The first thing I noticed as I arrived at Mall Zona Dos by taxi (I never did figure out which buses run uphill in this city) was that security is tight.
I hadn’t gotten within five feet of a storefront when I was approached by a security guard who kindly explained to me that photography was forbidden unless I had explicit permission from the administration.
“For reasons of security,” he continued. After a few moments of little response other than blinking back at him while passively refusing to stow away my dSLR, he beckoned me to follow him to the administrative office.
Surely they won’t mind a little publicity, I thought.
The second thing I noticed about this shopping center in the steep hills of El Poblado is that it’s larger than it seems. When entering from Carrera 32 on the east side of the complex, only the top two levels are visible, but there are actually three more levels down below.
The elevator took us down one level where we’d find the administrative office and as soon as I explained my purpose, I was sent on my merry way with a smile and an oh-so-Colombian “Con mucho gusto.”
I had been granted permission to take photos of storefronts only; inside the stores was still off-limits, so I obliged (mostly).
Back on the main floor, I discovered many expensive boutique shops, mostly for women, selling everything from shoes, to jewelry, to clothing, to swimwear.
It was immediately obvious that this shopping center caters to Medellín’s wealthier residents. I checked a few price tags at the first store I was drawn into, a boutique called Especia, and my suspicions were confirmed. Not a single item was priced below 300,000 pesos ($150). The clothes were indeed beautiful, but a bit rich for my backpacker blood.
I ventured into a few shoe stores to find beautiful leather goods, but was again hindered by prices of 150,000 pesos ($75) and up. I was also the only customer in sight not sporting high heels.
This pattern continued in the next couple of stores along the first level. I passed through a swimwear and lingerie store, a store with men and women’s shoes and accessories, and a few more women’s fashion stores.
On the sides of this U-shaped shopping center and upstairs on level two, you’ll find plenty of food options—they run the gamut from major American fast food chains like McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King to chains like Pizzería Olivia and Il Forno, and include a handful of unique places as well.
One that particularly piqued my interest was a Peruvian-Asian fusion restaurant called Perú Wok. The combination of the two cuisines sounded fascinating, and I do love a good plate of lomo saltado.
Many of the restaurants upstairs serve wine and sangria for rather reasonable prices, which, when coupled with the nice view of the mountains to the east, wouldn’t be the worst way to spend an afternoon.
Perhaps my favorite find of the day was a store that opens to the public this coming Monday, February 9th, an organic market aptly named Happy Market. Despite not being open for business, I was welcomed in quite warmly by an employee and enthusiastically led on a mini-tour that only made me wish I could start buying up everything in the store right then.
They offer spices, nut butters (even the chance to make your own from pistachios, cashews, or almonds, among others) flours made from everything under the sun, pizza crusts also made from everything under the sun, and even arepas made from quinoa! I couldn’t wait to come back once they’d officially opened.
My very last stop of the day was again on the main floor in a sweets shop named Milonga.
I went mostly for the coffee but soon learned the meaning of the name Milonga and had to sample one.
A milonga, as it turns out, is a crunchy cookie made from almond flour that is then filled with a flavored cream. The flavors included flor de jamaica (hibiscus), maracuyá (passionfruit), chocolate brownie, and many more.
Aside from being a bit difficult and confusing to eat (did I really need a fork, spoon and knife for this operation?) it was a delicious little treat to end my exhausting day of window shopping.
Other good reasons to stop by Mall Zona Dos might be to pick up cosmetics or hair products at the massive Palacio del Peluquero, shop for home décor at A y C Cortinas, drop off your dry cleaning, have your car washed, squeeze in a workout at Be Smart Fitness Lab, or pick up some groceries at Carulla.
For the full list of businesses you can find at Mall Zona Dos be sure to visit their website; hours of operation vary by business.