Medellin is one of the best places to visit in Colombia. A vibrant hot spot for Colombian culture, Medellin has developed into one the most impressive cities in South America. Known for its violent past due to drug cartels and civil wars, Medellin has had a most impressive turnaround, with its residents beaming with pride on how far the city has come. One of the most unique aspects of Medellin is the sprawl of the different neighborhoods around the city. The public transportation includes a metro and cable cars that connect each neighborhood to the city center. This has proven to be important for the city’s growth as it allows people living in the poorer neighborhoods to easily access jobs located in the center. Even just walking around the city you will notice the cheerfulness and optimism of the locals, so much so, it provides a contagious atmosphere and leaves you absolutely loving Medellin.
What to do in Medellin?
As the city is constantly developing and evolving, new activities are springing up all over the place! Learn about Medellin’s past, enjoy displays of creative art, and sample some of the tastes of Colombia. You will never run out of options when deciding what to do in Medellin!
Free Walking Tour
Now, we know this may sound touristy and obvious, however, it is truly the best way to get to know the city upon your arrival. Free walking tours cover all the basics of Medellin with great explanations, and the local guides are enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about their home country. Almost everyone will recommend Real City Walking Tours, as they have the reputation of providing the best and most comprehensible free tour of Medellin. As it is a free tour, tips are expected, although we promise it will be worth every penny.
Museo de Antioquia
The Museum of Antioquia is a beautiful former city hall turned art museum. Fernando Botero is a famous Colombian artist, and is known for his paintings depicting his subjects in exaggerated forms. Many of his works reside here in the Museo de Antioquia, as well as pre-Colombian works, and both national and international pieces. It is on everyone’s list as one of the best things to do in Medellin!
Casa de la Memoria
A very important part of Medellin’s history, Casa de la Memoria is a museum and memorial for all of the lives lost due to the violence in Medellin. An enlightening and sombering exhibit, it is raved about by locals and visitors as a very important place to learn about what happened within the city.
You’ll notice that Medellin is set against beautiful hills, with some of the neighborhoods appearing to be climbing the hills. Past the neighborhoods, you are able to take a cable car to the entrance of Park Arvi, which is a nature reserve that has many walking trails, and even some archaeological sites to discover. It’s an accessible breath of fresh air away from the city center.
Futbol (soccer) is like a religion to the people of Colombia, and even Medellin. If you get the chance, seeing a match is an absolute highlight, as you won’t see locals behave as they do when it comes to futbol! The local teams of Medellin are, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín, and they provide an intense rivalry to the point where the die hard fans must be separated at games. However, the energy in the stadium is electric and too much fun not to miss, this is sure one of the best things to do in Medellin.
What to See in Medellin?
Comuna 13 used to be one of the most violents neighborhoods in Medellin, armed guards would stand outside the gate and reject anyone who did not live in the area. Affected by drug cartels and violence, the neighborhood has made a comeback with beautiful buildings accompanied with street art, it drew the attention of tourists and now is a lot safer. The best way to see Comuna 13 is to hire a guide or take a tour. It is also popular to take a graffiti tour, where you will learn about the street images that were in response to the brutal police treatment among other issues in the community. This special area is at the top of everyone’s list as one of the best things to see in Medellin.
In the heart of downtown Medellin, in front of the Museo de Antioquia, you’ll find PLaza Botero. Fernando Botero is a famous Colobian artist known for depicting his subjects in exaggerated forms. This square has about 23 different Botero statues and sculptures, it’s a perfect place to view Botero’s work while people-watching. You can also find street performers or other artists hanging around, maybe in hopes of becoming the next Botero.
Probably the most beautiful market in Medellin, this local market is mainly for fresh, local produce. Fruits and vegetables that are as bright as they are delicious. Watch the locals do their shopping and maybe even get some fruit of your own, as you won’t get anything better around town! Occasionally you can find some stalls with some artisanal products or people wanting to sell some old items, but the size and colors will leave you with a lasting impression.
This popular neighborhood has been deemed ‘gringolandia’ due the expats, tourists, and backpackers choosing this locality to stay. However, the neighbourhood has a wonderful cafe scene, where you can sip some of the best Colombian coffee, and enjoy the lovely Medellin atmosphere. Filled with other comfort amenities, if you’re looking for gyms, spas, and international food options, you will find it in Poblado.
Where to Go Out in Medellin
The nightlife culture in Medellin is abundant, from micro breweries to salsa clubs, if you’re feeling social there’s no better place than Medellin!
A growing scene in Colombia is the brewing of craft beers. A small selection of microbreweries you can visit will match perfectly with the Colombian Cuisine. Check out 3 Cordilleras, 20 Mision Cerveza, and Brew House, which are among the many micro breweries that have grown in Medellin.
Located in the Poblado neighborhood this open air park turns into a popular night spot. By day you can find people relaxing in the shade of the trees, with local artists, and artisanal vendors selling goods. But, once the sun goes down, bring a beer, or buy one from one of the local bars in Parque Lleras and see where the night takes you!
Even though Medellin is not the salsa capital, it comes in a close second, as you can find many bars and clubs who play the perfect rhythmic music to dance the night away. If you don’t know how to salsa you can always take a lesson or two during the week to practice your skills. Even when you get to the bar, a local would be happy to lead you in dance!
What to Do Near Medellin?
Just 2 hours outside of Medellin is Guatape, a picturesque lake town where you can find the most amazing colored waters and lush foliage. You can take boat rides as tours of the town, or take a party boat to really enjoy yourself and let loose! Not only is the lake beautiful but the town itself holds some of the most colorful streets you will find in Colombia, we recommend checking out Plaza de Zocalos, you’ll be sure to get the perfect photo op!
If you’re looking to explore more of Colombia, the perfect way to do it is to venture from the city for a day and explore some of the smaller towns of Colombia. Getting from Medellin to Salento takes about 5 to 6 hours, so it’s ideal to spend the night here. Sitting in Colombia’s ‘coffee triangle,’ Salento calmly rests in the Cocora Valley, surrounded by lush wax-palm trees and coffee plantations. This is the perfect place to go on a memorable hike, tour a coffee plantation, and even go horseback riding!
Another city to visit, worthy of a night or two, Cali is about 7 and a half hours from Medellin. The official salsa capital of the world, Cali is the perfect place to dance the night away! From the colonial landmarks to the vibrant ethnic diversity and culture, Cali is a great place to get a taste of everything Colombia has to offer. You can’t miss the huge Cristo Rey statue, Barrio Granada, and the many museums Cali has to offer. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to get from Medellin to Cali.
Is Medellin Safe?
A common question that is always asked when traveling to Medellin, even Colombia. This makes sense due to the city’s past issues with violence and drug cartels. However, since Medellin’s rebirth, the city’s numbers in safety have gone up! It is much safer to wander the city these days, however, we would like to remind you to practice common sense safety practices (especially at night) and always be on the look out for pickpockets. And, while it is unlikely, if you are confronted by a thief, the situation may become more dangerous if you attempt to resist or fight back. Medellin has come a long way from it’s dark past and this thriving city has so much to see and explore, and many people feel the past threats have since disappeared and the city is safer.
For more information click here: Is it safe in Colombia?
What can you not do in Medellin?
Medellin has come a long way from it’s violent past, and the locals are very proud of what the city is today, for good reason. Due it’s past there are still some common sense things that you should not do when in Medellin, or even Colombia in general. Here are some tips for things to avoid doing during your stay in Medellin, Colombia.
Pablo Escobar & Drugs
As many people know, the cause of Medellin’s violent past was the presence of drug lords inhabiting the city, most famously, Pablo Escobar. While the popular Netflix show has become a huge hit, please do not talk about, or speak to locals about Pablo Escobar. The violence he brought on the city is something that locals are trying to move past, so most people will likely get offended if you talk about him in a lighthearted manner. On top of this, please do not go searching for cocaine, as that is the reason for Pablo Escobar’s ruthless hold on the city, not to mention, taking reckless drugs is dangerous anywhere.
While most of us are independent and solo travel often, it is still a good idea to be on your guard. This is mostly relevant to being in the city at night, or taking transportation at night. The best recommendation for transport (alone and otherwise) is Uber or any taxi service app. This way you will not be taken advantage of regarding the price, as well as the drivers being held to a standard, so they should not give you trouble. Please never enter an unknown taxi or car, as this is when things could become dangerous.
Uber is a great option for short, on-demand rides. For longer distances, like traveling between cities, we prefer Daytrip. You can book them in advance so your driver will meet you exactly when you want to depart (they’re usually early in our experience!), and the sightseeing stops are a great opportunity to experience more of the local culture while you travel!
Do not expect many things to be open or available on Sundays. As Colombia’s locals are largely religious, Sunday is a holy day and reserved for services and religious dedication. The only things open will be chain restaurants and coffee shops, so we suggest saving that amazing local place you’ve ben wanting to try, for some day during the week!
Why is Medellin so popular?
Medellin is situated in the Andes Mountains, surrounded by gorgeous landscapes that you can see throughout the city. But the local’s pride and joy is Medellin’s rebirth into a dynamic, international, and accessible city. In the mid 90’s the violence was beginning to make its way from Medellin’s city streets and more urban developments began. With the installation of the public transportation system the city came alive. People left their neighborhoods for both careers and excitement! Ever since, Medellin has grown into a popular city that all locals, expats, and tourists have fallen in love with. Some of the characteristics that make Medellin so popular are the people, who are welcoming and cheerful, they will always greet you with welcome arms and invite you for a salsa dance. The nightlife, Medellin has been proven to be fun for everyone, whether it be dive bars with unique beers, or bass pounding discotheques, your weekends will never be dull. The cuisine, from the best pure Colombian coffee, to fresh arepas from a local street vendor, one thing is for sure, you won’t be leaving Medellin hungry! Finally, the culture, with museums from Medellin’s history to famous Colombian artists, you are sure to learn about many of Colombia’s greatest characters. There is much to discover about why everyone who visits Medellin falls in love with it, what will be your reason?