San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city situated in the central highlands of Mexico that, for an incredible third consecutive time, has been named the “Best Small City in the World.”Yet, while the news might be surprising and the award even appears contrived, those who’ve been to Mexico’s most beautiful city know that San Miguel de Allende has everything needed to enchant visitors and more than deserves the improbable feat.
The “World’s Best Small City Award” is a title usually conferred by Condé Nast Traveler, a monthly magazine published by Condé Nast. Condé Nast is not an unfamiliar name in travel circles. Founded in 1909 by Condé Montrose Nast, an American publisher, and entrepreneur, the mass media company has grown into a household name over the years and a market leader with several illustrious brands spread across the globe. The “Best Small City” prize was the outcome of the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. The process involves the readers of the monthly publication independently selecting their best small city destinations, after which the publication ranks the destinations and then announces the envied winners. The “Best Small City” awards were announced on Tuesday, October 4, 2022.
Other small cities that got a top-five mention in the awards include the city of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada—which came just behind San Miguel de Allende at position 2—and San Sebastián in Spain—which came at position 3. Home to the world-famous Butchart Gardens and exuding a look that’s as charming as it is bucolic, Victoria, often known as the most British town in Canada, very much earned its position. And boasting one of the finest beaches within a city on the globe, the food-famous San Sebastián was a worthy competitor to San Miguel de Allende, the eventual winner. Rounding off the top 5 were Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of music legend Mozart.
San Miguel de Allende, also known for its magic hidden hot springs, has won Condé Nast’s “Best Small City in the World.” a total of five times. Known for its photogenic Spanish architecture, San Miguel de Allende won the “Best Small City Award” in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and now 2022. It is Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, which interrupted San Miguel’s winning streak in 2019. With that improbable record, San Miguel, once named the American culture capital by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals, may just cement its already well-established reputation as the go-to-pace for pleasure-seeking vacationers in the Americas.When announcing the 2022 “Best Small City Awards,” Condé Nast Traveler heaped glowing praise on the Mexican city, describing it as “a jewel.” The city, a UNESCO world heritage site since 2008, has a beauty that, while not impossible to describe, is difficult to capture in words. In the words of UNESCO World Heritage, San Miguel is “an exceptional example of the integration of different architectural trends and styles on the basis of a 16th-century urban layout.”
Of course, the “Best Small City Awards” by Condé Nast Traveler came as an outcome of the magazine’s readers voting on their best picks. And one might agree that the magazine’s readers are many; well over 5 million monthly readers and, obviously, might have had different reasons for picking San Miguel as their favorite small city.
Some will mention the city’s architecture, a glittering melting pot of various styles and eras. There’s the Classical and the Neo-classical, the Baroque and the Gothic. And a vibrant dash of the Moorish. We’ve not mentioned the many beautiful monuments and statues that give the city a remarkable visual appeal.