Laureles: Medellín's under-the-radar culture hub
Medellín breaks every stereotype imaginable and carries a comeback story that few cities have. As more folks venture to the City of the Eternal Spring, the Laureles-Estadio neighborhood has cemented itself among the best places to experience all that Medellín has to offer.
Spanning the bustling stadium home for the country’s most popular soccer team, one of the city’s most colorful streets to crack open a bottle of aguardiente and unwind, and avenues blossoming with lush fauna and towering brick buildings, there has never been a better time to be in Laureles.
Founded as a working-class neighborhood in the 1940s, the Laureles of today is a haven for middle to upper-class living. The barrio generally encompasses the urban mass south of Avenida Colombia, west of Autopista Sur, north of Avenida 33 and east of Avenida 80.
Estadio and La 70: goals and good times
The Estadio Atanasio Girardot complex is home to Medellín’s two soccer teams that compete on a national and, occasionally, international level. On one end, Atlético Nacional is easily the most popular soccer club in all of Colombia. Its bitter intercity rival, Deportivo Independiente Medellín (DIM), also calls the orange- and yellow-seated stadium home. On game days, the venue is drenched in either green (for Nacional fans) or red (for DIM fans). When the teams play each other, it can make for an even rowdier scene.
On game days, La Setenta (Carrera 70 or “La 70”) is the place to be. Fans, proudly donning flags and tattoos of their team’s logos show up hours before the showdowns and spill out of La 70’s seemingly endless stretch of tiny bars, open-air clubs, Mom-and-Pop eateries and street food stands.
When there isn’t a game to be glued to, La 70 is still where folks from across the valley flock to party. You can take your pick of the hopping joints, but it’s hard to go wrong with buying a bottle of Aguardiente Antioqueño at a liquor shop, cozying up with amigos at a roadside table and watching the madness swirl by. For that experience, one of several Lico Expressestablishments along La 70 is your best bet.
The neighborhood's artistic side
There’s more to Laureles than the hustle and bustle. In fact, the neighborhood is home to a handful of the city’s best-kept cultural secrets. Nestled in a white building one block north of the generally-hectic Avenida San Juan is the Fundación Aburrá. The small, gallery-esque museum with four principal rooms boasts a rotating collection of nearly 3,000 pre-Hispanic era statues and art pieces.
For a splash of modern art, an open-air, graffiti and mural gallery owns the walls of the aquatic complex near Estadio Atanasio Girardot. In total, there are 13 colorful, Instagram-worthy pieces displayed, all inspired by the people and activities that frequent the arenas, courts and areas that make up the complex.
Live performances in Laureles
Theater and comedy
On the theater front, Teatro Barra del Silencio is a glimpse into Medellin’s dynamic theatre scene. The group was established in 1982 by a handful of mime-enthusiasts at UPB. Today, it has its own 50-seat, black box theater and attracts talent from across the valley for weekly performances on Fridays and Saturdays. While its shows are in Spanish, their work visibly transcends languages. For comedy, the Teatro de Laureles on Avenida Nutibara is stellar. The spot landed in the neighborhood in 2006 and has 250 seats.
A musical evening in Medellín
For tunes, Naturalia Café will be music to your ears. Tucked off La 70, the expansive, naturally-lit spot is a haven for remote-working warriors by day. On Friday and Saturday evenings, you can catch intimate sets from some of Medellín’s best musicians, spanning Colombian rock and international genres.
Where to find the best eats
Taste Colombia's favorites
Laureles is loaded with family-owned restaurants and some of Colombia’s favorite chains including Crepes y Waffles (anything imaginable stuffed in a crepe), El Corral (massive burgers) and Bogotá Beer Company (craft beer delights).
Steakhouses are quite popular in the neighborhood. Barbara Cocina Primitiva leads the charge in this category, with a dimly-lit, no-frills ambiance and a buzzworthy 1,000-gram Tomahawk Steak that lives up to its hype. If you somehow have room for dessert, its banana lasagna (with layers of arequipe cream and caramelized bananas) will not disappoint.
For authentic Colombian fare and the best bandeja paisa (or slight variations) in all of Medellín, head to Restaurante Las Delicias de La Nena (Carrera 70, Circular 3). Its bandejas include massive pinto beans, a giant chunk of avocado and perfectly grilled chicken (among other meat selections). You’ll want to douse everything in its homemade ají, which is placed on every table and has a truly fiery yet infectious kick. The spot is located across the street from another Laureles-bred favorite, Mondongo’s.
When you tire yourself of endless empanadas and arepas, Laureles has a number of international dining offerings, too. The Mercado del Parque gastronomic market opened in 2018 and is located just off the Primer Parque de Laureles. It has 14 fast-casual options under one roof, spanning Arabic, sushi, Mexican, pizza, Peruvian and more.
And, of course, no day in Colombia is complete without coffee. Tucked off Avenida Nutibara, Rituales Compañía de Café has the specialty coffee vibe down pat, with a pour-over bar (Kalita Wave and V60 devices, among others) and photos of the farmers they source beans from displayed throughout.
Where to stay
Inntu Hotel overlooks the Segundo Parque de Laureles, which hosts a lively local market on Saturday mornings. Its 18th-floor rooftop has panoramic views of the city as well as a Turkish steam room and jacuzzi. TRYP Medellín is on the northern edge of the stadium complex and is a short walk to the Estadio metro station.
Whereas in some parts of Medellín (and Colombia in general) there is a somewhat logical street grid, the geography of Laureles can be tricky throughout, with periodic roundabouts and the circular streets just north of the Universidad Pontifica Boliviarana (UPB) area.
Within Medellín, Laureles is approximately eight kilometers northwest of El Poblado and less than five kilometers west of El Centro. You can easily access the neighborhood by taxi, or Medellín’s modern and extensive metro system has an Estadio station, which is also a nice, central spot to start your Laureles adventure.