Attractions & Sites of Interest
Perhaps the best way to enjoy San Miguel de Allende is to walk its cobblestoned streets lined with beautiful old churches and colonial mansions. Some of the major attractions you will come across are:
One must-do in San Miguel de Allende is to spend the day relaxing at the 'balnearios', or spas built around natural springs.
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EL JARDíN-PLAZA PRINCIPAL
This central, plaza is, in more ways that one, the heart of the city. To the south loom the spires of San Miguel’s landmark Parroquia, to the east and west lie colonnades of arches and historic buildings from the colonial era, to the north stands the Presidencia, or historic city hall. The park draws visitoris to sit and gossip on the wrought iron benches shaded by boxy laurel trees, to pause and listen to musicians playing from its central gazebo and to line the walls to cheer one of the town’s many parades.
LA PARROQUIA DE SAN MIGUEL ARCáNGEL
The original Parish Church, built in the late 17th century, was of relatively conventional and modest design. This changed quite dramatically in 1880 when the master stone mason, Seferino Gutierrez was commissioned to create a new facade. A self-taught architect, Gutierrez is reported to have taken the inspiration for his design from drawings, engravings and postcards of European cathedrals. The resulting neogothic fantasy, whose soaring turrets can be viewed from almost any spot in town, have made the Parroquia one of the most photographed churches in Mexico.
CENTRO CULTURAL IGNACIO RAMíREZ “EL NIGROMANTE”
The center originally served as the cloister for the adjoining convent; today it is a Mexican national Art Institute and thus dubbed locally as “Bellas Artes”. The center offers classes in painting, drawing, sculpture, music and dance, and is know for its large, if unfinished, mural by celebrated Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, a former teacher. The large compound houses a museum, auditorium, two art galleries, and a charming courtyard café.
TEATRO áNGELA PERALTA
Originally designed as an opera house, the theater was inaugurated in 1873 with a performance by Mexico’s most famous soprano of the day: Angela Peralta, “The Mexican Nightingale”. Over 130 years later it is an elegant venue for national and international artists who perform in such varied events as the international Jazz or Chamber Music Festivals.
This is Mexico’s second largest English language library, which is also dedicated to enriching the lives of local students. The rambling building contains a restful inner courtyard, fantastically decorated reading room, café, theater and computer center offering instruction and wireless internet service.
MERCADO DE ARTESANìAS
The original craft market is a pedestrian walkway, rambling over three blocks, where vendors sell local folk art and crafts, silver jewelry, decorative items, inexpensive souvenirs and quite a bit more.
PARQUE BENITO JUáREZ
This large and leafy green park is an oasis from the city’s bustle, where children can play and adults stroll and relax. It was founded at the turn of the 20th century and designed in the French style with fountains, ponds, wrought iron benches, graceful bridges and broad walkways lined with cerimoya, mullberry and walnut trees.
The de la Canal family built this sprawling complex in the 17th century as their country retreat. The former home is filled with intriguing patios and courtyards, a private chapel which still contains some of its colonial frescoes and modern art galleries and restaurant. In 1951 it was converted to an art institute offering courses ranging from silverwork to ceramics to Spanish which yearly attract hundred of students.
EL CHARCO DEL INGENIO
El Charco del Ingenio, on the outskirts of San Miguel, is a privately funded ecological reserve and botanical garden dedicated to restoring and preserving Mexican flora and encouraging endangered wildlife to flourish. The extensive grounds house a conservatory of Mexican Plants, remains of colonial aqueducts and wool mill and a historic reservoir that is home to native and migratory birds.
CULTURE & TRADITION
While all Mexicans love a party, it seems that no town enjoys a celebration or fiesta more than San Miguel de Allende. Local citizens take to the streets with verve and enthusiasm for traditional holidays, in honour of national heroes, patron saints; or sometimes, it appears, just for the fun of it.
It often appears there are more reasons for celebration than days to accommodate them, but then this small city has held a pivotal place in Mexico’s history and culture and culture for well over four centuries. National holidays are honoured, but so are local ones, and, due to the large expatriate community, a fair number of international holidays also give cause for a party; with parades, processions, music, dancing and, of course, fireworks.
The city of San Miguel de Allende is an absorbing destination, but the surrounding area is also steeped in centuries of tradition and full of riches. Exploring the roads from San Miguel to Atotonilco, just 10 miles away, is an easy route to discovering the fascinating world outside the city.
The roads snake through the wide and fertile Laja river valley, an area of peaceful beauty surrounded by rolling foothills and dotted with thermal hot springs. The Laja river basin, which has been inhabited for over three thousand years, is now home to quiet rural communities and numerous small churches and colonial haciendas. Following the route of the churches, where centuries old belfries still manage to reign over small dusty pueblitos and remnants of colonial architecture sit crumbling splendour amidst fields of corn, it is easy to gain an appreciation for the heritage and traditions of the area and be reminded of a more fundamental way of life.
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