Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia. It’s set in a valley running south to north and just a one-hour flight from Bogota, the Capital of Colombia.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Medellin was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world and had a highly disproportional homicide and kidnapping rate.
It was the home of the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the so-called Medellin Drug Cartel, who virtually took over the city during that time.
But fast forward to the present day, it’s safe to say that the city is better off today than it was 20 years ago. Things have improved immensely and the residents of this region are proud of their city’s progress and go out their way to make tourists feel safe and welcomed.
Things To Do In Medellin
El Poblado neighborhood – this upscale part of town is built in steep hills and has many modern buildings which complement the nearby Andes forest. Most of the trendy bars, clubs, and restaurants of Medellin are located in this neighborhood. It’s safe to walk around at any time.
Prado neighborhood – formerly it was the wealthy neighborhood of the city so many huge houses were built there. It still has some of these beautiful old houses, though it should be visited with caution as it’s near the center of the city.
Laureles, Estadio, and Suramericana – West of the Medellín river are the middle-class neighborhoods of Laureles, Estadio, and Suramericana which are modern.
Carrera 70 in Suramericana is where many of the best Salsa clubs are, and represent an excellent way to take a break from the trendiness of Zona Rosa and see some real Colombian dancing.
If you only have a day
In the morning take the metro to a downtown station, visit some churches – most are open early in the morning.
Next, head to the park outside Museo de Antioquia to see the sculptures, enter the museum at 10 AM and visit until lunchtime.
Have lunch either at the museum’s restaurant or cafe or take the metro to Metrostation Universidad, enter Jardin Botanico (Botanical Gardens) and have lunch there.
After you have eaten, stroll around the gardens, then go across the street to Parque Explora or Parque de los Deseos.
Before sunset take the metro to Acevedo station, hop on the Metrocable for spectacular views in the way up, and a city of lights upon your return.
Take the metro back to any station near El Poblado, go shopping and then for dinner and a bar afterward.
Metrocables – there are two cable car extensions of the Metro: For the line K take the a metro train to Acevedo station and from there take the Metrocable up to Santo Domingo for a nice view over the city. The cablecar is included in your metroticket.
Go during the day and walk around to see what working-class people live like. The area at the top sees tourists so there are little stands set up and people selling empanadas and other things. You can stop at a little bar and have a beer.
Don’t stray too far or off the beaten path in this neighborhood, though. For those so inclined, there are young people that give tours waiting at the top wearing t-shirts that said “guia” (guide).
Also recommended is taking the metrocable located at San Javier up to La Aurora (J line). Although there is nothing special to see or do at the top of the cable car route, the trip itself is longer and more interesting than the cable car that goes to Santo Domingo.
Stroll along lively Carabobo street, Carrera 52 in the heart of downtown, recently converted to pedestrian-only. Safer during daytime. Metro stations Parque Berrio, San Antonio or Alpujarra. Along the street see Plaza Botero (read under Museums) and also:
Basílica de la Candelaria built in 1767, a National Monument. Cra. 49 # 50-85, just off Carabobo.
Edificios Vásquez y Carré built at the turn of the 19th century by a French architect. Nowadays in public use, with stores, cafeterias, etc. Cra. 52 x calle 44.
La Veracruz colonial church, built in 1682. Cra 51 # 52-58.
Turibus is a good option to get a general overview of the city. You can take it to many of the main tourist attractions. The tour lasts four hours and allows 20–30 minutes per stop for sight-seeing and photos.
Turibus departs from the south side of Parque Poblado at 9 AM and 1 PM.
Note: You must return to the same bus after each stop, it is not a hop-on/hop-off service. Spanish is the only advertised language, however many times at least one guide speaks English and is happy to translate.
GTOPIK Paragliding Medellin
An excellent paragliding company that will take you flying over Medellin where you will be able so see the aburra valley from the sky. Experience some beautiful scenery such as the waterfalls around the launch point.
Easy paragliding Medellin will take you flying farther if you wish to explore the nearby towns of San Jeronimo and Santafe de Antioquia. All while flying like a bird. If your family is in for a long vacation you can also learn to fly in Medellín.
Pueblito Paisa is a reconstruction of a typical but tiny Antioquia village. It’s located on top of el Cerro Nutibara and has a pleasant view of the city.
It’s within walking distance from the metro station “Industriales,” but as the walk to the top requires hiking uphill for a while, visitors might find that a taxi ride is a smart choice.
The Christmas lights decorating Medellín, make it the most beautiful Latin American city for the holidays. The lights stay put from the beginning of December to mid-January.
The most impressive parts are centered around the Rio Medellín at the ‘Puente de Guayaquil’ and downtown. Large statues made of lights can be found throughout the city.
The Metropolitan Cathedral
Holds the record as one of the buildings in the world with the most bricks – over 1.1 million – along the Bolivar Park in the city heart. Cra 48 calle 56. Metro station Prado.
The Junin pedestrian street is a cobblestone street in the downtown area from Colteger building to Bolivar’s park shows the history of the city with Astor tea salon and Versalles salon.
Museums and the Arts
Museo de Antioquia
A collection of contemporary art including many pieces, paintings, and sculptures of Fernando Botero, one of the most important sculptors in the world.
The Plaza Botero holds several large sculptures just in front of the museum and is free of charge. Entrance is usually FREE.
Museo Universidad de Antioquia
Represents the merge of six collections: Visual Arts, Natural Science, University History, Galileo Interactive Room, Human Being and Anthropology.
The attraction for foreigners is the Anthropology Collection which has the largest number in the Colombia of pre-Columbian ceramic pieces, with near 20,000 objects. Free.
Casa Museo Fernando González
Fernando González was a local writer also known as The Philosopher from somewhere else or Otraparte which gives the name to the home.
A good opportunity to see an old traditional home with gardens, personal belongings and know more about his legacy.
Museo Pedro Nel Gómez
Shows artwork by this local artist. M-Sa 9AM – 5PM. Sundays and Holidays 10AM – 4PM. Not near the Metro, closest stations are Prado or Hospital. Free.
Museo Interactivo EPM
A ‘please touch museum’, great for kids.
Museo Etnográfico Miguel Angel Builes
A large display of everyday use articles crafted by natives from all over the country. Tools, textiles, bijouterie, pottery, little boats, small tents. The museum is off the beaten path, the closest Metro station is Floresta but the walk is over 1 km.
The Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM) has now 2 sites. The original is a small building near Suramericana and Carlos E. Restrepo neighborhoods, hosting the traditional exhibits. The new space in Ciudad del Río is a large and old industrial warehouse.
Parque de los Deseos
Known as “Park of wishes”, it’s located near Antioquia’s University, has an Indian context, beautifully embarked with the planetarium, and a large display of science experiments. You can find free open-air movies and discussions with film directors Saturdays at 7 PM.
Plaza de Cisneros
Known as “Plaza of Light”, it is located in the heart of the city and borders some beautiful buildings from the 1920s, the EPM library, and a sector that was full of drugs and poverty many years ago but is now a place to visit and have a great time.
Also, visit the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot park) for a Zen experience in the heart of town. Outdoor cafés, cultural activities. Metro station: Alpujarra or Cisneros.
Plazuela de San Ignacio
Depicts Colonial and Republican style buildings. This little plaza witnessed in 1803 the birthplace of the largest university in town. The main lecture hall or Paraninfo de la Universidad de Antioquia is still in use and available for public view.
Located in the heart of town at the crossroads of Carrera 50 and Calle 50. Has the buildings of the Stock Exchange, Bank of the Republic, La Candelaria Church and the busiest metro station. It has the unofficial meeting place for the locals – right at the sculpture of the ‘Fat Woman’ or ‘La Gorda de Botero’.
It connects directly to Plaza Botero and Plazuela Nutibara.
The Parque del Periodista
Also known as the “journalist park”, Parque del Periodista is a small square right in the center of the city. It is where the ‘bohemian’ and ‘alternative’ people meet.
The bars play music varying from reggae and old salsa to alternative rock. You will find most of the people hanging outdoors instead of inside the bars. Metro station Parque Berrío.
Parque San Antonio
A large, newer development right downtown. Hosts a handicraft bazaar and an infamous sculpture of a fat dove, bombed by criminals a couple of decades ago during the hard times of violence.
Parque de Boston
The Parque de Boston is an attractive area that leads down to the main promenade La Playa where people can be found gathering at night to see street acts.
Jardín Botánico (Botanical Gardens)
A mid-size garden with a vast collection of orchids and many tropical flowers, plants and trees, and a beautiful lake.
The covered area for display of flowers is an architectural marvel. The annual orchid exhibit every August is world class. Entry is FREE except during the orchid exhibit.
The new Arví park in the eastern slopes of the valley, close to a beautiful dam. This park (free entrance) promotes ecotourism with well-marked trails for hikers and mountain bikes, a picnic area, and a butterfly dome (COP$5,000).
Parque El Salado
Set in a beautiful natural setting on the mountain overlooking Envigado. There are good paths for walking. The main attraction is a short canopy tour/zip line with about five stops. (The complete is longer but the additional length is reserved for members).
Take the Metro to Envigado and then take the connecting bus that goes to Parque El Salado. The bus ride is worth the trip as it winds its way through neighborhoods up the mountain with some great views along the way.
Ferrocarril de Antioquia
An old train station, but a fine building at the corner of City Hall and the Governor’s Hall. Has a small exhibit area with FREE admission.
EPM building also called the Intelligent building for its computerized self-control. An icon of contemporary architecture.
Edificio Coltejer has been the symbol of the city for over 40 years, shaped as a threading needle for this textile company.
The weather in Medellín is quite mild it well deserves its common motto of ‘City of eternal spring’. Average daily temperatures are 22°C (71°F), range from 15 to 30 °C (60º-85°F).
Humidity is comfortable in the 50%-70% range. Due to its proximity to the equator, there is little variation with the seasons. Due to the high altitude and moderate overcast skies, Medellín stays cool, with an occasional couple hours of strong sunlight.
As Medellín is located in a tropical country, the absence of air conditioners in Medellín often takes foreign visitors by surprise. Air conditioning is used in downtown areas.
Fresh air comes from the mountains surrounding Medellín on all sides and provides Medellín with the perfect climate. At night time the temperature is usually in the 10-15°C (50-60°F) range and depends mostly on if its raining or not.
The majority of restaurants are in the open air environment, without walls, because of the perfect climate.
Spanish is the official language in Colombia. Few locals are bilingual, and when so it is usually English as the second language. You will find many signs written both in Spanish and in English, especially in the more tourist areas.
Disadvantaged youths in the city have assembled a wealth of new expressions that have fascinated scholars and artists. Many local movies like La Vendedora de Rosas depict this urban language called Parlache in its own idiom.
Most of the city of Medellín is built on a grid system. Carreras (streets) are abbreviated as Cr, Cra, K, kra or Crs and run parallel to the river from south to north.
The calles (also streets) cross the Carreras and run from East to West. Calles are abbreviated as C, Cll or Cl. Avenidas, abbreviated as Av, are usually larger and main streets.
The numerical system for the Avenidas is used but some have names that are more commonly used such as Avenida el Poblado or Avenida Oriental. There are a few streets called Transversales which usually refer to wide Carreras atop the mountains in El Poblado neighborhood.
The most famous are transversal Intermedia, Inferior and Superior. Along with Laureles neighborhood, you can also find Diagonales and Circulares.
Each address consists of a series of numbers, for example, Calle 50 # 65 – 8 which indicates that the building is on street 50 (Calle 50) 8 meters ahead from the intersection with street 65 (Carrera 65).
Note: The center point of the city, Parque de Berrio, is at the crossroads of Calle 50 and Carrera 50.
Metro and Metroplus
Timetables: Monday through Saturday from 4:30 AM to 11 PM Sundays and holidays from 5 AM to 10 PM.
Frequency Peak hours: trains every 5 min, non-peak every 7 min.
Tarjeta Cívica is a reloadable payment card. Although it is mainly for residents of Medellín, if you’re using MetroPlus/Integrado bus to train transfer, or staying in Medellin for weeks or more, it may be worth getting one.
It allows transfers to Tranvía, MetroPlus bus (Free) and Integrado buses (few hundred pesos more). Anyone can get one for free with the Passport, but you need to visit and line up at one of three service points at SanAntonio, Niquia, or Envigado station. With little luck, you may find mobile service point at other stations.
Traveling through the city is easy and quick, with the two-line metro system, you can go to anywhere in the city with The Metroplús (Bus extension to the Metro), Tranvía (Tram system) and the four-line Metrocable, a sky train or cable car that has revolutionized transport in the city.
Trains run from 5 PM to 11 PM on workdays and from 7 AM to 10 PM on Sundays and holidays.
Note: Transfers between the Metro trains and cables are free, but you need to pay an additional fare to transfer to MetroPlus bus and Tranvía tram.
The Metroplus system consists of long articulated buses powered with natural gas for a more environmentally friendly option. They run on exclusive roads and enclosed stations. Only with “Tarjeta Civica” transfer to the Metro is free.
The Metrocable to the ecopark Arví – Line L goes 4.5 km trip up the mountains. Transfer is available at the Santo Domingo station of the Metrocable K line.
Taxis and Buses
Taxis are cheap and plentiful. All taxis have meters, make sure they use them.
Taxis should always be called by phone for safety reasons and not be hailed on the street. As in most Latin American countries, their driving can be harrowing, so hold on tight.
There is also the TuriBus, a modern bus that goes around the city showing its parks, attractive neighborhoods, and historical parts. While they do not guarantee this, many times their guides also speak English and are happy to translate for you.
If you want to go around downtown or neighborhoods near the downtown area without using Taxis, try using the Circular Coonatra. There are various routes, marked on the front and back of the busses. Note, these require exact change.
This unusual system allows underserved indwellers to climb up the mountains in the way to their homes, the escalators go up equivalent of a 28-story building. Rides are free.
They are in the west of the city – San Javier area – which can be a rough neighborhood. It is not in walking distance of the San Javier metro station, which is the nearest.
Renting a car in Medellín, Colombia can enhance your visit, so it’s definitely worth considering. Take a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia, Santa Helena, El Peñol or Llano Grande in Rionegro.
Driving from Medellín allows for spectacular views as you climb up and out of the city into the surrounding mountains that lead to your day trip destination. Cars can be rented in town or at the airport.
Scooter or Motorbike
Since the steep hills of Medellín stops many tourists from biking, an appealing alternative is to rent a scooter or motorbike/motorcycle.
There are two motorcycle rental agencies in Medellin: Colombia Moto Adventures has a selection of ADV motorcycles and scooters for adventure travelers and Medellin Scooter Rentals.
Biking is not easy in the city since many neighborhoods are in the hills. There is a small bike-route in the Laureles and Estadio areas.
There are few areas designed to park bikes. On nights and weekends, some major avenues are closed for the popular Ciclovía when you can safely ride a bike in the company of many other people exercising.
July 14, 2019 12:07 pm
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