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MEDELLÍN REBORN - ART, DESIGN AND FASHION TAKE CENTRE STAGE
 
(2023 - Winter Issue)

Writer: LAURA BYRNE PAQUET



From sustainable fashion and Indigenous-made housewares in the posh enclave of El Poblado to colourful murals and handcrafted jewellery in working-class neighbourhoods, creativity abounds in Colombia’s second-largest city.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Medellín is no longer the drug-trade capital it was from the 1970s to the 1990s. Today, gleaming aerial cable cars and Colombia’s only subway system whisk visitors and locals around the rejuvenated city, and stylish hotels, restaurants and shops cater to a sophisticated clientele.

STAY AND EAT

At the Diez Hotel in upscale El Poblado, each of the five floors is decorated to reflect a different Colombian region (Amazon, Andes, Caribbean, Orinoco or Pacific). The panelled, plant-filled lobby feels like an urban slice of jungle, complete with a small stand of bamboo. If you need to unwind, there’s a Turkish bath in the hotel spa. Besides its three restaurants, the surrounding area is laden with eateries. At the nearby branch of the ubiquitous Colombian chain Crepes y Waffles try a tasty crêpe sombrero vueltiao—loaded with shredded beef, sour cream, plantain, avocado and pico de gallo. Fancier dishes are on the tables at OCI, a fine-dining restaurant serving regional classics and fusion fare, such as lemon-chili-caramel short ribs with sticky rice.

SHOP IN EL POBLADO

Tucked into courtyards, malls and mezzanines, El Poblado’s fashion and design boutiques can be tricky to find. In the Oviedo mall, Arkano sells contemporary clothing and jewellery made by Indigenous artisans, and Tigre de Salón offers Colombian-made purses and backpacks. A half-hidden staircase leads to the Makeno concept store, which showcases apparel and other items by Colombian designers. (Look for Camilo Alvarez’s line of one-size-fits-most unisex clothing in sustainable fabrics such as hemp and Tencel.) And on Carrera 32, independent boutiques are clustered on two levels around an open-air café.

HEAD FOR THE HILLS

The comunas (neighbourhoods) clinging to Medellín’s mountainsides are much safer now than they were during the dangerous days of the city’s drug cartel, but it’s still a good idea to join a guided tour to explore them. Impulse Travel (impulsetravel.co/en) offers excellent half-day (and longer) itineraries that connect you with locals. On its Afro Tour in Comuna 13, led by musicians and artists, you’ll even get the chance to do a bit of drumming. You’ll need to walk up and down a lot of hills, but your rewards along the way will include striking murals, small jewellery shops and sweeping views of the city.

A WORD TO THE WISE

As in any big city, take precautions against pickpockets, avoid travelling alone at night, and don’t flash expensive jewellery or cameras around.

WHY GO NOW?

Year-round, average temperatures range from 23 C to 26 C; January and February see the least rain.

Travel Planner

For Medellín travel information, see colombia.travel/en/medellin

 
 
 
 
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