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5 Reasons Why This City Is The Cultural Capital Of North America

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In the cold gray days of winter, it’s nice to know that somewhere in the world, the sun is shining.

While some travelers choose to dip down to the Southern Hemisphere to catch rays, you can save on airfare and find a sunny destination much closer to home.

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is an artsy city in Guanajuato, Mexico that draws in tourists from all over the world for its year-round climate, low crime rate, and low cost of living. This city is known as the Cultural Capital of North America–and it’s no wonder!

From its vibrant art scene, historic sites, colonial architecture, and green spaces to its delicious food and wineries, San Miguel de Allende is full of culturally enriching experiences. 

With a population of just around 200,000, San Miguel de Allende is considered a small city. Still, it has plenty to offer travelers in 2024.

Here are five reasons why San Miguel de Allende is the cultural capital of North America.

1. Food and Drink: Walking Food Tours, Tequila-Tasting, and Award-Winning Cuisine

San Miguel de Allende has many pleasant surprises in store for foodies. In this small city, several restaurants have won awards for their authentic cuisine.

Enjoy traditional foods such as shrimp jicama tacos, stuffed chilaquiles, or confit de pato. Then, you can finish off the meal with decadent chocolate desserts or pay de limon. Or, choose from a wide array of international dishes. 

A couple enjoying authentic cuisine

If you’re not sure where to start, join a walking food tour and try all the best foods in San Miguel de Allende while getting to know your way around the city. 

Finish off the night on the town with a tequila-tasting session at Casa Dragones. This historic site from the 1600s is famous as the “smallest Tequila bar in the world.” Its rooftop bar offers beautiful views of San Miguel de Allende while you sip world-famous tequila.

rooftop restaurant with patio umbrellas

2. Art and Music: Fine Art Galleries, Music and Dance Festivals, and Cultural Centers

San Miguel de Allende is a cultural hub for the arts. It has been a homeplace for famous artists such as Diego Rivero, Rufino Tamayo, and David Alfaro Siqueiros in the past. Currently, it offers opportunities to up-and-coming artists at its art schools.

Throughout the year, San Miguel de Allende showcases its talent by hosting several art and music festivals. 

A couple tours La Aurora

You can appreciate the city's art year-round by browsing over 100 fine art galleries. Or visit several artists under one roof at the historic Fabrica La Aurora San Miguel de Allende, a former textile factory dedicated to art studios, antiques, books, jewelry, and sculptures.

If you get a chance to walk the streets of San Miguel de Allende, you are sure to come away inspired. 

3. Historic Landmarks: Colonial Architecture, Monuments, and the Old City Center

As you walk the cobblestone streets in the historic downtown of San Miguel de Allende, you can enjoy the colonial architecture and brightly colored buildings that date back hundreds of years. 

Colorful buildings in San Miguel de Allende

Some must-see places to put on your route are the Municipal Palace, the Parish of San Miguel Arcangel, and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco. These buildings are hundreds of years old and display a combination of both Latin American and European cultures and San Miguel de Allende’s religious background. 

You can also visit Ignacio Allende’s birthplace, Casa de Allende, to learn more about this town’s historic roots and Mexican history.

4. Natural beauty: Botanical Gardens, Nature Walks, and Archeological Sites

If you want to relax in nature, San Miguel de Allende has plenty of green spaces interspersed throughout the city.

The Jardin Allende is a beautiful garden set in the heart of the city center. You can enjoy a walk through the pathways and listen to musicians. Right outside the picturesque garden grounds are shops, cafes, and the famous pink Gothic cathedral. 

Jardin Allende with pink Gothic cathedral

At the edge of the city, you can also find botanical gardens and Cañada de la Virgen, an ancient archeological site. 

In San Miguel the Allende, nature is a part of the city’s culture.

5. Language, Foreign Influences, and a Small-Town Feel

San Miguel de Allende was influenced by Spaniards, indigenous Americans, and Creoles throughout its history.

In fact, this seamless “melting pot” of cultures and values is one reason that San Miguel de Allende was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. 

Woman smiling in a busy city

Even today, San Miguel de Allende has many multicultural influences. This city’s population includes expats from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and it welcomes over a million visitors yearly.

While this city bustles with energy, its pedestrian nature, vibrant culture, and rich community continue to give it a friendly, small-town feel.

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