My dad was a police officer in Colombia in the 70's & 80's. This was not the safest profession at the time. When I asked my mom about our time living in Medellin (I have no recollections - I was quite young), I can tell these were not her favorite times.
In an effort to escape the crippling cold in NYC, Antonio and I decided we'd head to the City of Eternal Spring. Yup, Medellin boasts the best possible weather in the world. I had never head of Envigado and started to do some research on r/colombia to figure out what neighborhood to stay in. It kept coming down to two: Poblado and Envigado.
Ultimately, Envigado won because I was leaving the US to get to know Colombia...not to hang out with a bunch of expats...not that I have an issue with expats, but I wanted to re-discover the country I was born in.
Is Envigado dangerous?
Hells no! I know what you're thinking...Pablo Escobar was born in Envigado (Barrio La Paz to be exact). This was the birth place of La Violencia. It must still be dangerous...you could not be more wrong. This is one of those neighborhoods where everyone knows each other and watches out after each other. Police officers are a constant presence, but not in a menacing way...they are merely there in case you need them. That being said, don't be an idiot. Use common sense as in any other city, and don't wear your expensive jewelry out. That's just silly.
What is Envigado like?
There are micro neighborhoods within Envigado. I stayed at La Magnolia which sits between Parque Envigado and La Canalisacion de Ayurá. Think residential. Families have been here for quite some time. Many of them run bodegas, hair salons, and stores out of their homes. At night you hear the sounds of Vallenato as you stare at the gorgeous lights that dot the mountains of Medellín. Envigado also tends to be incredibly loud from November 28-Jan 6. Families don't celebrate in their homes, but outside. Fireworks go off nightly...so if you decide to spend time in Envigado during the Christmas holiday, either bring ear plugs, sleeping pills, or ask your host/hotel if they have sound proof windows. I would say the noise level is my only issue with this neighborhood and the one thing that will keep me from coming back. That's right Envigado - you lost me at fireworks going off next to my head every single night in a row. I returned to Envigado in February to give it a fair try. It was quieter than December - but still not quiet. I would not recommend staying in Envigado, but I certainly recommend you explore the area.
If you head to the border that hits Medellín’s South area - around Poblado - Envigado feels posh, polished. It is hard to tell the difference between both neighborhoods. So ultimately it depends on where you stay.
History of Envigado
Like much of Colombia, Envigado was the product of the Spanish who arrived in the area around 1541. It took until 1775 for Envigado to become a city. While Medellín has absorbed many cities as it has grown, Envigado is still its own entity. It's quite large too. There are about 200k people living in Envigado, making this (IMHO) a very proper city.
Things to do in Envigado
A lovely one square block plaza. So much to do here. If you're into churches, check out Iglesia Santa Gertrudis in Envigado. You will often find locals dancing to live music...and of course, there's food and drink. If you're lucky enough to be in the city for the Christmas holiday, the park will be decked in lights.
Paisas are fit. The men, the women...they've got buns of steel. This is due in part to the insanely steep hills on which they hike and bike. If you too want buns of steel, go for a hike at La Romera, or Parque Salado.
As I mentioned, Paisas are fit. The nice thing is you can get fit too. We joined Dinamo Fitness, a gym in Envigado. Antonio and I got the family plan which cost $27 USD for the both of us. Best of all, we got a physical assessment AND a physical trainer to work out with us daily...I'll be looking good in a few months.
Otraparte is for those with a poetic heart. It was the home of Fernando González, a philosopher and is now a museum to honor his memory. Besides, they have a super cute outdoor cafe where you can sit, read a book, and have a few snacks. On Saturday nights, this place is poppin', so get here early.
Parque Recreativo is a great spot if you have little ones.
See the Christmas Lights. If you are lucky enough to come to Medellin for Christmas...you will be privy to some of the most beautiful light displays in the city. Beware...on November 31st when the celebration officially begins, there are fireworks...this means fireworks throughout the city for hours. So make sure to get nice and tired because they go on all night...and continue to the morning. This is true throughout the month of December...and gets worse when there are futbol finals...but I digress...back to Christmas. A special day in Envigado is the "Dia de las Velitas" or the "Alumbrado". It is celebrated on December 7, and celebrates the immaculate conception of Mary. It's quite a spectacular show as every household puts out lights in celebration. The city is also dressed up in lights. Check out Parque Envigado and the main streets in town.
Where to Eat in Envigado
Devoción: Great place for a cheat meal. This restaurant has a small menu inspired by street & bar food of the world. Loved their burger, it comes on Arabic bread and with green tomatoes. Their "poutine" was ridiculously delicious too. A meal for two with two beers came to about $15USD.
Lemoncillo: Fantastic Vietnamese restaurant. We weren't expecting anything good, but the food was incredibly fresh, the flavors were right, and so was the price. The chef was incredibly friendly as was the staff. We're heading back next week for more.
Kokoriko: I've been a fan since I was a little girl. This is a chain restaurant (yes...you heard me right) and they can be found throughout the country. I dream of the day this chain is all over the world. Awesome roasted chicken, great soups...and they give you plastic gloves so you don't dirty your fingers....yummy!
Zacatecas: Great Mexican restaurant. Make sure you get the "Mango Biche" margaritas. The tacos were HUGE, but also tasty and the hot sauce was actually hot...not something you normally find in Colombia. Go. Get the Chicken Taco, it comes with bacon and it is my favorite there. You'll love it. There are other fancier Mexican places in Envigado, but this is where you want to go, trust me.
El Pipelon: Lunch for two cost about $5 and was ridiculously delicious. I got mondongo (tripe soup). It came with rice, an egg, banana, arepa, and juice. Antonio had a soup and pork in onion sauce - also came with rice, an egg, and pickled vegetables...oh...and a beer...so if you're on a budget, this is great spot. Cra. 43 #32CS-02
Contenedores Food Place: This is a container park turned food hall. We ate at La Recoleta and loved our food. More "expensive" than the rest of Envigado - Maybe $30 USD for an appetizer, two sandwiches, and two drinks...but so worth it. Restaurants include:
La Recoleta - Argentinean touches, sandwiches, cocktails.
Romeo Y Paleta - Ice cream pops - try the arequipe & cheesecake flavors.
Milagros - Mexican food (fine, but I prefer Zacateca)
Mezzaluna - Salads, you'll want one after you step on the scale after eating in Envigado.
Chef Burger - ...burgers...they're good...bread is not quite right, but the meat is lovely.
Villero parilla - Steaks
Tano Argento - Argentinean-Italian. Surprisingly good (much of the "Italian" food you get in Envigado and Medellin is not right - this was the closest we found to actual Italian flavors).
La Sazon de Martica: Unfortunately, this place has no address, but it is located on Diagonal 32 & Transversal 32A Sur. Look for the "garage" with about 6 tables inside. It is usually packed by noon, so get there at 11. This way you can get a table and make sure they don't run out of all their delicious food. Lunch for two will cost you 20.000 COP (less than 10 bucks). A typical lunch there will involve a soup, seco (rice + protein + plantain + egg + avocado), and juice.
El Nuevo Campin: Another ridiculously cheap, ridiculously delicious restaurant. Less than $10USD got us a soup, seco, and a drink and amazing service. Trasnversal 32 Sur C & Diagonal 32D.
Zona Gastronomica: This is an area in Envigado, about 2 blocks square (maybe 4 if I want to be truly fair) where it seems every other house is a restaurant. Had some good meals, some mediocre ones, but if you're looking for many choices, this is where you need to go. Below is a list of the restaurants we liked in Zona Gastronomica in Envigado. This area is located in the Jardines neighborhood.
Barbacoa Burgers and Beer: Really tasty burger. Only issue was the bun, if they just toasted the bun, the burger would have hit a home run. There are a lot of good burgers in Envigado, this was one of them. Really, really great beer list!
El Barral Spanish Restaurant: Lovely Spanish spot. Great tapas and fantastic service. They have a tiny outdoor area up front where you can sit and people watch. Highly recommended. Calle 30 Sur No. 43A - 38
Pizzeria Olivia: Not NYC pizza, but some of the best we had in town. Service was spotty, but if you're craving a pie. This is probably the best place to go. Cll 30 Sur No. 44a - 08
Chiclayo Cocina Peruana: Super yummy Peruvian food and much cheaper than Cuzco (located near El Tesoro Mall). Killer Ceviches...stay away from the Pisco Sours...the hangover is a killer.
Rota Bar: Small bites, beer & wine. Chill spot for a quick bite with friends.
Antonio's Gelato: Awesome homemade ice cream, lady clerk with serious bitchy resting face. Ice cream is totally worth it though.
Carbone & Pasta: Horrible (and I mean horrible pasta - think ketchup on fettuccine) delicious steaks.
Black Pepper Steak House: Didn't have a steak. I had the insane seafood platter which came with tuna and salmon skewers, shrimp, and tons other goodies all perfectly cooked. Totally worth it. Cra 44A N 30 Sur - 7
Where to Shop in Envigado
City Plaza in Envigado is the "major" shopping center in the area. You can find pretty much anything you need here.
X2Underwear: What a fantastic store. They have the most beautiful men's underwear and the people that work there are lovely. The most pleasant shopping experience. Too bad it's only for the guys.
Other than that, just walk around Parque Envigado. There are plenty of shops to fill all of your needs.
Worth Traveling To
Lucia at the Charlee Hotel: Located in Poblado, this is a gorgeous restaurant. Really great design and delicious appetizers (the main courses we didn't like as much). What you'll love about this place is that you can sit and watch the crowds of people at Parque Lleras, enjoy some decent wine, and nice food. If you so choose, you can head for a drink at the roof bar afterwards. Felt a little pretentious to me, but still has a great view. Cl. 9a #37-16, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Colombia Pro Tip
In Colombia, cell phones can only call cell phones and land lines can only call land lines. Don't ask me why - just be aware of this when you visit.
Map of Envigado