El Poblado vs Belén. We comprehensively compare two neighborhoods popular with expats in the Medellín metro area to see which is a better place to live. We compare the two neighborhoods in eight categories.

El Poblado is the most popular neighborhood for foreigners living in or visiting Medellín. Also, El Poblado is considered the most upscale neighborhood in the city of Medellín. In addition, El Poblado is where the most hotels and furnished apartments catering to foreigners are located.

But no neighborhood is perfect and there are downsides of El Poblado. Belén is a neighborhood that is becoming more popular for foreigners living in Medellín.

Belén is located west of El Poblado on the other side of the Medellín river. In addition, Belén is a comuna in Medellín where I lived for over four years in three different barrios (Fatima, Loma de Los Bernal and Los Alpes).

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked questions about El Poblado vs Belén. So, we now compare these two neighborhoods in Medellín. In this article we compare the comunas of El Poblado and Belén.

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado, Medellín

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado, Medellín

1. Cost to Rent or Buy Property – El Poblado vs Belén

Belén wins here. In general, the cost to rent or buy property will be much cheaper in Belén than in El Poblado.

In December 2018, we surveyed 200 unfurnished apartments in Belén and 200 unfurnished apartments in El Poblado. We found that unfurnished rentals are on average 16.1 percent cheaper in Belén compared to El Poblado.

Here are our unfurnished rental detailed survey findings:

2018 Apartment rental costs in Belén

2018 Apartment rental costs in Belén

And here is a comparison of unfurnished rental prices in Belén with four other popular neighborhoods for foreigners in the Medellín metro:

Average Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs Per Square Meter by Neighborhood for Four Years

Average Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs Per Square Meter by Neighborhood for Four Years

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 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. This compares to about 81 percent of homes in Belén being estrato 3, 4 or 5.

We previously looked at estatos in Colombia, which is a system where higher estrato neighborhoods in Colombia pay higher utility rates to help subsidize lower utility rates in the lowest estratos.

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 generally cheaper in Belén.

In addition, El Poblado tends to have much higher prices for buying properties than in Belén. I recently surveyed 50 3-bedroom apartments for sale in both neighborhoods and found that the cost per square meter was 19.9 percent higher in El Poblado than in Belén.

View from my previous apartment in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén

View from my previous apartment in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén

Many of the apartment buildings in El Poblado have nice views. But Belén also has some apartment buildings with nice views.

2. Other Costs of Living – El Poblado vs Belén

Belén wins here. Belémn is more of a residential area with much fewer foreigner tourists compared to El Poblado.

Located in a less touristy neighborhood, the shops, restaurants, bars, and fitness centers in Belén generally come with lower price tags than their El Poblado counterparts.

In general, Belén offers more of a local living experience compared to El Poblado. And prices for almost everything from groceries, restaurants, nightlife and pet services are more expensive in El Poblado.

This shouldn’t be surprising, as El Poblado is considered the most affluent neighborhood in Medellín.

3. Restaurants and Nightlife

El Poblado wins here. El Poblado in general has a much larger variety of restaurants when it comes to modern, international dining.

In comparison, Belén has more of the cheaper, traditional Colombian food options with many restaurants with inexpensive menú del día lunch specials. Also, Belén has a growing number of good restaurants – just not as many as are found in El Poblado.

In addition, 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.

However, Belén also 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.

Apartment buildings up the hills in El Poblado

Apartment buildings up the hills in El Poblado

4. Walkability and Bike-ability

Belén wins here. 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.

In comparison, Belén is mostly flat with only some parts to the west such as the Loma de Los Bernal barrio with hills. Also, Belén has many dedicated bike lanes for biking.

Belén is very walkable. For example, when we lived in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén, we were in easy walking distance (2 to 15 minutes) with no hills to:

  • 2 grocery stores
  • 1 malls
  • 2 parks
  • 1 Metroplus station
  • 50+ restaurants

5. Safety – El Poblado vs Belén

The two neighborhoods arguably tie here. We previously looked at the safest neighborhoods in Medellín.

An article in March 2019 in the El Colombiano newspaper (in Spanish) reported robberies statistics in Medellín for 2017 and 2018 and El Poblado was the cumuna in Medellín with the second highest counts of robberies of persons, robberies of businesses and robberies of homes.

Only the La Candelaria comuna (El Centro) in Medellín has a higher robbery rate than El Poblado. And Belén has a lower robbery rate than El Poblado.

However, the homicide rate in Belén is higher than in El Poblado.  There were 39 homicides in Belén in 2018 for a homicide rate of about 19.75 per 100,000.

In comparison, there were 11 homicides in El Poblado in 2018 for a homicide rate of about 8.29 per 100,000. But the homicide rate in Laureles-Estadio was higher than in Belén in 2018 – about 24.40 per 100,000.

Also, be careful in Parque Lleras in El Poblado as it has been experiencing problems with drugs and prostitution resulting in an increased police presence, as seen in the local El Colombiano news early this year (in Spanish).

El Poblado and Belén arguably tie in this safety category – El Poblado has a higher robbery rate and Belén has a higher homicide rate.

The bottom line is you should take precautions in any neighborhood in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley. And if you follow our safety tips in our article about security in Medellín, your risk of being a victim of crime should be greatly reduced.

The Santafé mall in El Poblado in Medellín

The Santafé mall in El Poblado in Medellín

6. Shopping – El Poblado vs Belén

El Poblado wins here. El Poblado has more shopping options than Belén. El Poblado has three of the most upscale malls in Medellín: SantaféEl Tesoro and Oviedo.

  • Santafé has about 460 shops
  • El Tesoro has about 400 shops
  • Oviedo has about 320 shops
Los Molinos mall in Belén

Los Molinos mall in Belén

In comparison, Belén has two Western-style mall, Los Molinos mall, with about 160 shops.  Also, Belén has the newest mall in Medellín, Arkadia mall with about 160 shops, which opened in November 2019.

However, keep in mind that the El Poblado malls tend to have prices that are higher than can be found in other malls in Medellín.

Traffic in Medellín near the Bancolombia headquarters in El Poblado during rush hour

Traffic in Medellín near the Bancolombia headquarters in El Poblado during rush hour

7. Traffic – El Poblado vs Belén

Belén wins here. Some of the worst traffic in Medellín 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.

I lived in Belén for over four years and while traffic increased with the growth of Belén, I never experienced as much traffic as I have experienced in El Poblado.

The Fatima Metroplús station in Belén

The Fatima Metroplús station in Belén

8. Public Transportation Availability

The two neighborhoods tie here. El Poblado has three metro train stations and Belén has six stations on the MetroplEus line:

  • El Poblado – Industriales, Poblado and Aguacatala stations on Line A of the Medellín metro.
  • Belén – Fatima, Rosales, Parque Belén, Las Palma, Los Alpes and Universidad de Medellín on the Metroplús elongated bus line.

In El Poblado, many of the apartments and casas (houses) are not located near the metro stations. So, from many apartments and casas in El Poblado it can be long walk or a short bus or taxi ride to a metro station.

Also, in Belén, many of the apartments and casas (houses) are not located near the Metroplús stations. But those within walking distance in Belén are a flat walk to Metroplús stations instead of the hilly walk to metro stations in El Poblado.

In addition, both neighborhoods have extensive bus routes and taxis are plentiful in both neighborhoods. So, the two neighborhoods tie in this category.

What about Laureles vs Belén?

We previously compared El Poblado vs Laureles. If we were to compare Laureles vs Belén, I would categorize the winners of each category as follows:

  1. Cost to rent or buy property – Belén wins
  2. Other costs of living – Belén arguably wins
  3. Restaurants and nightlife – Laureles-Estadio wins
  4. Walkability and Bike-ability – Tie
  5. Safety – Belén arguably wins
  6. Shopping – Belén wins
  7. Traffic – Tie
  8. Public transportation availability – Tie

So, Belén would win in four categories, Laureles-Estadio would win in one category and the two neighborhoods would tie in three categories.

A view from the hills of Envigado

A view from the hills of Envigado

What about Envigado vs Belén?

We previously compared El Poblado vs Enviago. If we were to compare Envigado vs Belén, I would categorize the winners of each category as follows:

  1. Cost to rent or buy property – Belén wins
  2. Other costs of living – Belén arguably wins
  3. Restaurants and nightlife – Enviagdo wins
  4. Walkability and Bike-ability – Belén wins
  5. Safety – Envigado wins
  6. Shopping – Envigado wins
  7. Traffic – Belén wins
  8. Public transportation availability – Tie

So, Belén would win in four categories, Envigado would win in three categories and the two neighborhoods would tie in one category.

What about Sabaneta vs Belén?

We previously compared El Poblado vs Sabaneta. If we were to compare Sabaneta vs Belén, I would categorize the winners of each category as follows:

  1. Cost to rent or buy property – Sabaneta wins
  2. Other costs of living – Tie
  3. Restaurants and nightlife – Sabaneta wins
  4. Walkability and Bike-ability – Tie
  5. Safety – Sabaneta wins
  6. Shopping – Sabaneta wins
  7. Traffic – Sabaneta wins
  8. Public transportation availability – Tie

So, Sabaneta would win in five categories, Belén would win in no categories and the two neighborhoods would tie in three categories.

Choosing a Neighborhood in Medellín

On the Medellin Guru website, we have several articles that can be used to help foreigners choose a neighborhood in Medellín:

Medellin Guru partnered with RE/MAX for real estate services

Medellin Guru partnered with RE/MAX for real estate services

Looking to Buy Property in El Poblado or Belén or Another Neighborhood?

Medellin Guru partnered with RE/MAX Coffee Realty to offer real estate services to foreigners and Colombians interested in buying and selling properties in Medellín and Colombia.

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about real estate and advice about buying and selling real estate. So, we partnered with RE/MAX Coffee Realty to offer reliable real estate services to readers.

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Fill out a very short form and RE/MAX offers a free consultation to provide information about the local market, current pricing information and tips for buying or selling properties.

Inside a VICO property in Medellín, photo courtesy of VICO

Inside a VICO property in Medellín, photo courtesy of VICO

Looking to Rent Inexpensive Furnished Rooms or Studio Apartments in El Poblado or Belén?

Medellin Guru partnered with VICO to offer furnished rentals including studio apartments and shared housing in Medellín to readers of Medellin Guru.

VICO offers over 800 furnished rooms in shared housing units and studio apartments available for rent at reasonable prices in neighborhoods popular with foreigners.

Find Furnished Rooms and Studio Apartments with VICO

VICO Shared Housing in El Poblado

VICO Shared Housing in Belén

Apartment buildings in the Loma de Los Bernal barrio in Belén

Apartment buildings in the Loma de Los Bernal barrio in Belén

The Bottom Line: El Poblado vs Belén– Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?

In our El Poblado vs Belén comparison:

  • Belén wins in four of our eight categories.
  • El Poblado wins in two of our eight categories.
  • The two neighborhoods tie in two categories.

So, in this unscientific and somewhat subjective comparison, Belén wins if you equally weigh the categories. But choosing a neighborhood to live in comes down to personal preferences.

El Poblado remains the most popular neighborhood for foreigners out of all of the Medellín neighborhoods. But El Poblado has downsides. So, many expats living in Medellín live in other neighborhoods in the metro area.

Other neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley that are popular with expats include Laureles-Estadio, Envigado, Sabaneta and Belén. Over the past several years, I also have met expats living in Bello, El Centro, La America, Robledo and near to the Medellín international airport in Rionegro and La Ceja.

Also, keep in mind if you live in Belén due to the lower cost of living or other reasons, it’s a relatively short Metroplús ride to the restaurants, nightlife and shopping in El Poblado. It’s only a 10- to 15-minute ride from the stations on the Metroplús line to the Industriales metro station. This makes it quicker to get to El Poblado from Belén than from Laureles-Estadio in my experience.

The bottom line in our El Poblado vs Belén comparison is that the best to live is the best place to live for you. Everyone has different priorities. The only way to know which neighborhood is the best for you is to spend time there.

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Editors note: updated on August 26, 2019 with the new name of the new mall being built in Belén.

Editors note: updated on November 17, 2019 to add the new Arkadia mall in Belén that opened in November 2019.

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