El Poblado vs Sabaneta. 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. And Sabaneta is a municipality that is quickly growing in popularity for foreigners living in the city or visiting.

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.

I currently live in Sabaneta with my Colombian wife. Since I have lived in Sabaneta for over three years I now hear English much more often around town as more foreigners discover the area. For example, a few days ago I met a foreigner who moved to Sabaneta from El Poblado. He said that he much prefers Sabaneta. And yesterday I met an foreigner who had moved to Sabaneta recently from New York.

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked questions about El Poblado vs Sabaneta. So, we now compare these two neighborhoods in Medellín.

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado, Medellín

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado, Medellín

Barrio vs Comuna vs Municipalidad

In Colombia, municipalities are separate cities or pueblos. Medellín, Envigado and Sabaneta are separate municipalities in the Aburrá Valley, each with a different mayor.

Large municipalities in Colombia are typically broken up in to comunas (districts). Medellín has 16 comunas. And each comuna has several barrios (neighborhoods). This can get confusing as El Poblado is a comuna of Medellín and there is also an El Poblado barrio in the El Poblado comuna.

Smaller municipalities in Colombia won’t have comunas and will be divided into barrios. For example, the Sabaneta municipality has 31 barrios. But Sabaneta is so small that few people use the names of the barrios in Sabaneta.

When you ask someone where they live in Colombia they typically respond with a comuna like El Poblado or Belén or municipality like Envigado or Sabaneta. It is much less common to respond with the name of a barrio. But sometimes people will respond with the name of a barrio like Manila in El Poblado. And sometimes people will respond with an area of the city that isn’t an official comuna or barrio like Provenza in El Poblado.

In this comparison, we compare the comuna of El Poblado vs the Sabaneta municipality. Many foreigners consider these as two separate neighborhoods in the Aburrá Valley. Neighborhood in English has a broader meaning which can mean “a district or community”. But the word neighborhood technically translates to Spanish as “barrio”. But barrios are too small to compare.

Also, many foreigners call the Aburrá Valley metro area the Medellín metro. This metro area is known in Spanish as Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá, which includes 10 municipalities:

  1. Medellín
  2. Bello
  3. Envigado
  4. Itagüí
  5. Sabaneta
  6. Barbosa
  7. Caldas
  8. La Estrella
  9. Giradota
  10. Copacabana

Note, the following categories in this El Poblado vs Sabaneta comparison are in no particular order. And where possible, we provide some statistics to back up how we chose the winner of each category.

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

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

In December 2018, we surveyed 200 unfurnished apartments in Sabaneta and 200 unfurnished apartments in El Poblado. We found that unfurnished rentals are on average 24.5 percent cheaper in Sabaneta compared to El Poblado.

Here are our unfurnished rental detailed survey findings:

2018 Apartment rental costs in El Poblado

2018 Apartment rental costs in El Poblado

2018 Apartment rental costs in Sabaneta

2018 Apartment rental costs in Sabaneta

Apartment buildings in Sabaneta near Aves Maria mall

Apartment buildings in Sabaneta near Aves Maria mall

And here is a comparison of unfurnished rental prices in Sabaneta 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 67 percent of homes in Sabaenta being estrato 4 or 3.

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 Sabaneta.

In addition, El Poblado tends to have much higher prices for buying properties than in Sabaneta. I recently surveyed 50 3-bedroom apartments for sale in both neighborhoods and found that the cost per square meter was 25.1 percent higher in El Poblado than in Sabaneta.

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

Apartment buildings in Sabaneta

Apartment buildings in Sabaneta

2. Other Costs of Living – El Poblado vs Sabaneta

Sabaenta wins here. Sabaneta 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 Sabaenta generally come with lower price tags than their El Poblado counterparts.

In general, Sabanta 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, Sabaneta has more of the cheaper, traditional Colombian food options with many restaurants with inexpensive menú del día lunch specials.

Food from some of the best restaurants in Sabaneta

Food from some of the best restaurants in Sabaneta

Also, Sabaenta has a growing number of good restaurants – just not as many as are found in El Poblado. We previously looked at 14 of the best restaurants in Sabaenta.

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, Sabaneta also has nightlife options that are more local Colombian style. In Sabaneta, there are several fondas, which are bars with wooden chairs and a dance floor and also some bar food. These fondas are popular places to drink, dance and eat. There are a few fondas near popular Parque Sabaneta and also in the Doctora neighborhood.

Apartment buildings located up the hills in El Poblado, Medellín

Apartment buildings located up the hills in El Poblado, Medellín

4. Walkability and Bike-ability

Sabaneta 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, Sabaneta is mostly flat with less than 30 apartment buildings located up the hills in Sabaneta to the east. In addition, Sabaneta is the smallest municipality in Colombia and is only 6-square-miles in size.  Also, Sabaneta has many dedicated bike lanes.

Sabaneta is very walkable. For example, where we live in Sabaneta it is easy walking distance (2 to 15 minutes) with no hills to:

  • 3 grocery stores
  • 2 malls
  • 2 parks
  • 1 metro station
  • 100+ restaurants

5. Safety – El Poblado vs Sabaneta

Sabaneta arguably wins here. Both El Poblado and Sabaneta are generally considered two of the safest neighborhoods in Medellín and rarely have homicides reported.

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.

Crime statistics for Sabaneta are more difficult to find but robbery statistics for Sabaneta in 2017 were reported and can be compared to robbery statistics in El Poblado in 2017.

Robberies of persons:

  • El Poblado – 2,001 in 2017
  • Sabaneta – 375 in 2017

Robberies of homes:

  • El Poblado – 181 in 2017
  • Sabaneta – 94 in 2017

Robberies of businesses:

  • El Poblado – 536 in 2017
  • Sabaneta– 54 in 2017

Sabaneta is smaller than El Poblado. Sabaneta had a population of about 95,000 in 2017 and El Poblado had a population of about 132,000 in 2017

But the count of robberies of persons was over five times higher in El Poblado in 2017 compared to Sabaneta. And the count of robberies of homes was double in El Poblado compared to Sabaneta. Also, the count of robberies of business were about 10 times higher in El Poblado in 2017 compared to Sabaneta.

The above statistics from 2017 demonstrate there are more robberies per capita in El Poblado than in Sabaneta. Also, over the past few years robbery statistics have been increasing in El Poblado. This is likely due to criminals targeting the wealthiest area of Medellín. In addition, we included Sabaenta in our article looking at the safest neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.

One of the streets next to Parque Lleras with restaurants, bars and clubs

One of the streets next to Parque Lleras with restaurants, bars and clubs

Also, be careful in Parque Lleras 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). You won’t find this problem in Parque Sabaneta, which is more family-oriented.

Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta

Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta

I have lived in Sabaneta for over three years and feel very safe, even walking at night.

Crime is possible everywhere in Medellín. And El Poblado and Sabaneta have been touted by some as two of the safest parts of the metro area. But robbery statistics from 2017 demonstrate that Sabaneta has less robberies per capita than in El Poblado. So, Sabaneta arguably wins this category.

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 Sabaneta

El Poblado wins here. El Poblado has more shopping options than Sabaneta. 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
The Mayorca Mega Plaza mall in Sabaneta

The Mayorca Mega Plaza mall in Sabaneta

In comparison, Sabaneta has one large mall, Mayorca Mega Plaza, with about 400 shops. Also, in Sabaneta is the smaller Aves Maria mall with less than 100 shops.

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 El Poblado near the Bancolombia headquarters during rush hour

Traffic in El Poblado near the Bancolombia headquarters during rush hour

7. Traffic – El Poblado vs Sabaneta

Sabaneta 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 have lived over three years in Sabaneta and while traffic has increased with the growth of Sabaneta, I haven’t experienced nowhere near as much traffic as I have experienced in El Poblado.

Metro buses at the Sabaneta metro station

Metro buses at the Sabaneta metro station

8. Public Transportation Availability

The two neighborhoods tie here. Both El Poblado and Sabaneta have three metro stations each:

  • El Poblado – Industriales, Poblado and Aguacatala stations on Line A
  • Sabaneta – Itagüí , Sabaneta and La Estrella stations on Line A

But 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.

In Sabaneta, I would estimate that over 50 percent of homes are within a 15-minute walk to a metro station. And this is a flat walk to the metro 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 Sabaneta?

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

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

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

What about Envigado vs Sabaneta?

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

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

So, Sabaneta would win in four categories, Envigado would win in two categories and the two neighborhoods would tie in two categories.

What about Sabaneta vs Belén?

We also compared El Pobaldo with Belén. 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:

Apartment buildings in El Poblado, Medellín

Apartment buildings in El Poblado, Medellín

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

In our El Poblado vs Sabaneta comparison:

  • Sabaneta wins in five of our eight categories.
  • El Poblado wins in two of our eight categories.
  • The two neighborhoods tie in one category.

So, in this unscientific and somewhat subjective comparison, Sabaneta wins if you equally weigh the categories. But choosing a neighborhood to live in comes down to personal preferences.  Some may say I am biased since I live in Sabaneta but the above comparison shows some of the reasons why we decided to move to Sabaneta over three years ago.

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 Sabaneta due to the lower cost of living or other reasons, it’s a relatively short metro ride to the restaurants, nightlife and shopping in El Poblado. It’s only a 10-minute ride from the Sabaneta metro station to the Poblado metro station. This makes it quicker to get to El Poblado from Sabaneta than from Laureles-Estadio in my experience.

The bottom line in our El Poblado vs Sabaneta 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 July 26, 2019 to address reader’s comment about comuna vs barrio vs municipality.