San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

In Living Color

Iyna Bort Caruso

Being named the world’s favorite city by Conde Nast Traveler readers is high praise indeed, but San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico, is used to being a destination darling.

Americans started discovering the charms of this inland colonial city located 165 miles northeast of Mexico City after World War II. Artists followed with the opening of the arts school Instituto Allende, helping to redefine the locale by its rich cultural life.

It is a city steeped in tradition. The central plaza, El Jardin, across from the city’s most recognizable landmark, the gothic parish church or Parróquia, is always packed with locals and visitors alike reading, talking, eating and people-watching. Gathering at El Jardin isn’t wasting time. It’s making the most of it.

San Miguel is famously known for its year-round fiestas, concerts, parades and fireworks. It is also known for its color. Hues explode from the rooftops and courtyard gardens that are set against mango, papaya and watermelon-colored homes.

The fantasy of expat life typically begins within days of a visitor’s arrival, aided, in part, by a solid English-speaking infrastructure. While the beauty of San Miguel is in the way it authentically retains its 16th century roots, it nevertheless has an international sensibility. Some say there’s no place that sets the stage for an easier transition to expat life than here. Sophisticated restaurants, shops, coffee houses and cantinas line the streets.

Real estate in San Miguel is offered at all price points and century-spanning ages. It is a popular weekend and vacation home spot for Mexican nationals and a long-time favorite among North American retirees. The dollar stretches far. Property taxes are low, temperatures are comfortable and crime is negligible. Large, modern properties are available in gated developments, as well as in golf and equestrian communities. Many are built with separate staff quarters. Demand is always high in the historic center of the city where restored walk-to-all colonial homes can fetch seven figures.