In the digital nomad community, there are certain places around the world you hear about often- Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpar, Bali, Da Nang, Sai Gon, Sophia, Belgrade, and Bucharest, just to name a few. Most of these famed places are in Asia or Eastern Europe.
Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of great cities and countries around the world to work from remotely, but Asia and Eastern Europe often top lists for the affordable cost of living and speedy internet.
Southeast Asia, especially, is a popular choice for its climate, proximity to tropical getaways, and abundance of fresh fruit and cheap street food.
Planning to spend a few weeks in Central and South America at the beginning of 2020, I found myself a bit shocked at how expensive air travel from country to country looked.
Of course, overland is the cheapest way to get around, but that kind of travel also means you need to be time rich. At this stage in my travels, taking a few days off simply to travel country to country- let alone actually exploring- just wasn’t of interest to me.
As such, I decided to focus on two or three places, and really take my time in those destinations than bounce around.
The cost savings were appealing, but also, after a year of traveling all over Europe, Asia and Oceania, I needed a bit of slowdown.
Mexico City wasn’t even a choice, really. I’ve been dying to get to CDMX for years, and with a move to Ireland on the horizon, it seemed like no better time to spend a few weeks in Mexico’s capital.
Colombia was also of high interest to me.
Although most digital nomads don’t wax poetic about South America to the same degree they do Asia (because of the region’s better travel / work infrastructure), Medellin seemed to be an exception.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard countless recommendations for visiting, and working from Colombia’s second largest city, which is also one of the world’s most innovative.
Most travelers fall head-over-heels in love with Medellin’s perfect climate, friendly locals, and off-beat attractions.
Calling Medellin a digital nomad haven would be an understatement- there are expat groups on Facebook, meet-ups, co-working spaces, and cafes galore. Plus, speedy internet and low cost of living. It’s a score on all fronts.
What’s more, the community itself is a big attraction for digital nomads. Medellin has a huge expat community, and the Paisa people (Paisa is the term used for people who hail from Medellin) are warm and welcoming.
The most popular places for digital nomads to live are south and west of the city centre: El Poblado, Envigado, Ciudad del Rio, Laureles, and Floresta.
During our two weeks in Medellin, we stayed in El Poblado, where the majority of the digital nomads live and the Paisa population is fairly affluent. As such, this neighborhood has the highest concentration of bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops.
We visited Laureles a few days to work, and also enjoyed its chill, residential vibe. In comparison to El Poblado, land of steep hills, Laureles is green and flat. There’s still plenty of places to eat, drink and shop, but it’s much less trafficked than El Poblado.
In Medellin, it’s not a question of ‘where can I find the best cafe’. The question really is – ‘which one should I choose?’
Coffee shop culture has well and truly taken hold in Medellin. With locals and visitors drinking it so reliably, Colombia’s coffee industry is no longer just about export.
Many of Medellin’s cafes offer great, local speciality coffees, delicious snacks, and WiFi stable enough to work.
At newer cafes, you’ll find a handful of power outlets scattered throughout, and a space designed with ample seating in mind.
Over the course of our two weeks in Medellin, we visited a bunch of cafes. Inevitably, there were favourites, which we returned to time after time.
Whether you’re in Medellin to live and work as a digital nomad, or there for a visit, these cafes are perfect for getting a bit of work done, or just chilling out with a cup of good brew.
14 Cafes You’ll Love in Medellin, Colombia
Hija Mia: Tucked away in Manila, one of the fastest growing areas of El Poblado, Hija was a 2 minute walk from our Airbnb. It’s the greatest bits of Aussie cafe culture with awesome flat whites (plus nitro cold brew) and heaping portions of delicious avo toast.
The owner is super friendly Kiwi, and likes to get to know his repeat customers, which makes this place feel homey in a good way. It’s on the tiny side, and can get crowded- especially around meal times- but if you come early, you won’t have a hard time finding a seat near an outlet.
The only thing we didn’t like? The WiFi can be a tad glitchy, but it wasn’t bad enough to keep us from coming here just about every day.
Pergamino: Hailed as the best coffee in El Poblado, Perg quickly became our afternoon spot. Pergamino is huge- there’s upstairs, outdoor and communal seating. Power outlets are scarce, but you can find one to use in a pinch.
The WiFi was stable enough to see us stop in just about every day, but the main reason we rated Pergamino was for their extensive coffee, tea, juice and cake menu.
A few can’t miss items: The cold brew (it’s served in a variety of ways), chocolate cake, iced mangosteen green tea, and any of the frappes (especially on a hot day).
Botanika Lounge: Before coming to Medellin, we heard absolutely rave reviews for Botanika. And, so maybe, we were expecting too much.
We didn’t dislike Botanika, but we also didn’t love it.
The best part, in our opinion, was the vibrant, leafy decor, and the fact there was great WiFi and power outlets under every table.
We didn’t care much for the menu- it was on the trendier edge, and more expensive in comparison to Poblado’s other cafes. Also, as the evening drew closer, the cafe got decidedly scenier. If you’re down to have a cocktail while working, you may enjoy Botanika. We usually prefer to work from chiller spots, where the focus is more on great brew and less on a trendy space.
Cafe Velvet: It’s not hard to see why Velvet is popular with nomads. It’s a bit dark and moody, but in a cool way.
As with many places in Poblado, we enjoyed the dual indoor/outdoor aspect of Cafe Velvet. Especially since here, the outdoor portion has tons of plants and mountain imagery- it’s easy to feel as if you’ve escaped the city for a bit.
The coffee menu here is extensive, and WiFi was pretty good. Although, we didn’t spot any plugs on the one afternoon we worked from Velvet (we also didn’t look too hard for them, or ask staff).
Al Alma Coffee Roasters: A Colombian coffee chain, we liked Al Alma more than Juan Valdez because it felt smaller and more personal. It’s a popular spot with locals and visitors for Western-inspired brunch. Their El Poblado location didn’t have WiFi when we visited, but there was good cold brew, so we’ll call it a win.
A few other spots in El Poblado we liked:
- Juan Valdez in Parque Lleras: Colombian Starbucks, good for a quick caffeine fix or if no other cafes are open -they’re open early/late
- Como Pez En El Agua: Go for brunch
- Urbania Cafe: Good breakfast and nice coffee menu, a bit further away from the main bits of El Poblado, which kept us from visiting more than once
Coworking space wise, there are tons of spots in El Poblado. We only checked out Selina, a hip hostel that doubles as a coworking spot. We liked it, but no more than our favourite cafes in the neighborhood.
Semilla Coworking: Looking for a cafe we didn’t realise had closed, we stumbled upon Semilla. From the outside, it looks like a trendy cafe with minimalist, Scandi-inspired design. Inside, you’ll discover it’s built for those who need a remote office. There’s loads of spaces to sit or lounge, enclosed conference rooms, lockers, a kitchen with coffee and food, plus fast WiFi.
If I was staying in Medellin longer, I would have definitely looked into coworking space options as I did in Bali. But, what I appreciated about Semilla, is how easy it was to just drop in for a few hours. There aren’t day rates, per se. Instead, you’re given a WiFi code that’s good for four hours when you order something to eat or drink. We didn’t stay longer than that, but I’d imagine if you needed to, and kept ordering things, there’d be no issue in getting another code.
Cafe Revolucion: Located on the main road, it’s a popular spot for all day brekkie. There’s your usual coffee fare, plus loads of fresh juice and smoothie options. The WiFi is stable, there are power plugs underneath the booths inside, and there’s a resident floof. What more could you ask for?
Cafe Zeppelin: Although it doesn’t open until noon each day, I loved Cafe Zeppelin so much, I’d consider moving to the Laureles ‘hood if I lived in Medellin just to have continual, easy access. The cafe is huge- there are tons of corners to curl up in with a good book, or post up at with a laptop. There are two outdoor areas, in the front and back, which lend different vibes to your experience. I really enjoy this aspect of places, as it means they pretty much always feel fresh. Plus, power plugs are scattered throughout, and the WiFi is great.
Best yet, the non-coffee options. I love brew, but sometimes, need a break- especially mid-late afternoon, as I’m starting to wind down for the day. We had incredible limonada de cocos at Zeppelin- in fact, we agreed they were the best we’d had in all of Colombia.
Two other cafes we liked in Laureles, less for work and more for hanging out:
- Cafe Tales: Tiny, quaint cafe
- Cafe Cliche: French owned, quirky mismatched furniture
CIUDAD DEL RIO
We didn’t explore this area much, but did walk over to one cafe on an afternoon in El Poblado, where we were looking to explore a bit.
While the stretch of Ciudad Del Rio we visited is walkable, you may want to consider taking a taxi if it’s late at night. For most of the walk, you’re along major highway, where there aren’t a ton of other people on the sidewalk with you, as you’d have in more populous areas of Medellin, like El Poblado.
Cariñito Cafe: Lured here by the promise it’d be quieter than Poblado cafes, we were impressed with the size of Cariñito- ample indoor seating, plus a huge terrace, and with the abundance of in-floor power plugs. Additionally, the WiFi was easy to access, the coffee menu was extensive, and atmosphere was cheery, despite being less busy than most of our usual haunts. Not in the mood for coffee? Big fan of the limonada de coco here.
Have you ever visited or lived in Medellin? Did you visit any cafes you’d recommend to others?
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