Located 60 kilometeres north of Queretaro, this colonial gem, population 70,000 , is situated on aa hillside facing the Laja River and distant Guanajuato Mountains. Declared a national monument in 1926, San Miguel is a picturesque city of arched colonial namsion, flower-filled patios, and winding, terraced cobblestone streets. It is particularly beautiful in March, when flowering jacaranda trees are in bloom.
It is Mexico's most celebrated artists' community, and has been luring aristically-inclined Mexicans and foreigners for decades. Instituto Allende, founded in 1951, is an intellectual center and arts academy of renown. There are two other institutes of higher education focusing on language, the arts and literature.
San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542 by a courageous Franciscan monk, Fray Juan de San Miguel. A Spanish garrisonwas built in 1555, and soon San Miguel became an important commercial center along the road connecting Mexico City with Zacatecas. It attracted tremendous wealth from ranching and farming during El Bajio's heyday. During the Independence Revolt, it was a center of rebel activity. Its attractive, well-preserved historic treasures, lively municipal life, and notable penchant for fiestas make San Miguel a "must" for any colonial cities visitor.
The City boasts a thriving cultural and entertainment scene. Many events (plays, lectures, art classes) are in English. (The weekly English newspaper, Atencion, has listings of events). The renowned San Miguel Music Festival (featuring Mexican and international artists) happens each December. A city with six patron saints and dozens of churches, San Miguel hosts a full calendar of religious festivals throughout the year. The town's biggest bash is San Miguel Arcangel, a celebration honoring the town's chief patron saint. The event includes a running of the bulls through city streets, traditional dancers and lots of merriment (held each Sept. 29).
Aside from San Miguel's noticeable Anglo temperament, two features distinguish San Miguel from the State's other major colonial city attraction, Guanajuato. For shoppers, the city outs some of Mexico's best craft shops and fine art boutiques. Variety of merchandise is exceptional, as is workmanship. Secondly, its dining scene is top notch, far outpacing Guanajuato'slimited fine dining options. Nouvelle Mexican cuisine, plus a diverse assortent of international dining options have given San Miguel a reputation for having the best "small town" dining in all of Mexico.
Most of San Miguel's sightseeing highlights are clustered around the compact downtown area. This is a wonderful city for aimless wandering along its narrow cobbled lanes. Walking tours of the City are hosted by the Travel Institute of San Miguel, (tel 20078). The city's tourist office can be helpful with brochures and maps.
One of the best city views is from the town's Mirador, located on a hill to the southeast of the city center. At the foot of the hill is El Chorro, which spouts a natural spring where the city's women come to do laundry. Further along is the Parque Juarez, a shady green belt with ponds, fountains, and benches.