San Miguel: Colonial Mexico’s Worst-kept Secret

Strolling the streets of this mountain town—which dates back to the 16th century—it’s easy to see why as many as 10,000 expats choose to live here full- or part-time. San Miguel de Allende offers romantic, historic Mexico at its most approachable. Physically beautiful and centuries old, yet offering every modern amenity, this colonial gem offers one of the easiest transitions to expat life you can find anywhere. Hands down.

Colonial buildings, lovingly restored, line the town’s main streets, and beautiful churches and squares are around every corner. But you also find excellent restaurants, superb arts and crafts, and a temperate climate that’s hard to beat.

You can get by with English here thanks to tourism and the large expat presence. There’s even a Mexican immigration office in town for processing expat visas.

For its size (population about 80,000), it’s possibly the most sophisticated city in Mexico.

Artist Lena Bartula, who moved to San Miguel after almost five years in nearby Mineral de Pozos, cites the mix of modern and traditional as one of San Miguel’s attractions. She calls the town “an intriguing blend of serious and fun.”

San Miguel feels like a resort town along the lines of Sedona, Arizona, or Taos, New Mexico, and if you like that atmosphere, you’ll love San Miguel. Like Sedona and Taos, San Miguel is a great place for artists: painters, sculptors, writers and everyone in between. Established artists settle here, and others—inspired by Mexican motifs—begin their art career after moving here.

These days it’s more affordable to buy there than you might think. There are plenty of properties for sale and prices have softened due to the long recession in the U.S. (Much of San Miguel’s higher-end real estate market depends on U.S. buyers.)

Don’t get me wrong; you’re unlikely to find fire sales here. And you’ll need deep pockets if you want a large property in the historic center. The price tag for large dream-worthy colonials on streets like Barranca still runs into the millions of dollars. But you don’t have to spend anywhere near that much. Homes well under $200,000 are available within an easy walking distance of the center.

Right now, for instance, you can get a four-bedroom, two-bath house that’s about a 15-minute walk from the center for $110,000. It’s an older home and will need some updating, but all the basics are there. If you don’t want to renovate, what about a fully-furnished, 1,700-square-foot home, with four bedrooms and two baths? One is selling for just $127,000. And it’s only a 10-minute walk from Parque Juárez, in the historic center.

Renting is easy, too. A quick Internet will turn up dozens of entries. If you’d like to try San Miguel out for a while, consider a short-term rental: Two-bedroom, two- or three-bath furnished properties start at about $400 a week.

Editor’s Note: See the current issue of International Living magazine to read Glynna’s full colonial Mexico story…including full contact details for these properties…plus the low down other colonial Mexican gems. Subscribe to the IL magazine…and get instant access to the current issue.

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