One of the biggest difficulties living in another country can be getting to grips with where to shop for what, as well as trying to keep to a budget (normally while mentally converting everything into your home currency). From everyday things like groceries and clothes to one-off expenses like furniture and electronics, not knowing which stores or malls are best can result in spending more money than necessary or buying low-quality goods. Luckily, Paisas love to shop and there’s no shortage of commercial centers, boutique stores and markets across Medellín. Here’s where to go shopping in Medellín for every budget and every item.
Higher end budget
Clothes & shoes
Located in El Poblado, this mall sits up in the hills and is not only fantastic for brands but also for the stunning views across the city. Home to over 300 stores ranging from Calvin Klein, Adidas, Mango and Zara, plus a selection of restaurants, a cinema complex, and fairground rides, it’s easy to spend a whole day at El Tesoro. Prices are definitely higher here than other malls in Medellín, but if you’re looking for recognizable brands and high quality, it’s a safe bet for shopping.
One of the largest malls in Medellín, Santafé is known for its retractable roof which opens on sunny days. Boasting over 400 shops in the mall, including Falabella (South America’s biggest department store), Levi’s, Converse and Victoria’s Secret to name a few, Santafé is popular with locals and expats alike, and you’re likely to see well-dressed Colombians and dogs pottering around here.
Across the street from Santafé on the famous ‘Milla de Oro’ (the ‘Gold Mile’, named so because of the upscale shops and hotels lining the street), Oviedo is smaller than the two previously-mentioned malls but is still as swanky. Brands like Diesel, Esprit, MAC cosmetics, Lacoste, and Superdry all have stores here, plus the mall even sometimes has yoga classes taking place on the fourth floor.
There are a couple of Tugó stores dotted around Medellín, offering chic and modern items of furniture for people who prefer minimalism and solid colors. The stores are often very stylish and have display rooms that could easily be featured in a Danish Hygge guide, but it comes at a cost. While there are undoubtedly more expensive couture homeware shops, Tugó certainly has high price compared to other chain stores in Colombia.
Comparable to Whole Foods in the U.S or Waitrose in the U.K, Carulla is the pricier supermarket in Medellín. That said, ex-pats tend to prefer Carulla as it has a wide range of international foods, along with a deli section with different cheeses and a bakery making fresh bread daily – both products which can be difficult to find quality versions of in Colombia. A weekly shop here may cost up to a third more than at other supermarkets, however, the fresh produce generally lasts longer and there are more options for people with dietary requirements.
Clothes & shoes
Centro Comercial Unicentro
Over in Laureles, Unicentro mall has around 270 stores, including Arturo Calle (for men’s clothing and suits), Hush Puppies, Maybelline, Tennis, Totto, and more. Unicentro is a good option if you want to shop without the overwhelming crowds that can dominate at the malls in Poblado. This mall is also ideal for people with young children, who can enjoy Happy Land Park on the second floor, which is packed with games and amusements.
Supposedly the biggest mall in all of South America, Viva Envigado spans across four floors and has the capacity for over 400 stores. Having only opened its door in 2018, the mall is extremely popular and weekends get especially hectic. Shops range from American Eagle, Decathalon, Gef, and Nike, as well as smaller, independent brands. There’s an overwhelming number of restaurants for when you work up an appetite; oh, and a Ferris wheel and football pitches on the roof.
The closest thing to Ikea in Colombia, Homecenter is a huge furniture and homeware store, normally the go-to spot for people who have just moved to Medellín. Selling everything from mattresses to electronics to decorations, Homecenter is practical to find most bits in one place and they also offer online shopping. Prices here are reasonable but not cheap and most of the products won’t last a lifetime (although they do have a very relaxed pet policy that might make up for it).
Arguably the supermarket of Colombia, Éxito is the equivalent to Walmart in the states – huge and cheap. There are over 20 Exíto stores in Medellín, and some of the bigger ones sell clothes and appliances as well as food, while there are express stores for quick neighborhood purchases (although these have higher prices). For regular shoppers at Éxito, it’s worthwhile investing in Colombia Puntos (points): a loyalty program that gives customers cashback on their shopping. Carulla is owned by Exíto so the rewards system works there too.
Similar to Exíto, Jumbo has a line of supermarkets across Medellín, and the largest stores have a bakery, delicatessen for meat and fish, clothing line, and electronics. Jumbo’s prices average the same as Exíto although there are a few odd things that can be cheaper or more expensive. The best thing about Jumbo is that it regularly has sales, so if you time your visit right, you can enjoy significant discounts.
Lower end budget
Clothes & shoes
El Centro (Palacio Nacional)
The place for anything and everything, El Centro is a mecca for cheap markets, street stalls, impressive replicas, and bartering. While there are tons of bargain shops throughout the center, Palacio Nacional is quite possibly the best shoe shopping in the city. The beautiful grand building may seem a little out of place from the outside, but inside, it overflows with fake brand sneakers, caps, and clothes (all with a genuine likeness to the original), and is not only cheap but very fun too.
Akin to Lidl or Aldi in Europe, D1 is basic grocery shopping with a small price tag. While you won’t be able to find everything on your shopping list here, there are some surprising luxuries like pesto, prosecco, almonds, and wine available. There’s additionally a cheap selection of toiletries at most stores, and people have even claimed to save up to 40% on their groceries at D1 compared to Exíto and Jumbo!
Centro Comercial Monterrey
Back in Poblado, Centro Comercial Monterrey is a mall specializing in all things tech. The huge space has nearly 200 stores that offer electronic repairs, as well as sell phones, computers, printers and game consoles. It’s a useful place for people who own Apple products, as the company only has a handful of licensed shops in Colombia, often charging the same prices as in the U.S. While it’s important to note that you’ll lose any Apple guarantee with your device if you bring it to Monterrey, it’ll cost you a fraction of the price and is normally returned on the same day.