Best Budget Lifestyle Option In Our Favorite City Of Springtime And Flowers
The waitress set down our frothing cappuccinos, one of which was actually a Cappuccino Irlandés (that is, laced with Irish whiskey). Then two made-to-order crepes arrived at the table. The shady, open-air cafe was half-full with people who’d stopped for the late-afternoon coffee hour that folks in this part of the world manage to squeeze in between lunch and dinner every day.
From our corner, we could look up and down the shady boulevard at the other cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood, also filling up during this traditional afternoon Colombian break time.
I’ve written many times that the El Poblado sector of Medellín, Colombia, is the best area of this city. That’s true, but El Poblado is not the best choice for everyone. Medellín offers a number of equally desirable and, importantly, less expensive areas that are attracting more and more attention—including the neighborhood of Laureles.
This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in this city. Laureles offers tree-lined streets in a sector crisscrossed by also shady boulevards. Along these thoroughfares are cafes, restaurants, services, and shops, plus two attractive, wooded parks where you can relax and watch the rest of Medellín go by.
The layout of Laureles is unusual compared with the rest of this city and compared with the rest of Spanish America, too. Instead of the typical street grid of north-south and east-west surface roads, most of Laureles’ streets are laid out as two sets of concentric circles and spokes, one centered on Segundo Parque Laureles and the other on the university. To complicate your orientation further, the main thoroughfare (Avenida Nutibara) runs diagonally through the zone.
One of the big selling points for Laureles is that both the cost of living and of real estate are noticeably lower here than in the heart of the city; however, this is not a downscale neighborhood. Residents of Laureles have the second-highest income level in Medellín after El Poblado.
I believe Laureles offers a few other advantages over El Poblado, as well.
First, it’s relatively level. In El Poblado, you’re on a mountainside, and east-west travel means a good workout. In Laureles, you can walk all around the zone without having to climb any hills.
Second, Laureles does not have El Poblado’s commercial culture. While El Poblado’s Golden Mile is a major center for business and finance, Laureles is mostly residential, with only small local businesses. While you’ll find everything you need to live day-to-day, Laureles manages to retain a nice “neighborhood” feel.
Third, won’t see many tourists in this zone. Virtually everyone who visits Medellín from around the world has El Poblado at the top of his must-see list. Few tourists have ever heard of Laureles. Most of the people you see in Laureles live in Laureles.
Like El Poblado—and all of Medellín—Laureles enjoys what many of us consider to be the world’s best weather. Average high temperatures are in the high 70s, with lows in the low 60s, all year.
The fourth advantage I see to basing yourself in Laureles is that you won’t need a car. The neighborhood is 100% walkable.
In addition, it’s not only property prices that are lower in Laureles than in El Poblado, it’s also taxes and utility rates (which vary by neighborhood).
On the market right now, to give you an example of how affordable the Laureles property market can be, is a two-story 104-square-meter apartment (that’s about 1,120 square feet), including three bedrooms, three baths, and one garage space. The generous balcony has nice 10th-floor city and valley views. This apartment is modern and convenient to shopping and restaurants. The asking price is 295 million pesos, which is about US$144,000 at today’s exchange rates. That’s US$1,385 per square meter.
Another comfortable apartment currently on the market has city views from its balcony, living room, and bedrooms. This apartment is 92 square meters (990 square feet) with three bedrooms, two baths, and one garage space and is close to restaurants, shopping, churches, and the university. They’re asking a negotiable 192,000,000 pesos (about US$94,000), which is just slightly more than US$1,000 per square meter.
One more example: A fifth-floor apartment has nice tree-top views and is walkable to everything. The nicely finished kitchen has tropical hardwood cabinets and granite counters. The living space is 137 square meters (1,500 square feet), including three bedrooms, three baths, and one garage spot. Priced at 235,000,000 pesos (US$115,000), this one comes in at just US$839 per square meter, which is definitely bargain-basement territory.
The only disadvantage I can think of for Laureles is that it wouldn’t be the best choice for investing in a rental property. There’s a market for rentals, but your occupancy rates likely would be higher near Parque Lleras and the Golden Mile in El Poblado.
Otherwise, Laureles is a premier option in Medellín, certainly if your budget is small. With its tree-lined streets, green parks, restaurants, cafes, and genuinely laid-back, neighborly feel, Laureles is hard to beat as a lifestyle choice.