Envigado: From Pablo Escobar to Trendy Suburb

Envigado (photo: David Lee)
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)


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.”


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.


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!”


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.


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. Or go farther east to the La Cuadrita area and you’ll see at least a half dozen new projects in the works.

That means a one-bedroom apartment will range from 600,000 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.

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  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

      • It’s funny how Colombians have always wanted the so called Gringo out of Colombia and here is one inviting other Gringos to visit. And really? writing an article like “how to date a Colombian man” written by a non Colombian? What would she know because she has had Colombian dates there. That was the Colombia I was from.

  2. 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.

    • 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. 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?

      • Hey David
        Hoping on to this thread here. My boyfriend and I are considering heading down to Medellin for a month in December and just wanted to see if you knew of any real estate site to look for apartment rentals, since you mentioned last January that you knew of people working on some. Any housing tips in general would be great! Have joined the facebook groups so will look around there too !

  4. I’m an old guy ( 69) if that is old for you…don’t know how in Hell I got to be so old so fast but in reality I have few regrets… Well…turkey neck and saggy skin not too good to look at …BUT…had a lot of fun getting here. …very few regrets, partied hard on the trip… Other than the fact I’m on the down side of life,… I still want to take on new points of view and new expiences … I looked at Cuenca but not quite my cup of tea… I have a friend of a friend in Santa Marta who is just jumping to have me come down… Never thought of Medellin before as such, but the weather is better than Cuenca and it seems more alive… AND .. of course what do I know I’ve have never set foot in Medellin…

    The wife is not up to the task ( and for what it is worth she is my best friend and soul mate) she also is stage 4 cancer… So… If I am the last man standing I am looking for a new adventure…

    So REALLY what is the best part of Medellin for a guy my age, who probably won’t hit the bars and troll for the quick one nighter… Besides my Spanish sucks…and…..My time has passed….

    Not interested of vast amounts of alcohol or drugs to keep me non focused, but good relationships and a somewhat laid back style of life. is my idea of a good life.

    Not a lot of money,.. around $2,500 a month on the up side… Is that doable???? Still like International ballroom dancing, breeding ochaids, and competative shooting…And my all time good time is stepping out of a plane at 14,000 feet…

    Oh, by the way, have enjoyed your blog, has in part given me a boots on the ground look at medellin..


    ps. Will take any info you can addd…

    • Even for the younger guys, the partying lifestyle can get old if you live in Medellín more than a few months. Ok, it took me a few years, but you’ll need more than that once you have a girlfriend, or in your case, if you’re priorities are simply different.

      Medellín’s got an amazing climate, for one thing. It’s a great city for living, and simply going about your daily life. The mass transit system is the best in Colombia (if not one of the best in Latin America), and it’s cheap too. Or if you’re like me, and take taxis, those are cheap too.

      $2,500/month is doable. It all depends on the standard of living (and type of home) you’re seeking. Dancing is part of the fabric of life in Colombia.

      And the country has the world’s largest number of orchid species. On shooting, I don’t know, but there I’ve seen expats talking about organizing gun training days, so I know there’s some opportunity to do that kind of stuff if not in the city, within a short drive.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. My wife and I arrived in Medellin two weeks ago. We taken very, very short looks at Laureles and Sabaneta. We are now focusing on Envigado for a property purchase. Thanks to all for the information.

  6. I moved my Colombian gf from the very dangerous Itaqui to Envigado partly for her safety and partly so i could visit (her part of Itaqui I can not even drive through). So I got her and her daughter a 3 bedroom right by Parque de Envigado 6 months ago. She liked it at first but then gunmen robbed her of $1,000 I sent her. Then an entire casino right next to her got assaulted by gunmen. Today a bunch of gunmen assaulted a supermarket right beneath her balcony. She says that she feels much safer in Itaqui where the mob bosses have better control over the people. She says she does not feel safe in the ‘safe’ Envigado. Several Colombians told me before getting the apartment in Envigado that the Officina de Envigado does not allow ANYTHING to happen in their town. Everybody told me this is why Envigado is so safe. I don’t think the mafia has as much control as people like to think. Apparently crime is alive and well in Envigado. Still a cute authentic town but I don’t think it’s as safe as El Poblado like some like to think. At least not according to my gf who lives there.

    • I’d be careful of anyone who speaks in absolute terms. Of course there is crime in Envigado, we wouldn’t pretend otherwise. But like Medellín, it’s a big city with various neighborhoods, some surely safer than others.

      Can you be more specific about where your gf was living? What was the name of the neighborhood?

      • Parque de Envigado. That is Centro Envigado. Right in front of the little girl’s school Fernando Gonzalez is actually where the armed robbery took place. She was in the street and her little girl was on the balcony as she watched gunmen swarm around her mom. Not good. And two months before that gunmen raided the casino by her. She said in Itaqui the mob bosses do not allow these kinds of blatant robberies of casinos and markets because the stores pay the tax and are protected. I guess the mob in Envigado is not as tough as all the locals swear they are. Envigado is still my favorite neighborhood I have been in in Medellin, but it does not seem as safe as people say it is since everyone who I talked to likes to put it on par with El Poblado as far as safety goes.

    • Did you send her another $1000? If so, maybe the real thief isn’t a man and doesn’t carry a gun, and the real victim isn’t Colombian or a girl.

  7. Shane I was describing the robbery of the supermarket yesterday not when she was personally robbed a couple months ago. When she was robbed it was on the street. She was walking down the street a few blocks from the park and a motorcycle with two gunmen rode up next to her and demanded her purse. That is how a typical robbery happens down there and that one didn’t concern her as much because she has been through those before several times in Itaqui as they are just a way of life in Medellin. But what concerns her are these big assaults on casinos and markets that she said are atypical of the neighborhoods she is used to.

  8. Hello, Dave or Ryan I have read so many articles about so areas. I understand that many of the nicest(safest) In Envigado are the ones closets to Poblado. Is this correct? and what are their names?

    • Hi Gary, I don’t understand your question. Are you asking about specific neighborhoods within Envigado that are safe?

      Generally speaking, most foreigners tend to live within 5-10 blocks of Parque Envigado. Barrio La Magnolia is popular.

  9. Looking to explore the possibilities of opening an authentic Thai Restaurant and other Thai related businesses in Medellin. We are a Thai/ British Couple and currently operate a successful restaurant and tour company in Chiang Mai, Thailand. After initial research we are aware of one existing Thai Restaurant in Medellin ( Royal Thai) but would be most greatful for information regarding the opening up a well designed, traditionally decorated Thai Restaurant, with regards to the local population’s eating preferences and the number of tourists that the city attracts. If there are any alternative cities or ideas in relation to this, we would also be most appreciative of any feedback.

    Thanks guys….

    • There actually are two Thai restaurants in Medellín located close to each other in Parque Lleras: Royal Thai and Thaico. Of the two, Royal Thai has better food in my opinion but is about average to what you can find in good Thai restaurants in the U.S.

      • I’ve eaten at Thaico as far back as 2009, and I quickly gave up on it for any sense of authentic Asian food. I don’t know if they’ve made any improvements in the kitchen, but I doubt it. They skate by with very good 3-for-1 cocktail specials and their location.

        Royal Thai, while average by U.S. standards, is by far the best option I know of in Medellín.

  10. Hi. I’m looking forward to visiting medellin in the month of October 2016.I would like any information that will be helpful my first time in medellin. How’s the real estate market as far buying or renting and opening a Caribbean restaurant. I would like some information about schools for my sons Middle and High school. Thanks

    • My wife and I lived in Medellin from June 2014 until February 2015. Medellin has beautiful views, friendly people, and lovely weather most of the time. I would never live there permanently, let alone buy property there. I don’t want to list the reasons here because that will cause someone to chime in with a round of arguments involving currency exchange rates, areas of the city, etc.; arguments with which I don’t want to get into on this website. My reasons are given at expatexchange.com, the Colombia Forum, topic: Why some are coming, while others are going, posted under the user name: briloop.

  11. I just heard that the LA MAGNOLIA area of Envigado would be more to my liking because it has trees, low buildings, houses, more of a neighborhood, not all condo land. Can you distinguish it from Envigado, in general? Driving around, I also liked the eastern side of Envigado because it had fewer tall condos. To your knowledge, has it gotten safer since you wrote the article