San Miguel de Allende: Culture and community in central Mexico


Nestled in the highlands of central Mexico is a colorful oasis of a city teeming with culture: San Miguel de Allende.

This charming small town has been welcoming both travelers and expats for years and is quickly becoming a favorite locale for real estate buyers searching for a magical escape.

“The culture, lifestyle and quality of living that San Miguel offers are unique, with our picturesque streets, Spanish colonial architecture, countless activities and creative cuisine,” said Ann Dolan, a San Miguel Investment Luxury Expert with CDR Bienes Raices San Miguel.

Local lifestyle

San Miguel de Allende stands out as a major cultural hub despite its small size – the population is less than 175,000, compared to Mexico City’s over 22 million.

“The culture of San Miguel is amazing,” Ms. Dolan said. “It is the first draw for people’s experiences here and the beauty of what they see. It can happen unexpectedly in the streets, and what happens is not for tourism; it is continuing their historical traditions.”

For example, a group in traditional dress took over the center of town recently, performing dances passed down for hundreds of years.

That center of town is the Jardín Allende, a tree-filled main square towered over by the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel parish.

Spreading from there, the vibrant, historic architecture is home to local boutiques, markets, art galleries and studios – San Miguel is known for its community of artists and artisans.

It also has a famed culinary scene.

“We have luxury dining in beautiful courtyards or rooftops with spectacular views, and taco stands in the street with mariachis playing in the background,” Ms. Dolan said. “Whatever your heart desires, it is here for you to enjoy.

“There are so many outstanding food experiences here, but honestly, simply being able to enjoy eating outdoors and to relax, not be rushed, surrounded by beautiful bougainvillea – that’s just everyday life in San Miguel,” she said.

It’s no wonder that San Miguel de Allende is a haven for travelers. It won the top spot for “best city in the world” in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards in 2021, and has made the list for many years running.

Home sweet home

But San Miguel is not just a tourist destination, with many choosing to live amidst the magic by moving full time, retiring or purchasing a holiday home there.

Enjoying the outdoors is a major component of a home purchase in San Miguel, as seen at Casa Acanto and Casa Palikao. Images courtesy of CDR Bienes Raices San Miguel

“Our clients are all of the above, plus professionals who can work remotely and young families who want to give their kids a bicultural/bilingual upbringing,” Ms. Dolan said.

“[They] enjoy the experience of living in another country, learning another language and experiencing another culture,” she said. “Yet, it is also close to the U.S. and easy to travel back and forth without significant time zone changes.”

An estimated 10 percent of the city’s population are expats, and according to Ms. Dolan, about 60 nationalities are represented among them.

When it comes to choosing an area of town to put down roots, the options are endless for such a small place, from the historic downtown of El Centro to the upscale Los Balcones overlooking downtown and the street art-covered Guadalupe to the quieter El Obraje.

The moderate climate in San Miguel means that outdoor spaces are essential: terraces overlooking a lush garden, rooftops with sweeping views, outdoor kitchens and large entertaining areas all take advantage of both the weather and the community new residents find themselves in.

“San Miguel is just so open, inclusive and inviting,” Ms. Dolan said. “This is how your world opens up quickly as you make friends with people with like interests.

“The quality of life, the cultural experiences, the ability to truly live in the moment – living in San Miguel de Allende is truly a slice of heaven.”