The Mexico shopping experience can be fantastic in some places, but disappointing in others, especially the most popular beach destinations. There you have to sift through lots of factory-made junk, some of it not even made within the country. In other Mexican destinations you’ll find great handicrafts, artistic items, shoes, and clothing. You can often find better quality and prices in the in colonial interior. One of the best Mexico shopping destinations is historic Spanish colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato.
This colonial city in the center of the interior has a lot of attributes that have filled it with great stores to explore. It’s near Dolores Hidalgo, the top ceramics producer after Puebla. It’s a major center for the arts, with more than 100 galleries and workshops competing for attention. Perhaps most importantly, the city gets a steady flow of travelers with money and taste, in addition to the many thousands who live there and have houses to furnish.
So while San Miguel de Allende shopping is not famous for one specific thing, it excels in options for everything from light fixtures to dishes to fashion. You could bring back a nice pewter serving platter or hand-blown wine glasses for someone back home, or move to the city and fill your whole house with objects both beautiful and useful.
Any rundown of places to go shopping should be viewed as just a framework: sometimes the best Mexico shopping treasures are found by wandering aimlessly in this UNESCO World Heritage colonial city. We popped into a lot of places during our most recent visit to San Miguel though, so here are some recommended shopping spots to check out on your self-guided tour.
You won’t have to walk far from the main square to get to the Canal 3 complex. It’s on the corner where you enter the Starbucks.
The Casa Canal furniture store is here, handcrafting beautiful tables, chairs, and dressers. Right by the entrance though is the colorful Adoro México store with dyed leather items, jewelry, candles, and other gift items. You can order something to eat or drink in the open courtyard.
Doce 18 Concept House
Down Relox street from the main plaza is this mixed-use space with an art gallery, tasting rooms, and high-end shops. It once belonged to a Syrian Jewish merchant and manufacturer and was known as The Cohen House for decades. Here you’ll find 17 shops selling interesting items, from hats to jewelry to glasses. If you shop ’til you drop, there’s a luxury boutique hotel on the second floor.
Casa R Concept Store
Also functioning on the idea of multiple stores within a store is Casa R Concept Store at Mesones 83. If you’re looking for high-quality clothing, purses, hats, or jewelry from Mexican designers, definitely put this one on your list. It’s an eclectic but carefully chosen collection of stylish items for your body or home.
El Nuevo Mundo
A block from the main square on San Francisco street is El Nuevo Mundo, one of the oldest stores in San Miguel and a great place to pick up interesting handicrafts from Mexico, primarily Oaxaca. If you’re enchanted by the fantastical creatures known as alebrijes, this is a good spot to find your perfect one to take home.
San Miguel Artisans Market for Mexico Shopping Variety
You’ll also find bedspreads and rugs from Oaxaca at the artisans market, which is also a great spot to browse Mexican mirrors, pewter items, colorful ceramics, and jewelry. You could spend hours browsing the stalls and stores that extend for two blocks. The market is about a 10-minute walk from the center, past the Plaza Civica. Unlike in most of the boutiques, you can do a little bargaining here, with the best discount chances coming with multiple item purchases from the same vendor.
One of our favorites there is the Mexican Oilcloth Store, which uses oilcloth fabric to make placemats, shopping bags, lunch containers, purses, and more. Get your favorite Mexican motif patterns like chile peppers, cacti, skulls, or flowers.
Apply the Mexican patterns idea to fabric and you get Abrazos Boutique at Zacateros 24. You can get the Mexican equivalent of loud Hawaiian shirts with motifs of lucha libre wrestlers, Day of the Dead skulls, Frida Kahlo paintings, or skeletons. The same fabrics make their way into bathrobes, aprons, napkins, eyeglass cases, and more, all sewn by local seamstresses with abrazos (hugs). These days, they’re cranking out funky face masks as well to keep everyone safe with some flair.
I picked up a cool cactus-themed eye mask to wear on long flights. See examples at the official website and you can order ahead to make sure they have exactly what you want.
We mentioned Hernan Arroyo in an earlier post about our San Miguel art tour. He’s the master of mojigangas, the giant paper-maché figures that sit atop people’s shoulders in parades and festivals. He runs workshops in his studio but for shopping, check out his store next door to it: Mojigangas 62. It houses a packed assortment of Mexican handicrafts and you’d be hard-pressed to not find something you like there to remember your visit or to take home to someone as a gift. There are some items made in his studio, but most are smaller items from other artisans: pottery, tree ornaments, Catrina figures, religious art, masks, dolls, and much more.
La Casa del Inquisidor
In business since, 1991, La Casa del Inquisidor at Aldama 1 is the place to go for ironwork home fixtures. They’ve got an intriguing collection of door knockers, towel racks, light fixtures, and hardware for cabinets and dressers.
The Mixta shop at Pica Seca 3 lives up to its name with a bit of this, a bit of that. The collection, chosen with care, includes hand-made shawls, dresses, hats, soaps, rugs, and more.
If you’re planning a same-sex wedding, they’ve got some cake candles for you too…
There’s no shortage of jewelry stores in this city, partly thanks to the long history of silver mining in Guanajuato state that goes back to the 1700s. Cerro Blanco is one of the most reliable for one-of-a-kind items. It is a family-run store that has been around for more than 15 years, led by the fourth generation of jewelry makers. They sell modern hand-made jewelry from silver, pearls, and other stones, as well as religious icons. Find them at Fabrica La Aurora in space 7C.
Fabrica La Aurora Art Complex
If you’re an art collector, you’ll be in heaven at Fabrica la Aurora, a former textile factory that now houses around 40 galleries and workshops. Some of Mexico’s best-known artists have pieces here and any given day you can find a few local artists at work in their studio located here.
Items range from fine art paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media works to artistic useful items and folk art. Some of the finest folk art items from all over Mexico are for sale at the Atotonilco Gallery outlet here in the Aurora complex. The main store is outside of town on the road to Dolores Hidalgo, but there’s a smaller delightful collection here that can save you the trip.
The gallery complex is open from 10 to 6 on most days, 10 to 5 on Sundays. If you want a break between the visits, there are a few good dining outlets on site as well. Then take your time walking back to the center as you’ll find a few more shops on the main street that are worth a stop as well.
You’ll find more shopping suggestions at the official tourism site here. Then check out the Luxury Latin America online magazine for detailed reviews of the best places to stay in San Miguel de Allende.