) pop. San Miguel has a world class library with books in English, French and Germany (and probably more languages). You can attend concerts, take classes of any kind, or become a painter like every 2nd expat who seems to settle there. It’s a place that seems to inspire people.

Colors in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (2)

Market in San Miguel

Colors in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (5)

Things for sale in San Miguel
I think every expat I’ve spoken to seems to have a love/hate relationship with San Miguel. They love everything listed above. But at some point they get fed up with all the other Westerners who show up for the same things. Then they talk about moving somewhere else in Mexico, somewhere a little less ‘discovered’. But it’s usually just talk, because despite the downside there are so many great things about living in San Miguel.

Churches in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

vendors in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (2)

views from La Posadita restaurant, San Miguel de Allende

Fruits at the Tuesday market, San Miguel de Allende

colours in San Miguel

Market in San Miguel de Allende
I spent a week in San Miguel exploring the markets, walking the hills around town, seeing the botanical gardens (worth a visit), and drinking margaritas with my mom. And I loved it. San Miguel de Allende has won me over. For now.


san miguel sunsets

Practical Information:

– San Miguel de Allende is about 5 ½ hours by bus from Mexico City. You can take the bus from the Mexico City airport direct to Queretaro (about 3 ½ hours by Primera Plus bus lines).  From there you can take a bus to San Miguel which takes about 1 ½ hours. I’ve written about it before – buses in Mexico are excellent, the best I’ve seen anywhere. Taking Primera Plus or ETN is transportation luxury at its best.


 Ever been to San Miguel de Allende? What did you think of it?



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  1. I live here. I even moved away and wrote my own break up letter It was my perspective. I just knew there was somewhere better out there. But, then I missed all the conveniences that are here. It’s an easy life. Perfect weather. An awesome community. Wish I could have met you when you were here!
    Valen-This Way To Paradise recently posted…You’re Missing Out If You Haven’t Been To These Best Beaches In The WorldMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Val!
      Actually I remember reading that post at the time. And I met a few people who felt exactly the same way – and then also came back.
      And if I remember correctly, you were moving to Chiang Mai. My mom did the reverse, coming from Chiang Mai to San Miguel. Now you’re both in San Miguel.
      Yes, I get it totally and, especially after a year of travel, understand why it is so nice having such a good base where the weather is perfect, the people friendly and the food excellent.
      Maybe I get to meet you next time Val 🙂
      Frank (bbqboy)

  2. Lovely place!!! I can see why people would want to retire there, having all the modern conveniences and the great weather. My uncle used to live in Mexico City years ago and l got to visit a few times, but l never made it there. Taxco and Cuernavaca were it..great photos!!!!
    Kemkem recently posted…W Barcelona luxury dream hotel – why I want to stay there.My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Kemkem. I’ve seen photos of Taxco and would like to see it one day. So many interesting places in Mexico that I’m only starting to hear about…lucky for me my mom lives there 🙂

  3. I know very little about Mexico – but this place looks lovely. And quiet! I like quiet!
    Andrew recently posted…Scammed in India – DelhiMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Mexico is fantastic. Close to San Miguel is the town on Guanajuato, one of the prettiest towns you’ll see anywhere. Last year we saw Puebla and Oaxaca, to the south of Mexico City. So much color everywhere, parties and mariachi music, friendly people and great food. Mexico has become one of my favorite countries.

    • Beverley Wood says:

      We left San Miguel after two years for the reason you describe and moved to first Cuernavaca, and then Mexico City. It was easier to live in San Miguel. But it wasn’t like Mexico. Training wheels for Mexico. It’s a fantastic place to visit, lots of great shops and restaurants (catering to gringos and rich Chilangos). But I wouldn’t live there again. For some, it’s perfect. No fuss, no muss, no bother. And no Spanish required.

  4. Have yet to make it to San Miguel de Allende. Your photos are stunning! Even though it just won you over, your photos make me want to have a ‘closer look’ and visit myself.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Debbie! Central Mexico quite stunning and the weather perfect. Hope you make it there 🙂

  5. I’m glad you experienced San Miguel in a different season than last time. Not just for your sake, but ours… Note to self: Visit during the Summer 🙂
    Paula recently posted…Toronto: A City I Do Not Need To Go Back ToMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      It doesn’t get overly crowded – but the balance just shifts enough to lose a bit of its Mexican flavour. In my opinion at least 😉

  6. Well, I am happy to hear you’ve changed your mind!

    I grew up in Mexico and have traveled extensively in the country, and this is one of my favourite cities not only in Mexico, but in the world! I can see why your initial reaction initially would be a bit negative, and yes there are a lot of American expats living in the city, but the city is at its very core a typical Mexican city, which you can see in the market and when hanging out in the central garden.

    And hey, having the conveniences of a modern city isn’t bad. I love the typical aspects of my country, but I also like being able to go to a modern rooftop bar for some sundowner cocktails… There’s no harm in being able to have both cohabiting in one place!

    Beautiful photos by the way, you did beautiful San Miguel justice 🙂
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  7. We haven’t been but I’ve read a LOT of blog posts about the area and it’s definitely a place I’d like to visit. How does the local community blend – accept – ignore – feel about all of the expats?
    Patti recently posted…Crossing the Border: Toronto, Canada ~My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I think the majority accept it well because it brings in employment opportunities. And Mexicans are very tolerant. But I’m sure there are some, especially those who don’t benefit directly, that don’t appreciate the influx of foreigners or the pressure it’s put on housing in the center.

  8. SM library is great! I was really supriced with that since it is in Mexico.

  9. Sue McDaniel says:

    I spent 31 days in August 2016 in a rental apartment. I loved it. I loved the colors of San Miguel. I went in a hot air balloon ride. I travelled by bus to Guanajuato, Querétaro, and Delores Hildalgo. I went by taxi to La Cieneguita to see Chapel of Jimmy Ray art gallery. I visited Atotonilco and Mineral de Pozos. I am a hobby photography, and I loved taking pictures. I also went on three Tastes of San Miguel food tours which were delightful. I did it all and saw much more than some ex-pats that live in San Miguel. I am in San Miguel for 3 1/2 weeks in July 2017. I love it, but I do not believe I could ever live here. I just cannot stand the crowds of people and the primitive plumbing and the uber primitive sidewalks. It’s beautiful, but I would never move here from Arizona.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Mexico definitely the place for taking photos!
      Agree with you especially on the sidewalks – I was in SMA just a month ago and was thinking exactly the same thing!
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…The absolute worst thing about being a full time traveller (it’s got nothing to do with travel)My Profile

    • Sue, I Iived and taught English in Cuenca, Ecuador from Sept. 2015-Sept.2016. Cuenca is another U.N. World Heritage city.It’s 8,200 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. Very pretty, friendly people, cheaper than the U.S. and Canada, plus thousands of expats. I lived in the older and cheaper part of Cuenca–where the real Cuencanos live. I can relate to your comments, especially about the primitive sidewalks. (In Cuenca there were also crumbling buildings, dog pooh and male urine on the streets. I was told that Ecuadorian males are not considered to be “real men” unless they pee on the sidewalks.) But I did enjoy visiting friends in the new city with all of the conveniences for the many expats and wealthy Ecuadorians. One reason why I didn’t stay in Cuenca was that being a “Gringa” I got tired of being seen and treated as a walking cash machine. (There are ‘gringo prices’ and regular prices.) I actually had one taxi driver pull over and tell me to get out because I wouldn’t agree up front to overpay him. Has anyone had any experiences similar to these in San Miguel Allende?

      • Frank (bbqboy) says:

        Hi Carol. For my part, I haven’t heard any similar experiences from my mom who lives in San Miguel. In fact I don’t bother confirming the amount when I get in a cab to get downtown from the bus station – I know the price from having being countless times with my mom. Might be different though if a tourist arrives and asks for the price, I wouldn’t put it past any taxi driver in that situation to ask for more…
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