"Travel Notes from San Miguel de Allende" San Miguel de Allende by gdilieto
San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide: 132 reviews and 282 photos
As passionate and somewhat experienced traveler to Mexico, I am afraid I won't join the excitement about by San Miguel de Allende by many travelers, foreign residents and even Mexican citizens. The reason is quite easy to explain: San Miguel is a delightful Mexican colonial town which has everything but the essential: the atmosphere of a Mexican colonial town.
There are some 12,000 foreign residents in San Miguel's urban area or 15% over a population of 60,000. Granted many of those foreigners have their homes and live in or around the city center, it ends up that some 1 out of 4 residents in the city center is a foreigner, not accounting tourists. Many of those residents, generally wealthy North American and Western European, are retirees enjoying the mild climate and the slow pace of life, others run tourist establishments, some others just have chosen to live here for their own reasons. The result is that walking around you will find beautifully-restored colonial homes with SUVs parked in the front, fine restaurants, trendy bars, fashion boutiques, art and jewelry shops and luxury hotels with "first class spa facility with state of the art Cybex weight room".
I am sure San Miguel de Allende is a great place to retire, enjoy life and for relaxing luxury vacations. If you are after a taste of Mexican life in the rightly renowned colonial Central Mexico, head elsewhere (for instance Guanajuato) instead. See also my Photogallery of San Miguel de Allende.
Famous worldwide for its mild climate, thermal springs and colonial architecture, San Miguel de Allende has attracted over the last 60 years a large community of foreign residents, especially Americans, who today account for about 70% of the expatriate population. American (US) expatriation started at the end of WWII as education grants to war veterans were stretched at the art school Instituto Allende in San Miguel and many veterans came down here to study art, live cheaply and have a good time. In the counterculture years of the 1960s, San Miguel began its career as a center for American expatriation that has lasted till today. San Miguel has lately been undergoing demographic changes which concern many long time residents, who have protested the number of new developments, shopping malls and other overwhelming commercial businesses.
The multicultural spirit of San Miguel de Allende is well represented by its major landmark, the parish church la Paroquia, whose architecture is so different from the dominant Baroque usually found in churches throughout Mexico that will leave you fascinated or disappointed. The style is a kind of Gothic, the funniest definition I found is "Gingerbread Gothic" and the closest thing I could pair it to is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Legend has it that the architect of the façade and the towers (added in 1888 to the existing structure) had never seen a gothic church and took his ideas from picture postcards of gothic cathedrals in Europe, sketching his ideas on the sand to instruct construction workmen with what he had envisioned.
- Pros:Pretty, international, well-maintained Mexican Colonial Town ...
- Cons:... less the charm of Mexican Colonial Towns
There is no much in term of sights and attractions to recommend about San Miguel: there are few churches, palaces and... more travel advice
Not a site worth remembering itself, San Miguel's park, Parque Juarez, few blocks off the Main Square right behind the... more travel advice
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