Envigado: From Pablo Escobar to Trendy Suburb

Envigado

View from Dave’s first apartment in Envigado (2009)

My brother came to Colombia a long time ago, around 1997, a time when the country was still a bit dangerous, and now he lives in a West Palm Beach suburb that only could be more monotonous if it were in Orange County, Calif.

I’m pretty sure I’ve made some jokes. I have to. He’s my brother.

This year I was on the receiving end of such jokes, because I moved to the Medellín suburb of Envigado.

“You’re living in the ‘burbs? You’re getting old man!”

I have since returned to “the city” but I had a great time living in Envigado, mainly because it is nothing like a lot of these new Florida suburbs.

While infamously known as Pablo Escobar’s birthplace and the violence he brought to the region, it’s actually a pretty trendy place to live now.

Some parts, mainly the area near the frontera with Medellín’s chic southern area, are hard to distinguish from the posh Poblado comuna where most foreigners live.

Envigado’s got great nightlife and restaurants, beautiful parks, charming people and neighborhoods, and, according to Dave, the best Christmas lights in the valley. I enjoyed my six months living there.

I’m back in the more centrally located Laureles/Estadio comuna, but I do miss Envigado sometimes. I was there recently, for El Dia del Amor y Amistad, Colombia’s Valentine’s Day, and we had a great night of dancing and dining.

The Envigado Church decorated for Christmas (photo: David Lee)

The Envigado Church decorated for Christmas (2010)

History

The Spanish arrived in the area now known as Envigado in 1541, although it wasn’t until 1775 that it became a city, according to the local government website.

Envigado is, in a way, like a Medellín comuna when you factor in size and population: 7,878 square kilometers and just under 200,000 people, about the same size as Comuna Belén.

Otraparte museum (photo: David Lee)

Otraparte museum (photo: David Lee)

Points of Interest

There is no shortage of things to do in Envigado.

Most visitors’ first stop is Parque Envigado, a one square block plaza featuring the Envigado Church on one side, and bars and restaurants around all the rest.

Parque Envigado is a convenient place to meet up with friends, and is also the epicenter of public events in the city, including outdoor concerts and the Christmas light display.

You could go hiking in the southeast region of the city, at La Romera and Parque El Salado. You can take the kids to Parque Recreativo, or you can sit and relax in Parque Envigado.

If you want some culture, go to Otraparte, the former home of philosopher Fernando González, which today is a museum dedicated to his memory.

Customer at La Gloria de Gloria: "Yeah, I'll have today's special. Wait, let me call two friends to help me finish all this food."

Customer at La Gloria de Gloria: “Yeah, I’ll have today’s special. Wait, let me call two friends to help me finish all this food.”

Food

After a day of sightseeing, you might be hungry and you have a lot of restaurants to enjoy.

My favorite is Stella, over in the Zona Gastronómica, the place I went for my birthday dinner this year.

But the area has other great places too: Barbacoa Burgers and Beer, if you feel like a gourmet hamburguesa; El Barral, if you’re in the mood for some delicious Spanish tapas; El Trifásico, for all the meat lovers; Tepito, for some good tacos.

Outside this dining oasis, you can find more tacos and good Mexican food at Rincón Mexicano, or great comida típica at La Gloria de Gloria, where one plate is enough for three people.

Quinn getting crazy musical at La Tienda.

Quinn getting crazy musical at La Tienda.

Nightlife

So you’re still down here, and now you want to party?

There are more than enough places for that.

For the laid-back bar atmosphere, where you would have few and maybe watch a fútbol game with your friends, go to Lady Blue over on Guanteros.

Windsor Pub, just south of Parque Envigado, is great for live music.

And La Tienda, a fonda, or a paisa restaurant that becomes a disco where people dance next to their tables, is great for salsa and merengue.

A new place that intrigues me? Hágale Pues, a fonda in La Bota del Dia, an area near Parque Envigado with a cluster of bars, clubs and fast food stops.

“Hágale pues” is probably my favorite paisa phrase, something friends often say to each other right before doing something fun. It means, “Hurry up and do it!”

Shopping

The only major centro comercial in Envigado is City Plaza, which has a variety of businesses, from food and fashion to travel agencies and entertainment.

But don’t dismiss the little shops near Parque Envigado. You can often find nice clothes or trinkets there for great prices.

Safety

Western Envigado is much safer than the city’s eastern regions during the nighttime hours, but during the day you can go almost anywhere.

Common sense = caution, and with that you should be fine.

Dave's first apartment in Envigado

Dave’s first apartment in Envigado

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Envigado is starting to change, because fancy new apartments are under construction in many neighborhoods, not just the area near the Medellín border, where a line of the Metroplus, a rapid transit bus line, is being built as well.

You can go as far south as Barrio La Paz, Escobar’s old neighborhood, and see new buildings underway.

That means a one-bedroom apartment will range from 500,000 pesos to 1.2 million pesos a month ($275 to $660), with the higher end being furnished places with services included.

I think it’s easy to see why, with all the amenities in the area, costs are rising. And why it’s not a typical suburb. And why I miss it so.

Details

Place: Envigado

Address: Envigado, Antioquia

Telephone:

Website: http://envigado.gov.co

Email:

Hours:

About Ryan

Ryan loves writing about Colombia and the country's great qualities. His hope is that his blog posts will encourage you to make Colombia one of your travel destinations. You can find him on Google+.

Comments

  1. Nice expose of Envigado, I believe once voted best run city. I am thinking of finding an apartment there for a few months in 2014. It seems to have a slightly more laid back and mixed social group feel, a bit like Belen but closer to the hills and better public space

  2. Dale Lance says:

    Reading your blog about the different areas of Medellin I did not find info about things like mass transit, grocery stores and other factors that would impact a resident without a personal vehicle. Would you please give me some info about this aspect of Medellin living.
    Thanks
    Dale

    • Good point about the grocery stores and mass transit. I’ll go back and revise my neighborhood posts with that info. But to keep you from waiting to find out those things about Envigado, I’ll tell you there are two metro stops (Ayurá and Envigado), and there are buses that pass so many different parts of the city I can’t name them all. And there are at least 5 grocery stores (a Consumo, an Euro, a Jumbo and 2 Exitos), with a Carulla just over the border in Medellín

    • Most foreigners I’ve known to live in Envigado do so in La Magnolia neighborhood, a 5 or 10 minute walk from the main park, Parque Envigado. There are plenty of small shops and grocery stores within walking distance. This is where I lived for 5 months back in 2009. I used the Ayura metro station, as it was closer to my apartment. It was about a 10 minute walk.

  3. Great article Ryan! Makes me miss Envigado already and I’ve only been gone for less than a week.

  4. Carrol Pierce says:

    All the information in your blog is very helpful. I am planning on coming down in March do you have any recommendations for finding a short term rental in Envigado?

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