Neighbourhood guides: Live like a local in Laureles, Medellín
17 Aug 2022
Medellín is a city that offers stunning mountain views of the Andes, from practically any direction. There are plenty of culture-packed destinations to visit around town, which is why this Colombian city is having a renaissance of sorts. It’s the Laureles neighbourhood, however, that piqued our interest.
The Laureles barrio – neighbourhood – has cemented itself as one of the best places to experience Medellín, as it offers lush, tree-lined streets in a sector crisscrossed by a few shady boulevards. Scattered along the streets, you’ll discover a welcoming selection of cafés, restaurants, galleries, and shops. Take note: this laid-back ‘hood is mainly locals, so we recommend perfecting your Spanish to get by here.
Here are our favourite spots:
No day in Colombia is complete without coffee, and Rituales Café is the perfect place to start. Just off Avenida Nutibara, the spot has mastered the specialty coffee vibe with a pour-over bar and photos of the farmers they source beans from displayed throughout the space. Established to support 40 families in La Sierra, one of the most troubled areas on the edge of the city, Rituales has been roasting its award-winning Paraiso brew since 2017.
For authentic Colombian fare, head to Laureles-local favourite Mondongo’s. Without a doubt, it’s the most popular place for mondongo – a typically paisa soup, made from slow-cooked meat and vegetables – the namesake dish that's made its way to Miami via the restaurant’s third location. We highly recommend trying both the sopa and the spot.
This small, gallery-esque museum boasts a rotating collection of nearly 3,000 pre-Hispanic era statues and art pieces. Each piece is accompanied by their iconographic and iconological descriptions. Expect to be informed and intrigued.
MÂKUA works with Indigenous communities perfectly combining ancestral artisanal techniques with contemporary jewellery design. Collaborating primarily with two Indigenous communities in Colombia — the Embera Chami and the Kuna or Guna Yala people — MÂKUA’s goal is to empower the indigenous women in the communities they work with. At the main showroom in Laureles, you’ll find both the brand’s luxury line, featuring elaborate statement pieces, and the basic line, full of more commercial designs to complement the fine pieces.
Colombia is the second biggest exporter of coffee in the world, so naturally you’re going to want to try more than one cool café. Café Cliché is a French-owned café and bistro that’s a favourite with both foreigners and locals. They come here for the delicious food, friendly service, and cosy environment.
Steakhouses are quite popular in the neighbourhood, and this spot comes out on top. When you walk into the low-key, dimly-lit space you’ll notice a no-frills vibe, as it's the 1,000-gram Tomahawk Steak that causes the hype. Understandably so. If you still have room for dessert, opt for the banana lasagna — the layers of arequipe cream and caramelised bananas will not disappoint.
Teatro de Laureles
If comedy clubs are your thing, why not try Laureles’ very own. Opening back in 2006, the 250-seat space also hosts musical guests from the region. However, if theatre is more your vibe, you should also check out Teatro Barra del Silencio, which offers a glimpse into Medellín’s dynamic theatre scene.
This dark and moody Cuban-themed salsa joint draws dancing duos of all ages and skill-sets to its jammed dance floor. And for good reason: Son Havana is famed for its undeniably talented Cuban band. It’s almost impossible not to get up and dance the night away to salsa, cumbia, and merengue.
Relatively new to Laureles’ café scene, Al Alma already has locations in Poblado and Ciudad del Río. Nestled above a restaurant, the entrance to Al Alma in Laureles is easy to miss but it's definitely worth the effort to find. Once upstairs, you’ll notice the modernist interiors, filled with lots of plants, as well as artwork dedicated to coffee. But it’s not only the coffee they come for here – in the centre stands the counter displaying fresh pastries from Tomasa Bakery (incidentally, the closest you’ll come to a European croissant in Medellín).