Exploring Guanajuato Vs San Miguel De Allende In Mexico

Comparison of Guanajuato City and San Miguel De Allende In Mexico

Guanajuato is a state in Mexico that has received a lot of recent buzz for being an affordable and culturally rich area for Americans to visit.

Guanajuato is the name of both a city and the state in which it resides.

In this article, I am going to go over Guanajuato’s two popular tourist cities: Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende.

If you’ve heard the recent buzz these Mexican destinations have been stirring up, you may be wondering which town is best for your next visit to Mexico. 

Below, I’m listing everything you need to know about both San Miguel de Allende vs Guanajuato City to help you plan your next trip. Here is a quick overview.


  • Architecture and Culture: Visitors rave about Guanajuato’s stunning architecture, characterized by colorful buildings and intricate alleyways. The city’s rich cultural heritage is evident in its numerous museums, theaters, and historical sites.
  • Tips:
    • Wear comfortable shoes as the city’s layout is hilly and ideal for walking.
    • Explore the underground road network (callejones) for a unique experience.
    • Don’t miss the iconic Callejón del Beso for its romantic legend and intimate atmosphere.

San Miguel de Allende:

  • Colonial Charm: Travelers are drawn to San Miguel de Allende and this part of Mexico for its picturesque colonial architecture, vibrant art scene, and bohemian atmosphere. The city’s cobblestone streets and historic landmarks provide endless opportunities for exploration and cultural immersion.
  • Tips:
    • Visit the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel for stunning views of the city and its iconic pink spires.
    • Explore the local art scene by visiting galleries such as Fabrica La Aurora.
    • Indulge in the culinary delights of the region, including traditional dishes and artisanal treats.

Main Differences:

  1. Atmosphere: Guanajuato is known for its lively streets, underground tunnels, and vibrant cultural events, while SMDA offers a more relaxed and artistic ambiance with its bohemian vibe and thriving expat community.
  2. Architecture: While both cities boast stunning colonial architecture, Guanajuato’s colorful buildings and maze-like alleyways contrast with San Miguel de Allende’s well-preserved historic center and iconic pink church.
  3. Activities: Guanajuato appeals to adventure seekers with its underground road network and numerous museums, while San Miguel de Allende attracts art enthusiasts with its galleries, workshops, and cultural festivals.
San Miguel De Allende compared to Guanajuato City Mexico

1. Historical Background Of Guanajuato And San Miguel De Allende

Did you know that Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are two historically rich cities in Mexico?

Guanajuato is a colonial city known for its colorful architecture, and narrow streets and has a rich history of silver mining throughout the 18th century.

The city was first founded by the Spanish early in the 16th century and is an important colonial site that has UNESCO recognition for its cultural heritage.

San Miguel de Allende is known for its old world charm full of culture with quaint cobblestone streets, old architecture dating back to the 17th century, and colorful buildings.

In 2008 the town of San Miguel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has a long history of drawing in an artistic crowd from all around the world.

In recent years, this city has gotten a lot of attention and has even been listed as one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Increased tourism has allowed more businesses and restaurants to open drawing lots of expats to the area.

Guanajuato, located in the highlands of the Bajío region, is known for its stunning views and baroque architecture.

Meanwhile, San Miguel de Allende, situated just a bus ride away, offers a more youthful and authentic experience.

In the center of Guanajuato, you’ll find the bustling plaza surrounded by majestic churches where church bells chime to mark the hours.

Wander through the narrow alleyways and artisan shops in San Miguel’s centro histórico and you’ll get a taste of its rich cultural heritage.

Sip on some local craft beer at El Jardín and people watch from a bench in the city’s plaza.

I love to return to both cities and would recommend the bus journey from Guanajuato to San Miguel to anyone seeking authenticity and exceed a conversational experience.

Guanajiato City Mexico travel comparison

2. Geography And Climate Of Guanajuato And San Miguel De Allende

Guanajuato is a historical city of about 200,000 people in central Mexico located about 360 km (224 miles) northwest of Mexico City.

San Miguel de Allende is an incredibly touristy city located about 78 km east of Guanajuato with a population of 180,000 people, 10% of which are expats. 

If you are looking to travel to this area, the closest international airport in Mexico is the Guanajuato International Airport in which you can take a direct flight from many places in the USA.

This airport is located 29 km (18 miles) west of Guanajuato and you can expect a 30 minute drive.

Both of these Mexican destinations are known as year round travel hot spots that experience over 300 days of sunshine a year.

The wet season is between June and October, and the hottest time to visit is in May.

My favorite time to visit is in the winter, between December and February, just like visiting Merida and Valladolid, when you aren’t likely to experience rain and temperatures are a bit cooler.

Guanajiato City Mexico architecture and views

3. Culture And Tourism Compared

San Miguel de Allende has a strong tourist influence with a large part of the local population being older expats who have moved to the area.

The town centers have a very touristy feel with vendors, mariachi bands, and high end restaurants at the forefront.

Despite this, the architecture in the area is incredibly colorful and beautiful making it one of the prettiest places to visit, especially during sunset. 

While certainly less touristy, Guanajuato still receives thousands of world travelers looking to explore its streets every year.

While you can expect more authentic culture in this city, you will be glad to see lots of tourist focused comforts in this Mexican city as well.

Guanajuato is a great place for travelers to spend the day museum hopping and diving into the historical significance of this Mexico town.

With both of these cities having an important historical influence, you can find old colonial buildings, urban businesses, and a lot of authentic Mexican charm in both areas.

Guanajuato and SMDA compared for travel

Tourist Attractions In Guanajuato City

Are you ready to be swept off your feet by the beauty of Guanajuato?

This charming city in the bajío region of Mexico is a treasure trove of tourist attractions just waiting to be explored.

From the bustling plaza in the center of town to the majestic church bells that ring out across the city, there’s something to captivate every visitor.

Take a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone alleyways, shop for artisan craft at the mercado, or simply find a cozy bench in el jardin and people watch.

Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to be enchanted by the stunning views and authenticity of this unique city.

Guanajuato Funicular - things to do

Ah, Guanajuato City – what a gem! Picture this: winding cobblestone streets leading you through a maze of colorful buildings, each corner hiding a new adventure.

Our trip there was like stepping into a vibrant painting, with every brushstroke telling a story.

One of the highlights was exploring the iconic Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss.

Legend has it that couples who kiss on the third step are guaranteed seven years of happiness together – so of course, we had to give it a try!

It was a bit crowded, but the atmosphere was so lively and romantic.

Another must-visit spot was the stunning Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, with its intricate façade and awe-inspiring interior.

We spent a quiet moment there, soaking in the beauty and the sense of history that seemed to seep from every stone.

And let’s not forget about the funicular ride up to the Pipila Monument. Talk about breathtaking views!

From up there, we could see the entire city spread out below us like a patchwork quilt, with its colorful buildings and winding streets. It was the perfect spot for a selfie – or twenty.

Of course, no trip to Guanajuato City would be complete without a visit to the famous Museo de las Momias, where we came face to face with some of the city’s most well-preserved residents.

It was a bit eerie, but also fascinating to learn about the history and culture behind the mummies.

Leaving Guanajuato was tough – we felt like we could have explored for weeks and still not seen everything.

But as we boarded the bus, we knew we were taking a piece of the city’s magic home with us, along with a camera roll full of memories and a heart full of gratitude.

Tourist Attractions In San Miguel De Allende

One of the highlights of any trip to Guanajuato is a visit to the neighboring city of San Miguel.

Just a short bus ride away, San Miguel is a vibrant and youthful city that would recommend to anyone.

Explore the charming plaza in the center of the city, visit the beautiful church, and wander through the bustling mercado to get a taste of the city’s unique culture.

Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply soaking up the local atmosphere, both of these cities have something to offer everyone.

One of my favorite things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to enjoy the restaurants.

San Miguel Mexico attractions

Our trip to SMDA was an absolute dream!

Picture this: strolling through the streets, we couldn’t help but feel like we’d stepped into a postcard with Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel towering above us in all its pink-spire glory.

The whole town felt like a living museum, with every corner revealing another piece of its rich history and culture.

One of our favorite spots was El Jardín Botánico, a literal oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle.

We wandered along its winding paths, surrounded by vibrant blooms and the soothing sounds of nature. And let me tell you about Fabrica La Aurora – talk about creativity overload!

We spent hours getting lost in its galleries, soaking up the inspiration from all the incredible artwork.

But it wasn’t all about the town – we also took a little jaunt out to the countryside and stumbled upon Escondido Place.

Hot springs, nestled in the lush green hills? Yes, please! It was the perfect way to unwind and recharge before diving back into the vibrant chaos of San Miguel.

And oh, the food! From street tacos to fancy dinners, every bite was a flavor explosion.

We ate our way through the local cuisine, washing it all down with artisanal mezcal and indulging in decadent chocolates.

Leaving San Miguel was bittersweet – we were sad to say goodbye to its charm, but we left with hearts full of memories and a promise to return someday soon.

4. Comparison Of Tourism & Vibe Of Both Cities

If you are comparing the vibes of the two cities, San Miguel de Allende has a younger feel with beautiful sunsets, rooftop cocktails, and better night life, and is generally considered a more upbeat destination.

There are also a lot more travelers in this area and it can get quite crowded so you are expected to be in good company. 

If you’re looking to live life like the locals and visit a more untouched destination in Mexico, Guanajuato is a great option.

This is a great area to explore the history and forget all about life outside of your trip. Take stunning pictures during the day and stroll the quiet streets at night for a trip you won’t forget.

Guanajuato city or San Miguel, Mexico

5. Accommodations Available In Each City

Hotels in Guanajuato:

  1. If you’re staying in Guanajuato City and looking for the best hotels to rest your head, I recommend the Casa del Rector Hotel Boutique for those looking for a slice of luxury.
  2. For other travelers looking to spend on a mid range budget, Antigua Trece Hotel Fusión is a nice option and is centrally located.
  3. If you’re on a tight budget, the Villa Sueño Azul B&B is a great option for friends to enjoy. 

Hotels in San Miguel de Allende:

  1. There are a lot of hotels in San Miguel de Allende for tourists, one of the best being the beautiful Live Aqua San Miguel de Allende Urban Resort.
  2. If you’re looking for a mid range hotel, the villas at Our Habitas San Miguel de Allende are absolutely amazing whether you’re staying for one night or weeks.
  3. If you’re looking for budget friendly, Mesa Verde by Rotamundos is a great affordable choice.

6. Restaurants & Food

While travelers can expect delicious Spanish cuisine in both of these towns, there is a clear winner for who has the best food in Mexico.

San Miguel de Allende is the place to go if you’re looking for live music, rooftop bars, and top quality eats.

There are over 500 restaurants in this small town offering a wide range of cuisine from local eats to premium organic restaurants.

You will find everything from street vendors, cafes, wine tastings, and five star restaurants in the city.

Guanajuato town, Mexico compared to SMDA

7. Cost & Budget Comparison Of Guanajuato And San Miguel De Allende

If you are looking for the most budget conscious place to travel, Guanajuato is the destination for you.

Not only will you be able to get direct flights closer to the city, but thanks to less tourism in the area you will be rewarded with overall cheaper prices in this town.

San Miguel de Allende on the other hand has a strong tourist presence which has created a competitive market leading to increased prices.

While the prices in this city are certainly more expensive, they are still far cheaper than other tourist areas in Mexico such as Cancun or Playa Del Carmen and Mexico City.

Of course, there is a way to do both cities for fairly cheap including using the local bus as your transportation, supporting local business, trading your wine for water, and staying in cheaper hotels.

If you are looking to get the best deals, visiting in off season between January and March will also work to keep prices down.

8. Safety And Security

Both Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are known to be pretty safe areas with most of the safety issues being corruption and property crimes at higher levels.

For tourists, the biggest risk is petty crimes such as pick pocketing that can happen in any part of the world. 

Additional travel guides for Mexico: Holbox compared to Isla Mujeres – Which tropical island vacation suits you?

How To Get To Guanajuato City And San Miguel De Allende

Located in the heart of Mexico, these two cities are sure to captivate you with their charm and history.

The easiest way to get there is to fly into Querétaro airport, which is conveniently located between the two cities.

And the best part? You didn’t need to worry about a long and arduous journey to reach your destination. With just a short meter to the airport, you’ll be on your way to explore these enchanting cities.

Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a myriad of sights and sounds that are sure to attract you.

From the bustling streets of Guanajuato City to the tranquil beauty of SMDA, there’s nothing quite like the experience of exploring these historic towns.

And thanks to the liveable and welcoming atmosphere, you’ll feel right at home from the moment you arrive.

Whether you choose to stay in a cozy hostel or a luxurious hotel, you’ll find that the accommodations are as charming as the cities themselves.

For travelers visiting Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende for the first time, here are the best ways to get to each city.

Getting to Guanajuato City:

  1. Fly to Del Bajío International Airport (BJX): The most convenient way to reach Guanajuato City is by flying into Del Bajío International Airport, located approximately 30 kilometers away. From the airport, travelers can take a taxi, shuttle, or rental car to reach Guanajuato City.
  2. Take a Bus: Guanajuato City is well-connected by bus services from major cities across Mexico. Travelers can take a bus from cities like CDMX, Guadalajara, or Querétaro to reach Guanajuato Central Bus Station. Bus companies such as ETN, Primera Plus, and Omnibus de México offer comfortable and reliable services.
  3. Drive: Travelers with their own vehicle can drive to Guanajuato City. The city is accessible via major highways, including Highway 45D and Highway 57. However, parking in the city center can be limited and challenging, so it’s advisable to park in designated parking lots outside the historic center.

Getting to San Miguel de Allende:

  1. Fly to Querétaro International Airport (QRO): The closest airport to San Miguel de Allende is Querétaro International Airport, located approximately 75 kilometers away. From the airport, travelers can take a taxi, shuttle, or rental car to reach San Miguel de Allende.
  2. Take a Bus: San Miguel de Allende is accessible by bus from major cities such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Querétaro. Travelers can take a bus to San Miguel de Allende Bus Terminal, located on the outskirts of the city, and then take a taxi or local transportation to reach the city center.
  3. Drive: Travelers can drive to SSMDA from nearby cities or from Mexico City. The city is accessible via major highways, including Highway 57 and Highway 51. Parking in San Miguel de Allende can be limited in the city center, so it’s advisable to park in designated parking areas or use private parking lots.
SM de Allende, Mexico destinations

Which To Visit? Guanajuato Or San Miguel De Allende?

If you are planning your next Mexico vacation and choosing between these two cultural hotspots, you really can’t go wrong.

Both of these cities are full of Mexican charm, delicious food, and stunning architecture and very similar to visiting Oaxaca.

If you are looking for an authentic Mexican experience full of trips to museums and getting a taste of the local culture, Guanajuato is the place for you.

If you are looking for a luxurious and energetic vacation full of tasty restaurants, live music, colorful architecture, and friendly locals, San Miguel de Allende is a better option for you. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about these two cultural towns and that I have helped you to plan your next trip to Mexico.

Which Is Better For Expats: Guanajuato Or San Miguel De Allende?

For expats considering a move to either Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende, there are several factors to weigh in order to make an informed decision about which city best suits their lifestyle and preferences.

Living in Guanajuato:

  • Cost of Living: Generally, Guanajuato tends to have a slightly lower cost of living compared to San Miguel de Allende. Housing, groceries, and dining out are often more affordable, making it an attractive option for expats on a budget.
  • Authentic Mexican Experience: Guanajuato offers expats a more immersive experience into Mexican culture. With fewer expat communities compared to San Miguel, expats may find it easier to integrate into the local community and practice their Spanish language skills.
  • Local Atmosphere: The city has an electric and authentic Mexican atmosphere, with colorful streets, bustling markets, and cultural events year-round. Expats who crave an authentic Mexican lifestyle may find Guanajuato more appealing.

Living in San Miguel de Allende:

  • Expatriate Community: SMDA has a well-established expatriate community, making it easier for newcomers to connect with fellow expats and access resources tailored to their needs. This can be particularly advantageous for expats who prefer a ready-made support network.
  • Cultural Amenities: SMDA is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries, art workshops, and cultural events. Expats with a passion for the arts and cultural activities will find plenty to explore and engage with in this city.
  • Infrastructure and Services: SMDA generally offers better infrastructure and services catering to expats, such as English-speaking healthcare providers, international schools, and expat-oriented businesses. This can contribute to a smoother transition and more comfortable living experience for expats.
Guanajuato city vs San Miguel, Mexico

FAQ About Guanajuato Compared To San Miguel De Allende

What are the main differences between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato?

Both are picturesque Mexican towns with colonial charm, but they offer different experiences. San Miguel de Allende is known for its vibrant artsy vibe and expat community, while Guanajuato is a hilly town with steep cobblestone streets, known for its rich history and iconic tunnels.

Which town is more touristy, Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende?

Both cities are popular tourist destinations, but SMDA tends to be more touristy due to its expat community and lively arts scene.

Are there notable architectural differences between Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende?

San Miguel de Allende is known for its Spanish colonial architecture, with iconic landmarks such as the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, while Guanajuato features a mix of colonial and neo-gothic architecture, including the Basilica and historic center.

How far apart are Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende?

Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are approximately an hour away from each other by bus, making it convenient for visitors to experience both towns on a single trip. 

Which town is better for experiencing Mexican cuisine, Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende?

When it comes to experiencing authentic Mexican cuisine, both Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende offer a gastronomic paradise.

But if you’re looking for a town that truly encapsulates the flavors and culture of Mexico, then we’ll have to give the edge to Guanajuato.

Nestled in the Hidalgo Mountains at an altitude of 6,600 feet above sea level, Guanajuato boasts a rich culinary heritage that will knock your socks off.

From fiery enchiladas to savory tamales, every bite is a celebration of tradition and flavor.

And let’s not forget about the lively processions and colorful festivals that add an extra kick to your dining experience.

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Guanajuato V. San Miguel De Allende - Mexico Travel

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Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.
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