Never did I think I would spend much time in Bello. I guess that’s why my good friend Paul Pass used to say, “Never is a long time man.”
It took me more than two years of living in Medellín before I made it to its northern neighbor, a suburb of just over a half million people, but I finally did.
My friend Chris convinced me.
Originally from New Zealand, he now lives there with his girlfriend and if the opportunity to hang out with him arises, I always try to be there.
The guy is hilarious. We end up making jokes about things so random, and laugh so hard, people look at us like we’re auditioning for the Dumb & Dumber sequel.
So when he said, “I’m bored here in Laureles, let’s go to Bello,” I said, “Let’s do it.”
He lives near one of the city’s best nightlife areas, something I’ll tell you more about later, and it’s also a developing area. High-rise apartments are under construction in every direction.
Like Medellín, Bello is on the road to reputation recovery.
The city just celebrated its centennial a year ago, a century of change that continues today.
The first settlers actually got to the area in the early 1500s, farmers looking for a place to live off the land.
Once called Hato Viejo, or old herd, to distinguish it from the livestock of other settlers, Bello grew along with the rest of the valley as more people moved here.
Today the city is trying to shed a reputation of bloodshed, like Medellín to the south, and plans are in place and underway to make this happen.
It’s evident in the new apartment buildings sprouting throughout the city, and with a new mall and public transportation in place, we can expect more positive changes.
Points of Interest
As funny as it sounds to say, there is a downtown in Bello, and like most downtowns, there is a park or plaza, in this case Parque de Bello.
There are trees everywhere so you have lots of shade to relax, and the big church at the north end of the park is really pretty, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.
I’d just refrain from the park at night. Drug deals gone bad have led to shootings and you don’t want to be around for that.
It’s actually better to be in Bello during the day, in general, because there are some lonely areas that come to life when the sun is out.
Just south of Estación Niquía is Estadio Tulio Ospina, where I’ve watched a football game before. And I’m talking about football, not fútbol.
But if you’re a night owl, don’t worry. I have some suggestions for you later in the post.
Don’t come to Bello for the food, unless you’re fine with fast food or Colombian food, or some things they fail try to pass as Chinese.
Eat first/later in Laureles or Poblado if you want something fancy.
The neighborhood where Chris lives is called Barrio Obrero, and just down the hill from his apartment, there are several blocks with clusters of bars and clubs that should suffice for a fun night.
I went recently with Chris and his girlfriend, and we met up with her friends at a place called Caña Dulce. The music was so loud, I couldn’t hear a damn thing and it was hard to hear after leaving.
Yep, I’m getting old.
I liked my first stop a lot more.
My friend Steven is the guitarist and lead singer in a local band called Trecipicio, and they played that night at San Petersburgo, a bar in downtown Bello, a couple of blocks west of Parque de Bello.
I would have liked the bar better if the waitress bothered to ask me if I wanted anything instead of walking by without saying a word, but such is Colombian service sometimes. At least seeing the band made it worth it.
They’re entertaining. They cover a lot of popular rock music, everything from The Beatles to the Foo Fighters, and they mix in a little of their own music.
Near that bar are other locales that offer music from crossover to vallenato, and there are a handful of casinos near each other too.
Just make sure you stay near places that are open with people inside and outside. Keeps things safer.
The Puerta del Norte is the city’s best shopping mall, by far.
It’s new, opened in 2012 in Barrio Niquía, and features an Exito supermarket as well as popular stores such as Payless and Movistar.
There’s a food court, of course, and for entertainment they have a big movie theater, as most malls do.
You won’t find anything else like it in Bello.
The rest of the shopping is left to small businesses, which I actually prefer. Malls are not my thing, even though Colombians seem to love them.
Bello has a bad reputation but it’s not nearly as bad as a lot of people think.
You’ve already read about its best areas and they are worth seeing.
That said, you should not walk around at night by yourself. The area still has its problems.
Just use common sense and you’ll enjoy it like my friend Chris does.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is the biggest perk of Bello.
Chris lives in a two-bedroom place in a good neighborhood and pays only 400,000 pesos a month (about $210).
It’s about a 10-minute walk to Estación Madera, one of three metro stations in the city, along with Bello and Niquía.
Once you get to the metro, though, you’re still quite far from the most popular areas in the valley. You’re six stops from downtown, and that’s just the northern edge of it; you’re 11 stops from Laureles; and you’re 12 stops from Poblado.
Not that that’s a bad thing. A lot of people want to stay farther away from the trendy places.
Bello even looks like it’s on the way to becoming one itself.