Previously the operational grounds of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, the characteristic Colombian neighbourhood of Santo Domingo in Comuna Popular of northeast Medellin has turned over a new leaf in the past decade and shed its ill reputation of the 90s as one of the most dangerous places in Latin America!
With the installation of Medellin Metrocable in 2004, the neighbourhoods in Comuna Popular has gone from 5 pm curfew to welcoming investors and tourists to witness its progressing glory. If you seek local connections and community engagement in your travels, don’t miss Santo Domingo Savio in Medellin, Colombia. Here are a few things to do when you are in the area:
Visit the Spain Library Park (Parque Biblioteca España)
Under the Northeast Integral Urban Project (Proyecto Urbano Integral (PUI) Nororiental), a city initiative to improve infrastructure in this part of the city, library parks were built and the most popular one happens to be in Santo Domingo Savio. The Spain Library, named after the country who helped to fund the project, consists of three iconic buildings that resemble giant boulders at the mountain’s edge. At night, the library is illuminated and can be seen from afar.
The architect, Giancarlo Mazzanti, stated: “we wanted to take people from this poor community into another world and change their reality”.
One interesting aspect of its architecture is the small windows, designed so to help visitors disconnect from their contextual surroundings of the neighbourhood!
Spain Library (Biblioteca España)
Address: Cl. 107a #Cra 33B # 107A-100, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Website: Spain Library
Enjoy beautiful views of Medellin
At the patio of the Spain Library, one will also get to enjoy beautiful views of the city while cable cars coming and going periodically. Join locals and visitors here to enjoy the breeze and partake in a slower pace of life. This is reputed to be one of the best places to see Medellin from above!
Photo walk in Santo Domingo Savio
With friendly locals hanging out on the streets, some working while others enjoying the bliss of retirement and grandchildren; a stroll in the neighbourhood of Santo Domingo Savio makes for great street photography. For art lovers, don’t miss the wall murals along the path towards Spain Library and its vicinity.
Taste a slice of local’s life
Literally. There are several street vendors selling local snacks and some eateries for more solid meals. Food prices are affordable, predictably more so than in the city center. A local plato (plate in Spanish) consisting of rice, side dishes and a soup would set you back from 5,000 COP (~1.70 USD) in exchange for a full belly.
Move on to Arví Park for fresh country air
Continue on to Arví Park (Parque Arvi) - the final stop on Metrocable by Line L from Santo Domingo Savio station. The 15-minute ride to the ecological park in Santa Elena affords expansive views of woodland stretching over the mountains that seem to go on like a never ending story! No complaints though!
This green area boosts 16,000 hectares of nature and is part of the network of pre-hispanic trails of Parque Ecological Piedras Blancas. There are seven well-marked paths, which brings one through cloud forests(!) and mountain lakes along with some of the best views of the Valle de Aburra and Medellin. You can go one a self/guided nature walk or rent a bike.
There’s usually a small farmer’s market near the entrance of Arvi station with some of the best (and affordable) handmade crafts and local produce. Don’t miss the blackberry wine!
Arví Park (Parque Arvi)
Address: Via a Piedras Blancas, Antioquia, Colombia
Website: Arvi Park
How to get to Santo Domingo, Medellin
To visit this characteristic neighbourhood, you may take a taxi (prearranged or UBER) or hop on Medellin Metrocable for a cable car ride from Acevedo K station to Santo Domingo Savio station. The cable car ride is an attraction on its own and presents a great contrasting view of the Comuna 1 neighbourhoods beneath and the city center from afar. A visit here will take about 1 to 2 hours, depending on one’s pace of exploration.
Website: Medellin Metrocable
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