In its more than 500 years of existence, the charming colonial city of San Miguel de Allende has always made a lasting impression. Millions of visitors come and go, only to come back again. Some decide to come and stay, letting years casually turn into decades.
From Franciscan monks to influential Beat writers Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassady, the most diverse group of people have stumbled upon San Miguel de Allende and found it to their liking. Situated on the Central Mexican Plateau 6,135 feet above sea level and about 170 miles away from Mexico City, it calls to everyone — from artists enchanted by its magical light, Americans and Canadians and other nationals seeking retirement in luxury, and career switchers who’ve found reinvention effortless in the city’s laid-back and welcoming atmosphere.
Locals, expats, and visitors fall in love with San Miguel de Allende for a myriad of reasons. Here are reasons why retirement in San Miguel de Allende is so alluring.
The high sierra where San Miguel is located gives the city a mild climate, where summers are pleasantly warm and clean air is guaranteed. Cold temperatures are restricted to January and February, making it a fabulous place to wait out cold winters since daytime temps in winter still reach the upper 70’s.
The rainy season starts in late June and extends to September, but the semi-arid Central Mexican Plateau makes downpours minor and occasional. Hurricanes, a major threat along Mexico’s coast, are unknown in this part of Mexico, as are any other natural disasters: no tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes.
The cobblestones, walls, and buildings of this city in Guanajuato tell the story of five centuries. Founded in the mid-sixteenth century by a Franciscan monk, Juan de San Miguel, the eponymous city is a glimpse into Mexico’s colonial period with intimate ties to the country’s fight for independence. (The city’s other namesake, Ignacio Allende, was born here and significantly contributed to efforts to break away from Spain in the 1800s.)
The city center and historic district harbors well-preserved samples of Spanish architecture from this long period. Rows of apartments and shops share walls painted in a profusion of warm yellows, reds, pinks, and oranges that reflect the vibrancy of its people. The most cherished and iconic symbol of San Miguel’s colonial period is the church La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. Known for its pastel pink wedding cake towers, it’s a Neo-Gothic emulation of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The ubiquity of colonial structures contributed to the entire city’s recognition in 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
San Miguel wasn’t always known for its arts scene. Before World War II, it was a silver mining town that boomed and gradually busted. Serendipity brought an American painter from Chicago, Stirling Dickinson, and a Peruvian painter and political exile, Felipe Cossío del Pomar, to San Miguel de Allende. Having traveled all over Mexico, both artists became entranced by its light. They settled in the city and sowed the seeds for its now robust art scene, establishing art centers and institutions while encouraging hundreds of WWII veterans to take up art degrees in San Miguel.
Thanks to these earlier efforts and many others that followed, San Miguel de Allende now enjoys international status as a haven for the arts. The city is abundant in live music, art galleries, theater, and film venues. And the art scene’s epicenters are the Escuela de Bellas Artes and Instituto Allende, the two institutions Dickinson and del Pomar nurtured in their lifetime.
This city of colonial splendor harbors an eclectic community with a welcoming atmosphere. And of the over 140,000 living in San Miguel, ten percent comprise expats, giving the city an international streak. Within this international minority are American and Canadian retirees, international artists, and an ever-increasing number of LGBT couples in this gay-inclusive community.
San Miguel’s attainable luxury and atmosphere of acceptance have created comfortable second homes for many people across a wide demographic and socio-economic spectrum. The city’s colonial charm and bohemian vibe also foster a free-spirited kind of living where plans are made, but there are no strict timetables, just room to play and be spontaneous as the mood calls for.
Luxury within reach
Because of its popularity as a luxury retirement destination, the cost of living in San Miguel is higher than in other cities of its size in Mexico. But compared with the U.S., Canada, and western Europe, expenses are remarkably lower.
A retired American couple living in San Miguel can expect to spend around US$25 a week for a well-stocked pantry from the local markets (mercados) and open-air bazaars (tianguis). Meals at the small mom-and-pop restaurants in town can run under US$25 for two, while a great meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will set you back around US$50, including wine and aperitifs. And upscale restaurants offer a refined dining experience on par with the epicurean capitals of the world starting at US$50 per person.
The area surrounding San Miguel de Allende is also one of Mexico’s major wine regions. Thanks to the area’s dry, Mediterranean-like climate, countryside vineyards near San Miguel and nearby Dolores-Hidalgo have successfully been growing wine grapes for years (and for one winery, five decades). Local wineries such as Cuna de Tierra, Santisima Trinidad, Bodega dos Búhos, and Vinicola Toyan are only a few of some 17 notable Mexican wineries near San Miguel de Allende that produce award-winning bottles from grape varietals like syrah, malbec, tempranillo, grenache, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and more. At Dos Buhos for example, a deluxe sampling of all their styles can be had for an attainable US$30 per guest.
Should you ever find yourself lacking options in San Miguel, you can stock up on hard-to-find supplies in the major city of Querétaro. There, just a 45-minute drive away, you’ll find the big-box chains and shopping malls—including Latin America’s largest mall—where you can get just about everything you desire, from Pottery Barn to California Pizza Kitchen. And cooking aficionados salivate at the enormous City Market luxury grocery store here—replete with two demonstrations restaurants inside—where the offerings make Whole Foods pale in comparison.
Lead the lifestyle of your choice
San Miguel’s social and activity calendar is packed all year round. The city’s periphery and the countryside beyond are home to vineyards, ranchos, golf courses, natural hot springs, and a rugged semi-desert landscape. You can in turn delight your taste buds with local flavors, go horseback riding, or soak in the hot springs at La Gruta Spa or the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. And a quick beach getaway is 5-minutes away at the Los Senderos Beach & Spa Club, a popular retreat with locals.
Within the center of the city—called Centro—strolling around El Jardín, the main plaza near the famed La Parroquia, is always an option. Don’t miss out on exploring the small shops in the district where you can fall into pleasant conversations with shop owners and find the most amazing and unique handcrafted wares.
If discovering a culture through its food is a source of delight, then San Miguel’s restaurant scene is bound to be a treat. Many of the restaurants here riff off of and elevate traditional Mexican cuisine. If you need to satisfy your international palate, you’ll find an abundance of options, from French to Ethiopian.
The city’s annual calendar provides enough time to socialize with neighbors and strangers alike. Major holidays like Mexico’s Independence Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are huge. But San Miguel’s residents also bring celebrations out onto the streets during La Fiesta de los Locos (a Mardi Gras-like celebration), La Semana Santa, and Alborada (a feast for the city’s patron saint and namesake).
Cultural options abound: music options range from Pro Musica’s classical performances, to the Jazz & Blues Festival, to piano bars and innumerable small-performance bands. Theater is always in season with a half-dozen theater groups. Opera is alive through Opera San Miguel. The Writers’ Conference and the Guanajuato International Film Festival draw global crowds. And monthly events like Fabrica la Aurora’s Art Walk turn the art scene into a block party for retirees perusing Andy Warhol and Jorge Marin.
Mexico’s lower cost of living by extension makes long-term healthcare in San Miguel affordable. Medications and healthcare services are comparable with US standards but cost about half to a third as much as the same services in the U.S. As a result, many American retirees find much more bang for their buck, allowing them to enjoy affordable care well into their retirement years.
This is an especially important aspect to consider for those caring for a loved one. Several assisted living facilities in San Miguel de Allende offer affordable long-term healthcare for expats. Those who are able or wish to live more independently can also and hire reliable help around the home for the equivalent of US$6-7 an hour.
Locals and expats receive care in the city’s four hospitals (one public and three private, including a U.S. owned clinic). Larger hospitals staffed with more specialists are found about an hour away in Querétaro, although most of these specialist practice two days a week in San Miguel.
As in other places in Mexico, U.S. citizens can choose to use Medicare or voluntarily enroll in Mexico’s national health service, IMSS, as a legal resident of the country. And for the increasingly younger demographic moving to San Miguel, international expat medical insurance is roughly 1/3 American insurance rates and offers coverage in both Mexico and the U.S.
Accessibility and Transport
Despite its location in the Mexican interior, San Miguel de Allende is anything but cut off from its surroundings. The two closest international airports are Queretaro (QRO) airport or Leon (BJX), each a mere hour away, and Juarez International Airport in Mexico City offers affordable options to global destinations.
Because of its age, San Miguel de Allende is very walkable. Shopfronts and houses in the historic district are huddled together on narrow cobblestone streets, with many supply points and shopping areas to be found a short distance from each other. Living car-free is an easy choice in San Miguel — even neighborhoods on the city’s periphery are a quick 15- to 20-minute walk from El Jardín, the city’s main plaza.
The city’s walkability isn’t forced by a lack of other options for getting around. As the day progresses and the energy to go on foot dwindles, hailing a taxi or booking an Uber becomes a quick, reliable and affordable alternative. You can easily go around town on the cheap — the fixed-rate fare averages less than US$4 a trip. And it’s always safe to travel around the city’s popular gentrified neighborhoods. This colonial town has a low crime rate and its location in the country’s interior has historically spared it from the attention of cartels, which are typically active in Mexico’s border areas.
Retirement homes in San Miguel de Allende
Buying a home in San Miguel de Allende gives you a chance to own a piece of history. There are many colonial homes on the market, especially in neighborhoods closer to Centro, the city’s central neighborhood and always the most popular. A general rule of thumb on home values here: your home price and appreciation rate is based upon your walking distance and sightline to the Parroquia, the city center.
Although the market here fluctuates in line with the U.S. economy, home value appreciation in good market years can equal the appreciation seen on U.S. coastal markets, giving expats the comfort to invest in a home in San Miguel.
As you move farther away from the Centro, home prices generally decrease and the visuals shift to more updated styles. Homes in the neighborhood of Guadiana range from US$500,000 to US$2 million, while those in San Antonio, which is farther away, command prices from US$275,000 to US$1 million.
Exclusive neighborhoods where buyers can truly live in luxury on acres of land or in a golf course home or a condominium can be found at the city’s periphery. Although luxury homes in neighborhoods like Ojo de Agua and Balcones can command prices in the range of US$750,000 to US$5 million, seven-figure sales are still rare in this affordable village: in the peak year of 2018, San Miguel only sold 17 homes in the million-dollar range.
While homes in San Miguel de Allende are sold by local realtors, we at Colonial Homes San Miguel allow our international buyers to overcome the distance by offering live virtual tours, neighborhood videos, pictures, and sharing our own in-depth knowledge of the area and expertise.
Deciding to buy a retirement home in San Miguel de Allende also grants an owner favorable tax conditions, both in annual property tax as well as Capital Gains tax. Annual property taxes in San Miguel de Allende are significantly lower than in the United States. As an example, a US$500,000 home here would be taxed only about US$750 per year.
Renting in luxury
San Miguel’s rentals market is just as attractive and robust as the market for homes for sale. A two-bedroom apartment in one of the neighborhoods surrounding Centro can start at US$800 a month. If space is a bigger priority, there are also luxury homes available to rent on a weekly, monthly, or long-term basis.
Your home options with Colonial Homes San Miguel
With Colonial Homes San Miguel, flying down to San Miguel de Allende to get a feel for the place and your potential retirement home is easy. Our highly qualified and experienced team makes technology work for your comfort and convenience. We arrange real-time and live virtual tours for our clients and offer video tours of the city of San Miguel de Allende to deliver the colonial town’s spirit to buyers regardless of physical distance.
Colonial Homes San Miguel ranks second in Mexico’s luxury market and is led by local Mexican real estate veteran Alma Cecilia Ramirez and top-producing realtor in Mexico for over seven years, Greg Gunter. We are also the only direct U.S. franchise in San Miguel of the highly esteemed brokerage Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, part of the Warren Buffett-led real estate company that ranks largest in the U.S. by sales volume.
To learn more about your luxury home options in charming San Miguel de Allende, get in touch with our office today at 521.415.154.4971 or send us an email at
info@BHHSColonialHomesSanMiguel.com, or contact Broker Greg Gunter directly at Greg@GregoryGunter.com or broker Alma Cecilia Ramirez at Alma@BHHSColonialHomesSanMiguel.com.