If you speak to local paisas about sweets, desserts, chocolates and other postres in Medellín, there is one name synonymous with these delicious treats, and that is Astor Repostería.
Astor has been serving the paisas, their parents and their grandparents since the 1930s when they first opened in El Centro.
Astor serves every variety of confectionery treats that you could imagine, from cookies, cakes, chocolates and other pastries to ice cream, sandwiches and coffees.
Stepping into the original location on Junnin Street in El Centro, beneath the shadow of Coltejer Tower, one feels as if they are stepping back in time.
For many decades, no visit to Junnin Street–a pedestrian only shopping area that is so central to Medellín that it even gave birth to the local verb junniniar (to window shop)–was complete without a visit to Astor Repostería.
Astor Repostería was the creation of Enrique Baer and his wife Anny, a Swiss couple that wanted to recreate the sweets and flavors of their home country.
By the 1950s, Astor had solidified its place as one of the most elegant locales in the city.
It was also around this time that the original Swiss proprietors decided to return to Switzerland to spend their golden years and new ownership took over.
With the new owners came new changes. The original logo of a bear and honeycomb was replaced with the logo that remains to this day: the word Astor in an elegant gold font across a red backdrop.
The primary factory where products were made was also moved to Avenida Poblado, where it remains to this day.
There are other Astor locations throughout the city, and while the quality of the products is the same, none can match the feel and ambiance of the original on Junnin Street.
Stepping into the store front you are greeted with a long glass display case showcasing all the delectable treats available.
You can, of course, purchase prepackaged products, ready to go, but it is much more fun to grab a table, perhaps grab a bite to eat, but most importantly, to try one of their amazing desserts.
The waitresses will even roll over a little cart right to your table with a selection of the day’s desserts, making it even harder to resist their pull.
Astor is especially famous for their torta de chocolate (chocolate cake) which I have enjoyed more than once along with a nice tinto coffee, as well as their renowned mandarin juice which is still made by hand.
There have been some numerous redecorations made in recent years to brighten the place up and maintain a modern feel.
But changes are done subtly and with caution so as not to scare off those attached to the nostalgia of a place that many have been visiting since their childhood.
The history, the ambiance and the atmosphere, to me, evokes the feel of stepping into one of the classic, famous dining locales of New York City, like Katz’s Delicatessen or the Carnegie Deli–but full of chocolates and cakes.
The boxes of chocolates and other sweets also make excellent gifts that are authentic to the city and from a bona fide local institution, which your friends and family back home will savor.
There are a total of six Astor storefronts throughout the city today, including locations in Laureles and Poblado.
No visit to Medellín is complete without venturing to El Centro, and as generations of paisas can vouch: no visit to El Centro would be complete with a stop at Astor.