Luis Fernandez Micro Guide to Medellin, Colombia

Medellin

New York based designer and founder of @LuisFern5 sent us his recap from a recent trip to Medellin, Colombia. Read on to hear about the art, architecture and serious food.

When I was first invited to visit Medellin, Colombia, my first reaction came with a little bit of hesitation (and of course, an image of, “what was his name? .. Oh yeah, Pablo Escobar!”). However, the idea of adventure and escaping yet another polar vortex in NYC made the decision very easy.  I barely made it onto the only flight of the day before flights were cancelled out of JFK due to yet another snow storm; and by the early evening, I was checking into my hotel in Medellin in nearly perfect weather. It is called the ‘city of Eternal Spring’, and I immediately knew why.

I settled into the Art Boutique Hotel in the El Poblado neighborhood, and went out for a bite and drink. Just around the corner was the Parque Lleras, a busy hub of cafes and bars around a small park. It was buzzing, even for a Tuesday night. Most of the places had open-air terraces overlooking the street, and the vibe was pretty cool, even if a bit touristy.  At the north end of the park, I headed up to the rooftop of The Charlee Hotel, where a pretty swank pool-lounge offered up a majestic view of Medellin. “Not bad…” I thought.  A live band played Salsa classics that reminded me of my Spanish upbringing, and I can’t deny that the place didn’t feel a little like something out of Ocean Drive circa 1997 (which was the rise and height of South Beach cool). It definitely felt like this place, this town, was on the rise, and that the days of Pablo Escobar were long gone.

Throughout my exploring the town the next couple of days, that idea of the resurgence and transformation that this town has gone through in the last 10 years became very evident.

And in meeting several of the cool, young entrepreneurs that are changing the face of the city, it seems like it’s all just getting started:

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Up early and ready to explore the town of Medellin nicknamed “the City of Eternal Spring.” Happy to ditch the scarves and gloves (from yet another polar vortex in New York). This early, the lighting and view looking up from the rooftop of the Art Boutique Hotel in El Poblado are refreshing and quite spectacular.

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Starting the day off with a great cappuccino at Pergamino Cafe. a single-origin micro-Roastery recently started by Pedro Echevarria. It’s a hip and well-designed cafe with an awesome terrace, in the EL Poblado neighborhood. THE spot to grab a great cup or iced teas, and people watch. 

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The way to the top! Medellin has gone through an impressive transformation in the last 10 years. The clean, safe and efficient public transportation system is one example. The Metrocable takes you through the Comunas de Santo Domingo (favelas) all the way to the top of the mountain, Arvi Park. The view is spectacular. You definitely can’t be afraid of heights.

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An interesting (even if slightly orchestrated) walk downhill through the windy roads of the Comunas de Santo Domingo takes you to one of the city’s many parks/libraries: Biblioteca de Espana. It’s one of many examples of amazing architecture and urban-planning insertions that are revitalizing the city’s’ impoverished neighborhoods. The view’s not bad, either.

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It’s time for lunch. The terrace at Humo bar is a great choice. BBQ-via-Colombia by Medellin chef-power-couple Carmen Angel and Rob Pevitts. Don’t miss the Arepa Nachos! 

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Right after lunch, and feeling a little full is a good time to go see the Boteros. Head over to Plaza Botero in Medellin’s old quarter, where 23 of Fernando Botero’s voluptuous sculptures tower above the buzzing square. Here is Adan standing tall and proud.

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Modern Architecture everywhere! We head over to the Plaza Mayor where modern buildings and public plazas welcome visitors to Colombiatex (a yearly fashion and textiles sourcing show that the city is hosting). It’s an impressive group of cool buildings.

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More Modern! Across the street, this cool  structure towers over the Plaza Libertad. I ask around. It’s the Teleantioquia Building!…an emblematic and iconic (even controversial) piece of architecture that has come to represent the city’s new face.

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Its time to take a BREAK! The rooftop pool/lounge at The Charlee Hotel is just the spot. A great concept hotel by Angel Seda, it’s a cool setting with 360 degree views of the city.

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Shop the town. Need to hit one spot to find all the cool design gifts and clothes you need to bring home? Makeno on Calle Primavera is an awesome space and great concept store by Paola Betancur featuring mostly Colombian designers: Menswear, Womenswear, Fashion, Accessories and Furniture … and even a coffee bar to boost up your energy level.

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One last stop for a little culture and great architecture. The Plaza De Los Deseos offers up all that and awesome people watching. An architecture wonderland and urbanspace where families come to unwind and play at all the parks’ cool follies.

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Time to start the evening, which gets a late start. This town sure can party and have a good time, so first we try to relax a bit on the rooftop of The Art Hotel.

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Knowing its going to be a late night, we grab seats at the bar at Carmen (the namesake of Carmen Angel). It’s an amazing menu, but the Bahn Mi and the crafted cocktails win us over. Not to mention, the awesome service and attention at the bar.

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Our first stop is a Bar on the Parque El Poblado called EL Guapo, where we meet up with friends. The bar attracts mostly a cool local crowd, since it’s a little off the tourist path. One of the best designed bars I’ve been to, its boasts an awesome play on modernist bold graphics.

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The crowd then continues on up the hill to CALLE 9+1. (don’t bother showing up early, it doesn’t get going till much later). Its an outdoor/indoor bar where featured DJs spin each night, and graffiti’ decorates’ every inch of the walls.