Medellin, the second-largest city in Colombia, sprawls throughout the Aburrá Valley and is known as much for its violent past as for its innovative present. While Pablo Escobar made it famous in the 1980s, it’s now popular for far different reasons: relatively low cost of living, fast internet, and ideal weather—all of which contribute to it being a remote work superhub. Nicknamed the “City of the Eternal Spring”, its lush parks are fed by the Rio Medellin. It’s here where people meet to dance salsa and bachata and at Christmas, the park boasts fantastical light displays.
Paisas (people from Medellin) take pride in their delicious food, subway systems, (the only one in Colombia), the beauty of their city, and their ability to always move forward. While the city’s far safer than before, you should still be mindful of your surroundings and avoid walking in certain areas at night, like El Centro. However, if you exercise awareness, learn some Spanish, and maintain a healthy sense of adventure, you might just decide to join the many digital nomads that have come here and decided to never leave.
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Highrise apartments, parks, and some of the city’s most diverse culinary offerings make up the landscape of Poblado, alongside the best-known coworking spaces and third-wave coffee shops. An extensive district of steep roads bordered by the Rio Medellin, Poblado is the most expensive area in the city. Divided into sub-neighborhoods, three of them (Provenza, Parque las Lleras, and Manila) make up the nightlife district, La Zona Rosa. Whether you want large, multi-genre clubs like Vintrash, small techno havens like Heard From, or artsy cocktail bars like Alambique or Alta Gracia, this area caters to all kinds of tastes, plus has well-priced pregame spots like Mamasita Medallo.
Remote workers new to the city, usually base themselves in Poblado for proximity to coworking hubs like Selena, WeWork, and Bloom Ecoworking. It’s also easy to learn salsa here with Dancefree and Social Club Academia’s reasonably priced classes. Coffee connoisseurs sample single origins at Pergamino, while foodies flock to El Cielo for molecular gastronomy and Carmen for a tasting menu of modern Colombian plates. Salad and smoothie lovers post up at Ceres Mercado, and options for a cheap, filling meal include beef empanadas at Empanadas El Machetico, mondongo and bandeja paisa at Mondongo’s, and soups at Ajiacos y Mondongos.
Two malls, Santafé and El Tesoro, offer dining and shopping, plus the latter has rooftop soccer fields. See film retrospectives or watch contemporary art dance shows at the Museo del Arte Moderno de Medellin and wander the gardens at Castillo Museo y Jardines. Pick up locally-made jewelry, body soaps, and woven goods at the outdoor market at San Fernando Plaza, and for a piece of history from the narco days, pass by the Virgin Rosa Mystica, where hitman famously used to pray.
One of Medellin’s most walkable neighborhoods, upper-middle-class Laureles unfurls from its center, the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, unveiling a barrio full of cafes, restaurants, and endless nightlife options. Oftentimes combined with El Estadio, the neighborhood around Stadium Atanasio Girardot (home to both Athletico Nacional and Deportivo Independiente Medellin), together they form the double neighborhood Laureles-Estadio. While lots of university students call Laureles home, it’s also become popular with foreign transplants seeking to leave the gringo bubble of Poblado, helping to fuel an explosion of neighborhood cafés. Both Rituales Café and Café Revolución serve specialty coffee, while Café Zepplin is popular for its hip ambiance.
Laureles contains some of the city’s best coworking spots: plant-filled, pet-friendly Circular Coworking, working hub and artisanal coffee shop Semilla, and the peaceful CoWorking Inspira. Ivy Laureles even has onsite wellness services, like massages and chiropractic sessions. For meals, order traditional Colombian plates at Donde Dario, sweet treats at Gloria’s Waffles, and vegetarian dishes at Saludpan. For pastries, head to La Migueria, a local bakery chain.
A prime biking spot due to its flatness, Laureles offers many fitness options from grinding rails at Skatepark Estadio to practicing yoga in English at Flying Tree Yoga. Poledanzarte holds aerial and pole dance classes, and for salsa, you can dance for hours at bars El Tibiri or Son Havana, especially when there’s a live band. Both are located on La 70, one of Laureles’ two main nightlife streets. The other street, Calle 33, is a behemoth of bars and clubs home to Ping Pong Drinks, a ping pong parlor and bar. For a more relaxed activity, see Pre-Colombian art Fundación Aburrá.
A small town bordering Medellin rather than a neighborhood, Envigado has a relaxed vibe, tree-lined streets, and a traditional feel, evidenced by low-slung architecture and its center being Marceliano Velez Park. It’s not as central as other residential areas, but it’s not far out either, with only a 15-minute metro ride to the Center or Poblado. On Sundays, you can easily bike to the Center, when Avenida Poblado turns into a pedestrian street for Ciclovía.
Food hubs here include Calle Buena Mesa (Good Table Street), home to El Trifasco, a traditional Paisa restaurant with locally-sourced ingredients, and Contenedores Food Place, a food court that serves everything from burgers to curries. Nearby, Barrio Sur Cafe Bar serves Moscow mules and craft beer, while Ná Pizza’s oven churns out thin-crust pies. Vegetarians dine at Prana Concina Natural, and pescatarians can order cazuelas with patacones at Restaurante Con Saber a Mar.
Shop at Viva Envigado, one of Latin America’s largest malls, or buy leather goods and clothes at the monthly Envigado Flee Market, in front of the Greco-Roman Santa Gertrudis Church. Other activities include going to the museum and café at Otraparte, the former house of philosopher Fernando González, or hiking in Parque El Salado, Cuevas del Higuerón, or to the waterfall of Chorro de Campanas.
Cowork at The Ideas Factory and Coworking Cowfe, or try coliving and coworking at Pandora’s House. Afterward, go play the explosively fun Colombian sport of Tejo at Polideportivo Sur (a literally explosive ring toss game possibly seemingly dreamed up by Wile E. Coyote). Alternatively, you can admire the craftsmanship of La Casa de las Piedritas—a stone house that took 32 years to build—and slurp the best Tom Kha Gai soup in the city at Lemoncillo.
Sabaneta might be a little far from the action of Medellin, but this working-class town just south of Envigado offers a safer environment and a lower cost of living than the city’s glitzier neighborhoods. It’s mostly flat, making it very walkable, but if you crave a hillier workout, you can venture to the trails of Reserva La Romera.
The center of Sabaneta is Parque Sabaneta, a leafy plaza with lots of street food vendors, restaurants, and the Iglesia de Santa Ana. Each Tuesday, thousands of Paisas make a pilgrimage to the church, asking for holy favors. Around the plaza you can buy massive buñuelos (fritters) at El Peregrino, eat steaks at El Viejo John, or order a three cheese thin crust at Pizza en Leña. At night, the bars around the square become the town’s nightlife center, especially Los Rieles Bar.
Dedicated coworking spaces are sparse here, but Meraki Coworking House offers private offices, board rooms by the hour, and rates from one day to one month. Alternatively, Sabaneta Municipal Public Library has strong WiFi and several coworking tables. You’ll also find both decent coffee and reliable WiFi at Café Zendaya Studio, and more outlets and spaces to work at Café Bosque Adentro.
Other worthwhile attractions here include the artsy cultural center, Casa de la Cultura la Barquereña, and Nostalgia Video Bar 60's and 70’s, for those that love dancing to the classics. La Octava Maravilla Mirador has the best view of any restaurant in town, and El Sombrero serves authentic Mexican dishes. Finally, for a farm-to-table dining experience, eat lunch at Restaurante Catalan.