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Known as the City of Eternal Spring, Medellín is fast becoming one of the most popular cities to visit in South America. Whether a digital nomad, avid hiker or simply an adventure-seeker, Medellín caters to all types of travelers. The city’s historical transformation combined with its friendly locals and picturesque nature firmly sets it as a must-see on any backpack trail. However, with a population of over 2.5 million people and covering over 382 km2, Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia and finding the right area to stay can be overwhelming.
To help first-timers to the city (or those considering relocating), we’ve put together a guide about Medellín’s districts based on different needs and preferences. From parties to parks, coworking to cafes, and skyscrapers to salsa, here’s a detailed rundown of the best neighborhoods to suit every type of traveler.
The Party Animal – El Poblado
El Poblado (also referred to as just ‘Poblado’) sits towards the south of Medellín and is typically the go-to spot for visitors in the city. Packed with a range of bars, clubs, cafes, coworking offices, shops and hostels and hotels, Poblado has everything a person could want within walking distance. That said, the trendy area is most famous for its nightlife – if you’re heading to Medellín to indulge in a Latino fiesta, Poblado is the place to be. Not to mention, one of the coolest things about Poblado is that it’s a party spot for both locals and tourists alike, so visitors can enjoy an authentic Colombian night out as well as meet fellow travelers.
Parque Lleras is the central hub when the sun goes down in Poblado; the square comes to life with the sound of pounding music as people spill onto the streets and Aguardiente begins flowing. There are over 100 bars and clubs in Lleras, ranging from techno, house, electro, reggaetón and salsa music, and each has a unique atmosphere. Salon Amador is great for international DJs and a chic crowd, while La Chingona is ideal for a cheesy Colombian fonda experience, or for breathtaking views, sip a cocktail at Envy rooftop (in The Charlee Hotel).
Poblado is additionally home to an impressive collection of swanky apartments and penthouses with incredible views over Medellín. If you’re planning to party, treat yourself to a stylish accommodation for the morning after.
The Digital Nomad – Laureles
North of Poblado, Laureles is generally seen as the less touristic option but still has a large community of foreigners living there. Laureles is relatively large (it has a population of 121,000 compared to Poblado’s 124,000) and is known for its range of cafes, coworking spaces, and meetups. The district appeals to digital nomads looking to settle in the city away from crowds without having to sacrifice strong internet, the chance to collaborate, and of course – fantastic coffee.
Café Revolución is a popular hangout and place for working remotely in Laureles; although small, the café hosts regular networking events and has a selection of Colombian coffee to keep caffeinated throughout the day. Elsewhere, Rituales is a sleek spot with friendly owners who run coffee-making classes above the café, while Dèlmuri looks onto Primer Parque and has a steady stream of Colombian and extranjero regulars tapping away at their keyboards throughout the day.
If you prefer a more conventional working environment, La Casa Redonda, Kamado and Coecoworking all come highly-recommended by nomads in Medellín. For the evening, Café Cliché is a French-run restaurant with a delicious menu at extremely reasonable prices. It’s common to see groups brainstorming in Cliché or taking Spanish classes here, as the environment is relaxed and caters to all nationalities. Additionally, every Wednesday, the café has a film night showing movies in English for free.
In terms of accommodation, Laureles has a large choice of places to stay – including fully furnished spacious apartments close to all the action – and tends to be cheaper than Poblado.
The Nature-Lover – Envigado
Although technically a town outside of Medellín, Envigado is often included as part of the Medellín Metropolitan Area but does have its own distinct feel, separate to the likes of Poblado and Laureles. Envigado is ideal for travelers hoping to experience a real Paisa lifestyle, filled with tiendas, men playing cards on the street and the sense that everybody knows each other well. You won’t find fancy coffee shops and restaurants in Envigado but you will get a true insight into Medellín prior to tourists.
One of the best things about Envigado is its location – being to the south means there is easy access to the stunning greenery outside of the city. The Arenales hike is a short bus journey away and stretches past rolling hills, a waterfall and La Catedral (the remains of Pablo Escobar’s prison). Alternatively, Parque El Salado has different walking routes, a stream to swim in, plus various bird species and even monkeys!
Back in the town, devote some time to strolling through the markets and small stores. The main market is great for fresh produce, and the many butchers and panaderias are astoundingly cheap. Once the sun goes down, Envigado isn’t a party place but there are bars to enjoy live music, sip on Aguardiente and watch the world pass by.
The Traditionalist – Belén
Just down from Laureles, Belén used to have a reputation for being dangerous in Medellín, however, as time has passed and the city has seen an influx in visitors, Belén has been converted into a much safer area. The neighborhood is also next to the domestic airport (Olaya Herrera) and has efficient public transport links to the rest of the city.
Pueblito Paisa is the main attraction in Belén – a small colonial town perched on the top of Cerro Nutibara with sweeping views of Medellín. The brightly colored area has a museum, church and house replica, and is nice to visit if you don’t have much time in Antioquia but want to see a traditional town. For travelers looking to get active during their time in Medellín, the Andres Escobar Sports Complex in Belén features an outdoor swimming pool (much needed on hot, humid days), tennis courts, a gym and of course, football pitches to play the most important sport in Colombia.
Elsewhere, Parque Belén is a small snippet of nature in the neighborhood and on certain days has stalls sending snacks, jewelry, and souvenirs. The park is only one block but has a number of bars and local restaurants surrounding it, and is a prime spot to sit and people-watch on the weekends. The centerpiece of the square is Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Belén, which is a beautiful Catholic church holding regular masses and an important meeting point among the community.
The Festive Traveler – Sabaneta
South of Envigado and again technically outside of Medellín, Sabaneta is a rapidly growing neighborhood in the Metropolitan area. Sabaneta has a wholesome feel to it, with many families choosing to live here. Parque Sabaneta is the most popular part of the neighborhood, complete with a fountain, stalls, and restaurants, as well as being the location for outdoor concerts throughout the year. Next to the park, kids can enjoy a small Ferris Wheel plus other attractions, or tuck into local snacks fresh from vendors.
Sabaneta is definitely a quieter and slower neighborhood than Poblado, however, come December, it comes to life with flocks of crowds visiting for the Christmas lights. Every year, Alumbrados Navideños is when the park is illuminated with a range of light displays and fixtures, along with music and pop-up eateries. The atmosphere during this time is always magical and is a wonderful way to get in the festive spirit if you’re far from your home country over the holidays.
Wherever you choose to stay in Medellín, be sure to soak up all the small details of the neighborhood. Paisa culture is extremely friendly and interesting, and Medellín as a whole is a brilliant city to learn about Colombia’s past and prosperous future. Disfruta!