You may know it only from what you saw on season four’s opening episode of Entourage, but Medellín, Colombia, has plenty more to offer than simply serving as the backdrop to a fictitious HBO series. Over the last few years, the city has undergone a reincarnation, thanks to major fiscal investment and a newly energized population tipsy on civic pride.
When you fly into Medellín, first spend a night at the nearby mountainside hotel Boutique El Cortijo de la Riviera (from $100 a night, 011-57-4- 5370230). Then descend to town and check into one of the city’s new boutique hotels. We love the brick-lined, 54-room Art Hotel (from $99 a night, www.arthotel.com.co), which showcases a rotation of cutting-edge exhibitions in the lobby, or the Las Rosas Hotel Boutique, where the 14 rooms aren’t numbered but rather named and decorated after flowers (from $78 a night, www.lasrosashotelboutique.com).
For a glimpse of the city’s facelift, just stroll the 30-block stretch of the Carabobo Pedestrian Walkway, between Avenida San Juan and Avenida de Greiff; it’s abuzz with shops and cafés. Or check out any of the five new Library Parks — striking architectural gems surrounded by parkland, they host 400-plus annual events, including film screenings and concerts — which have been strategically placed in low-income locales around the city.
Cherry-pick from a full menu of hip new restaurants in the El Poblado area, where chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, who has studied with both Iwao Komiyama and Juan Mari Arzak, recently returned to open the trendy Blanco del Cielo and El Cielo (www.elcielococinacreativa.com). At the herb-centric Herbário (www.elherbario.com), you can grab a cocktail and Colombian-Euro-fusion cuisine, or at the new Caribbean eatery El Santísimo, you can sample vino in the private tasting room.
Medellín comes second only to Cali in terms of Colombian nightlife, and Parque Lleras is its epicenter. The newly opened Dry (www.drymartinibar.com) specializes in one drink: the martini. At the three-story Woka (Carrer 38 #8-8; 011-57-4-3115781), the open roof means drinking under a starry sky. And at the “it” disco du jour, Crista Club (Carrer 43 A #1 Sur - 150 Int 463; 011-57-4-3110539), locals go wild for Madonna and then slip into spontaneous merengues.
For more information, visit www.colombia.travel or www.medellininfo.com.