San Miguel de Allende is a Colonial treasure in the Heartland of Mexico, about 410 kilometers (230 miles) northwest of Mexico City. It was declared a National Monument by the Mexican president in 1926. It is famous today as the location of the Instituto Allende, which provides instruction in Art and Language to thousands of students from all over the world.
The citizenry became wealthy as a result of the discovery of silver to the west. Thus, there are many elegant mansions along the narrow, cobblestone streets. The city has also attracted many foreigners who, perhaps, came to the school and then liked the area so much that they stayed.
A walking tour of the city center should include at least the following attractions: La Parroquia is a church whose exterior façade was redone in a Neo-gothic mode; the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri contains 33 oil paintings which depict events in the life of St Philip Neri, a Florentine; Santa Casa de Loreto is an ornate side chapel of the Neri church; Iglesia de San Francisco has a Churrigueresque (a Spanish variation of Baroque) façade; El Charco del Ingenio, the city’s botanical garden; and El Jardin, the social gathering place and heart of the city in lieu of a grand square such as Mexico City’s Zocalo.
A wonderful side trip from San Miguel lies about 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the west. The Colonial city of Guanajuato is perhaps the most beautiful “silver city” in Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Brightly-colored houses line the convoluted alleyways and cobblestone streets in this elegant city which lies in a gorge surrounded by mountains.
One of its attractions is the Callejon del Baso (Alley of the Kiss) which is so-named because the houses are so close together that they practically touch (ask about some of the local legends concerning this alleyway).
The historic center’s gathering place is the Jardin de la Union which plays host to concerts several nights per week at the bandstand.
One of the most beautiful buildings in the city is the Neo-classic Teatro Juarez with its pillars and statues.
La Valenciana mine is 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of the city. Above the mine is the Templo de San Cayetano, perhaps the city’s most beautiful church, with its façade of pink limestone and its spectacular Baroque interior.
1. While in San Miguel de Allende, be sure to check out the view from El Mirador (The Lookout).
2. In Guanajuato take the funicular to the top of the hill above the city. The statue of El Pipila marks the location of a fantastic view of the entire city and provides the best photo opportunity.
3. Look for my walking tour of San Miguel in the website archives for December 16, 2008.
4. My walking tour of Guanajuato can be found on March 20.2009.