Best things to do in Medellin Colombia
Medellin, without a doubt, was the big surprise of our trip through Colombia. That is why we want to tell you what to see in Medellin, so that you can enjoy the city as much as we did.
We did not know very well what to expect from a city that for so many years has had such a bad press.
A city that during the 90’s and early 2000’s was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Well, I have to say that during our visit, Medellín has changed a lot. In fact, in some way it has hooked us and we would have liked to have spent much more time getting to know it better.
Medellín, fortunately, is no longer what it used to be. Nowadays, you can walk around it safely, but with the same precautions you would have in any big city.
Perhaps you are wondering what Medellín has to offer and what it has to do with Medellín, what it is that we like so much, and why we speak so well of a city whose reputation is not exactly good.
The fact that it is a city that is currently the envy of all South America on a cultural level, a vibrant gastronomic and nightlife, and its rebirth, as if it were a Phoenix, are more than enough reasons for you not to have to consider whether or not to go to Medellín. Not to mention that because of its climate, it is known as the city of Eternal Spring.
But is it really worth going to Medellín? If you still have doubts, I’ll try to clear them up. Yes, it is, and it’s very worthwhile to go to Medellin. To know it, to enjoy it, to walk it, to live it and to smell it.
Letting your five senses take over. And that, at first, we had our doubts, but when we finally decided to include Medellin in our itinerary of travel through Colombia, I think we were more than right.
What to see in Medellin
Once you know how to move around the city, and the precautions you should take to enjoy the city to the fullest, we will tell you what to see in Medellín, to get to know the capital of Antioquia in depth.
Plaza Botero and Museum of Antioquia
It is not only public transport and the metro that make the inhabitants of Medellín proud, but also Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous painter and sculptor, who is known for the volumes of his sculptures and paintings.
Well, in Medellín you can enjoy an authentic open-air museum at Plaza Botero.
It is full of Botero sculptures, from the most famous to the lesser known. Although it can’t be compared by any means, it reminded me of Alexander Tamanyan Park in the city of Yerevan. There, if you go, you can also enjoy a small open-air museum with statues of Botero.
The truth is that we didn’t get to enter the Museum of Antioch, since it was a Sunday and it was very heavy for us. But what we have read and heard indicates that perhaps we should have entered.
Although it is called the Museum of Antioch, Botero is the protagonist.
The Plaza de Botero is a curious place, full of many characters. I don’t think it’s a good place to walk around in the evening, or to stay nearby.
In spite of its curious name, it is a pleasant walk, and above all, a pedestrian one. It is full of shops, cafes, restaurants, and a beautiful building, the Palacio Nacional Shopping Center.
We walk along this avenue from the San Antonio Metro Station to the Plaza Botero. As I said, the tourist and central areas are very quiet to walk.
What to see in Medellín
In fact, if you want to walk a little further, you can take a walk around Plaza Cisneros, Plaza San Antonio, and walk to the Alpujarra Station.
Graffiti Tour Comuna 13
Without a doubt this is one of the best places to see in Medellin. Although I also tell you, before you go, ask at your accommodation.
We were very eager to see Comuna 13 and its transformation thanks to the urban art in the form of graffiti that tells the history of the commune.
Not in vain, nowadays, Comuna 13 is one of the most visited places in Medellín.
We visited this Commune 13 with a person who lives there, and who has lived the transformation. We hired a free tour, and I think it’s the best way to get to know the neighborhood first-hand.
When Medellín was one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Comuna 13 was the most dangerous place in Medellín. The guerrillas, paramilitaries and later the narcos, with the help of Pablo Escobar (many of his hitmen left this commune), made this place a hell on earth.
You will be able to see the transformation thanks to several public initiatives, such as the metro cable that goes there, city buses that leave from San Javier Station (the starting point for the visit) and the escalators that allow you to reach the top of this commune.
The graffiti are spectacular, they tell different experiences and way of understanding the life in the commune.
But not all that glitters is gold, the gangs still exist, but now for them, tourists are a good way to earn money without having to resort to violence. This is because, for every tourist who enters the commune, the guides have to pay a small amount, less than one euro.
In short, you can’t leave Medellín without visiting the Comuna 13 and its spectacular graffiti. In addition, you will learn more about the history of Medellín, through the history of Comuna 13.
We have written an article where we tell you much more about our experience here, Comuna 13, everything you need to know before you go.
Poblado is, let’s say, the best area in Medellín. This is the place where leisure areas, the city’s finest restaurants, and hotels are concentrated.
We chose Poblado for our accommodation as it is very safe both day and night. You can walk around its streets with no more worries than looking for a bar where you can drink a BBC (Bogotá Beer Company) or any other drink, a restaurant with the food you want.
Inside Poblado is the Lleras Park, a very pleasant place at night, since some of its streets become pedestrian. The lights and colourful stands will make you feel like you are at a festival.
We loved this part of the city, the life it has, both day and night. And we are not the only ones, since you will see how the most spoken languages there, besides Spanish, are English, German or French, since this area of Medellín, is also the area where expatriates live.
Viewpoints to see in Medellín
Medellín is located in the Aburra Valley, so the entire city is surrounded by hills.
Along these hills, the different communes that make up Medellín go up unstoppable, and being able to take a look from the top of some of its viewpoints, will make you see how big the city is, and its strange but curious beauty.
The most famous viewpoint, and from where you can enjoy the best views of the city of Medellín is the Mirador de las Palmas. However, to get there you have to take a taxi.
Another viewpoint from which to enjoy the city is the one at the top of Comuna 13. Not only is graffiti a good attraction, but this viewpoint is as well.
From the Pueblito Paisa, you can also see a view of Medellín that will leave you without hiccups. Medellín is spread over the Aburra Valley and sometimes it seems to have no end.
The Pueblito Paisa is another option to see in Medellin.
The Pueblito Paisa is located on the Cerro de Nutibara and is a representation of the traditional villages of Antioquia. I recommend that you go to one of these towns and enjoy this traditional architecture first hand.
We went to Guatapé, and visited the Piedra del Peñol on the way, but we’ll tell you about that a little later.
In Pueblito Paisa there are also restaurants with traditional Antioquian food, so you can taste patacones, paisas trays and other hyper caloric and hyper delicious food.
Free Tour Medellín
A good way to get to know Medellín is through the Free Tour. We couldn’t book one, and the one we went to, when we arrived it was already finishing.
But since the experience we had in our Free Tour in Bogota was so good, we wanted to repeat it in Medellin.
The Free Tours are tours that people who live in the city take. They usually show you the most representative places and others not so representative. But on top of this, they tell you dozens of anecdotes that would otherwise be almost impossible for you to know.
If you want to book your Free Tour in Medellín, and not stay without it, as we did, you can take a look at this link, Free Tour Medellín.
Visit Guatapé and El Peñol
The best excursion from Medellín you can make is to visit Guatapé, the town of the baseboards, and climb to the top of the Piedra del Peñol.
Let’s just say it’s two tours in one, and both are very worthwhile. I’m also telling you, if you can go on a day that’s not a weekend, better than better. It is such a beautiful and different place that both El Peñol and Guatapé are typical Colombian destinations.
We went on a Sunday, and we loved it, but there were so many people. So if you prefer to enjoy these two places, close to Medellin, with more tranquility, go from Monday to Friday.
If you want to know how to get there, prices, what to see and what both Guatapé and El Peñol are like, you can take a look at the article we have written about these two places, Guatapé and Piedra del Peñol, what to see and what to do.
10 things to see and do in Medellin
I was in Medellín for the first time in October 2011, and my camera barely registered any discontinuous photos. At that time I had traveled to Colombia in search of the postcard landscapes and beyond the ─impresionantes─ sculptures by Botero scattered in the park, nothing had caught my attention to devote more than two or three days.
I was lucky enough to return twice. The last one last month, with the program #BloggersEnMedellin, organized by the Mayor’s Office and the Bureau of Medellín, and I did nothing but check how wrong my impression of the city had been (so much so that I am seriously thinking of moving to spend some time in the city of eternal spring one day).
That’s why I decided to make this list, with the 10 safety pins of the capital of Paisa. So that if someone visits the city for the first time, they won’t be like me and will know what to see and do in Medellín (and what to eat too!)
Free Walking Tour
“It is resolved by walking” – he had adopted as his crutch the English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, famous for his epic on foot between London and Constantinople, in 1933. It may have been about matters of the soul, but that is no less true in the field of travel. For me, there is no better way to get to know a city than on foot. Walking is the most intuitive way to let curiosity guide you, to give space to other senses in the walk (how many times did you stop before an aroma or music that could be heard in the distance?), and to discover the city from a more palpable perspective. In addition to visiting the most important places in the center, the tour is interesting to learn about the history, urban myths and some curiosities of the city.
city tour medellin
Eating a paisa tray
Okay, maybe it’s not the best way to start a tour of the city, and not because the tray still challenges the palate, but rather, the stomach. Eleven ingredients make up this brutal dish, which can be ordered in any dining room: rice, beans, shredded meat, chorizo, black pudding, chicharrón (incredibly rich), avocado, banana, arepa, fried egg and hogao (a sauce similar to salsa criolla). The advice: share. And a boldo tea, just in case.
In the heart of Comuna 13, a popular neighborhood that a few years ago nobody would have recommended visiting, graffiti is carried out. The tour of the most impressive murals in the city, puts into play the most artistic streaks of its inhabitants and bets to tell the culture of the neighborhood, to teach not to repeat. If Medellín is the city of innovation, this site is living proof that change is possible. K-Bala, our guide, explains: “Here people have two paths: either they become bad, or they become artists. Our job is to exchange guns for brushes, bullets for microphones. The tour lasts four hours, and what you see goes far beyond the impressive murals: it is the transformation of a society, the palpable hope, the life of the people that makes Medellín the city it is. This is the second time I do this and over the years the murals get better. For me, an unquestionable must-have.
graffiti commune 13
grafotour in medellin
Arturo Bullard, Peruvian blogger and photographer, wrote “Comuna 13, when violence kneels before culture”. Don’t miss the pictures.
And you can see that the graffiti was what impacted us all the most, because Juan also wrote about it in his article “La comuna 13 de Medellín. Culture and urbanism as an engine of integration”.
If you want more information, you can write to Jeihhco, organizer of the tour. This is his Whatsapp: +573113473131.
Visit the Museum of Antioquia + Plaza Botero
To talk about Medellín is to talk about Botero, one of the most renowned plastic artists in Colombia. No visit to the city would be complete without a walk around this square, where many of his sculptures are exhibited outdoors (if you go on a rainy day you will have more chances to photograph them without so many people around, because the Plaza de Botero is an undisputed meeting point). ) Right there is also the Museum of Antioquia, one of the largest in the region, where there are from pre-Columbian works to a collection of paintings by Botero himself.
Traveling by subway
The Medellin subway is an institution. It has the reputation of being the cleanest in the world and, although I don’t know all the subways in the world, the truth is that the years go by and the facilities are very well maintained. For those of us who are used to the lack of structure, some rules may be a bit strict (you can’t eat or drink, sit on the floor and wait, or find street music in the hallways), but the results are there for all to see. What’s new is that the Medellín Metro has incorporated cable cars into its public transportation system, as a way to integrate people who live on the mountainsides. At the moment there are two, they can be combined with the subway lines and they lead us to the next point.
metro cable medellin
Visit the Arvi Park
Arvi Park is a protected area in the mountains that seems impossible as close to a city as Medellin. Activities range from hiking to picnics and horseback riding. If you have time, I recommend you spend a whole day there. The Park is a special place. If you are short on time and it is the season, don’t miss the orchids.
orchids park arvi
In the picture, Arianna Arteaga. Behind the camera, Julián Manrique.
In the photo, Arianna Arteaga. Behind the camera, Julián Manrique.
Participating in a coffee tasting
We all know that Colombia is one of the world’s most important producers of the win from which one of the most consumed hot drinks in the world is obtained. What few of us know is the history and work behind every spoonful of coffee, the secrets that make one coffee more or less acidic than another. El Laboratorio de Café is a company that is dedicated to compiling the highest quality productions in Colombia, with the aim of making “coffee always an experience, not a routine drink”. In their offices in Medellín it is possible to participate in a cupping, learn the differences between beans and the different ways to prepare it. A must for coffee lovers and a rather curious place for those who, like me, barely pass the Turkish coffee.
the coffee cupping laboratory
If you want to know more about this region of Colombia, don’t miss Vero Boned’s post “What to see in the Eje Cafeteto Colombiano
Spend an afternoon at Explora Park
The museum is designed for children, but who doesn’t have a child inside? Definitely one of my favorite places in Medellín, Explora Park is an interactive museum dedicated to science, the human body, technology, and nature. There are huge aquariums, reptile houses, a planetarium and several themed rooms. My favorite: “Mind, the world inside”, dedicated to the brain and its relationship with the human body. There are games to test the senses, challenges, optical illusions. To spend the afternoon without realizing it.
Eating arepas at any street stall
Yes, street food can, and if there’s anything left in Medellin it’s hands on. I had already told on my previous trip my weakness for cheese arepas. The bad news is that my favorite job no longer exists. The good news is that the Medellín City Hall has developed a program called #MedellinSiSabe, which aims to create different gastronomic circuits in the city that reflect the best of Colombian cuisine. From the highest category restaurants to the street stalls, everything is summarized in their circuits. The green line, or “La Reina” groups local producers, each with their secret recipe.
You can also read “Medellín si sabe”, an article about this initiative written by Toya Viudez, a Spanish blogger with whom I shared this blogtrip.
Exotic Fruit Tour
Yes, I’m eating, and Colombia does taste good. The country has more than 400 exotic fruits (yes, I didn’t miss any zero, there are four hundred). So to avoid standing in front of the crates of the greengrocers and killing the greengrocer by asking questions, the best thing is this tour of the Plaza Retail Market. Tree tomato, chontaduro, uchuva, mangosteen, pitahaya, lulo, zapote, borojó. The list is endless. The good thing: it comes with a tasting included. Here I leave you with more info (generally it’s done in English on demand, but if you get together in a group, you can order it in Spanish).
The lulo is quite acidic and is great in juices and smoothies. I don’t like it that much anymore, just to eat it with a spoon.
The lulo is quite acidic and is great in juices and smoothies. I don’t like it that much anymore, just to eat it with a spoon.
This is the tree tomato, a delicacy
This is the tree tomato, a fruit that is mostly used to make juice. It’s almost number one on my podium.
The chontaduro is a typical fruit of southern Coolombia, which by itself doesn’t say much. It is quite dry and doughy. Now, add honey and salt, and then tell me…
The chontaduro is a typical fruit of the south of Coolombia, which by itself does not say much. It is quite dry and doughy. Now, add some honey and salt, and then tell me…
Pomegranate, another of my favorite fruits. On the outside, the peel is hard but inside it’s gelatinous. Breaking it is like breaking an egg.
Pomegranate, another of my favorite fruits. On the outside, the shell is hard but inside it’s gelatinous. Breaking it is like breaking an egg.
And my favorite of all times: the mango! You can tell I had a good time on this tour, right? 🙂
And my all time favourite: the mango! You can tell I had a good time on this tour, right? 🙂