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Business Travel Guide: Medellin, Colombia

Medellin

They say that in Medellin the spring never ends.  The never-too-cold, never-too-hot weather makes it the realm of the flowers; most notably the 3,000 varieties of orchids. This idyllic climate is due to the elevation (1,538 metres) that cools the heat of the tropics. Founded by the Conquistador don Francisco Herrera Campuzano in 1615, Medellin became prosperous as a result of Basque and Jewish immigrants fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 18th century. Today, it is Colombia’s most prosperous city; its industrial nerve center and its intellectual avant garde epicenter.

Medellin is the capital of the Antoquia region and its citizens or “Paisas” are business people, politicians and artists, including renowned artist Fernando Botero. It is also home to the country’s first metropolitan public transport network —The Metro de Medellin — effectively alleviating the ongoing congestion caused by a city that is home to 2.4 million people. Under the administration of its new mayor, Medellin has done much to develop and support education and culture with the creation of new schools, modern libraries and educational centers. Despite its ancient foundation, Medellin has breathed new life into its environs, and stands as a remarkable example of what can be achieved in this part of the world, even if some bad memories, like the infamous Cartel, still linger.

The Old The New
Medellin: Where the old city meets the new

Medellin is an important hub for business, fashion and international trade, and is headquarters to many national and multinational companies and centers of higher education. The city has also seen a boon in urban development with the construction of many state-of-the-art skyscrapers. The International Convention Center occupies an area of approximately 250,000 square feet with sixteen rooms, complete with audio visual and technology equipment and is capable of holding 4,500 people - perfect for business functions. In addition, the Exposition Fairgrounds is  500,000 square feet and can host a variety of entertainment spectacles and business functions. Visit  www.plazamayor.com.co for information on both venues.

Along with its nine adjoining municipal areas, Medellin is located in the Aburra Valley which is traversed from south to north by the Medellin River. The river makes for a natural roadway corridor, and the city’s street layout follows a typical Spanish grid. Medellin is also the city of countless festivals and fairs including the Festival of Flowers, International Poetry Festival, Tango Festival, International Book Festival, Colombia Provoca (a culinary festival) and Colombia Moda (a fashion festival). Thanks to a major overhaul and Medellin’s master plan, the city is now home to new parks, streets and malls with a plethora of cultural attractions. Many of the high-end hotels are located in the exclusive El Poblado neighborhood in the heart of the business district, and executive-class hotels are also available in the Laureles, El Estadio and La Floresta neighborhoods. They are all within easy access to downtown and the city’s metro system, providing plenty of choice for the business traveler.



Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: Colombian Peso

Medellin’s unit of currency is the Colombian peso, and is the only means of payment. The exchange rate fluctuates daily. Check the exchange rate at www.xe.com for daily rates. US dollars are not accepted anywhere, except in some hotels, and only the large hotels offer currency exchange. Exchange houses and banks require visitors to fill out an “exchange form” and leave a photocopy of their passport. The best way to obtain pesos is via credit or debit cards. We recommend taking several different cards to ensure maximum flexibility. VISA, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express are accepted virtually everywhere.  Banks will provide cash advances as long as you produce your passport for identification. There are scores of ATM machines usually with both Spanish and English language options.

Transportation:

Medellin is served by two airports, the Olaya Herrera Airport located in the middle of the city offering regional flights, and the San Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, located in nearby Rionegro, 22 miles from Medellin and approximately a 45-minute drive from the city. Taxicab rates to and from the International Airport are a fixed 45,000 pesos. Taxis to even the most distant tourist attractions are no more than a 20 minute drive and should cost around 15,000 pesos ($8). Taxis can be ordered via telephone at no additional cost. Other public transportation is available via diesel bus or an urban train, known as the Metro de Medellin, which travels to most tourist destinations. A one-way Metro ticket is 1300 pesos and includes the use of the MetroCable – an air cable car - to some of the more difficult to reach regions. Multiple trip tickets are also available.

Information:

There are no English-language papers in Medellin.  Spanish-language papers available in Medellin are El Colombiano, El Mundo and La Hoja de Medellin.


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Where to Stay

Hotel Dann Carlton
Carrera 43A #7-50
Medellin 6100
57 4 444 5151
www.
hotelesmedellin.danncarlton.com


Hotel Dann Carlton

Located in “La Milla de Oro” (The Golden Mile district) of the ritzy El Poblado neighborhood, the hotel is within walking distance of the main financial and business areas. With 185 rooms on eighteen floors, this contemporary hi-rise hotel based on English architectural design, has a host of generous convention facilities, meeting rooms and a business center, as well as sixteen suites. All rooms have direct dial telephones, voice mail, a minibar, cable television, Internet access and 24 –hour rooms service as well as complimentary shoe-shining.


Four Points Sheraton Medellin
Carrera 43 C #6 Sur 100
57 4 321 8088
www.starwoodhotels.com


Four Points Sheraton

The new 123-room Four Points by Sheraton Medellin offers 24-hour room service, high speed Internet access, and a business center with all modern amenities and services as well as five meeting spaces to choose from to hold your business event. Other non-essential work amenities include a sauna and Turkish bath, and international television. The hotel is just one minute's walk from the Oviedo Mall, which features 100 shops and three movie theaters. The area offers numerous restaurants at which you can sample Colombia's native cuisine.


Hotel Park 10
Carrera 36B N. 11-12
El Poblado
57 4 266 6165
www.hotelpark10.com.co


Hotel Park 10

Located in the residential El Poblado zone, it’s in walking distance to the financial and commercial centers as well as art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. This exclusive hotel was Medellin’s first ISO certified hotel with 55 luxurious rooms divided into three categories: luxury rooms, junior rooms and Grand Suites, some of which have Jacuzzi’s in the master bathroom; just what the doctor ordered following tough business negotiations. All suites are air-conditioned and come with direct dial phone lines, voice mail, wireless Internet access, cable TV, minibar and 24 hour room service. “The Terrace” coffee shop serves local and international cuisine and is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, and the La Fragrata gourmet restaurant offers the best choice of Colombian sea food, a vast selection of wines and international and national liqueurs. The hotel’s fully-equipped business center includes computers, printers, telephones, scanners and high speed wireless Internet.


Intercontinental Medellin
Calle 16, # 28-51
Variante Las Palmas, Medellin
1 888 424 6835
57 4 319 4450
www.ichotelsgroup.com


Intercontinental Medellin

Built into the mountainside in the El Poblado residential area, the Intercontinental is Medellin’s oldest and most luxurious hotel. It boasts 300 rooms and stunning views of the city and the distant valley.  Relax on the tennis courts, the 9 hole mini-golf court or in the heated swimming pool. The hotel has two restaurants, a pastry shop, health club, International Bar and a night club with live music.  It’s also the perfect hotel for business travellers with excellent facilities and the largest ballroom in the city, suitable for a variety of events. The hotel has 9,500 square feet of meeting space to choose from, a 1200 theatre-style room, and seven sales and meeting professionals on site. A variety of equipment is also available including slide projectors, DVD players, digital projectors, flip charts and markers, LCD projectors, overhead projectors, VCRs and whiteboards.


Novelty Suites Hotel
Calle 4 Sur #43 A 109
El Poblado, Oviedo Area
57 4 319 4000
www.noveltysuites.com


Novelty Suites

This corporate class hotel is located in the exclusive Golden Mile District in El Poblados, just 100 meters from the Oviedo Mall. The hotel boasts 74 comfortable one or two-room suites on fifteen floors, complete with kitchenette, dining room and bathroom. Amenities include cable TV, minibar, air conditioning, wireless Internet service, 24 hour room service and direct dial telephones. The business facilities include a business center complete with computer, printing and photocopying machine, secretarial services, Internet connection as well as audio and visual equipment including movie projectors, VHS and DVD players, on site spa facilities for when you need to wind down after tough negotiations. The hotel also has two assembly rooms, one of which can accommodate 80 people, and the other 25 people.


Where to Dine

Hatoviejo Palmas
Calle 16 # 28-60
2-68-68-11
57 4 266 7550
www.hatoviejo.com

13/20
$$$$$

Situated in the mountain near  the Intercontinental Hotel, Hatoviejo Palmas (“The Old Farm Ranch”) - with its thatched roofs and rustic décor remains faithful to its name.  In a city geared towards the future, this eatery, hidden from the hustle and bustle is an oasis. Slightly kitschy, it’s still a welcome reminder of the old days when this valley was little more than farmland. Hatoviejo Palmas serves  traditional dishes such as Mondongo, a tripe soup with potatoes and vegetables, Ajiaco Bogotano a Bogotan chicken and potatoes with corn on the cob, cream and capers; Plato Montanero, a regional dish composed of spicy ground meat, beans, fried egg, rice, fried plantains and pork cracklings (chicharrones). Sancocho de Gallina O Antioqueno is an Antioquian preparation combining chicken, meat, corn, vegetables and potatoes. The portions are enormous and designed for a ranchero appetite. Simpler fare is also available including meats (churrasco) and fish à la plancha, where beef, chicken or sea bass is grilled and served with baked potatoes.


Mezeler  
Calle 8A # 37-20
57 4 352 5909

13/20
$$$$
$

Mezeler
The word Mezeler is a South American neologism; a variation of meze, the Lebanese mother of all appetizers consisting of a myriad of small portions of fresh and tasty food. Mezeler dishes focus on the culinary cultures of the Mediterranean.  In this sleek, chic restaurant, this is typified in the Mezeler de Vegetales (veggie meze), In the Mezeler de Carnes, the meats are prepared in a variety of ways: grilled and/or braised and served with or without sauce. The novelty here is the addition to these traditional preparations of a touch of audacity like a chocolate sauce in the solomito, a hoisin sauce in the roast pork or tzatziki dip served on pita bread with a Greek- style marinated beef. They also offer a good mountain ham, or rolls of grouper and zucchinis in mango sauce Wine pairing is an option with each dish.

El Herbario  
Carrera 430 #10-30
57 4 311 2537
www.elherbario.com

13/20
$$$$$

El Herbario
A trendy restaurant in a modern setting targeting vegetarians.  There are plenty of veggie and herb dishes to choose from such as grilled asparagus. However, meat lovers are also catered for with large portions of chops and steaks. The restaurant boasts an interesting wine list comprised mostly of Argentinean wines. The restaurant also provides live music on the first floor.

La Fonda De Salvatierra
Calle 16 #28-170
57 4 311 8350

12/20
$$$$$

It’s like having dinner with the gauchos in a hacienda. Horses dance to the music in the central alley while you discover the regional dishes: Arepa Antioquienia, the Chorizo (red pepper sausage), the Sancocho, the Ariaco a rich rice soup, the tender lamb ribs, the pig roasted over a wood fire. Wash it all down with from the dizzying choice of fruit cocktails.


El Ranchon
Calle 10 #43-64
57 4 352 4585

12/20
$$$$$

La salsa here is more than the hot sauce on your food.  The immense discretely lit dance floor is the main attraction for dancing couples. To sustain their efforts, the portions are generous. The House Special is the “Bandeja Paisa”, a stew of red beans, rice, avocado, blood pudding and bananas.


Off the Clock

La Veracruz Church

La Veracruz Church
Calle 51 #52-58
57 4 512 5095

Originally called the Ermita de la Veracruz delos Forasteros (the Visitor’s Hermitage of the True Cross), it was constructed in 1682 and is the only Colonial church in Medellin. Today, the church’s configuration is of stone masonry walls, and the church along with its main altar (which was brought in its entirety from Spain), was eventually completed between 1791 and 1803

San Jose Church
Carrera 46 # 49-98

Built in the heart of downtown Medellin in 1847, the interior of this Hispanic American Baroque styled-structure houses a painting of San Lorenzo, said to be Medellin’s first patron saint. The church courtyard, traversed by thousands, boasts a water fountain sculpture.

San Ignacio

San Ignacio Building, University of Antioqua.
Carrera 44 #48-72

With its vestiges of bygone Colonial and Republican eras, the San Ignacio Building is, along with the adjacent San Ignacio Cloister, a single architectural monument in the heart of downtown Medellin. The building’s interior patios are decorated with gardens and fountains.

 



Metropolitan Cathedral

Catedral Metropolitana
Parque Bolivar

Located along the Bolivar Park in the heart of the city, it took half a century from the end of the 19th century to build the Catedral Metropolitana, said to be the world’s largest entirely-built brick construction, made up of one million bricks.

 


Plaza de Cisneros

Plaza de Cisneros
Carrera 54 #44-48

Located in the heart of the city, the Plaza de Cisneros borders some beautiful buildings from the 1920s. At night it is illuminated and covered with a bamboo forest dotted with spiralling towers adjacent to the avant-garde designed library.

 


Plaza Botero

Plaza Botero
Carrera 52 #52

The plaza displays 23 sculptures by renowned Medellin artist Fernando Botero, who specializes in oversized human figures. The plaza faces the museum of Antioquia, which houses additional Botero works.

 


Antioquia Museum

Museo de Antioquia
Carrera 52 A #52-43 ( Metro Station Parque Barrio)
www.museodeantioquia.org.co

Founded in  1881, the museum hosts temporary and permanent exhibits including the Botero Collection of 108 paintings. Other sections of the museum are dedicated to thousands of pre-Hispanic, Colonial, Republican and Contemporary works of art including paintings, sculptures and photographs.

 

Edificio Carre

Edificio Carré
Carrera  52 #44B17

Standing four storeys tall, this intriguing construction was designed in the late 19th century by Charles-Emile Carré, architect of the famous Sacré Coeur basilica in Paris. Located in Plaza Cisneros, the Edificio Carre was the tallest building of its time in downtown Medellin.

 


Orchids

El Ranchito

Situated between the towns of Itagui and La Estrella, is El Ranchito, a huge orchid farm with a breathtaking display of flowers. The best time to visit is between April and June.

 

 

Plaza de Toros

Bull Fighting
Calle 44
Metro station Suramericana

The seasonal bull fighting takes place every year in the Plaza de Toros de la Macarena in January and February. But book early. The events sell out quickly.

 


Pueblito Paisa

Pueblito Paisa
Cerrito Nutibara Calle 30 A

A traditional “Paisa” hamlet has been recreated showing how farmers lived in the past. The town is tiny, but the view over the city from the hill top is renowned as being one of the best in all of Colombia.

 

Parque Bolivar
Calle 54, Carrera 49
Metro station Parque Barrio

On the first Saturday of every moth, farmers from the Antioquia region come to this park to sell a myriad of hand crafted goods including leather bags and straw hats.


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