For the second year in a row, Travel + Leisure readers chose Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende as their favorite city in the world, as part of the annual World’s Best Awards. That, of course, meant it was also voted the top city in Mexico, besting such scenic cities as Oaxaca and Guadalajara.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
Those who have visited describe San Miguel de Allende as an enchanting city, one with remarkable architecture. The cobblestoned streets and brightly colored Spanish-colonial buildings are a signature of the city. In fact, the 64-block historic center is so unique and picturesque, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception — known locally as “Las Monjas” — is one of San Miguel’s most identifiable landmarks. For a very Mexican cultural experience, travelers should also make the trip to the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico” at the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. Its walls are covered in stunning, elaborate religious murals from the 18th century.
Look for local handicrafts at any of the city’s street markets, and be sure to hit the gigantic El Tianguis de los Martes held every Tuesday. Baskets, pottery, and brightly embroidered clothing are among the top souvenirs.
Culinary travelers love San Miguel de Allende for its inventive flavors. The city is home to more than 350 markets and restaurants. One of the most acclaimed, Moxi Restaurant, is helmed by Enrique Olvera, who is often cited as one of Mexico’s best chefs. He takes classic Mexican recipes and gives them a twist, like tempura shrimp with criolla fries and chipotle mayonnaise.
Before visiting, it’s wise to pick up a good pair of comfortable shoes. Travelers can walk pretty much anywhere in the city — until it’s the end of the day and it’s time to trek up one of the city’s steep hills. You can also ride the affordable public bus (about 30 cents) or jump into a reasonably priced taxi.