Hitting the town for a night out in Medellin, you’re as likely to hear merengue, reggaeton or vallenato as you are to find the strains of sultry salsa. But don’t be fooled, Medellin has some salsa club gems if you just know where to look…
El Tibiri is the place to dance salsa in Medellin. Founded in 1991, this steamy joint has always attracted a young crowd of salsa aficionados. Located in a lower basement on La 70, the bar is dead during the week, but pumping on Friday and Saturday nights from 11PM to 2AM.
Salsa brava – classic, non-commerical salsa – rumbles from the sound system, and the walls drip with sweat while energetic dancers go crazy. Crazy. Don’t be intimidated because amateurs, both foreign and Colombian, are eagerly welcomed onto the dancefloor.
While the atmosphere is casual – jeans and a T-shirt are fine – the crowd seems determined to have fun. Every hour, the dancefloor clears to make space for different performers, whether it be a dancer demonstrating his quick step skills or letting his erotic muppets (yes!) give you a lesson in dirty dancing.
While a beer costs COP3,000, entrance is free. You’ll be asked for I.D, so make sure you bring it, along with your dancing shoes!
La Papayera, aka Eslabon Prendido
If El Tibiri is the place to dance, then La Papayera the place to hear live music. Housed in a dark bar with wooden beams and an electric chandelier, this trendy bohemian spot is located in downtown Medellin.
While the bar is open Tuesday through Saturday, Tuesday nights are the best, when the place is packed to the rafters to hear live bands play. The crowd often spills out into the street until late at night, while “most Medellinenses go to bed at 8PM,” jokes John Palomito, the tall, blond owner.
The cosy bar doesn’t leave much room to indulge your salsa fever on the dancefloor, meaning you’ll have to get up close and personal with your partner. But given the good-looking laid back student crowd, that shouldn’t be a problem. Beers are COP3,000 and there’s an entry fee of COP5,000 on salsa nights, which is worth every cent.