I’ve worked in a couple (hundred) coffee spots from Califas to Cartagena, NYC to Medellin. I’ve sat on stools and plush sofa chairs, hard-ass wood benches and uncomfortable tiny booths with backs as straight as 6 o’ clock where the foot traffic and passersby were really more of a signal that business was good rather than that one could actually get any work done. And I’m sure you have, too.
Over the past five years, I’ve gone from working in corporate offices to nonprofit spaces in WeWork (Berkeley) to working on weekends in neighborhood libraries and other public spaces, to fully remote in Medellin, where I’ve been for about a year working on Scarlet Macaw Trips.
Before arriving in Medellin I didn’t read many blogs or anything else having to do with digital anything. When I got here, however, I did start poking around and noticed that the same few places were usually mentioned on a variety of blogs, whether we’re talking dinner spots or day trips. This is most likely because Medellin is still in a growth phase not because all the blogs are biting off each other…
Anyway, I haven’t been to as many neighborhoods as I would like to have and I certainly haven’t done all there is to do in Medellin. However, after a year of working three jobs, I feel qualified to speak on the drastic (and joyous!) differences between a Medellin Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts and a Starbucks on Market Street, San Francisco, where I am from. I realize that supporting a Starbucks in Medellin is in line with supporting The Man, but I can also tell you I do not make enough to afford an office + an apartment, so here we are.
A full generation older than the #DigiNomo (ew, just grossed myself out) crowd, I like my coffee simple and my sugar infrequent. I like my music wordless and my DJ’s nonexistent. I’m just trying to get work done and grow a business, even if the concept of SEO and the phrase ‘content creation’ enrages me!
Anyway, what I can tell you, if you are looking to get work done, is that the less cool the vibe the better the internet - within Colombian reason. I’m sharing the best places to get work done in Medellin with you because I know when you see me at one of these you won’t start chatting with me, you’ll just get to work.
Full disclosure: I used to work at a co-working space in Medellin so LIFEAFAR is mentioned below. And yes I have been to Selina. I had the distinct honor of getting yelled at by a Chilean co-worker who told me to get off the deck (in some weird Clint-Eastwood-but-in-Spanish-shit) because that space was only for monthly clients. I told her to CHILL. Pero CHILL-L-L-L-L-EEEEEEE. The only other time I’ve been there was for a mixer, where I met a great couple from Texas in their 50s traveling together with Remote Year. They were cool.
Here’s my list. Fight me on this.
Top of the ‘Jarra - Rooftop Status
Right across from the passport office of Medellin, near the Alpujarra station downtown, there is an official city building that has wifi on the top floor. It can be breezy, and, depending on the time of year, you could get rained out any day after 1 pm. You’ll have to use your Spanish skills and ask someone in that plaza which building it is exactly, but you’ll be fine. Afterwards, or before, you can visit Parque de Berrio, Botero Plaza, and/or the “Museum of AGUA EPM,” and pay my water bill while you’re at it.
LIFEAFAR - A place to #Live #Work and #Invest
On Calle 10, right around Parque Poblado, there is a white-walled office with incredible air-conditioning and one great seat on the second floor balcony overlooking the kitchen in what is technically called Global Express Center. The wifi is 99.99% EN POINTE and if not on the first floor in one of the booths, one can usually get good work done. So go forth, wear a sweater, and conquer all that you have to do in a day! I recommend getting your afternoon cafecito two blocks up at Toucan Cafe and I say ditch the buñuelos for a fruit salad across the street (bright yellow/orange walls and fruit pictures everywhere). You don’t have to add cheese to your fruit salad but…I would.
Dunkin Donuts - Milla de Oro
Maybe your first memories of Dunkin’ are also of being in Boston for the first time in the late 90s or waiting in a 20 minute line out the door on 57th and 8th on sweltering summer days in the city. No? Well, I always liked me a Dunkin. There is a small, 3-boothed-Dunkin on the Milla de Oro, Edificio One Plaza. It’s a nice airy space and isn’t usually crowded. You can go to the restroom next door at Starbucks and have a booth all to yourself. Treat yourself to a classic donut hole and stroll through Parque Lineal La Presidenta afterwards. On Sundays, get a veggie empanada and juguito de caña de azucar for 1 buck.
MERCADO DEL RIO - Any seat in the house
Mercado del Rio is right across the street from Ciudad del Rio, the Modern Art Museum of Medellin, a skate park, and open air park where families and folks mill about with their kids and/or pets and/or each other. You can sit upstairs at one of the picnic tables, put your earphones in, and get to it. It’s an indoor food court and most of the action (dates/gringos) happens on the 1st floor. Beware Sunday night, however, as families or groups of people usually take up the more comfortable seating. But who’s working on a Sunday anyway?
La Taza Tienda de Cafe in Laureles
This spot is labeled as ‘cozy’ on Google Maps and it’s right by a tiny little park in Laureles off of Avenida Nutibara. This coffee shop was submitted by my friend Maria, who just pulled off an incredible feat here in Colombia before returning to Portland. I trust her.
Trapani - Envigado Pizza Haus
This spot is definitely less coffee and more pizza and I’m not sure how great they realize the name TRAPANI is. It conjures up a whole genre of music and the word panini - solid. The menu has pizza and other unnecessarily fancy items, like salmon with salad and puree de papa! I was nearby, waiting to see my fur baby at the hospital around the corner for visiting hours. Their wifi survived a thunder storm, they gave me free garlic knots, and were attentive. I don’t know what else you want?!
Top Floor Oviedo Mall - Tables by the palm trees
This open air wifi and work table situation is a dream come true when the wifi is working throughout the entire joint. Otherwise, it’s hard to get the wifi from specific clothing stores nearby. If the open air scene (3rd floor) or quiet singlet tables (2nd floor) aren’t available, there is a “co-working” zone on the 1st floor. This space is usually best in the AM. I recommend the leather chairs and not the tables. Also, this space is also a garage? But, if you heave headphones and some BYOC (coffee) you’ll be good, assuming the wifi works that AM.
Wow I guess I’m DD’s biggest fan. This particular DD location has working WIFI and comfy couches, chairs, and booths. The spot is not THAT popular and therefore great for calls (your loud voice will not annoy other paying customers if there aren’t that many!) The customer service is delightful and they don’t bother you much, because the employees are usually flirting with each other. I love this! Once you’re in with the crew, they will usually give you the 8-hour password as opposed to the 1-hour password. Be nice and don’t be annoying. This could be your permanent office.
I have nothing but accolades for this quiet coffee shop in La Buena Mesa, Envigado. These guys are chill, take their craft seriously, and play good Hector Lavoe and other classic salsa during their shift. The crowd is a mix of travelers, families, and couples making out. Percimon is nearby as is Son de Timba, if you wanna shake a leg after putting in some hours.
So what is #1?!
Well, I can’t give it all up. A good man, the creator of MEDELLIN en 3, gifted me this secret in confidence on his way out of Medellin this past summer. If this is obnoxious to you, please note it’s mostly just a ploy to find out more about YOU. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you’re working on here in Medellin and we’ll take it from there.
We are currently working on filling seats for our January 2019 PHOTO TRIP LED BY SUPERSTAR AND GREAT HUMAN JAMES ANTHONY here in #Medallo! More info is everywhere on this site and relevant to those seeking to build their international photo portfolio while traveling.