This once infamous city is a real Cinderella story. In just two decades, Medellín has transformed from the violent home turf of Pablo Escobar to being named the world’s most innovative metropolis. With Colombia’s trend-setting restaurant scene, world famous annual Flower Festival and some of the country’s most beautiful people, it’s hard not to fall in love with Medellín (the consistently perfect temperature doesn’t hurt either).
If you’re in Medellín, chances are you’ll be based in El Poblado, the city’s glitziest neighborhood and home to many of Medellín’s top restaurants and clubs. Here you’ll find Parque Lleras, the nerve center of the city’s Zona Rosa and the best place to see and be seen. There’s so much to explore throughout the city, try out this itinerary, which has almost everything within walking distance.
| The Early Bird Gets the Eggs |
What: Start the day off with a hearty breakfast or coffee at the unassuming but worthwhile D’andre Gourmet.
Why: Watch the neighborhood wake up from a seat on the outdoor terrace while you sip a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and chow down on pancakes, huevos rancheros or the classic Colombian breakfast of huevos al gusto, arepas and fresh fruit juice. Make sure to save a few minutes to chat with internationally-trained chef and owner Andres – and don’t worry, Spanish learners, he speaks perfect English!Where: Carrera 37 #10-15; 4311 3101, Open daily 7 am – 7 pm
| Cultural Exploration |
What: Get your fill of culture in the morning with a visit to one (or several) of Medellín’s world-class museums!
Why: If you’re a fan of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s best-known artist and a Medellín native, you’re practically obligated to check out the Plaza Botero in the city center. Easily accessible from the Parque Berrío metro station, the Plaza features 23 of Botero’s famous larger-than-life statues, which playful visitors often use as props for some not-always-G-rated photos. While at the plaza, don’t miss the Museo de Antioquia next door. The country’s second-oldest museum, founded in 1881, has a large Botero collection as well as works by many other national and international artists. If you have time, hop back on the Metro and get off at the Universidad station for a visit to the lovely and tranquil Jardín Botánico (Botanic Garden), which is free to all visitors. If you’d rather stay within walking distance of the neighborhood, take a contemporary view of things at the Museum of Modern Art (MAMM), housed in a former steel mill in the Ciudad del Rio neighborhood (accessible from the Industriales metro stop or via bus or taxi). The museum has 1,339 pieces in its permanent collection, including 233 from noted Colombian artist Debora Restrepo.
Museo de Antioquia: Carrera 52 #52-43, (574) 251 3636; Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5:30 pm, Sundays & holidays 10 am – 4:30. Admission 10,000 COP (about US$5.50), students and seniors 60+ get in free
Jardín Botánico: Calle 73 #51D-14; 5444 5500; Open daily 9 am – 5 pm (visitors can stay in the garden until 6 pm)
Museo de Arte Moderno: Carrera 44 #19A-100; (574) 444 2622; Tuesday (except Tuesdays following holiday Mondays) – Friday 9 am – 5:30 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 5:30 pm, Sundays and holiday Mondays 10 am – 5 pm
| A Taste of France |
What: Take your taste buds to France via Colombia at La Provincia, one of the city’s best restaurants.
Why: A popular location for a romantic date night, the atmosphere is a bit more casual (but the food no less tasty) at lunch, when it tends to fill up with the suit-and-tie crowd from nearby hotels and other businesses. Lined with white tablecloths and decorated with colorful flowers, the dining space itself is a breath of fresh air, but the real treat is the menu, featuring creative concoctions like escargot-stuffed tortellini, black risotto, lobster ravioli and chicken breast stuffed with mango. Don’t forget to save room for dessert (passionfruit crème brulee, anyone?)!
Where: Calle 4 Sur #43A-179; 53119630; Monday – Saturday noon – 3 pm and 7 pm – midnight
| Coffee Break |
What: For a palate-cleansing pick-me-up, look no further than trendy café Pergamino, perched at the top of Parque Lleras.
Why: Between the café’s brick façade and the interior’s modern décor with top-of-the-line espresso equipment, you might be forgiven for thinking you just wandered into a European coffee shop. The young owner, Tufts University-educated Pedro Echevarria, is a coffee expert with java running through his family tree – his father is a coffee producer, and the younger Pedro has continued the family tradition, running the shop while also exporting coffee to various international buyers. Expect a high-quality café experience at Pergamino, which goes above and beyond the cookie-cutter feel of competitors like Juan Valdez or Oma.
Where: Carrera 37 #8A-37 (Vía Primavera); 5268 6444; Monday – Friday 8 am – 9 pm, Saturdays 9 am – 9 pm
| Shopping With a View |
What: To get a feel for life as a Poblado resident, you’ve got to do a little window shopping.
Why: The neighborhood is filled with small, trendy boutiques, but for the full experience, take a hike or short cab ride up the mountain to El Tesoro Parque Comercial (yes, its name really does translate to “treasure”). Medellín’s fanciest mall is a sparkling palace filled with brand-name apparel and shoe stores, fine dining restaurants and even nightclubs. But the real draw of the place is the view – from its perch on the mountainside, El Tesoro offers sweeping views of the city spread out in the valley below. They even have binoculars to help you make sure nobody is sneaking into your apartment while you’re gone.
Where: Carrera 25 #1A Sur – 45 (Loma El Tesoro con Transversal Superior); (574) 321 1010; Monday – Saturday 10 am – 9:30 pm, Sundays and holidays noon – 8 pm
| Molecular Magic |
What: Mix things up at the mind-blowing El Cielo, where chef and owner Juan Manuel Barrientos has brought the molecular gastronomy movement to his native city.
Why: Designed for adventurous foodies, El Cielo provides a unique dining experience unmatched anywhere else in the country (except at its sister location in Bogotá). The tasting menus are divided into “moments” – diners can choose from between 10-20 moments, which can take the form of anything from artichoke-stuffed prawns to a chocolate hand bath. Barrientos, who is just 30 years old, trained at Spain’s famous Arzak restaurant and gained inspiration from world-renowned chef Ferran Adrià before returning to Colombia to found El Cielo, which made the cut on this year’s list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Where: Carrera 40 #10A-22; (574) 268 3002; Monday – Saturday noon – 3 pm and 7 – 11:30 pm
| High-Altitude Drinks |
What: For post-dinner drinks, head skyward to one of Medellín’s popular rooftop lounges.
Why: The perennial springlike weather provides the perfect atmosphere for sipping cocktails while gazing down on the sparkling lights of the city. Two of the best options are Envy Rooftop Bar at the Charlee Hotel, where you can sip cocktails by the pool while checking out the city’s paparazzi-drawing crowd, and Delaire Sky Lounge, which wraps around the upper deck of the Rio Sur mall and offers top-shelf cocktails and well-above-average bar food, including excellent pizza.
Envy Rooftop Bar - Calle 9A #37-16 (The Charlee Hotel), 17th floor; 5444 4968; Wednesday – Friday 5 pm – 2 am, Saturdays noon – 2 am, Sundays noon – 8 pm
Delaire: Carrera 43A #6 Sur-26 (Centro Comercial Río Sur), 7th floor; 5312 2527; Monday – Saturday noon – 2 am
| Break It Down |
What: Finish off the night busting a few moves on the dance floor.
Why: El Poblado, particularly the area around Parque Lleras, is packed with discotecas catering to every taste from punk to trance and drawing the upper echelon of Medellín’s partygoers. There are dozens of options to choose from, but two trustworthy choices are Babylon, an eclectically-decorated crossover music club popular with visitors and famous for its Ladies Night on Thursdays; and Sixttina, a more modernist, European-style club that draws famous performers as well as some of Medellín’s upper crust. Sixttina is also located in the Rio Sur mall around the corner from Delaire, which is owned by the same group.
Babylon: Carrera 41 #9-22; 5381 8169; Thursday – Saturday nights 9:30 pm – 4 am
Sixttina: Carrera 43A #6 Sur-26 (Centro Comercial Río Sur), 7th floor; 5312 2527 or 314-890-5114 (cell); Friday and Saturday nights 9 pm – 4 am
Need somewhere to rest your head whilst in El Poblado? Take a look at this natural architectural beauty…
This truly is a one-of-a-kind apartment as it finds that rare balance between comfort and minimalist style, ideal for those of you in search of something a little different. With an open floor plan, aluminum ceilings and large windows, the home gives off a great sense of space and light. The prevalence of paneled wooden floors and modern furniture combine effortlessly to create a warm and harmonious environment, perfect for the most comfortable of stays in this exceptional city.Medellín