Around the World
Apr 2023 | By Anne Bokma
From temperate weather to a robust arts scene, San Miguel de Allende has got it all!
San Miguel de Allende, a 16th century Spanish colonial city of about 70,000 people high in the mountains of central Mexico, is famous for many things — amazing weather, multiple annual celebrations, robust cultural offerings — and its ancient cobblestone streets.
In fact, navigating these sloping centuries-old sidewalks and streets, which are narrow, hilly, bumpy, uneven and especially slick after a rainfall, may be the greatest danger that could befall the thousands of North American expats who flock here for the winter or make this city their permanent retirement home.
But they don’t let these tricky streets deter them. Instead, they slip on sensible shoes and explore the city — inevitably falling madly in love with the place and often making an impulsive decision to put down roots here permanently or for months at a time after just a short visit.
Because of its difficult-to-navigate streets, this is a city for strolling, not rushing. And the first thing most people do when they arrive is stroll right on over to the central plaza, the Jardin Allende. It surrounds the city’s most famous attraction, the magnificent Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a towering neo-gothic parish church that soars over the city, its prominent pink pinnacles poking into the sky and serving as a helpful marker if you lose your way.
Here are 7 reasons why you might want to put San Miguel, a UNESCO World Heritage that Travel + Leisure magazine consistently ranks as one of the world’s best places to visit, on your vacation or retirement radar.
1. The Year-Round Spring-Like Weather
Vacation seekers and retirees alike put beautiful weather at the top of their wish list. Ditching the parkas and escaping the cold during winter months is especially important to Canadians, of course. The weather in San Miguel is mild year-round (about 21°C) and, because of the altitude of this mountain city, it doesn’t get as swelteringly hot as other places in Mexico.
2. The Doors of San Miguel
Impressively decorated doors are de rigueur here and are often festooned with flowers on religious holidays (and in this very Catholic country, there are many such holidays). Entranceways are an attraction unto their own, whether to a mansion, humble home, church, studio, restaurant or store. You just never know what you might find inside when you walk past an open door (always be sure to take a peek) — it could be a glorious open courtyard with exotic plants or an magnificent hotel hallway with a lobby that seems to go on forever.
3. Bright and Beautiful
The eternal sunshine of this place competes with a vivid palette which can’t help but lift the spirits — from brightly painted buildings to bursts of cascading bougainvillea —even the public transportation blazes with colour thanks to kelly green taxis and deep purple buses.
4. The Low Cost of Living
Although San Miguel is considered one of the more expensive cities in Mexico, it can cost quite a bit less than other places offering a similar lifestyle in Canada or the USA. Rents can be as low as $500 US a month and perfectly quaint Airbnb apartments can be had for less than $100 a night. You don’t need a car to get around, which is another cost savings. That being said, there are million-dollar mansions, grand hotels such as the Rosewood, and plenty of five-star restaurants.
5. A Vibrant Arts Scene
Jazz festivals. Hundreds of art galleries. An art institute. Lectures. An annual literary festival. Spanish lessons. There’s no end to the robust cultural offerings available, thanks in part to the retired ex-pat artists, writers, and musicians who make their home here. San Miguel is a haven for creative types and art lovers from around the world.
6. Cause for Celebration
Voluminous fireworks, parades, costumes, ringing church bells, mariachi bands, dancing in the streets — it seems there’s always some kind of celebration going on in San Miguel, whether it’s the spring equinox celebration known El Charco del Ingenio held in the city’s famous botanical garden, the The Los Locos Parade in June, or the Day of the Dead in October.
7. Safety and Accessibility
Many people worry about Mexico’s safety because of news stories of violent crime. However, San Miguel is considered one of the safest cities in the country — and an estimated 10,000 Canadian, British and American expats make it their home.
And it’s relatively easy to get here. San Miguel has two international airports within a 90-minute drive and there’s a luxury bus that gets you to Mexico City in 3 1/2 hours. Plus, for those need to stay digitality connected with work or the grandkids back home, the place has great Internet access — all the more reason to extend your vacation or consider making this your winter home.