Changing my mind about San Miguel de Allende
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 San Miguel de Allende overly ‘gringorized’ and as being “Mexico-lite”.
A few people weren’t happy with me saying that.
Coming back recently 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, great infrastructure for the expat. It was easy and fun and is definitely not a difficult destination. I stand by my “Mexico-lite” comment…the difference this time is that’s exactly what I needed.
So the real difference to me really enjoying San Miguel was my perspective.
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 foreign 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.
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 foreigner-effect does have its benefits: you’ll find all the things you would at home. 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.
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 foreigners 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.
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.
– Bus. San Miguel de Allende is about 5 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.
– Accommodation. San Miguel can be quite expensive due to it’s popularity. A few recommendations: the Rosewood is one of Mexico’s best hotels and has a rooftop bar with great views and fantastic cocktails. Hotel El Palomar is equally fantastic (and the views even better).
Ever been to San Miguel de Allende? What do you think of it?
Related: Guanajuato or Queretaro?
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