Discover the Pleasures of Strolling Colonial San Miguel de Allende

We walk a lot, in our new home of San Miguel de Allende. The narrow streets of the centro make navigating this highlands town in central Mexico by car, tough. And, since we can walk everywhere we want to go anyway, my wife, Liz, and our family just take to our feet.

Taxis and Ubers are cheap and easy if we don’t want to walk back after an afternoon in the historic district, especially when we’ve stopped in the market on the way home to buy some fruits and veggies—we can get too much to carry comfortably, for about $5. And besides, we don’t want our just-roasted rotisserie chicken ($4) to get cold. After an adjustment period to account for the higher elevation (6,000 feet) and all the hills, which left us out of breath, I feel like we’re in better shape since moving here from the coast.

Being on foot, you notice things you normally wouldn’t, too. Whenever you walk out your door in San Miguel de Allende and stroll down the street…you never know what you’re going to find. Thanks to strict regulations against garish signage for businesses, you usually have no idea what’s around you, until you walk past a window and look in or poke your head in an open doorway, or step into a courtyard. Coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, spas…it’s all around you. If we find something cool, I make note of the street address, so I can find it again later.

Walking forces you to slow down, and really get to know the town—and not just because you’re navigating narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets (always wear sturdy shoes). We also run into people we know all the time…and that’s usually an occasion to grab a café con leche or sit at a bench in a plaza to chat, while our kids play.

We’re living in history here, with centuries-old churches, civic buildings, convents, and monasteries…and festivals that have been going for hundreds of years, taking place every week. Just the other night, we heard drums booming down the road from our house…fireworks going off…and church bells tolling. We walked outside to find a parade honoring San Miguel Arcangel (the Archangel St. Michael), the patron saint of the town.

We’re gearing up now for “Day of the Dead” on Nov. 1 and 2—it’s said to be one of the best celebrations in Mexico of this national holiday.

Thanks to its location in the heart of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, is a great home base for exploring nearby notable towns and villages. Dolores-Hidalgo, is the birthplace of Mexican independence, and hosts a huge celebration every year on Sept. 15 and 16…but any other day, it’s a quaint little village to stroll around, famous for its ice cream. Nearby Mineral de Pozos is a former silver-mining center. Once a virtual ghost town (and there are still plenty of majestic ruins), its reputation as an artists’ colony has grown in recent years

And you can’t forget Guanajuato, whose colonial center is in a narrow valley. This October, we plan to see at least some performances that are part of the Cervantino, a weeks-long arts festival, featuring international artists and performers from around the world.

Of course, since we live in one of the most developed parts of Mexico, I must admit that we also enjoy heading for trips to some of the big box stores and malls in Queretaro, a major metropolis of 1 million, about an hour’s drive away. My kids love the arcades, trampoline parks, and other fun stuff.

It’s like we have the best of both worlds—modern conveniences with plenty of historic charm.

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