Medellín is a city that’s changing. When I was born in the early 1990s, drug lord Pablo Escobar had just died, but I know how my parents lived before that. Parts of the city were off-limits — you couldn’t drive to certain places as you may be carjacked, you couldn’t go out past 6pm. People were scared and it was an incredibly hard time.
But today, Medellín is a really cool city. People of Medellín (los Medellinenses) love their city — we think it’s better than any other place we visit, every time. It’s full of entrepreneurs and people keen to run their own businesses, whether that’s restaurants, shops or design studios. As a city, we promote and buy local produce as much as we can.
I used to work in fashion, but today I teach pottery and make ceramics at my studio, in a fairly quiet neighbourhood called San Lucas, and I love it. Go to Pergamino, a brilliant coffee shop with the best almond croissants. Try guandolo, a traditional and refreshing Colombian drink made with panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) and lemon. To eat, I love Olivia. Their turkey salad is excellent and the pizza is some of the best in the city; it’s super crunchy and made with almond flour instead of wheat.
In other parts of the city, like Provenza, I’d head to El Botánico for a luxe burger, or Moshi for excellent Japanese food. Go for the temaki and a crab bowl and don’t miss the desserts — my pick is the dark chocolate popsicle.
If I’m going out drinking I love Siete Pulgadas. It’s a really small bar for music lovers where the walls are lined with vinyl and you can hear everything from rock to reggaeton. Try one of the local beers — Bipolar or Laguna. If you’re feeling hungry, grab a pizza across the road at El Zorro y La Gitana — the potato pizza is excellent.
Medellín is a fashionable city and we have a lot of designers and independent stores here. El Tesoro is a mall with lots of Colombian-owned brands. Inside, Casa Trece has everything from candles to diaries. Visit One Half for swimwear, sportswear and more. For bikinis and beachwear, I also love Maaji and Agua Bendita, where everything is handmade by Colombian artisans. If you love jewellery, don’t miss Pájarolimón — the founders are two Colombian sisters, and everything is handmade in Colombia and really great quality.
During your time in Medellín, I recommend skipping hotels and opting for a rental in Manila instead. It’s a leafy, local neighbourhood and is home to Negro, which is one of my favourite bars, and great breakfast and brunch spots like Hija Mía, where you can also get your Colombian coffee fix. If after all that eating, drinking and shopping you need to relax, try 108 Yoga, my favourite studio.
Maria José Ramírez is a designer, ceramist and founder of SERÁ CERÁ, a ceramics studio and workshop in Medellín.
How to do it
Jacada Travel offers the nine-day Colombia Art, Culture and Cuisine tour, including two nights in Medellín as well as nights in Bogotá and Cartagena, from £4,251. Includes tours, accommodation and internal flights. Excludes international flights. jacadatravel.com
Published in the November 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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