San Miguel de Allende is a colonial town in central Mexico known for its cobbled streets, and its beautiful main plaza, complete with a pink gothic church that is illuminated at night. After visiting this picturesque town, here’s what not to do in San Miguel de Allende with kids.
Perhaps surprisingly, this small Mexican town known for its older ex-pat population is also family-friendly- here are travel tips to make the most of your family vacation in San Miguel de Allende. We visited as part of our Family Year Out, when our kids were 4 and 7. San Miguel was part of the six weeks in Mexico we spend crossing from the Pacific coast to the Yucatan.
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Where is San Miguel de Allende?
San Miguel de Allende is in central Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato, 4 1/2 hours east of Guadalajara, and 4 hours northwest of Mexico City.
The weather here is temperate- highs range from the mid-80s in the hottest months, to the mid-70s in the cooler months. This makes for a pleasant visit all year round.
What is San Miguel de Allende Known For?
San Miguel de Allende is known for its architecture, its art galleries, and its large ex-pat population. Almost 20% of the population are foreigners who’ve moved to this city for its delightful mix of culture, food, and art.
The center of San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO world heritage site. While you will find one Starbucks (with the prettiest courtyard we’ve ever seen at a Starbucks), you won’t find many other chains. The restaurants here are local, as are the stores and the crafts.
San Miguel is painted in all reds, oranges, and yellows, giving the Centro its own color palette that glows in the sunlight.
What Not to Do in San Miguel de Allende with Kids
Here are some travel tips for visiting San Miguel de Allende with kids- all the things we wish we knew not to do during our visit!
Drink the Water
Do not drink the water in San Miguel de Allende! The city has some of the worst water in Mexico- it includes high levels of fluoride as well as arsenic.
While we normally like to use our Steripen UV water purifier rather than bottled water, a purifier is designed to kill any bacteria, not remove heavy metals. Likewise, a water bottle with an attached filter cannot remove these heavy metals. It’s best to do as the locals do, and drink only bottled water when visiting San Miguel de Allende with kids.
The city of San Miguel de Allende dates from 1542 when it was a hub for silver trading. You’ll find rolling cobblestone streets and narrow, bumpy sidewalks, where it’s difficult to pass another person, much less keep your distance.
You’ll do well to choose sturdy footwear, and leave the flip flops behind, as you’ll be navigating these bumps and cracks all throughout the city.
Bring a Stroller
These sidewalks are no place for a stroller, leave it behind. In the very center of the city, the streets are blocked off to traffic, but even in these pedestrian zones, the cobbled streets are rough and very uneven terrain.
Expect to Pay with Credit Cards
Many of the restaurants, shops, and vendors in San Miguel de Allende do not accept credit cards. Plan to carry cash, and inquire at restaurants before assuming that they will accept credit cards.
Generally, if the location does accept credit, they will display a sign indicating this. Likewise, you will see many “cash only” signs around town.
Be Afraid to Explore
San Miguel de Allende is built very close to the street. The walls are high and solid, with narrow sidewalks. Thus, you are very close to the walls, which makes it hard to see signage, which is also often subtle and easy to miss.
Once you enter a doorway, you’ll often find courtyard inside courtyard, hidden within these high walls. This is part of what makes San Miguel de Allende so fun to discover, but it can also be a slow process.
We walked the same block several times without realizing we were passing a coffee shop that turned out to be one of our favorites. Don’t miss Lavanda Cafe for terrific coffee and pastries, as well as delicious sandwiches.
Likewise, we had to look hard to find Mercado del Carmen, a delightful food court where you can try dishes that range from sushi to Moroccan. We’d walked the block several times without seeing the wooden sign. Once you enter the doorway, you’ll need to walk through another shop, past a restaurant, and you’ll find the food hall in the back.
San Miguel de Allende feels like a town that will only slowly unfold its secrets- you’ll need to spend a lot of time here to really find all the best spots.
Skip the Street Carts
Don’t forget to try the street food! You’ll see carts selling various flavors of nieves (sorbet), as well as other treats.
The best churros in town? A street cart called Churros Rellenos in Plaza Zargoza.
Be in a Rush
San Miguel is a place to sit and watch the world go by. The central plaza is called El Jardin, and it’s where people go to listen to mariachi bands, kids play in the gazebo, and everyone gazes at the beautiful pink limestone of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel.
There are food carts that pop up in the evenings and on the weekends, and lots of cafes to sit in and have a coffee.
One of our kid’s favorite activities (besides visiting the inside of the church which they did multiple times) was playing in the gazebo.
Enter a Church During Services
There are so many churches to visit in San Miguel de Allende! Just be sure to respect the church services, and not enter to sightsee during these times.
While we loved visiting the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel that sits so prettily on the main square, we also enjoyed visits to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Templo de San Francisco, and the Templo de Nuestra Señora de La Salud, among others.
It seems that every time we wandered a few blocks we found another beautiful church to peer into.
Miss the Art Markets
The craft and handmade markets in San Miguel de Allende are wonderful, don’t miss them! You won’t find mass-market or kitschy items, rather the rows of craft items seem to go on and on. You’ll have a hard time choosing what to bring home!
The Mercado de Artesanias starts attached to the main produce and goods market and continues across the street in four sections.
Start at the San Miguel Market, then work your way downhill. You’ll cross Cjon. de Loreto street, (don’t miss the second location of Lavanda Cafe here), then continue into the third section of the market.
After you cross Relox Street, look for Plaza Corazon, a fun side alley on the right side of the market. The market continues down until you reach Hidalgo street.
Expect Everyone to Speak English
You’ll find a lot of English speakers in San Miguel de Allende, but it’s also a great time to practice your Spanish! In fact, many people come to this town just to study at one of the many Spanish schools here.
We are working on our Spanish, and while we’ve learned a lot, we have generally found that a little effort and goodwill goes a long way (and of course google translate also helps!)
Miss the Playground
There is a children’s playground in Parque Benito Juarez, which is an easy walk from the center of town. This park has a shaded, jungle feel, with fun stone bridges crossing through it. The playground has equipment for a range of ages, including a series of plastic musical instruments.
E(4) loved creating her own band here, while S(7) quickly made friends with some other kids and raced around the play area.
Forget Travel Insurance
Don’t forget to line up travel insurance before you start your trip! Travel insurance covers everything from emergency medical evacuation to lost luggage and trip interruption. You need to be ready for the unexpected.
We use SafetyWing- it’s great for long-term travelers as you can set it to auto-renew every 30 days, and you don’t need to update what countries you’ll be visiting if your plans change.
Get a Quote: Travel Insurance from SafetyWing
Is San Miguel de Allende Safe for Families?
San Miguel de Allende is a very safe place for families to travel together. We walked all over the central area, and never felt unsafe in any way.
The inner blocks of the center are pedestrian-only, and you’ll see a police presence monitoring the street closures and patroling around town as well.
How Many Days Should I Spend in San Miguel de Allende?
We spent five nights in San Miguel de Allende and felt we were just scratching the surface of this town. You can see the top sites in a day or two, but give yourself a few more days if you can to just wander the streets and see what you can find.
We were looking to enter the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the large golden walled church whose dome you can see from far down Zacatecas. We ducked into a doorway on the Calle de Hernandez Macias side, and accidentally found ourselves in a Cultural Centre full of art exhibits and frescos that inhabits the old convent.
If you find yourself there, when you are finished looking at the art, cross the street, enter the shopping courtyard (Plaza Colonial), and head to the back for Bistro San Miguel. Ask for the terrace, and you’ll climb some metal stairs before dining with views of the steeples and rooftops of the city.
How Do I Get to San Miguel de Allende?
To get to San Miguel de Allende, fly to Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (QRO), then take a shuttle 1 1/2 hours to San Miguel de Allende. If a shuttle is not offered by your hotel, you can book online at Baji Go.
You can also fly into León-Bajío International Airport (BJX) in Guanajuato and drive 1 1/2 hours from there.
Alternately, you can either take a bus from Mexico City- Primera Plus runs this route, it should take about 4 hours.
Where Should I Stay in San Miguel de Allende?
We recommend staying within easy walking distance of the city center. This is where the main tourist sites are, including lots of art galleries, beautiful churches, and craft markets. This is also where you’ll find the highest concentration of restaurants and cafes.
Recommended Hotel: Posada Maria Luisa. This small hotel has big rooms with small balconies to let in light and air. On the outskirts of the Centro, you can easily walk to anywhere in the center, but also have access to restaurants on the less touristed strip of Zacateros south of the hotel.
Do I Need A Car in San Miguel de Allende?
You will not need a car if you are planning to explore the central area of San Miguel de Allende. The streets here are narrow, and hilly, and parking is very limited.
For short journeys, you should use a local taxi or Uber to move around.
There are not a lot of rental car options in San Miguel de Allende, you’ll need to rent and return from one of the two airports, each over an hour away.
Check Prices: Discover Car Rentals
If you decide to rent a car, check out our full post on driving in Mexico: Driving in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know
Is Uber Available in San Miguel de Allende?
Yes, Uber is available in San Miguel de Allende! Uber is a great way to move around outside the center since you avoid any miscommunication regarding price or drop-off location.
When is the Best Time to Visit San Miguel de Allende?
The climate in San Miguel de Allende doesn’t change much from season to season. Its warm, temperate climate is one of the things many people love about the city.
In the winter months, the mornings can be cold (mid-30s), though the afternoons will be warm (high 70s or low 80s). We visited in January and found it best to wear sweaters in the mornings, and evenings, though we were comfortable in t-shirts in the afternoons.
In the summer the temperatures are a bit higher, but you’ll also find more rainfall.
There You Have It!
Our best travel tips for visiting San Miguel de Allende with kids- what to look for and what to avoid. We loved spending time in this unique city, and hope to go back soon to find more favorite places to eat and shop.
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