In the middle of Mexico, located in the state of Guanajuato, is the city of San Miguel de Allende. Aptly nicknamed El Corazon de Mexico (the heart of Mexico), it is one of the loveliest, most welcoming places to visit in the country. I chose to set my first novel “Palace of the Blue Butterfly ” in San Miguel de Allende after falling in love with the colonial architecture, welcoming people, beautiful colors, delicious food and thriving art scene that are all part of this romantic, old world city. Here are just a few of the most interesting places to visit in San Miguel de Allende.
In the center of town is the bright, colorful city square. It’s referred to as El Jardin (the garden), because of the gorgeous, impeccably trimmed trees and bushes lining the walkways. The square is surrounded by interesting shops and restaurants, and it’s always pulsing with life. Artists, street vendors and local musicians provide entertainment and cultural wares for sale. Depending on the day, you may get to see everything from a mariachi band to a dance performance to a religious ceremony or even a political protest.
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Overlooking the plaza is the great Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, one of the most photographed churches in Mexico. The baroque architecture, towering spires and unique pink color make it impossible to miss. The pictures do not do it justice, however. You must see the imposing structure in person, hear the church bells ring and watch the color appear to change as the sun moves through the sky. To think that this incredible building was built in the 17th century, with no modern-day construction equipment is mind boggling.
Fabrica La Aurora
Fabrica La Aurora is a converted factory that now displays both historical art and modern-day artists at work on their creations. You can take an art class, eat at one of the various restaurants or purchase a piece of local art. Over the years, San Miguel de Allende has become a hub for artists of all types, not in small part due to the Instituto Allende, a renowned art school, that has been drawing students to the area for 50 years. It’s also open to the public and people come to see the architecture, walk through the galleries or have lunch at the cafe it houses.
El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden
The botanical garden spans 170 acres and is an ecological preserve. Hiking or walking through the park, you can see both the native flora and fauna and various species of biodiverse wildlife that flourish there.
If you’re thinking about visiting San Miguel de Allende, pack your walking shoes because there is so much to see and do that you’ll be on your feet a lot. However many sites you plan to visit, though, make sure to build time into each day where you can sit in the square and absorb the vibrant culture that thrives in this beautiful city.