We look at the 5 best neighborhoods in Medellín for foreigners including comparing the neighborhoods in terms of cost of living, safety and walkability and several other categories.
I have lived in the Medellín metro area for over eight years. During this time, I have lived in seven different barrios in the metro area. In addition, I have written extensively about renting in many neighborhoods in Medellín.
In this article, we look at the five best neighborhoods in the Medellín metro, which are the most popular with foreigners living in Medellín or visiting the city.
By neighborhoods in this article, I mean comunas of Medellín and separate municipalities in the Aburrá Valley. In Medellín, there are 16 comunas and in the Aburrá Valley there are 10 municipalities. Barrios are too small to compare.
Several Medellin Guru readers asked about the best neighborhoods in Medellín. So, we now provide a comprehensive guide to the best neighborhoods in Medellín.
Understanding Estratos in Colombia
It is very important to understand estratos when looking at neighborhoods in Colombia. Residential properties in Colombia are ranked in a socioeconomic scale, which are known as “estratos”. Estratos in Colombia run from 1 to 6, as follows:
- Low-low class (bajo-bajo)
- Low class (bajo)
- Low-middle class (medio-bajo)
- Middle class (medio)
- Middle-high class (medio-alto)
- High class (alto) – the wealthiest
In addition, it is important to understand that middle class in Colombia is not the same as middle class in a wealthy country like the U.S. Also, the wealthy estrato 6 in Colombia represents only about 3 to 4 percent of housing in Colombia.
The majority of Colombians live in estrato 1, 2 or 3 neighborhoods, which represents about 80 percent of the housing in Colombia. And most foreigners tend to live in estratos 3 to 6.
1. El Poblado
El Poblado is the most popular neighborhood for foreigners living in or visiting Medellín. In addition, El Poblado is considered the most upscale neighborhood in the city of Medellín.
El Poblado is where the most hotels, hostels and furnished apartments catering to foreigners are located. So, El Pobaldo is where most foreign visitors to Medellín stay. El Poblado is known as Comuna 14 and it has 22 barrios.
El Poblado is the wealthiest neighborhood in Medellín. El Poblado is primarily an Estrato 6 neighborhood with about 74 percent of the households rated at estrato 6. Also, it’s where the most expensive real estate and most expensive apartment rentals in the city tend to be located.
Most of the housing in El Poblado is located in high-rise apartments. And some of the high-rises in El Poblado have spectacular views of the city. In addition, El Poblado has some streets lined with one-story, two-story and three-story attached casas (home) located in some neighborhoods such as Manila and Provenza.
I lived for over a month over eight years ago in a furnished apartment in El Poblado during an early trial of living in Medellín. It didn’t take me long to determine that El Poblado wasn’t for me. I prefer to live in a neighborhood that has a lower cost of living and isn’t as westernized. No neighborhood is perfect and there are downsides of living in El Poblado.
Best Barrios: Astorga, El Poblado, El Tesoro, La Florida, Manila, Provenza
To Rent: for a comfortable two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in El Poblado, you would pay an average of 2,096,000 pesos per month ($619).
To Buy: El Poblado has over 35 new apartment projects listed in the free September 2019 Informe Inmobiliario property magazine. You can find this magazine distributed in many places like Exito stores.
New apartments in El Poblado generally cost from 5.4 million to over 10 million pesos ($1,580 to $2,926) per square meter. Existing apartments and casas in El Poblado tend to sell for between 2.8 million to 5.8 million pesos per square meter.
In general, El Poblado is the most expensive area in Medellín for renting unfurnished apartments, renting furnished apartments and buying property.
Envigado is another popular neighborhood for foreigners living in Medellín.
Most notably, Envigado is less commercial than El Poblado and it is located directly south of El Poblado. Envigado is a separate municipality from Medellín. The Envigado municipality has over 40 barrios (neighborhoods).
In addition, Envigado is primarily a residential community. So, you won’t find many hotels or hostels in Envigado like are found in El Poblado.
Envigado has many areas with tree-lined streets and it has fewer high-rise apartments than are found in El Poblado. In addition, Envigado is considered to be more of a working-class community. In Envigado, 96 percent of housing is in estrato 2 to 5 and only 4 percent is in estrato 1 or 6.
Best Barrios: Bosques de Zuñiga, El Dorado, La Magnolia, Jardines, San Marcos, Zuñiga
Best Shopping: Viva Envigado
To Rent: for a comfortable two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Envigado, you would pay an average of 1,784,000 pesos per month ($527).
To Buy: Envigado has over 40 new apartment projects listed in the Informe Inmobiliario property magazine. New apartments in Envigado generally cost from 3.5 million to over 6.6 million pesos ($1,024 to $1,931) per square meter.
Existing apartments and casas in Envigado tend to sell for between 2.6 million to 5.0 million pesos per square meter.
Laureles-Estadio is another popular neighborhood for foreigners living in Medellín. It has many areas with tree-lined streets and much fewer high-rise apartments than are found in El Poblado.
Also, Laureles is primarily a residential neighborhood. Laureles-Estadio is known as Comuna 11 and it has 15 barrios (neighborhoods).
Laureles-Estadio is home of Estadio Atanasio Giradot, which is the stadium where Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellin play fútbol matches. Also, near the stadium is a huge sports complex that has an Olympic size pool; basketball, volleyball and tennis courts; velodrome and many other sports arenas.
The first unfurnished apartment I rented in Medellín was located in Estadio near the stadium. Laureles-Estadio is primarily an estrato 4 and 5 neighborhood with about 99 percent of the homes rated as estrato 4 or 5.
Best Barrios: Estadio, Florida Nueva, Laureles, Suramericana
Best Shopping: Unicentro
To Rent: for a comfortable two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Laureles-Estadio, you would pay an average of 1,530,000 pesos per month ($452).
To Buy: Laureles-Estadio only has only eight new apartment projects listed in the Informe Inmobiliario property magazine. New apartments in Laureles-Estadio generally cost from 5.0 million to 7.0 million pesos ($1,563 to $2,048) per square meter.
Existing apartments and casas in Laureles-Estadio tend to sell for between 3.0 million to 5.0 million pesos per square meter.
Sabaneta is located directly south of Envigado. Sabaneta is a separate municipality from Medellín, like Envigado. Sabaneta has been booming with developers building many apartment buildings over the past several years. With all the new apartment buildings in the area there are many unfurnished rentals available.
Sabaneta has a total area of about 5.8 square miles, which makes it the smallest municipality in all of Colombia. The Sabaneta municipality has 31 barrios (neighborhoods).
Much of the daily life in Sabaneta is centered around Parque Sabaneta, which is a one square block plaza that is filled with trees for shade. In addition, this park is surrounded by several small restaurants, bars and shops.
In addition, Sabaneta has become increasingly popular with foreigners looking for an alternative. Rentals in Sabaneta can be much cheaper than in El Poblado, Envigado or Laureles-Estadio.
Sabaneta is more of a working-class community. 98 percent of the housing in Sabaneta is estrato 2 to 4. And only 2 percent is estrato 1, 5 or 6.
I currently live in Sabaneta. I have lived in Sabaneta for over three years and I hear English more and more around town as more foreigners discover this area.
Best Barrios: Lagos de la Doctora, San Rafael, Santa Ana, Vegas de la Doctora and near Mayorca mall and Parque Sabaneta.
Best Shopping: Mayorca
To Rent: for a comfortable two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Sabaneta, you would pay an average of 1,306,000 pesos per month ($386).
To Buy: Sabaneta has over 40 new apartment projects listed in the Informe Inmobiliario property magazine. New apartments in Sabaneta generally cost from 2.4 million to over 5.0 million pesos ($702 to $1,463) per square meter.
Existing apartments and casas in Sabaneta tend to sell for between 1.9 million to 4.0 million pesos per square meter.
Belén is a neighborhood that is slowing becoming more popular for foreigners living in Medellín. Belén is located west of El Poblado on the other side of the Medellín river. Also, Belén is located south of Laureles-Estadio.
Belén is considered a middle-class area except that it has more of a blue-collar feel. Belén is known as Comuna 16 and it has 22 barrios (neighborhoods). In Belén, 98 percent of the housing in estrato 2 to 5 and only 2 percent in estrato 1.
Similar to Laureles/Estadio, in Belén you will find many tree-lined streets lined with one-story, two-story and three-story attached homes that are more difficult to find in El Poblado. In addition, Belén has some areas with high-rise apartment buildings, especially in the Loma de los Bernal barrio.
Furthermore, Belén is the comuna where I lived for over four years in three different barrios (Fatima, Loma de Los Bernal and Los Alpes)
Best Barrios: Fátima, Loma de los Bernal, Los Alpes
Best Shopping: Mayorca
To Rent: for a comfortable two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Belén, you would pay an average of 1,281,000 pesos per month ($379).
To Buy: Belén only has seven new apartment projects listed in the Informe Inmobiliario property magazine. New apartments in Belén generally cost from 3.3 million to over 4.5 million pesos ($966 to $1,316) per square meter.
Existing apartments and casas in Belén tend to sell for between 1.9 million to 3.5 million pesos per square meter.
Choosing a Neighborhood in Medellín
Medellín has a wide range of neighborhoods and housing available. When choosing a neighborhood there are many things consider including:
- Cost to rent or buy property
- Other costs of living
- Walkability and Bike-ability
In the following sections, we look at each of these above categories in detail and rank the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in this article in each category. We rank the neighborhoods from 1 to 5 with 1 being the best. And in a few categories there are ties.
All five best neighborhoods in Medellín in the article are about equal in terms of public transportation availability. So, this category wasn’t included.
A. Cost to Rent or Buy Property
In general, the cost to rent or buy property will be more expensive in El Poblado than in the other four popular neighborhoods for foreigners.
In December 2018, we surveyed 1,000 unfurnished apartments in all five neighborhoods popular with foreigners. And here is a comparison of the unfurnished rental prices in these five neighborhoods:
The unfurnished apartment rental prices in El Poblado may be lower than in many cities in the U.S. But the rental prices in El Poblado are higher than in other four neighborhoods in Medellín.
This is due to El Poblado being primarily estrato 6 with about 74 percent of homes in El Poblado being rated as estrato 6 on a 1 to 6 scale.
Also, furnished rental apartments are more expensive in El Poblado. We also found that furnished apartment rental costs are higher in El Poblado. One of the findings in our early 2019 survey of 750 furnished apartments in Medellín is that El Poblado has the highest furnished apartment rental prices in Medellín. Furnished rentals are cheaper other neighborhoods.
In addition, El Poblado tends to have higher prices for buying properties than in Envigado, as seen above in this article.
Many of the apartment buildings in El Poblado have nice views. But other neighborhoods like Envigado, Sabaneta and Belén also have apartment buildings with nice views.
Here is our ranking of the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of cost to rent or buy properties with 1 being the lowest cost and 5 being the highest cost.
We previously looked at the safest neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of homicides and robberies.
I have seen many posts on the Internet that claim that El Poblado and Laureles are two of the safest neighborhoods in Medellín.
The highest counts of reported robberies and thefts in the comunas in Medellín occur in the La Candelaria comuna (El Centro). And this is followed by Laureles-Estadio and El Poblado, which are two of the most popular neighborhoods for foreigners in Medellín. So, statistically El Poblado and Laureles are not really two of the safest neighborhoods in terms of robberies.
The following three tables show robbery statistics in 2017 for the top three comunas in Medellín with the highest counts of robberies and also robbery statistics for Sabaneta and Envigado:
These tables demonstrate that Sabaneta and Envigado have substantially lower rates of robberies than Laureles-Estadio or El Poblado.
In addition, Laureles-Estadio has a higher homicide rate than the other four neighborhoods, as seen in the following table:
The following table is our ranking of the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of safety. Sabaneta and Envigado tie for number 1 due to both neighborhood having low rates of robberies and homicides.
Sabaneta and Envigado are followed by El Poblado, which has a high rate of robberies but a low rate of homicides. And this is followed by Belén with a higher rate of homicides. And last is Laureles-Estadio, which has a high rate of robberies and a rate of homicides that is higher than the other four neighborhoods.
C. Other Costs of Living
Other costs of living include groceries, utilities (electricity, water and gas), Internet and TV services, dining out, medical, nightlife, entertainment and several other costs of living.
In general, El Poblado has the highest costs in the city for groceries, utilities, Internet and TV services, dining out, nightlife and other categories. The shops, restaurants, bars, and fitness centers in El Poblado tend to have higher prices than in other neighborhoods.
Prices for almost everything from groceries, restaurants, nightlife, haircare, pet services and most other services are typically more expensive in El Poblado. This shouldn’t be surprising, as El Poblado is considered the most affluent neighborhood in Medellín.
Belén and Sabaneta typically have the lowest costs out of these five neighborhoods for other costs of living in my experience living in both neighborhoods. And this is followed by Laureles-Estadio and Envigado.
The following table is our ranking of the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of other costs of living with Belén and Sabaneta tied for first:
El Poblado in general has a much larger variety of restaurants than the other four neighborhoods when it comes to modern, international dining. There are hundreds of restaurants of all types found in El Poblado, particularly in Parque Lleras and Provenza.
In comparison, Laureles-Estadio has more of the cheaper, traditional Colombian food options with many restaurants with inexpensive menú del día lunch specials. Also, Laureles-Estadio has a number of good restaurants – just not as many as are found in El Poblado. We previously looked at 17 of the best restaurants in Laureles.
Also, Envgado has a growing number of good restaurants – but not as many as are found in El Poblado or Laureles-Estadio. We previously looked at 15 of the best restaurants in Envigado.
In addition, Sabaneta has a growing number of good restaurants but fewer than in El Poblado, Laureles-Estadio or Envigado. We previously looked at 14 of the best restaurants in Sabaenta.
The following table is our ranking of the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of restaurants:
El Poblado has Parque Lleras, which is the top nightlife district in Medellín. Parque Lleras is considered the nightlife capital of Medellín. And it’s also a tourist attraction in an area known as Zona Rosa in the El Poblado neighborhood.
There are well over 100 open air restaurants, bars and nightclubs located in the streets around Parque Lleras. There are many nightclubs, playing either a mixture of Latin music genres like reggaetón or salsa, rock, electronica music and more. These tend to be upscale, pricier nightclubs.
Laureles-Estadio also has nightlife options that are more local style. Significantly less frequented by foreigners, is Calle 33 in Laureles. Another popular nightlife area is LA 70 (Setenta), also in Laureles. In this area you will find few foreigners and various salsa bars and small clubs.
Also, Belén has nightlife options that are more local Colombian style. In Belén is barrio Nueva Villa de Aburrá, which is home to La Villa. This is a horseshoe-shaped plaza that transforms daily from a stately promenade to a throng of music-loving youth that hosts music festivals and was even named by Timeout as one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world. Also, there are more nightlife options along Avenida 80.
In addition, Envigado has nightlife options that are more local Colombian style. In Envigado, there are several fondas and small discos near Parque Envigado. Fondas are bars with wooden chairs and a dance floor and also some bar food and are popular places to drink, dance and eat.
Sabaneta is similar to Enviado with nightlife options that are more local Colombian style. In Sabaneta, there are a few fondas near popular Parque Sabaneta and also in the Doctora neighborhood.
The following table is our ranking of the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of nightlife:
F. Walkability and Bike-ability
Walkability and bike-ability of neighborhoods are important to some foreigners. Much of El Poblado is hilly and not very walkable. For example, El Tesoro mall is located high up the hills in El Poblado and almost nobody walks from lower in El Poblado to El Tesoro.
Also, it’s about a 15-minute walk up-hill from the Poblado metro station to Parque Lleras. And it’s about a 15-minute walk uphill to the Santafé mall from the Aguacatala metro station.
If you live in El Poblado you will need to contend with the hills. But not all of El Poblado is hilly. For example, Avenida Poblado where the Santafé and Oviedo malls are located is flat and walkable. Also, the Ciudad del Rio neighborhood is flat and walkable.
Envigado is also hilly. Similar to El Poblado, as you go east in Envigado you are going up hills. But there are some parts of Enviado that are flat. For example, the area along Avenida Las Vegas in Envigado is flat. Also, similar to El Poblado it is a walk uphill from metro stations in Envigado to many of the neighborhoods in Envigado.
In comparison, Laureles-Estadio is very flat. So, it is considered the most walkable area. Sabaneta is also mostly flat with less than 30 apartment buildings located up the hills in Sabaneta to the east. So, Sabaneta is very walkable.
In addition, Belén is mostly flat except for some barrios to the west such as Loma de los Bernal.
In terms of bike-ability, generally Laureles-Estatadio, Belén and Sabaneta are considered more bike-able than El Poblado or Envigado due to the hills.
The following table ranks the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of walkability and bike-ability:
- Santafé has about 460 shops
- El Tesoro has about 400 shops
- Oviedo has about 320 shops
In comparison, Envigado has the largest mall in Colombia, Viva Envigado mall, with about 400 shops. Also, in Envigado are the smaller City Plaza mall with less than 90 shops and the Terracina Plaza with less than 70 shops.
Sabaneta has one large mall, Mayorca Mega Plaza, with about 400 shops. Also, in Sabaneta is the smaller Aves Maria mall with less than 90 shops.
In comparison, Laureles-Estadio only has the older and smaller Unicentro mall with about 270 shops and the even smaller Viva Laureles mall with 90 shops.
In addition, Belén has one Western-style mall, Los Molinos mall, with about 160 shops. Also, in Belén a new mall, Arkadia mall, is currently being constructed in the La Mota barrio of Belén across the street from PriceSmart and next to Clínica las Américas. This new mall is expected to open in late 2019.
However, keep in mind that while the El Poblado malls are larger with a wider selection of stores, they tend to have prices that are higher than can be found in other malls in Medellín.
The following table ranks the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of shopping:
Some of the worst traffic in Medellín in my experience is found in El Poblado. Avenida Poblado and Calle 10 tend to have bad traffic during rush hour and even during lunch hour. And it can be very difficult to go to or from El Tesoro mall up the hills in El Poblado during rush hour.
Traffic is one of the downsides of living in Medellín we previously looked at. And traffic reportedly is the biggest concern of expats living in the city.
In my over eight years living in Medellín the worst traffic in the city I have encountered has tended to be El Poblado and El Centro.
And this is followed by traffic in Envigado that has become much worse over the past few years. In comparison, Laureles-Estadio, Belén and Sabaneta tend to have less traffic. And Sabaneta is so small (only about 5.8 square miles) that you can walk many places.
I have lived over three years in Sabaneta and travel through Envigado often going to El Poblado. While traffic has increased with the growth of Envigado, I haven’t experienced nowhere near as much traffic in Envigado as I have experienced in El Poblado.
The following table ranks the five best neighborhoods in Medellín in terms of traffic in the neighborhood based on my experiences – note this isn’t traffic going between neighborhoods:
What is the Best Neighborhood in Medellín?
The answer to this question depends on your priorities. Each neighborhood has pros and cons.
If you equally weigh the eight categories in this article, Sabaneta would edge out the other neighborhoods followed by Laureles-Estadio, as seen in the following table:
But if your most important categories are availability of shopping, nightlife and restaurants, El Poblado would win. El Poblado is the most popular neighborhood for foreigner visitors and also is the most popular neighborhood for expats living in the city.
But El Poblado has several downsides. So, many foreigners living in the city have decided to live in other neighborhoods in the city including Laureles-Estadio, Envigado, Sabaneta and Belén.
A majority of foreigners living in Medellín live in the five neighborhoods in this article. But I also have met foreigners living in Buenos Aires, Bello, La Candelaria (El Centro), La América, La Estrella, Itagüí, Robledo and several other neighborhoods in the city.
Medellin Guru’s Guide to Renting and Buying Apartments and Choosing a Neighborhood
On the Medellin Guru website, we have a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to renting apartments, buying apartments and choosing a neighborhood in Medellín found in several articles, including:
Renting Unfurnished Apartments:
- Apartment Rental Guide: Renting Unfurnished Apartments in Medellín
- Guide to Finding Unfurnished Apartments in Medellín and Casas
- Guide to Overcoming the Fiador (Cosigner) Requirement in Colombia
- 2018 Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín
- 6 Inexpensive Neighborhoods for Unfurnished Rentals in Medellín
- Furnishing Apartments: A Guide to Furnishing Apartments in Medellín
- Apartment vs Casa (House) Rentals in Medellín: Pros and Cons
Renting Furnished Apartments:
- Furnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín – 2019 Survey Results
- Guide to Finding a Furnished Room for Rent in Medellín
- Medellín Real Estate: 2020 Property Buyer’s Guide for Foreigners
- Current Costs to Buy New Apartments in Medellín – 2019 Update
- Rent vs Buy: Downsides of Renting and Buying Property in Medellín
- 11 Things Real Estate Agents in Colombia May Not Tell You
- How to Obtain an Investment Visa for Investments in Real Estate
Choosing a Neighborhood in Medellín:
Also, we have several articles that can be used to help foreigners choose a neighborhood in Medellín:
- What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley?
- 5 Best Neighborhoods in Medellín: A Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood
- 8 Downsides of El Poblado: Living in Medellín’s Expensive Neighborhood
- Estratos: A Guide to Understanding Estratos in Colombia
- El Poblado vs Laureles: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Envigado: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Sabaneta: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Belén: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- 2018 Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín in 5 Neighborhoods Popular with Expats
- 6 Inexpensive Neighborhoods for Unfurnished Rentals in Medellín
Are You Looking to Buy or Sell in One of the Best Neighborhoods?
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The Bottom Line: Best Neighborhoods in Medellín – A Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood
The bottom line is you have many neighborhood choices in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and to each his own, everyone’s priorities are different. The different neighborhoods in Medellín offer a wide range of amenities and a wide range of cost-of-living.
The five neighborhoods in this article are currently the most popular for foreigners living in Medellín and are expected to remain the most popular with foreigners.
El Poblado remains the most popular neighborhood for foreigners out of all of the Medellín neighborhoods. And El Poblado is expected to continue being the most popular neighborhood for foreigners for the foreseeable future.
However, many expats have discovered other Medellín neighborhoods besides El Poblado. I have lived in several neighborhoods other than El Poblado in over eight years living in the city.
No neighborhood is perfect and each neighborhood has benefits and downsides. Also, we recommend trying out a neighborhood on a trial basis before deciding to live there. You can easily do this by renting furnished apartments.
Finally, where you decide to live can have a big impact on your cost of living in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.
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