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San Miguel City Culture

Find a Fiesta
San Miguel City Culture
San Miguel's "authentic" culture might seem elusive; after all, its authenticity, perhaps ironically, is in its blend of Mexican traditions and expat influences. But keep your eyes and ears open and you'll find plenty to capture your interest.
Photo by Jordana BTP
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    Find a Fiesta
    Find a Fiesta
    San Miguel celebrates a number of holidays and events with memorable fanfare, from cultural extravaganzas to traditional celebrations. Favorite fiestas include the Festival Internacional de Música de Cámara (International Chamber Music Festival), held each year in late July and early August, and La Fiesta de los Locos (the Festival of Crazies), held annually in June. Though it commemorates a saint's feast day, the latter features exuberant costumes and playful parades. San Miguel is also home to a flourishing literary festival, held each year in February. It attracts A-list writers and agents.
    Photo by Jordana BTP
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    Take an Architecture Tour
    Take an Architecture Tour
    San Miguel is located in Mexico's colonial heartland, and nowhere is the legacy of the Spanish seen more clearly than in the city's architecture. Walk the cobblestoned streets, whether independently or on a guided tour, to see residential casonas (mansions—some turned into B&Bs), Gothic and neo-Gothic churches, and baroque museums and public offices. You'll soon see why UNESCO designated the city a World Heritage Site in 2008. Can't-miss landmarks include La Parroquia (a neo-Gothic church), Templo de San Francisco (a fine example of the churrigueresque style), and the neoclassical and baroque mansion Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal. Don't forget your camera; the architectural details are rivaled by the buildings' vivid colors.
    Photo by Jordana BTP
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    Refine Your Artistic Skills
    Refine Your Artistic Skills
    For nearly a century, San Miguel de Allende has drawn artists—particularly from the United States—to settle here and practice their craft. It's not hard to see why: The well-preserved colonial architecture and the colorful cityscape, with its riot of flowers, are certainly inspiring. Many members of the expat community have crossed the threshold of Instituto Allende at one point in time; plenty of one-time visitors here on vacation do as well. The Instituto performs many functions, but chief among them is as an art school. If you want to learn or advance your skills in painting, photography, jewelry making, or weaving, the Instituto has a number of workshops. Many local artists also offer courses and art retreats.
    Photo by Jordana BTP
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    Shopping in San Miguel
    Shopping in San Miguel
    It may come as a surprise, given its large expat population, but San Miguel de Allende supports a large number of shops, markets, and galleries where visitors can find and purchase authentic Mexican handicrafts and artwork. Metals like brass and tin and materials like wood and wool are among the most common items used in the traditional crafts of the region; you can also find pottery and jewelry here. For these traditional objects, head to the Mercado de Artesanías. If you're looking for contemporary art by Mexican and expat artisans, the art and design center Fábrica la Aurora is an ideal destination. More than 40 galleries, studios, and boutiques are open to the public, and it's not uncommon to buy directly from the artist.
    Photo by Jordana BTP
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    Go Museum-Hopping
    Go Museum-Hopping
    San Miguel de Allende is home to a variety of excellent museums, some of which are public-run institutions; others are the passion projects of private collectors. In the latter category, the mask collection at Casa de la Cuesta is a favorite stop among locals and visitors, though it requires an appointment for a guided tour with the collector, who displays his holdings of Mexican ceremonial dance masks in a room of his bed and breakfast. Another popular niche museum is Museo la Esquina, which has a 1,000-object collection of Mexican toys. Many of the pieces are handmade folk toys. Another recommended stop on a self-guided museum tour is the unfinished Siqueiros mural at Instituto Allende.
    Photo by Jordana BTP
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    See San Miguel from Above
    See San Miguel from Above
    It's hard to imagine a more vibrant sight than the color-splashed colonial-era houses lining San Miguel de Allende's cobblestoned streets—unless, that is, you're seeing them from your vantage point underneath the equally colorful striped silks of a hot-air balloon. Outfitter Globo San Miguel can take you up, up, and away over the city. After floating high above the spires of La Parroquia, the balloon pilot will navigate the airy currents and guide you toward the countryside of Guanajuato. Though sunrise is typically considered the best time of day to go ballooning—and that's the outfitter's standard departure time for daily excursions—Globo San Miguel staff can also work with you to create a custom trip for a special occasion.
    Photo by Jordana BTP