Mexico's San Miguel de Allende Overrated

San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About?

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I just don’t get it. For years I’ve been hearing about San Miguel de Allende. People rave about it being the place to go in Mexico, pointing to its huge American expat community, its strong ties to arts and culture, its lovely architecture, etc., etc. But for some reason, I just could not make up my mind if I wanted to spend any time in San Miguel, so I opted for a day tour from Guanajuato to check it out.

Gorgeous pink granite Church of St. Michael the Archangel, surprisingly, is not a Cathedral

Typical street scene in San Miguel de Allende, with earthen tones predominating

In a nod to colonial days, some police are still mounted and dressed in traditional uniforms

Band kiosk in the central plaza (jardin/garden) at San Miguel de Allende

It may have had something to do with the fact that I was on a detested tour, being subjected to stops at the guide’s preferred stores to shop and his favorite “excellent buffet” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) restaurant for lunch. Or it may just be that seeing Guanajuato first has ruined me for all other Mexican cities, but basically, I couldn’t wait to leave San Miguel de Allende.

Its central plaza is a lovely, lushly planted open space with the obligatory gazebo (band kiosk), shoeshine stands, and food vendors. But despite the placid scene, there was a heaviness about the city. People slouched on benches, immobile but for swatting at an occasional mosquito. The few people moving about the square seemed to dredge up their last ounce of energy to take the next sluggish step. Even the massive pink granite church anchoring the square has an inferiority complex: though it looks like a Cathedral it is only a parish church.

School portion of the parroquia - the parish church - seen from the central jardin (garden)

Colonial house in the center of San Miguel de Allende

Buildings are almost all painted gold, red, or brown

Walking up and down the hilly streets of the historic center I could appreciate the wealth of colonial architecture, but as almost every structure is painted in some shade of brown, gold, or terracotta I quickly grew weary of the sights to the point that I stopped taking pictures. Back at the Plaza, I noticed a real estate office and, being a former RE/MAX agent, I couldn’t help but poke my head in the door and introduce myself to the agent on duty while waiting for our tour guide to collect us for the return trip. Since real estate sales depend upon Americans who can pay cash, it’s been a tough couple of years for business in San Miguel; as the U.S. real estate market goes, so goes the San Miguel market. More than most Mexican cities it is feeling the depressed economy, and this may be the heavy energy that I felt.

San Miguel de Allende from the overlook above the town

I realize it is quite impossible to get to know a city in a couple of hours during a day tour, and there is undoubtedly much that I did not see or experience. San Miguel de Allende may indeed harbor a thriving cultural and arts community. The food (other than buffet lunches) may indeed be exquisite. But I always rely on my gut, and in this case it told me quite clearly that I don’t want to spend any more time in this Mexican city.

76 Comments on “San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About?

  1. I always tell people – “it’s not for everyone”
    San Miguel de Allende works for a great deal of us, but not for everyone.
    Different people look for different things in a place.

  2. Highly unprofessional to pass judgements about a whole village based on a two hour visit as a member of a \\\”detested tour\\\”. I used to like you blog. Now I see your statements with new eyes. What is your purpose when writing?
    As a Mexican I believe you oversimplify,

    • Hello Antonieta: My purpose it write about my experiences in places, good, bad or indifferent. I love Mexico, have been all over the country. In fact, I am here right now in Playa del Carmen. And although I was only in SMA for a day trip (which I clearly disclosed in my article), it just didn’t resonate with me.

  3. I am so impressed that you managed to squeeze so much into your few hours here.

    Surely you must have enjoyed the barrios outside the main plaza, right? The ones where gringos and Mexicans live side by side and in complete harmony? How about the bilingual church services? You attended those for sure, didn´t you? You didn´t enjoy making mattresses for the children of SMA with the other heartless gringos? Oh, and those boring fiestas..the blessing of the horses? taxis? día de los muertes? independence day? etc, etc, etc? This non energetic town has more fiestas than any other town in Mexico (and probably the world). Those fiestas aren´t made for the gringos. They have been going on for centuries and we ex-pats are welcome to take part in them.Certainly you took the time to socialize with the natives and found them to be the warmest people you have ever met,right? You know the ones I am speaking of…. the ones who greet you with ¨buenos días¨ and a huge smile as you walk your dog and welcome you into your home despite the fact that you don´t look like them? Oh, and you must have been here on a Tuesday and attended the 3 acre market just up the hill where Mexicans and gringos buy the local wares and eat carnitas at the same table. How fortunate of you.

    I could go on and on but I am sure you know it all already. (I havent even mentioned the music and art culture.)

    Yes, SMA probably has some warts and I am sure I will find them some day….if I decide to look for them like you did. I find it interesting that, although I am sure you fancy yourself a open minded color blind person, that upon getting off your garish, smog spewing tour bus you immediately started counting the amount of white faces. How un-racist of you.

    My guess is that you came to town after reading the glowing reviews of the people who live here and,for some reason,were determined not to like it. You continually write that it is simply your opinion based on a few hours here but then argue with the people who actually live here and have the audacity to have a different view than you. I find it amusing that your supporters on this blog are mostly the ones who have spent the same amount of time here as you.

    Part of me wants to scream at your arrogance. These “have nots” have a lot more as a result of the outsiders who have fallen in love with them. How many jobs would be lost if all of us decided to up and leave? Would they be better or worse off? Sorry, but I just haven´t seen any resentment from them. How many people have you discouraged from visiting here and therefore helping the ecomony (and the have-nots? ) The other part of me wants to thank you for helping keep away your ilk.

    Your blog leaves me with the feeling that I just read a book review from someone who hasn´t read the book. You use the internet as a megaphone for your ignorance. You know that old Russian saying right? The one that goes “ he who knows everything knows nothing”?

    I could go on but I think you get the point. Now please excuse me while I go to the plaza, lazily sit in front of our non cathedral (its called a paroquia and doesn´t pretend to be a cathedral (no bishop)), with my old mexican buddy and watch the shorts wearing tourists invade our peaceful community for a few hours and then thankfully leave.

    Oh, and your opinion of Prague is ridiculous, too. How many hours did you spend there? What didn´t you like there, pray tell? The architecture that survived the Nazis? The incredible history? The beautiful and warm people? (you may want to look at my last name to see why I am offended by that little demonstration of your blissful ignorance).

    I feel better now.

    • I totally agree with you. No professional journalist would ever write a travel review based on a couple of hours spent in a city. San Miguel Allende is a magical place! This was a poorly researched and written article.

      • It was not researched at all, Debbie. It simply stated how the city felt to me. And I was quite forthcoming about the fact that I was there for only a few hours.

        • Hi, Barbara. I’m here in SM now–arrived last night–and am having a similar experience to yours. I was in GTO and loved it! Anyway, not sure, but I may move on to Querétero.

          • Hi Lisa: Glad somebody else had the same experience I did, because I’ve taken a fair share of abuse for what I wrote. But I stand by my assessment, even though I was there only on a day trip, and I appreciate you adding your comment.

            • ¨i stand by my assessment¨

              of course you do. why let people with more knowledge and experience effect your opinion?

        • translation:
          ´i don´t know what i am talking about but that´s never stopped me from spouting off before´

    • Wow. I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. Why is the writer not entitled to hers? So defensive you are. I have spent time in San Miguel and tend to agree with her. Overrated and tiresome after a while. That’s it, that’s all. To each his own.

  4. Hello Barbara,

    Always is usuful to have a contrast with different opinons about the same topic. Although I’m from Mexico City, I’v just move to SMA a few months ago, and I had higher expectations about SMA. I’m still love this place, but you know? I think that something is missing. Maybe a new job and new friends, hahaha. But I wonder… What the expats are looking in SMA and didn’t find? Maybe could be easier to undersatand them and improve it.
    Good blog! Thanks!

  5. I am not a spammer. I put a lot of effort in my comment. Sorry I wasted the time. What in the world made you think I was a spammer. I did not promote anything.

    • Hi Craig: Based on your second comment, I searched my “spam” comment folder. I found your original comment and approved it. I do not personally mark anything spam; the software that runs the blog does. Occasionally, a particular IP address on a shared server will have been flagged as having spam problems – this is usually from some website other than yours, but because you are on the same shared server as the offending spammer, you get put on a blacklist as well. I don’t know why your second comment was approved and your first one was not, but now that I have market your comment as “not spam” you should be able to comment without a problem. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. I stayed in SMA for five days during May 2015. I really liked the town. In five days I could feel that one would need about three months in SMA to really start to get to know people and form friendships with both the locals and expats. I concluded one needs when first moving to SMA one needs to volunteer to serve for just about everything to get to know people and start to fit in. I was told the “Civil List” on the net and getting the newspaper “Atencion” where musts to find property to rent. In the “Atencion” paper I bought there was a one bedroom rental far outside of town for $200 dollars, also listed was a FURNISHED 2BDRM for $550 in town and another 2 bdrm was listed in town for $1000. I am curious if Ajijic is less expensive than SMA. It should be noted SMA is a small town up on a hill how ever another town people said nice things about Guanajuato I think, is about an hour away. To really make a decision on SMA I think would take at least a year to determine to stay or go. I would have liked it more if it had an ocean personally so I am more attracted to check out Manzatlan and PV.

  7. I have to add my two cents. We lived in San Miguel for two years and found it not to our liking – but that said, we met many nice people there, not all but overwhelmingly gringo. But it’s gringo city. There is very little of what could be called a Mexican middle class in San Miguel and over half the local people live below the Mexican poverty line. They are maids and gardeners. The wealthy Mexicans have weekend homes there and it’s a popular place to visit. I can see why, if you live in Quereterro or DF and want to get away for the weekend. But the town is the haves and have-nots and it’s all about the care and feeding (and occasional exploitation) of gringos. Which isn’t the Mexico we had hoped to find.

  8. I guess not all people share the same taste in what comes to art and culture. However what bothered me the most, was your comment were you said that Americans are the ones with the sales cash. My friend, I can assure you that´s not even close to be a fact. The ignorance Americans give to Mexicans and Latins in general is just so disappointing. I as an American, feel ashamed of being one when people starts thinking of us being superior to a country. Well, I´ve seen movies and news, and all they´ve portrayed is the poor side of Mexico. Oh and if you didnt know, the richest man in the world is Mexican so just putting that out there. I´m sorry you didnt like it, maybe you´re not used to be out of your luxurious bubble, so here´s an advice, visit Monterrey or Mexico city, which are more industrialized cities.

    • Hi Paola: I have lived and traveled in Latin countries extensively and speak fairly fluent Spanish, so I know that there are very well-to-do people in all Latin countries. I believe what I said was that the real estate market in SMA relies a great deal on American expats, which is what I was told by the local RE/MAX office. I’m sorry you read it as a slam against Mexicans, or that I believe Americans are superior to Mexicans. I live my life quite differently than that, believing all people are equal, regardless of their sex, religion, ethnicity, etc. I judge others by who they are, not by how much money they have or the color of their skin. And I certainly don’t have a luxurious existence. I have no home and travel the world with a 25″ suitcase and a backpack, by staying mostly in inexpensive hostels.

  9. Barbara’s comments illustrate what often happens: you get too hyped and then find your own experience does not connect to what you’ve been led to believe. I’ve lived in San Miguel for more than six years, and the place has its warts. I decided to take a closer look and wrote a book about it. We chose San Miguel de Allende six years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. When I became interested in the process of becoming an expat, I wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:?

    • Hi John: Interesting you should leave this comment now. Several friends of mine are on the way to SMA to see if it might be a place to retire. One of them just sent me a schedule of all the arts and performance stuff going on there and I was pretty impressed. I may have to come back and spend more time to see if I might want to revise my opinion.

  10. i just returned from a week in san miguel, and i did not expect to like it— i was thinking disneyland, expat hell, really— but guess what? it is charming, the people are genuinely friendly, the food can be good, just choose carefully! guanajuato was more pleasing but they are so close, visit them both. i think when people complain about the modernization and globalization of SMA they forget that every other place they like has many of the same issues— we cant be “the first tourists they ever saw”– ANYWHERE– expats “invading the town?”— sounds like a NIMBY if i ever heard one, quick, close the gates, im the last one in.
    take it for what it is— a beautiful town full of history with about 10% of the population expats; thank them for the nice hotels, good restaurants, and martha’s combat cocktail shoes. (just google it)

    • I’m glad to hear you liked SMA, Margaret. It’s a funny thing, but different places resonate with different people. I just went to Prague, a city that most people love, but I didn’t much like it. It was the same for me with SMA. But it’s a good think that we don;t all think the same, or we’d all want to live/visit the same places.

  11. I will be visiting San Miguel de Allende for a couple of weeks. Barbara Weibel’s photos seem to belie the major part of her comments. Have same apprehension about a lot of expats, tho glad to hear they are still a minority. Of course, I would be adding to that deterrent in enjoying Mexican culture, if I were to move there. I tend to fall in love at first sight, and everything else BW said about city makes me long to see it. I also did not get bowled over by Paris, and it actually appeared cold and uninteresting the first time I visited–for a 24-hr period. Liked it much better on second visit of two wks, though it’s not one of my favorite places, thanks to the renovations done by Baron H….except for Musee de Cluny, I missed medieval and older architecture. Such as found in Yucatan and Michoacan. I gather the Mexicans of SMA are just as amiable, funny, quirky and hospitable as in other parts of the country. And there are great musicians, artists, poets, dancers, cooks and architects that attract so many arty types from outside.

    • Itala TC Rutter: I do hope you love San Miguel de Allene – it was just not to my liking. But that’s what makes the world go round.

  12. We own a home in SMA, 1965 was the first time I came to the pueblo,
    Everything has changed so much since then now San Miguel fells more like Disneyland than a Mexican city as businesses cater to the all expats the have invaded the town. The hot sauce is not hot anymore and that’s a real bummer.

    • Hi Jaime: That’s precisely what I felt, that and a very sluggish energy in the town, butI’ve taken a whole lot of criticism for saying so. Thanks for sharing your view.

      • I have a beautiful home for sale in Los Frailes! (just in case you know somebody in love with SMA)

  13. I agree, if you don’t know San Miguel, and only come here on a day trip, you don’t get the meaning of “San Miguel.” As a fellow blogger and 10 year resident, I would suggest visiting websites like San Miguel Events (not mine, just a good site) before arriving.

    • Thanks for the website, Jennifer. I think what affected me most was the color of the buildings, which seemed pretty somber after Guanajuato.

    • I have been coming to SMA sine 1965 and I have a home in SMA so I can really see the changes!

  14. anyone who comes here on a 6 hour tour gets what they pay for,meaning,you put NO effort in,you got nothing time you should tell people the truth.

    • That was the truth, Steven. My truth. Not everyone likes the same things, and that’s OK. That’s what makes the world go ’round, as they say.

  15. Like most places in Mexico, SMdA has many layers. The place has aspects that most visitors will never see. Sure there are some explats living here, but they are a small minority ( a minority that only adds another layer on the town). Some people like their presence, some don’t. (They do run the prices up a bit, especially in the real estate.) But for Barbara to make a snap judgement on the basis of half a day is both stupid and arrogant. It’s like judging San Francisco because she doesn’t like cable cars or the fact there are tourists. The tourists are here for the obvious reason, the place has a lot of culture and charm. Something Barbara evidently missed in her extensive six hours of looking around. Glad I don’t know this person.

  16. Hi, I see this post was written about two years ago but I still want to comment. I’m Mexican and I have lived in the US and in several cities of Guanajuato throughout my life. I think it’s very interesting how you make these comments about San Miguel de Allende, saying that it wasn’t appealing to you but on the other hand you ARE saying some things implying that it’s not just your opinion, that it’s just not a good place.
    Well I respect that, but you have to be careful because many people read your blog and they might get the wrong idea from this place. From reading your entry I see that you like to see movement, and maybe more excentric places. People need to know that San Miguel is beautiful and fancy, it’s just like a cute little place but you won’t find weird excentric stuff. But it is a town full of tradition and folklore, but that’s just something that you cannot write about since you haven’t experienced it.

    Guanajuato City is where I live now, and I like it because there is a different kind of atmosphere, it’s a student town and the capital of the state. So of course there are people walking all over town all the time, young people mostly, it’s cheaper, it’s interesting because of the small alleys and colorful houses.. plus the cultural activities going on.. which can be a lot less than in San Miguel at times. Also Guanajuato is a far much dirtier city. It’s so much easier to be walking down the street one day and find a huge rat running in front of you, or vomit from the student parties or just gross stuff like that. But it doesn’t make it any worse.
    You just have to understand that every place is appealing to some people and you can’t say you don’t like something that you really haven’t tried, maybe it’s better to say that you are just not interested in trying it because you are into other kind of places.

    • Dear Student (would have been nice if you’d been good enough to at least write under a real name): I did not say San Miguel was not a good place. I said it wasn’t for me. Different places resonate with different people, as I also said in my post. I’m glad for you that you love SMA.

  17. Oh San Miguel … I lived there for about 7 months. Here are the things that a great about it: I had excellent pre-natal care (I was newly pregnant when I arrived) I actually wanted to take my Dra. home to Canada with me! I adopted two cats from their shelter – which is run by Americans & Mexicans – it’s fabulous & how ALL shelters should be run. The Botanical Garden is really really neat! Lots of huge cacti and such – makes for some great photos. The Mexican people are lovely (although they were lovely in Guanajuato too & Queretaro) Finally, the donkeys that travel in the back of pick-up trucks! he he he – too funny! I loved those burros though – so sweet.

    My hubby & I loved Guanajuato, but it was too far from his work. Queretaro was too big for me to simply be able to walk around and fetch what I needed, but it too is beautiful. (It was recently voted a top travel location, being one of the safest cities to visit.) So, IF you are ever going to go back to Mexico, and choose to swing into Guanajuato State again, try out Queretaro instead of San Miguel – unless you’re looking to adopt a kitty or a puppy! ;D

    Oh – That restaurant Mama Mia (behind your police officer) – has the coolest way to order pasta by the way, you order 4 sauces, they bring a huge pot of plain noodles – you mix your own at the table! They also make fabulous pizza – too bad you went to such a lousy restaurant. The nice one (can’t remember the name) that over looks the ‘Jardin’ is also wonderful. Amazing Tortilla Soup.

    Okay – enough!

    • Hi Ella: Appreciate your thoughts on San Miguel. I was there only for a day trip, so surely not enough tme to know much, but I had just come from Guanajuato and was in love with that place, so SMA paled in comparison. I also liked Queretaro a lot.

      • I think one day in any place is never long enough! Love your blog – well written. Pretty photos too.

  18. You gave up your unsatisfying career to travel on a six month tour around the world and you have become an expert! I have been to SMA , returning and have lots of friends, both American & Mexican. It is charming, a fun place to live and to visit. Just look at the pictures. You have made such derogatory statements about a Hertiage site it is unbelieveable. An expert in 6 months on the road and two hours in the town. Why would anyone take you serious???

    • Hi Jackie: You don’t have to take me seriously. That’s your right. It is also my right to have an opinion. And BTW, I;ve been traveling for more than 50 years, not 6 months. The point is, everyone likes different things. SMA just was not for me.

  19. The
    Dialogue Project for World Peace is an iconostasis, or wall of icons, measuring
    3.35 meters by 10.5 meters (11 feet by 32 feet) and features portraits of
    master teachers including Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses and Lao-Tzu. It honors
    all people in history who have sought to know truth, beauty, peace and love.
    Mary Jane Miller, who spent two years creating this work, paints with egg yolk
    and million year old dirt. The repouse (hammered pewter) by Valentin Gomez, embellishes
    the work even more. These two lost art techniques date back to 500 AD.

    as a traveling exhibit, The Dialogue Project has recently been installed just
    outside Cieneguita, Kilometer 4, you pass this installation on your way to the
    pyramids and the route to the Indian chapels. Both these tours are already
    established in San Miguel and exalt humankind’s spiritual history. This
    extraordinary work of art encourages visitors to step thru the boundary
    separating humanity from the divine, to listen again, and for the first time,
    to eternal truths which hold the keys to peace on earth. San Miguel is renowned
    for its art and spirituality, the dialogue is another great addition.

    Please take a moment to consider The Dialogue
    Iconostasis for World Peace as a destination. The experience requires just a
    moment of your time.

    You can see the work by clicking on:
    I am hoping you will consider adding us to your tour itinerary and a link to
    your site so your visitors can explore with you.

    You may
    contact Mary Jane Miller by email, or by calling (52) 415-152-5762

  20. You’re completely right, Barbara. I’ve been here for a year and a half. What’s wrong with this town is too many gringoes. It’s become Disneyland. You’re right about the oppression that you witnessed…you’d be depressed too if your town was overrun by entitled Snowbirds from the States.

  21. One cannot get to know San Miguel de Allende —  or any other place, for
    that matter — in a couple of hours, especially if those couple of
    hours are spent on a guided tour.  The city is full of art galleries and
    wonderful restaurants and is noted for its many fiestas every year
    (almost one a week).  You have to sleep in San Miguel to hear the night
    bells ringing, the fireworks, the snowy egrets waking up in the pecan
    trees in the morning.  The parroquia lit in the darkness.  It takes more
    than a few hours to visit the wonderful shrine of Atotonilco or go
    horseback riding in Coyote Canyon or take a leisurely walk through the
    botanical gardens or Parque Juarez.  Sure, San Miguel has a good
    percentage of retirees from the US and other countries, but there are
    also many younger Americans who have made the city home and started
    businesses, opened galleries, or volunteered in the local community.  Is
    this a good thing or not?  I suppose that remains to be seen.  Still,
    these folks love their adopted city.  Perhaps its like acquiring a taste
    for wine; it can sometimes take awhile to love a place.  On the other
    hand, many foreigners who call, or have called, San Miguel home have
    said they fell in love instantly.  Like Stirling Dickinson, for example,
    who stepped off a bus as a young man and stayed a lifetime.  That’s

    • Hi Klz: I am sure that everything you said is correct – I even said the same thing in my post about it not being possible to really get the feel of a place on any short visit. My problem, I suspect, is that I fell in love with Guanajuato and since my heart had already been captured, San Miguel did not resonate with me. But I really appreciate your thoughtful, non-accusatory comment. I’m sure there are many, many reasons to love SMA and am very happy you have found it so.

  22. I would still visit this city just to take pictures, plus it’s World Heritage Site. But I do see this city becoming a sort of city for the elderly kind of place. They recently opened a huge retirement home but in contrast a luxurious Hotel Rosewood just opened a few months ago.

  23. I totally agree with you Barbara.  I spent a month at language school in Guanajuato.  I loved that town.  I also did a day trip to San Miguel–  and I wasn’t that impressed either.  

  24. My head is spinning because frankly there is too much to write back regarding your comments, your lack of adventure, your inability to look further— off the beaten path, at the true culture of the city (not the expat American retirie community), the roots of the city, its Indian past, the ghost of Revolutionaries, artists (again, not just the American expat community).
    My god, there’s so much there/here but for a traveler that wants everything packaged neaty in an English speaking tour (which you can actually find here quite easily), for an American that needs a Mexican experience handed to them with their American ideals and expectations… well there’s only one thing to say.

    You are not traveling. Not truely. And quite frankly I don’t even see a writter’s spirit in your experience or in your writting. 

    All I can say without out writting a 30 page email to you is RESPECT the place you are exploring, RESPECT  the culture you are new to, RESPECT the unknow.
    Did you know that “respect” means to look again?

    Look again and you will see something very different.

  25. Hi there,

    First of all, I could never, EVER make an opinion about a city on a couple hour tour, let alone one of those cattle driven, dreaded group tours… which i never take! I spent 3 incredible weeks in SMA on my first trip there 2 years ago, travelling alone there with my 4 year-old daughter, sharing a casita with my best friend and her daughter. You truly MISSED the magic of the city. I feel sad for you because we ate at amazing restaurants, stood in line for the freshest homemade corn tortillas, watched fireworks and full moon from candlelit rooftops, enjoyed night after night of local Mexican families singing, dancing, playing music, eating homemade ice cream in Le Jardin… homemade churros, free ‘arte en el parque’ in Parque Juarez every Saturday for kids… I could go on and on, but I honestly feel you should not have commented at all on SMA without having properly visited — in other words, actually STAYED OVERNIGHT at least a few days. It sounds like you had a bad day on a bad bus trip and that energy transferred into your experience. That can happen to us all, but I have travelled the world as a documentary filmmaker and am incredibly excited to return in one week to SMA once again… to experience its magic all over again.

  26. San Miguel de Allende is a truly magnificent location, and is becoming a locale of choice for American and Canadian expats. There is a highly developed infrastructure that supports a very large and sophisticated English speaking community here. Culture abounds, and there is extremely active social calendar. There are easily forty or more art galleries in town. The climate is among the best, with warm, dry temperatures year round. Real estate here is among the most beautiful in the world, and your dollar can buy you so much more house than in North America. I lead exciting home buyer trips to San Miguel. Join me on one of these exciting tours to view and buy real estate in San Miguel.

  27. Barbara I felt I had to leap to your defence. Jake’s comment is totally ill-informed and out-of-order. I feel like responding in kind (i.e. a personal attack) but I will refrain. You answered him in a very polite, articulate and measured way. I just hope he reads it, and not only that, but I hope he reads the rest of your blog before resorting to any more comments. I have a feeling that English is not his first language, you know. It is excellent, but there are some small things which are just not correct grammar. Maybe he didn’t understand what you wrote?

    • Islandmomma: You are so kind to leap to my defense. I really thought long and hard about my response to Jake before I hit the “submit” button. I certainly did not want it to become a war of words, but we all have the right to our own opinions. How much better it would have been if he’d said something like – “so sorry you didn’t like my town – why not come back some time and let me show you why I think it is so wonderful.” Appreciate your lovely remarks about having learned so much about Mexico. It is a truly stunning country and I can hardly wait to go back.

  28. And to further my comment, it appears this was your first visit to Mexico? Or at least outside the “tourist” areas? Well then, this would “account” from your poor assessment of same. Please, before starting a blog of this nature, KNOW of what you speak! It is unfortunate that people such as you perpetuate ignorance about travel in areas which they have NO knowledge based on a “tourist” visit!!!!

    • Jake: I’ve been traveling to Mexico for years, and if you had bothered to read further in my blog you would have realized I traveled through Mexico for four months this time. With a couple of notable exceptions, I loved almost every place I visited. San Miguel was one of those places that just didn’t appeal to me. I was careful to say that I realize it is impossible to get to know a place in a day trip, but after spending the day there I simply had no desire to return. I was much more impressed with other cities I had visited. Apparently you either live in SMA or are a regular visitor. I appreciate that you love the place. I did not. That’s what makes the world go round. The fact that you disagree with me is fine. But personal attacks and inflammatory language are unacceptable and disrespectful. We need to get to a place in this world where we can respect each others opinions (religions, beliefs, races….) if we are ever going to know peace.

  29. Well, sadly, you do not know what the “true” SMA is all about and you’ve done a negative reporting; sadly this happens often to a lot of Cities around the World. I would suggest that you visit again for an extended period of time, spend time with the locals and understand same, and THEN report you “feelings!” All too often it is people such as you that “give” a town a bad “thread” which is truly unfortunate!!!!

  30. There are always going to be places that aren’t as great as you hoped, and it depends on so many things – the company, the weather, the mood, the people you meet.

    I’m also becoming a lot less tolerant of anywhere that’s big on the tourist map and likely to be overhyped, although from your photos it looks just as pretty as the other towns – must be something in the atmosphere.

  31. Oh, that’s interesting. I always wanted to go to Capri. My parents used to talk about it a lot, but I realize it must have changed a lot since they were there.

    I also have a confession, in case you feel bad about not likeing SMDA…..I didn’t like Paris. I am the only person I know who didn’t like it. I have only been there once. I had a good time too, but no desire to return.

  32. We had the same reaction to San Miguel. I think it may be that we spent 3 weeks falling in love with Guanajuato first and were spoiled by it’s glory. It’s also true that San Miguel (no city for that matter) can live up to all the hype it’s gotten over the years.

  33. Funny how ‘raved about’ places sometimes just have too big of expectations to fill. That’s exactly how I felt about Capri Italy…puke.
    Yet – I do wonder how much of it was your detest for tours vs. the city! :) I would be the same way – after doing independent travel, it’s really hard to change gears into tourist mode.

    Looks like you won’t be buying a home there anytime soon!

  34. Very interesting, also the comments. As an “ex-pat”, though neither American nor in Mexico I have to say I have learned to avoid places used by others of my ilk. There is a certain arrogance I dislike, and I have found it in people of all nationalities here. Why this should affect a place in another country I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a perception.

    It is true that when temperatures are high streetlife dwindles. That’s the same here. I spent a whole couple of hours snapping away in a little village in August of last year and didn’t see a single soul. In Winter the siesta concept irritates me, but in Summer I can see the necessity. First time I visited Florida and realized that temperatures were even higher I was puzzled, until I realized that everywhere is air conditioned of course! There are more air conditioned buildings here now, but it’s by no means the norm. I don’t know about Mexico?

  35. @ pia — Try Casa Aparicio — they have great rooms with a little kitchenette for $350 / month. Perfect if you’re there to study. And Barbara, I encourage you to stay for a few days in San Miguel and give it a shot. It really grows on you. There’s more to see than what you’ll find on a day trip from Guanajuato.

  36. You can’t like everywhere and at least you gave it a try. Seems like a ‘bubble town’ – one that’s a bit insulated from the culture around it due to tourism and perhaps all of the expats there.

  37. i am looking at jewelry workshops located in sma – where else would i get such insight into mexico but to work with some of her finest elements!
    @gale and jan – i’m searching now for a good deal on a month long stay or even 2 if i can swing it. are there any inexpensive guest houses other than what are listed on lonely planet and other big name guides? thanks, pia

    • Hi Pia: Don’t know if Hostel Inn is listed in Lonely Planet, but it is part of the very select Mexico Hostel Group, which means it meets a certain standard. I have stayed at two hostels featured in this group and have been amazed by the quality and the value. Check it out at: Barbara

  38. I wonder sometimes if it level of expectation or simply the mood of the place at the time. I have been disappointed by some well-known and well-praised places yet astounded by off-the-road hardly mentioned places. The beautiful photos tell of an elegant city (the church is stunning as is the colonial architecture) but clearly it hasn’t lived up to that or its high billing in guide books. Interesting article (as always!).

  39. Hi – very great web site you have made. I enjoyed reading this posting. I did want to write a remark to tell you that the design of this site is very aesthetically sweet. I used to be a graphic designer, now I am a copy editor. I have always enjoyed playing with computers and am trying to learn computer code in my free time.

  40. To use placid and heaviness in describing San Miguel is oxymoronic! It is one of the most vibrant places I have ever been. This town is famous throughout Mexico as having one of the most active and thriving traditional cultures in the country. One would be hard put to spend a week here without witnessing a religious parade, a fiesta, a blessing of the horses, a blessing of the taxis, a display of altars, a parade of “locos”, indigenous dancers, a parade of costumed children, and on and on.

    As for the “placid scene” and “heaviness” you describe, you must have been here in an afternoon in May when temperatures reach the mid90’s and people retreat to the coolness of their homes. Return in the evening, the week-end, or most days other than in May, and you will see a lively plaza full of Mexican tourists, local families, and expats, all eating, laughing, dancing and playing.

    Your photographs show such beauty that I find it hard to believe you express such ennui. To be bored by the purple jacaranda and scarlet bougainvillea spilling down the hillsides, the ochre, sienna and umber walls, the picturesque churches and historically dressed mounted police, the cobblestoned streets – is to be bored with life!

  41. Yes, why would you like a town (after only a few hours) that has so
    many attractions–fabulous restaurants, fantastic architecture,
    talented artists. musicians, architects, and writers. Plus neighborhood
    celebrations, fiestas, church activities, plays, and dance performances.
    I can almost guarantee that you did not visit on a Friday or Saturday
    night when the Jardin is alive with Mariachis, balloon sellers, children
    playing. families eating tortillas together, gringos enjoying the
    activities around them.
    There will be no sense of heaviness–you must have been here in the
    middle of the day when everyone is taking a siesta — that would be heavy!!
    Gale Beery
    resident of San Miguel de Allende for 20 years.
    Good photos!

    • Gale and Jan: Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the fact that you love San Miguel de Allende; many people feel the same way. You may be right that I hit it on a bad day or at the wrong time of day. Who knows why it didn’t speak to me, but it just didn’t.

  42. Can it be that our expectations for a place like SMA is too high because we hear so much praise about it? It happened to me with other places that are highly advertised in glitzy ways to attract tourists.

  43. I think your gut was right on this one. We spent a couple days there and found it to be just a less-than-average Mexican town that happened to have a lot of expats. Maybe Guanajuato ruined it for us, too, or maybe we were just expecting too much from SMA, but we also didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

  44. My intuition told me that you were not going to be fond of San Miguel de Allende. I thought it would be due to the large amount of American ex-pats but I was wrong. Go with your gut, Barbara. No since wasting time in a place that doesn’t speak to you. Of course I have never been there but still hope to visit one day to see for myself.

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