San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s most picturesque colonial cities. Home to stunning baroque architecture, twisting cobbled streets and its famous pink sandstone church, this is an easy destination for family travel if you’re looking to explore Mexico beyond its beaches.
There is lots to do in San Miguel de Allende with kids from museums and markets to fun sights and outdoor adventures. Plus, it’s an easy and safe place to explore by foot with many of the roads pedestrianised. If you’re travelling with an infant, however, forget the pushchair – these cobbled streets are not stroller-friendly!
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Located in the state of Guanajuato, in central Mexico, the city was originally founded in 1542 and is famous for being the first municipality that declared itself independent from Spanish rule during the Mexican War of Independence.
The years post-independence, however, saw the town’s fortune begin to fade. Until, that is, the beginning of the 20th century when foreign artists, drawn by the blue skies and beautiful architecture, began to move in. Since then, San Miguel de Allende has continued to be a magnet for both artists and foreigners and today it’s renowned for its art, culture and festivals. You can see some of the art being produced at Fabrica la Aurora (see below).
Here’s all you need to know to plan your visit to San Miguel de Allende with kids.
Things to do in San Miguel de Allende
1. La Esquina toy museum
Museo La Esquina is hands down one of the best places for kids in San Miguel de Allende.
This Mexican toy museum is the work of Angélica Tijerina who began collecting toys as a young child. Over the years she has amassed an impressive collection of over 1,000 one-of-a-kind folk toys dating back more than 50 years.
Set over three floors, the museum houses everything from traditional cars, trains and dollhouses to a collection of toys dedicated to Mexico’s traditional fairs and fiestas.
There are toys made from fabric, clay, tin, iron, papier-mâché, wood, corn husks and more. It’s a fascinating collection and kids will love it. Children’s workshops and classes with local artisans are also offered.
2. The best pan dulce in town
Mexico is well known for its pan dulce, literally “sweet breads”, delicious pastries served with breakfast. We started every day of our stay in San Miguel de Allende with breakfast – and pan dulce – at Cumpanio an delicious bakery and restaurant. They make traditional pan dulce include croissants and pain au chocolate as well as Mexican staples such as conchas (“shells”, a type of sweet bun in vanilla or chocolate) and rollos (“rings”, like a Danish pastry). At Cumpanio, however, they also serve the most delicious cream-filled doughnuts.
Another popular sweet spot is Churrería San Agustín. Owned by a famous Argentine actress, Margarita Gralia, queues of people line up outside this cafe waiting for a plate of churros con chocolate. Churros are not dissimilar to doughnuts, although they are long in shape, deep-friend and smothered in sugar.
3. Take a trolley bus ride
One way to get a feel for the city is to hop on board the antique-looking trolley bus for a tour of the central streets and surrounding areas. An onboard commentary (Spanish only) tells you a bit about the history of the town too.
Stops include the El Chorro, the town’s waterworks and public laundry, where some Mexican women still come to wash clothes today, and the perfect hilltop spot for a panoramic snap of San Miguel. The trolley tour is also great when little legs get tired! Tours run regularly from 7am daily.
4. Discover the doors of San Miguel de Allende
The colourful city streets of San Miguel de Allende are great for walking, although be warned that they are hilly! One of our favourite things were the old wooden doors that mark the entrance to artists’ studios, galleries, boutiques, cafés, restaurants and even churches.
Weathered and worn, these carved doors are simply beautiful. They come in varying sizes and with differing degrees of detail but they are all unique.
We developed an ‘I Spy’ game with a door theme, which turned out to be a great way to get kids’ up and down the cobbled streets.
5. El Charco del Ingenio
One of my favourite places in San Miguel was El Charco del Ingenio, the Botanical Gardens and Nature Reserve located just outside the city centre.
These gardens extend over 170 acres but don’t expect perfectly manicured lawns, this is one of those wonderfully wild reserves characterised by native scrubland, a canyon and wetlands. Various pathways wind their way through the reserve past an incredible array of cacti to various lookout points.
There’s a Conservatory of Mexican Plants, home to cacti and other native plants, many of which are endanger.
The Children’s Garden is an interactive space designed to connect kids and nature. Here you’ll find a Scent and Touch Labyrinth, the Pollinators Garden, the Solar Observatory and, of course, a slide!
I would recommend that you arrive early, before it gets too hot, and remember to bring water with you when wandering the trails. There’s a gift shop and cafeteria on site.
6. La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
San Miguel’s iconic pink church, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel (otherwise known as La Parroquia), towers above the city skyline. Although it looks very much like a cathedral, it is in fact a local parish church, just a very grand one.
The building itself dates back to the 17th century but the pink limestone facade was added in the late 19th century when it was decided that the church needed sprucing up. The facade is gothic in style and if you think it looks familiar it probably does; legend has it that the architect responsible, Zeferino Gutierrez, used a picture postcard of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona as inspiration.
7. El Jardín
San Miguel’s central square, El Jardin, sits directly in front of the pink church in the city center. If you’ve travelled elsewhere in Mexico you’ll notice that most central town squares are called zócalos and sit in front of the town or city’s main cathedral. The zócalo in Mexico City, for example, is one of the largest public squares in the world. Because the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is a parish church, however, the square is called a jardín – garden – instead.
This is where locals come to hang out; the benches in and around the garden are usually full, vendors peddle their wares and mariachi bands play on warm summer evenings. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes surrounding the plaza.
8. Parque Benito Juarez
The Parque Benito Juarez , to the south of the city, is a great playground for kids. It’s not huge and is limited to swings, slides and a climbing frame, but it’s a fun way for children to run off some steam – if they have any energy left after hiking up and down the hilly streets all day!
9. Fabrica la Aurora
The excellent Fabrica la Aurora should definitely be on your family vacation itinerary. This former textile mill first opened in 1902 and played a huge part in San Miguel’s industry until it closed in 1991. It was restored and brought back to life in 2004. Today it’s home to dozens of art galleries displaying works by local and international artists.
One of the most interesting things about a visit to La Fabrica, however, are the industrial machines still on display. You’ll spot giant engines, controls and giant looms that were designed for worsted wool production. Today they’re used as a storage area for paintings.
There are two restaurants and a coffee shop on site too.
10. Dolores Hidalgo ice cream
We didn’t make it to nearby Dolores Hidalgo for ice cream but I wish we had. This neighbouring town is famous for ice cream that vendors sell daily in the central square.
But this is not just any old ice cream, here you can choose from a variety of flavours including shrimp, avocado and even octopus! But if you don’t fancy a scoop of fried pork skin or shrimp ice cream then they also sell more traditional flavours.
In San Miguel itself, there’s BOSCO Gelato, just near La Parroquia. This little ice cream shop might not have the same kind of weird and wonderful flavours but its homemade ice cream is delicious.
11. Visit the market
San Miguel’s daily market is a lively, colourful spot and a great place to see local life in action. In addition to the fruit and vegetables on display, you’ll find chillies, dried mushrooms, herbs, honey and more.
The Mercado de Artesanías is in the alleyway between the food market and and Calle Loreto. It’s not the best market for crafts but it’s a fun place to wander around, particularly for kids.
On Tuesdays an open air market, Tianguis de Los Martes, takes place just outside San Miguel’s city centre. This is a wonderful market jam packed with everything from clothes and leather goods to pet birds, fruit and vegetables. There are also food stalls. You’ll need to drive or grab a cab in order to reach the market.
We didn’t go on a bike tour when we visited San Miguel as our kids were too young but if you’re visiting with teens then the bicycle tours run by Bici-Burro come highly recommended. This family-run company offer a wide range of tours that are ideal for exploring the surrounding countryside and get fantastic feedback from visitors. Tours include the use of aluminium speed mountain bikes that they have in small, medium, large and extra large sizes, as well as all the safety gear.
Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende
If you want to splash out then the Rosewood Hotel is amazing. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s worth visiting for a drink on the rooftop to watch the sun set over this pretty town.
For more ideas, take a look at these options on Booking.com.
Tips for travelling with kids to San Miguel de Allende
- Pushchairs and strollers cobblestone streets are no match for San Miguel’s cobblestone streets, if travelling with young kids then bring a baby carrier, backpacker or sling.
- Bring good walking shoes for hiking the city streets.
- Semana Santa (Easter) is a particularly busy time to visit San Miguel de Allende, book accommodation well in advance if visiting over this period.