For many cities and towns across the globe, modernity is a major point of pride. For others, a communal sense of esteem is achieved by efforts at conservation. Then, there are cities such as San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, where progress and tradition share the same cobblestone streets.
Nowhere in San Miguel is this paradoxical combination more evident than in the heart of town, the historic district known as El Centro.
Most of the town’s iconic structures are within El Centro, including the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a neo-Gothic church whose pink towers have long served as a defining postcard image.
The area’s rich supply of historic architecture has earned it a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site designation. On the organization’s website, UNESCO describes San Miguel de Allende as “an exceptional example of the interchange of human values and of the integration of different architectural trends and styles on the basis of a 16th-century urban layout,” thus meriting its inclusion on the UNESCO list.
Jim Dolan, owner of brokerage CDR San Miguel, says El Centro is by no means devoid of modern culture despite being a renowned historic hub. “For the last hundred years, the city has continued to be an international destination, and not just because of the history but because of the culture—the art scene, the gastronomic scene—which is distinctly San Miguel. And there’s no better location to explore that than El Centro,” he says.
Whether a reason for or as a result of this vibrant cultural scene, Dolan says the city is seeing increased interest from younger buyers, both domestic and foreign, looking to San Miguel for their next home. The luxury specialist adds that, like the central district in which they live, the age demographics of homebuyers in El Centro are a blend of young and old.
Homes in El Centro
The exceptional architecture throughout El Centro is not exclusive to churches and government buildings but can also be found in the area’s residences.
Dating from as early as the 17th century to as recently this decade, premier properties often feature colorful facades, ornate detailing and a walled courtyard. Elaborate mosaics, ironwork and ornaments are common in both interior and exterior spaces as well as rustic woodwork seen in beams, doors and windows that appear throughout.
The most prestigious properties in El Centro are urban mansions and estates, complete with guest homes, swimming pools and gardens.
In addition to more traditional abodes, El Centro has grown its second-home resort market with the recent introduction of residential offerings from hospitality brands, most notably the Rosewood San Miguel. Located moments from the central plaza, the multi-acre resort routinely sells out its residences, showcasing the growing appetite for luxury vacation properties in San Miguel.
Prices in El Centro
“It’s only natural with the historical designation of the city that we’re seeing extremely low inventory,” says Dolan. “There’s not really going to be a situation where a beautiful colonial estate is going to be torn down for a high-rise.” As a result of the depleted supply, prices in El Centro have increased steadily.
According to data provided by CDR San Miguel, the average sale price in El Centro in 2023 is just over $1 million. For this price, buyers can expect to find 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot residences, depending on location.
The highest end of the market sits at about $5 million, with exceptional listings eclipsing $6 million. This price point encompasses the most expensive properties in the entirety of San Miguel de Allende.
Vibe in El Centro
Despite its population of roughly 175,000, San Miguel de Allende’s food scene rivals that of many major cities, with El Centro as its culinary heart. Although the area is best known for its Mexican cuisine, El Centro’s fusion restaurants, which combine local ingredients with French, Mediterranean or Thai influences, have also drawn acclaim.
The art scene in El Centro, similarly robust, has long attracted artists and art lovers from all over the world, thanks to its venerable visual art school, Instituto Allende, and numerous galleries and museums. The calendar year is well-supplied with festivals and events in El Centro, many of which center around the arts, notably the Guanajuato Film Festival, the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and the San Miguel International Jazz & Blues Festival.
Surrounding El Centro
Nearby residential neighborhoods include Los Balcones and Atascadero, both within walking distance of El Centro.