Comuna 1: Popular
Nestled in the northeastern part of Medellín, Colombia, is a district characterized by its vibrant community and significant challenges. As of the last census in 2018, Popular had a population of 135,625, with a demographic spread that includes a substantial number of young people, reflecting the area’s dynamic yet challenging social fabric.
Despite facing issues related to poverty and violence, Popular has been a focal point for Medellín’s efforts to transform and uplift its most vulnerable areas. The introduction of the Metrocable in 2004 marked a significant investment in improving the commune’s connectivity with the rest of the city, reducing commute times and fostering economic opportunities for its residents. This initiative, part of a broader city redevelopment plan, aims to elevate education levels and socioeconomic conditions in areas that have historically been underprivileged.
The geography of Popular, with its mountainous terrain and closely packed houses, contributes to its unique character but also presents challenges, especially in terms of susceptibility to floods during the rainy season. The area encompasses several neighborhoods and is bisected by streams, adding to the complexity of urban planning and development efforts here.
While the challenges in Popular are real and ongoing, the community’s spirit and resilience shine through. Projects like the España Park Library and the Granizal Sport Center highlight the city’s commitment to providing cultural and recreational spaces that serve as foundations for community building and social development. Moreover, the use of the Metrocable not only as a transport solution but also as a tourist attraction underscores the innovative approaches being taken to integrate Popular more fully into the fabric of Medellín.
For those interested in experiencing the true paisa culture and witnessing the transformative efforts underway, Popular offers a unique perspective on Medellín’s broader social and urban development narrative. It serves as a testament to the city’s commitment to inclusivity and improvement of quality of life for all its residents.
Comuna 2: Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is located in the northeastern part of Medellín and is known for its dense population and residential character. As of the 2018 census, Santa Cruz had a population of 108,190, showcasing a vibrant community structure divided across various age groups, with a nearly equal distribution between males and females.
This comuna is bordered by the municipality of Bello to the north, Comuna 1 Popular to the east, the Medellín River and Comuna 5 Castilla to the west, and Comuna 4 Aranjuez to the south. It consists of many small barrios, with the majority of its population falling within socioeconomic strata 2, indicating it is among the less affluent areas of the city. Despite this, Santa Cruz boasts a rich community life with numerous houses, schools, sports courts, and churches. Small shops and bars line the main streets, though it lacks significant attractions for foreigners or outsiders.
Geographically, Santa Cruz spans 21.952 square kilometers, making it the most densely populated area in Medellín, with 502 individuals per hectare. The comuna is divided into 11 neighborhoods, which are further grouped into three sectors based on their geographical location. These neighborhoods range from Playón de los Comuneros in the first sector to La Rosa in the third, reflecting the diverse urban landscape of Santa Cruz.
The area’s connectivity is enhanced by the presence of the Metrocable, which extends from Acevedo station, bridging the river and connecting to various parts of Santa Cruz. This not only facilitates easy commute within the comuna but also links it to the broader Medellín area. Despite its urban challenges, such as steep streets and limited flat areas for pedestrian walkways, Santa Cruz remains a testament to the resilience and community spirit of its residents.
Comuna 3: Manrique
Situated in the northeastern part of Medellín, Colombia, is a borough known for its rich history and demographic diversity. As of the 2018 census, Manrique had a population of 164,555, making it a significant part of Medellín’s urban fabric. The comuna is characterized by its mix of gender and age groups, with a fairly balanced distribution between males and females, and a substantial portion of its population falling within the 15-64 age bracket, indicating a young and potentially active workforce.
Manrique’s urban landscape is divided into 23 sectors, including 15 neighborhoods officially recognized by the municipal planning department, reflecting its complex social fabric. These areas are grouped into three geographical bands based on their topography, infrastructure, population, and urbanization levels. This division ranges from lower areas with more accessible infrastructure to higher, more densely populated regions that face significant challenges due to their geographical location.
Despite past reputations of danger, Manrique is undergoing gradual progress and redevelopment. The comuna offers attractions like the Museo Casa Gardeliana, dedicated to Carlos Gardel and the history of tango in Medellín, showcasing the area’s cultural significance. Efforts are being made to improve education levels and economic conditions, with a significant portion of the population historically not having studied beyond high school. These efforts are part of a broader government master plan aimed at revitalizing Manrique and other parts of Medellín.
Comuna 4: Aranjuez
According to the 2018 census, Aranjuez has a population of 139,047, making it a significant part of the city in terms of inhabitants. The commune is characterized by a diverse age distribution, with a large proportion of its population in the 15-64 age group, indicative of a vibrant, working-age community.
The initial development of Aranjuez dates back to the mid-1940s, beginning with informal urbanization processes that led to spontaneous settlements. Despite these humble beginnings, Aranjuez holds great significance in Medellín’s urban consolidation process. The area is home to key urban and cultural landmarks, including the San Pedro Cemetery, the University of Antioquia, Clínica León XIII, the Pedro Nel Gómez Museum, Parque Norte, and Parque de los Deseos. Today, the commune covers an area of 486.5 hectares and is composed of 17 neighborhoods, three of which are of institutional type (Jardín Botánico, Parque Norte, and Universidad de Antioquia), with the rest being primarily residential. This shift towards institutional and collective service uses is becoming increasingly significant, with ongoing urban interventions that reinforce Aranjuez’s cultural and recreational importance.
Aranjuez has also been recognized for its improvement over the years, particularly in terms of safety, with a drastic reduction in the murder rate. This transformation has made the area an emerging must-see sector in the city, attracting visitors to its numerous attractions. The Jardín Botánico, one of Medellín’s most visited sites, is located here, along with other notable attractions such as Parque Explora, an interactive science museum, and the Universidad de Antioquia. These points of interest highlight Aranjuez’s appeal not only to residents but also to tourists seeking to explore Medellín’s rich cultural and educational offerings.
Comuna 5: Castilla
Castilla has a population of 119,772 as of the 2018 census. This area reflects a diverse demographic composition, with a slight majority of females over males and a substantial portion of the population falling within the working age group of 15-64 years. The youth and elderly segments of the population also form significant portions, highlighting the varied age distribution within Castilla.
The history of Castilla’s settlement dates back to the 1930s, initiated by workers from various sectors without formal urban planning. Over the decades, the area saw growth and development, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, with municipal projects such as the adaptation of the slaughterhouse and the construction of the Coliseo de Ferias contributing to its urbanization. Significant housing solutions were provided in the latter half of the 20th century, marking the development of several neighborhoods under the initiative of the Colombian Institute of Territorial Credit. Today, Castilla is noted for its mix of residential areas and city-wide facilities like the Plaza de Ferias and the Central de Faenado, reflecting its ongoing evolution as a vibrant community within Medellín.
Comuna 6: Doce de Octubre
Doce de Octubre is located in the northwestern part of Medellín, Colombia. It is bordered by Robledo to the south, Castilla to the east, the township of San Cristobal to the west, and the city of Bello to the north. This residential area is known for its steep slopes, with an average incline of 20 percent, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the city. The neighborhoods within Doce de Octubre include Santander, Doce de Octubre No.1 and No.2, Pedregal, La Esperanza, San Martin de Porres, Kennedy, Picacho, Picachito, Mirador del Doce, Progreso No.2, and El Triunfo.
As of 2013, Doce de Octubre had a population of over 191,000 people, with a significant portion of residents falling into the younger age demographic of 15 to 44 years old. The majority of the population lives in areas classified as strata 2, indicating lower economic conditions compared to other parts of the city. Despite this, the comuna has seen improvements in safety and is home to the Ecoparque Mirador del Cerro El Picacho, a notable point of interest.
Comuna 7: Robledo
Robledo is a significant area with a population of 230,376 as of the 2018 census. It is known for its diverse demographic structure, with a substantial portion of its population within the 15-64 age group, indicating a vibrant community with a mix of males and females. The area has a high population density and includes 21 neighborhoods, with a majority of the housing classified in the lower socioeconomic strata, predominantly strata 2 and 3.
Robledo serves as a notable hospital and educational district within Medellín, housing several universities and medical facilities that contribute to its designation as such. This comuna is surrounded by Doce de Octubre, Castilla, La America, San Javier, and the rural district of San Cristobal, situating it in a diverse and strategically important part of the city. The area has been inhabited since 1938, initially by farmers, artisans, and wealthy families from Medellín. Today, it stands out for its educational institutions and healthcare facilities, including the University of Antioquia and National University campuses, as well as the Eco-park Cerro El Volador, adding to its cultural and ecological significance.
Robledo also features Cerro El Volador, a large hill and natural park that offers outdoor activities, historical trails, and breathtaking views of the city. Despite being predominantly residential, Robledo has seen development in commercial spaces and public transport solutions, making it more accessible. The area is also home to Florida Parque, Medellín’s newest shopping mall, which caters to the shopping needs of the local population and visitors alike.
The comuna’s historical significance, coupled with its development in education and healthcare, makes Robledo an integral part of Medellín’s urban fabric. Its blend of residential, educational, and recreational spaces contributes to the city’s diverse character and offers a unique living and visiting experience.
Comuna 8: Villa Hermosa
Villa Hermosa has a population of 154,579 as of the 2018 census. The area, situated in the eastern central part of the city, showcases a rich demographic diversity with a balance between male and female residents across various age groups. The majority of its population falls within the 15-64 age bracket, highlighting a vibrant, working-age community.
The comuna’s history traces back to the 1940s, initially serving as a farming area and housing one of the city’s jails. Today, it’s primarily a residential zone with working-class families and is characterized by a significant portion of its population being within the 15 to 64 age range. About 69 percent of its residents fall into this category, with the majority of the housing classified as estratos 1 and 2, indicating lower economic conditions compared to other parts of the city.
Villa Hermosa offers a unique mix of urban and naturalBos landscapes, providing beautiful views and routes that are essential for visitors. Notably, it includes neighborhoods such as San Antonio, San Miguel, and 13 de Noviembre. The comuna is accessible via the Metrocable, offering an impressive aerial view of the city, a feature that enhances the commuting experience within the area. Among its key attractions are the Ecoparque Las Golondrinas, which offers well-maintained trails among tall trees, and the que Villa Hermosa, a large green zone ideal for hiking and enjoying nature. The Parque UVA de la Imaginación and Parque Villa Hermosa are also notable for their beautiful designs and social spaces.
Villa Hermosa, with its mix of residential calm and natural beauty, stands as a testament to Medellín’s diverse urban tapestry. Its transformation from a historically challenged area to a peaceful suburb within the bustling city highlights the ongoing social and urban development efforts in Medellín.
Comuna 9: Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires boasts a population of 155,241 as of the 2018 census. This area is characterized by its vibrant community life and diverse population, with a slight female majority. The majority of residents fall within the working age group of 15-64 years, which constitutes the bulk of the population, alongside meaningful segments of both younger and older residents.
Buenos Aires is full of charm, similar to its namesake in Argentina, and features 17 neighborhoods. It is bordered by El Poblado, La Candelaria, and Villa Hermosa, making it a strategic location within the city. The area is not just residential; it also offers beautiful landscapes and several attractions worth visiting. The use of Medellín’s comprehensive public transport system, including the tram and Metrocable, provides easy access to Buenos Aires, allowing visitors to explore the city from a unique vantage point.
Despite not being as touristy as other areas of Medellín, Buenos Aires has its attractions, such as Parque la Milagrosa and a monument to Pablo Escobar, reflecting the neighborhood’s complex history and cultural fabric. The area offers a traditional Colombian living experience, where local cuisine and neighborhood bars provide a glimpse into the daily life of its residents. However, it’s important to approach the area with awareness, as safety can vary, and being cautious is advisable, especially at night.
The cost of living in Buenos Aires is relatively lower compared to more affluent areas of Medellín, reflecting its classification mostly within estratos 2 and 3. This economic diversity makes Buenos Aires an attractive option for those seeking more affordable living options without venturing too far from the city’s dynamic center.
Comuna 10: La Candelaria
La Candelaria is a vibrant borough in the heart of Medellín, Colombia, with a population of 74,382 as of the 2018 census. This area stands out for its significant historical and cultural importance to the city, embodying a bustling urban core that contrasts with its more residential surroundings. La Candelaria is easily accessible via Medellín’s comprehensive metro system, with San Antonio and Parque Berrio being the primary metro stops that serve this area.
This comuna is characterized by its dynamic mix of commercial activity, cultural landmarks, and historical sites. Among its notable attractions many museum tour destinations such as Plaza Botero and the Museo de Antioquia, which highlight the works of Fernando Botero, a renowned Colombian artist. The area also hosts the Museo Casa de la Memoria, dedicated to memorializing the victims of armed conflict in Colombia, and the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe, which offers a deep dive into the region’s cultural and political history.
Despite its rich cultural offerings, La Candelaria is noted for its safety concerns, particularly in terms of robberies and other petty crimes, especially after dark. It is advisable to take precautions such as sticking to well-traveled areas, being discreet with valuables, and using taxis or Uber during the night. However, the district remains a must-visit for those interested in experiencing the heart of Medellín’s historical and artistic heritage.
Comuna 11: Laureles – Estadio
Laureles-Estadio is a vibrant and primarily residential area renowned for its high quality of life and strong community feel. With a population of 96,526 as of the 2018 census, it is characterized by a mix of males (42,427) and females (54,099), showcasing a diverse demographic structure across various age groups. The comuna includes 15 barrios (neighborhoods) and is predominantly composed of middle to upper-middle-class residents, with the majority of homes rated as estrato 4 or 5, reflecting a relatively high socioeconomic status.
Laureles-Estadio has become increasingly popular among expatriates and digital nomads due to its welcoming atmosphere, excellent amenities, and the quality of life it offers. It boasts a range of facilities from parks and sports venues to shopping malls, restaurants, and cafes, catering to a variety of tastes and preferences. The area is particularly noted for its walkability and bike-friendly streets, making it an attractive option for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and lifestyle.
The area’s safety, combined with its rich offering of leisure activities, including a vibrant nightlife along La 70, a street known for its bars and salsa clubs, positions Laureles-Estadio as an appealing alternative to more tourist-heavy areas like El Poblado. Nonetheless, as with any urban area, residents and visitors are advised to exercise common sense and precaution, especially late at night.
The cost of living in Laureles-Estadio, while on the rise due to its growing popularity, remains more affordable compared to the more upscale El Poblado, especially in terms of rental prices for unfurnished apartments. This affordability, coupled with the area’s amenities and its local living experience, makes Laureles-Estadio an attractive option for those seeking a blend of comfort, convenience, and cultural immersion.
Comuna 12: La América
La América, recognized as Comuna 12 in Medellín, Colombia, is a vibrant and historically rich neighborhood that stands out for its strong community feel and residential charm. According to the 2018 census, La América has a population of 87,919, highlighting its status as a significant part of Medellín’s urban landscape.
This area is celebrated for its middle-class ambiance and is home to a variety of small businesses, parks, and sports areas, making it an ideal location for families and those seeking a local living experience. La América is bordered by San Javier (Comuna 13) and Laureles-Estadio (Comuna 11), placing it in a strategic location that combines the tranquility of residential life with the convenience of city living.
The neighborhood’s history dates back to 1869, with the first houses built around 1675. Today, La América boasts 13 barrios, including notable areas like Ferrini, Calasanz, and Los Pinos. Its rich history is complemented by modern amenities and a variety of public transport options, making it easily accessible and convenient for residents and visitors alike.
La América offers a unique blend of cultural attractions and leisure activities. While it may not have the big malls or famous museums found in other parts of Medellín, it features two ethnographic museums, numerous churches, and a range of parks and sports facilities that cater to a diverse set of interests and hobbies.
For those considering a visit or relocation to Medellín, La América presents an underrated gem that offers a deeper look into the city’s middle-class life, away from the more tourist-centric areas. Its safe and friendly environment, combined with affordable living options and a variety of amenities, makes La América an attractive option for both locals and expatriates looking for an authentic Medellín experience.
Comuna 13: San Javier
Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, is one of Medellín’s most iconic and historically significant neighborhoods. It’s a place that has undergone a remarkable transformation, from a region once embroiled in violence and conflict to a vibrant community filled with art, culture, and innovation. This transformation is a testament to the resilience and creativity of its residents.
Historically, San Javier was a hotspot for guerrilla and paramilitary groups, as well as gangs. The strategic location of the San Juan Highway, which leads west out of Medellín and north to the Caribbean coast, made it a valuable area for controlling illegal goods’ flow. This history includes the controversial Operation Orion in 2002, aimed at removing left-wing rebels, which resulted in significant violence and displacement within the community. Despite these challenges, the community has worked tirelessly to overcome its past, with art and hip-hop music playing crucial roles in its social reconstruction.
Today, San Javier is celebrated for its vibrant street art, with murals and graffiti that cover the district’s walls, drawing tourists from around the world. The neighborhood’s transformation is highlighted by the famous outdoor escalators and the Metrocable, infrastructure projects that have significantly improved accessibility for residents and are praised internationally for urban renewal efforts. These escalators, rising 400 meters up the steep neighborhood, and the Metrocable lines, particularly Line J, offer stunning views of Medellín and have become symbols of the city’s innovation in public transportation.
San Javier is primarily a residential area, made up of 19 neighborhoods, with homes predominantly classified in the socio-economic strata 1, 2, and 3. This indicates some of the most significant deficiencies among Medellín’s population, yet also showcases the community’s ongoing efforts to improve living conditions and public spaces for its residents. The area is characterized by its hilly geography, which poses risks for natural disasters but also adds to its unique landscape. Despite these challenges, San Javier has emerged as a hub of culture and tourism in Medellín, offering a unique blend of art, history, and resilience.
The graffiti tours in Comuna 13 are particularly popular, allowing visitors to explore the neighborhood’s streets filled with powerful artworks that tell stories of struggle, hope, and peace. These tours often include visits to local vendors and artisans, providing a glimpse into the daily life and culture of San Javier. The neighborhood’s transformation is also reflected in the establishment of cultural centers and educational projects, such as the UVA San Javier “Huellas de Vida” and the San Javier Library, which serve as spaces for community engagement and learning.
San Javier’s story is one of transformation and hope. It demonstrates the power of community efforts in overcoming adversity and turning a once troubled neighborhood into a vibrant and welcoming place for both residents and visitors.
Comuna 14: El Poblado
El Poblado is one of the most upscale and prestigious neighborhoods in Medellín, Colombia. As of the 2018 census, El Poblado had a population of 108,730. The area is well-known for its luxurious apartment buildings, boutique and luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, shopping, and vibrant nightlife, making it a prime location for both residents and visitors.
El Poblado is characterized by its tree-lined, winding streets, rippling creeks, nature paths, and parks, creating a serene and aesthetically pleasing environment. The neighborhood has emerged as a wealthy and safe haven, especially compared to the rest of Medellín, with a significant police presence that contributes to its overall feeling of safety and comfort.
The area is surrounded by other communes such as La Candelaria, Buenos Aires, and Guayabal, as well as the nearby towns of Envigado and Santa Elena. It’s easily accessible through the Medellín metro system, with Estación Poblado being the most central metro stop for the neighborhood. Taxis and transportation apps are also widely used for getting around more quickly.
El Poblado boasts several high-end shopping malls like Santafe and El Tesoro, where visitors can indulge in luxury shopping and enjoy seasonal indoor displays. The neighborhood is also home to cultural attractions such as the Modern Art Museum of Medellin (MAMM) and El Castillo Museum, offering insights into Medellín’s rich art scene and history.
Despite its affluence, El Poblado is not without its drawbacks. The cost of living can be significantly higher than in other parts of the city, and some residential areas are far from restaurants, shops, or bars, requiring a taxi for basic errands. Nonetheless, for those willing to pay a premium for a safe and upscale environment, El Poblado offers a lifestyle that closely resembles those found in more developed Western cities.
For travelers and expatriates looking for a blend of luxury, safety, and convenience, El Poblado stands out as an ideal choice. It provides a comfortable living experience with access to all the creature comforts money can buy, albeit at a price point that reflects its status as Medellín’s most elite neighborhood.
Comuna 15: Guayabal
Guayabal had a population of 63,589 as of the 2018 census. It stands out for its blend of residential areas, industrial zones, and significant transportation hubs. Guayabal has historically evolved from a farming community into the city’s first industrial corridor alongside the river, becoming a workers’ neighborhood shaped by the pottery industry.
Today, Guayabal is known for its medium to low socioeconomic status, with a predominant presence of stratum three households, although it also includes a small percentage of stratum four. The neighborhood is essential for the city, hosting the Olaya Herrera Airport and the Campos de Paz Cemetery. Guayabal is accessible by public transportation, with three main Metro System stations: Aguacatala, Poblado, and Industriales.
For visitors, Guayabal offers various attractions like the Maria Luisa Calle Sports Unit for sports enthusiasts, shopping and commercial areas for fashion outlets, and the Manuel Mejia Vallejo Library Park, located opposite the airport, providing a modern infrastructure amidst green spaces. Another significant site is the Parque de La Conservación, a space dedicated to environmental conservation and biodiversity, and Aeroparque Juan Pablo II, the largest water park in the city offering recreation and leisure activities.
Despite being an industrial area, Guayabal is considered safe for tourists, with green lungs like the Parque de La Conservación contributing significantly to the city’s oxygen supply. However, visitors are advised to exercise caution, especially at night, and prefer transport over walking in some sections.
Guayabal’s transformation from a farming and industrial hub to a neighborhood rich in sports, culture, and commercial activities underscores Medellín’s dynamic urban development. Its role as a transportation hub, coupled with recreational and commercial offerings, makes Guayabal a noteworthy part of Medellín’s diverse cityscape.
Comuna 16: Belén
Belén, is a vibrant and populous borough in Medellín, Colombia, with a population of 209,837 as of the 2018 census. This area is a mix of residential neighborhoods, commercial zones, and cultural spots, making it a well-rounded community within the city.
Belén is characterized by its diverse socio-economic landscape, with the majority of its population living in lower to middle socioeconomic strata (Estratos 1-3), although there are areas classified as Estrato 5, providing a glimpse into the varying lifestyles within the comuna. Despite its size and diversity, parts of Belén, especially those in the higher Estratos, are considered suitable for foreigners looking for a local Medellín experience away from the more tourist-centric areas like El Poblado.
The comuna is known for its rich history and significant contributions to Medellín’s industrial and cultural development. In the 1950s, it was recommended by North American city planners as a manufacturing hub, leading to a reputation for pottery and the production of red roof tiles that are now common throughout the city.
Today, Belén offers a variety of attractions and amenities. It is home to the Cerro Nutibara ecological park, a cultural and natural center within the city, popular for sports, hiking, and its rich biodiversity. The park also houses Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Antioquian village, offering a glimpse into the region’s history and culture.
For those looking to explore Belén, the neighborhood is accessible via Estación Industriales, with taxis and ride-share apps readily available for easier navigation. The comuna boasts a main park known for its architectural beauty, numerous dining options at places like Los Molinos mall, and a vibrant nightlife with bars and nightclubs catering to various tastes.
Belén stands out as a microcosm of Medellín’s broader social and urban fabric, offering a blend of ecological, cultural, and culinary experiences. Its combination of historical significance, community spirit, and modern amenities makes it a compelling destination for both locals and visitors looking to experience the diversity of life in Medellín.