A charming, Spanish Colonial hill town in the mountains and high desert of central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende has long been a favorite destination among U.S., Canadian, and European travelers, including quite a few expats who reside here all or part of the year. This enchanting city of 60,000 near the similarly alluring city of Guanajuato is also popular with plenty of Mexicans, especially residents of Mexico City (175 miles away) and Guadalajara (220 miles away).
Filled with charming small hotels, sophisticated restaurants, fine art galleries, and stylish boutiques, San Miguel reminds many visitors of another high-desert Spanish Colonial city with a similar elevation (around 6,500 feet), Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both cities have a good number of GLBT residents and are also fairly popular as gay travel destinations, but in neither will you find many specifically gay nightlife options. These are the kinds of places that tend to draw the over-35 set, and more couples than singles. Still, San Miguel is home to a handful of lively bars and dance clubs, all of them fairly gay-friendly, and some with a noticeably gay following.
One particular favorite with both gays and straights is the dance club and lounge Mint (Mesones 99), which is adjacent to the wonderful gay-owned bakery and coffeehouse, Petite Four, whose talented co-proprietor Paco Cardenas also give cooking lessons. If you stop by Petit Four and happen to catch up with Paco, he can also give you some useful tips about other gay-friendly places to eat and drink around San Miguel.
Arguably the most famous place in town for live music, dancing, and drinks is Mama Mia (Umaran 8), which is just a block off of the city's famed El Jardin central plaza and is a popular club, bar, and restaurant. Even during the day, Mama Mia is a fun place to have a beer and socialize, especially on the terrace. It's fairly touristy and mostly straight, but it's still a place any night owl visiting San Miguel should visit at least once.
Another must for visitors, gay or straight, is sipping cocktails while the sun sets at the fab, open-air Luna rooftop bar atop the swanky Rosewood San Miguel de Allende hotel (Nemesio Diez 11). You'll pay a bit more here for drinks or to sample some of the delicious tapas, but the views of the city center, including the iconic Parroquia church, are stupendous. Into the evening, once the sun has faded, you can laze in one of the comfy seats (warmed by heat lamps when it's cool) and look up at the stars.
If you're the kind of traveler who favors local, independent hangouts when on the road, especially in another country, you have every right to roll your eyes at the mention of the San Miguel Starbucks, but this spacious, high-ceilinged space just off of El Jardin plaza is one of the most inviting branches of the ubiquitous coffee chain you'll ever find. It's open late, it has a charming central courtyard, there's Wi-Fi, plenty of gay folks venture in here, and there's comfy seating inside. By any criteria, it's a lovely place to grab a coffee drink, and as central San Miguel has very few major chain businesses, this particular one doesn't stand out or substantially mar the character of the historic district.
Another diverting lounge with a somewhat mixed gay/straight following is Berlin Bar & Bistro (Umaran 19), a sleek and contemporary spot that's easy to find, with its bright painted sign on the red stucco exterior. The Euro-Boho interior showcases first-rate artwork; the bar serves a nice mix of European and Latin American beers, wines, and spirits (including fine single-malt Scotches); and the modern food, using local ingredients, is first-rate. Expect a sophisticated, worldly crowd of all ages.
Around the corner, the arty Movie Pocket Theater & Petit Bar (Hernandez Macias 95) shows indie films in their original languages (with English subtitles), including some of LGBT interest. It's a cool little space for watching movies, and for drinks and light dining.
A relatively new corner bar that's laid-back but rather elegant and draws its share of gay locals is La 21 Unica Cantina, at the corner of Jesus and Cuadrante. It's a cozy, fun spot with tasty bar food, including excellent queso dip, plus a nice selection of cocktails.