Since you found your way here I assume you’re going to Medellin. Congratulations! Medellin happens to be my favorite city in all of Colombia, perhaps in of all South America. The city offers vibrant culture, great nightlife and friendly people. In addition, violent crimes have drastically declined since Escobar’s heydays, and today’s Medellin is far from what you see in the excellent Netflix show Narcos.
But planning a trip to a city you’ve never visited before can be a challenge. There are many factor to consider when selecting where to stay in Medellin, such as safety, nightlife, shopping and restaurants. And perhaps you want to do your own cooking and wish to be close to some good grocery stores?
The good news is that I can help you. Over the last three years I have been living in Medellin for a considerable amount of time, and I know the ins and outs of several of the different neighborhoods. Hence I have compiled all my knowledge into this handy guide to help as many people as possible. Here I’ll compare the two most popular neighborhoods Laureles vs Poblado to decide which one is the best place to stay in Medellin. And to help me decide I’ll rank them in the following categories:
- Cost of Living
Ready to plan your Medellin trip? Let’s dive right in!
Laureles vs Poblado? Where To Stay In Medellin 2018
El Poblado (red circle) is the 14th commune (Comuna) in the city of Medellin. It’s home to 130,000 people and one of Colombia’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Due to it’s prosperity it’s also known as Las Manzanas de Oro (The Golden Apples). Living in Poblado will be similar to city life back in the west, and here you’ll be able to find affordable modern penthouses with stunning views. The area is also known for it’s nightlife, especially around Parque Lleras where you can party every day of the week. Be aware that El Poblado is quite hilly, especially the areas north and east of Parque Lleras. In addition, most of the tourists and expats who’re living in Medellin, is staying in Poblado, and sometimes it’ll make you feel like you’re not in Colombia at all.
Laureles (blue circle) is the 11th Comuna with a population of 120,000 people. The Comuna is named after the many Bay Laurel trees that grows here. Laureles is much more laidback and offers a better local living experience compared to Poblado, while still having access to modern restaurants and bars. English is not widely spoken and it can be challenging to live here if you don’t know Spanish. Compared to Poblado, Laureles is flat and more walkable.
Cost of Living
Since accommodation will be your biggest expense when living in Medellin, let’s first have a look at the Airbnb listings for the two Comunas. And as you can see from the listings below there are some noticeable differences between the two. In fact, El Poblado is more than twice as expensive as Laureles.
- El Poblado: Average monthly AirBnb price is $2,365
- Laureles: Average monthly AirBnb price is $1,029
And it’s not like you get twice as nice apartments in El Poblado. As a matter of fact, I have stayed in some great pads in Laureles, that equals some of the Poblado apartments in terms of quality.
And the price gap is not only for accommodation prices. In fact, most prices will be higher in El Poblado. Everything from restaurants, nightlife to groceries will cost you more. This is not really surprising since El Poblado is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in all of Colombia.
Laureles wins the Cost of Living category 1-0.
Is medellin safe? That’s a valid question because safety is very important when choosing where to stay in Medellin. So let’s look at some crime statistics. After some research I found a site called Colombia Reports, that has very extensive and recent crime statistics data (2016) for Medellin. And since the two Comunas have roughly the same population it makes it easy to compare them.
First, according to the homicide table below, we can see that Laureles has 3 times as many murders as El Poblado (21 vs 7). At first glance that may seem like a big difference, but there are a few things to keep in mind here. Firstly, compared to other Comunas, both Laureles and El Poblado are among the safest. Centro for example had 95 murders in 2016 with a population of only 84,000. Secondly, the homicide statistics for both Laureles and El Poblado are comparable to many major cities in the United States. Thirdly, most murders are drug related and won’t affect visitors.
Robberies also paints a similar picture. According to the crime maps below, Laureles had 96 robberies per square meters in 2016, while El Poblado had 22 robberies per square meters, a factor four difference. Again, neither of those statistics are cause for alarm if you adopt the usual safety precautions.
So is Medellin safe? Luckily both of our our Comunas are among the safest, and according to the statistics El Poblado is a slight safer Comuna than Laureles. We can also conclude that robberies are the type of crime with the highest risk when living in Medellin. To lower your risk, try to blend in by dressing like a local (this means no shorts and sandals), don’t flash your valuables and use taxi/Uber at night. And always hand over your valuables if you’re being robbed!
El Poblado wins the Safety category 1-1
Everything in El Poblado is centered around Parque Lleras, and here you’ll find Medellin’s best bars and clubs. Not only are they the best, they are also the priciest! If you are in Poblado on a Thursday I recommend a visit to Bendito Seas that has a good ladies night. You pay a 40,000 Pesos entrance and get free drinks all night. Ladies get in free.
In Laureles, the nightlife is centered around 70 Street “La Setenta”. La Setenta has many traditional and affordable restaurants, bars, and dance clubs that comes to life Thursday to Saturday. This is also a good place to find some very good salsa clubs. In addition, the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) has several bars catered to the student population.
El Poblado wins the Nightlife category 1-2
As with the nightlife, all the best restaurants in El Poblado are centered around Parque LLeras. Here you’ll find restaurants serving most of the international cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Japanese and Cuban. The only food that’s really lacking is the smaller, traditional places serving Colombian breakfast and lunches, which are a common sight in other Comunas throughout the city.
The selection of modern, upscale restaurants are definitely less in Laureles, but the Nutibara area has several good upscale restaurants. But the real charm with Laureles is the many cheap family run restaurants serving traditional breakfasts and lunch for as low as 10,000 Pesos. You won’t find many of those in El Poblado.
In conclusion, it all depends of your budget and the type of food you’re after. El Poblado has much more variety when it comes to modern, international dining, while Laureles has the cheaper traditional Colombian food.
I consider this category a draw 2-3
El Poblado has several modern shopping malls, as well as plenty of grocery stores. Some of the best malls includes Viscaya (which has a great Body Tech gym), El Tesoro, Santafé and Oviedo. For groceries, there’s a good Carulla store on Carrera 43A, just a block north from Parque El Poblado. In addition there’s a large Exito on Calle 10, just next to the metro station.
If you are a die hard shopaholic, you won’t like Laureles much. Besides some larger grocery store chains (Exito, Euro etc) there are no modern shopping malls. Laureles does have many traditional Colombian markets such as Plaza de la America.
El Poblado wins the Shopping category 2-4
Neither Comunas have much when it comes to sightseeing. In Laureles you can gaze at the house where Pablo Escobar last lived and was killed. It’s located at Carrera 79 #45 D – 94. It’s now a Spanish language school and not open to visitors. In addition, you can learn salsa at one of the many salsa clubs on “La Setenta” such as El Tibiri, or catch a soccer game at Estadio.
El Poblado has the Castle Museum (Museo el Castillo). The museum is designed to look like a medieval castle and features gardens, libraries and art exhibitions. In addition it’s cool to check out one of the free outdoor gyms, or walk around the labyrinth of bars at Parque Lleras.
I consider the Sightseeing category a draw 3-5
For trips lasting more than a couple of weeks it makes most sense to use AirBnb. But for shorter trips, hotels are a better choice. And both Comunas have plenty of good hotels to choose from.
The best hotel in El Poblado (and probably the best place to stay in Medellin) is The Charlee Hotel. It’s a great 4,5 star hotel located right next to Parque Llleas with all it’s nightlife. For those who wish to spend a bit less, a good mid range hotel is Art Hotel Medellin, which offers a good trade-off between price and quality. Finally, budget travelers will like Element Hotel, a great hotel that will be easy on the wallet.
Laureles also has some great hotels. In my opinion the best hotel is Inntu Hotel, a 4 star hotel located just next to Segundo Parque. But if you are on a budget and looking for something more affordable, you may want to check out Hotel Vivre, an affordable 3,5 star hotel located one block away from Setenta. This is an ideal location if you want to be close to the best nightlife in Laureles.
If we sum up the Laureles vs Poblado challenge, El Poblado wins by 5 to 3. But let’s just not blindly stare at the points, since we’re all different people with different goals for living in Medellin.
In conclusion, El Poblado is a better options for travelers with bigger wallets, and for those who want more comfort. In addition, if you like nightlife or want to have more upscale restaurant options, El Poblado will be best place to stay in Medellin for you. Finally, El Poblado may also be the best choice for first time visitors, especially if you don’t know any Spanish.
Laureles will be the best place to stay in medellin for those who want a better local living experience, since not many gringos live in Laureles. In addition, the Comuna is more laidback and offers more affordable accommodation options, as well as restaurants. Finally, since English is not widely spoken here, knowing at least some basic Spanish will be helpful.
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