Medellin Travel Guide : Essentials
- Best things to Do : Visit the Poblado, Comuna 13, Travel by Subway and Metro Cable, Viewpoints of the City, Plaza Botero
- Best time to Visit Medellin : All the Year, city of the eternal spring
- How to get around Medellin : Best way to move is by Metro. Cabs are quite cheap as well
- How many days to dedicate to Medellin : 2 to 3 days is a minimum
- What to eat in Medellin : Bandeja Paisa, Natilla
- Where to Stay in Medellin : Poblado, Laureles, Envigado
- Best Hotels : Masaya, Selina, Hotel Du Parc
- Where to party in Medellin : Poblado is the best area
- Where to have a drink in Medellin : Poblado has a lot of offer of al kinds
- What to see around Medellin : Guatapé & Roca del Peñol, Santa fe de Antioquia, Jardin, Jerico, Rio Claro
- Is Medellin Safe to Travel : Yes absolutely, but just be aware not to be an easy target.
Why Medellin ?
It offers endless plans, open-air galleries, music for all tastes, warmth without shame and some country smiles that make yours bigger the more days you spend here.
Not to mention that because of its climate, it is known as the city of Eternal Spring.
Medellin is much more than yesterday’s violent story.
It went from bullets to art, from cracks in the wall to murals and colorful graffiti, from crying to hip hop, to cumbia.
But is it really worth going to Medellín?
Let’s discover it right now
Medellin is the capital of Antioquia.
Modern, cultural, it is also the second largest city in the country.
Medellin is known for its festive atmosphere and its flower fair.
Number of Inhabitants
The city of Medellin has a population of approximately 3,831,000 (2013 estimate).
History of Medellin
The valley in which the city of Medellin now stands was originally occupied by Amerindians (from the 5th century BC).
The conquistadors landed in the area in 1541 and named the valley “Valle de San Bartolomé”.
The site of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Ana was founded in 1646.
In 1649, the great cathedral was built there, which marked the Spanish colonial period.
The official foundation of the city of Nuestra Señora de la Candeleria de Ana was pronounced by the provincial governor, Francisco de Montoya y Salazar on March 20, 1671.
The locality is therefore no longer attached to Antioquia.
Nuestra Señora de la Candeleria de Medellin, with a population of 3,000 inhabitants at the time, obtained the status of “city” on 22 November 1675, following the ratification of the royal certificate by Queen Doña Ana of Austria.
Governor Miguel de Aguinaga was charged with announcing the creation of the city.
King Carlos II affixed his coat of arms to the city in 1678.
The famous University of Antioquia, formerly known as the Real Colegio de Franciscanos, was built in 1803.
In 1808, a census was taken to count the number of inhabitants in the city.
Medellin had 15,347 inhabitants.
Medellin became the capital of the province in 1826.
The population of the city increased sixfold during the first half of the 20th century.
The city’s Chamber of Commerce was built in 1904.
In 1950, foreign architects drew up the current town plan.
In the 21st century, the city’s ambition is to become an important business centre on the South American continent.
Located in the northwest of Colombia, the city of Medellin is part of the Aburra Valley.
Crossed by the river Medellin, it has an area of 380.64 square kilometers.
It is located in an area of high relief and has an altitude of 1538 meters.
What to see in Medellin
Medellin is gradually developing its tourism offer.
Here you will find a quick list of the best things to see and do in Medellin, but for more information, please see this in-depth article
Plaza Botero and its sculptures
An open-air sculpture parade of what is probably the most internationally known Colombian artist: Fernando Botero.
The artist has donated 23 bronze sculptures, exhibited right here in the open air in the heart of the city.
Museo de Antioquia
In the same square is the city’s most famous museum, with many of the artist’s works (including the famous paintings he painted on the death of Pablo Escobar), also donated by him: the Museo Antioquia, although it is also known as the Museo Botero and it is easy to understand why.
Graffiti at Comuna 13
What was once the most dangerous area of Medellín (and one of the most violent in the world) is now an open-air art gallery and the graffiti at Casa Kolacho is a must in the city.
When to go to Medellin
As its nickname “the city of eternal spring” indicates, there are no bad dates to visit Medellín since due to its location in the Aburrá Valley, at an altitude of between 1500 and 1800 meters above sea level, it enjoys a pleasant spring climate with temperatures between 16º and 28º all year round, with an annual average of 22º.
At the level of rains, these are relatively abundant throughout the year, being the driest season, with less days of rain, which includes the months of December to March, ideal months also for other areas of Colombia as the Caribbean, the coffee axis, etc.
How many days to dedicate to Medellin
We understand that in a 2 week trip through Colombia you can’t dedicate all the time you deserve to Medellin but you can save at least 2 full days for the city and count on investing at least one more day in one of its surrounding towns.
Where to Stay in Medellín
The best place to spend your stay in the city is El Poblado : It is a totally safe place, even to go out at night, with a lot of offer of restaurants & bars of all kinds, but very expat.
If you are looking for something more local, another option would be to stay in Laureles and finally an area that is gaining more visibility with several accommodations is Envigado.
Best Hotels in El Poblado
As said earlier, Poblado is one of the best areas to stay in Medellin: Safest, with tons of options for eating and having a drink.
Hotel Casa La Fleur
In the Poblado we stayed at the Hotel Casa La Fleur.
Very recommendable as it is in the heart of Poblado (a short distance from the famous Lleras Park) but in a quiet street which has a good location but allows you to rest at night.
The double room with private bathroom costs about 27 usd/night.
In the same street there are many restaurants and shops.
Another excellent option to sleep in Poblado is the Selina, a chain that always guarantees a level of quality and coking that is above the average of accommodations.
Here the double room with private bathroom costs about 50 euros.
Hotel Florencia Plaza Medellin
You also have the Hotel Florencia Plaza Medellín, which has a rooftop jacuzzi where you can relax with views after touring the city.
You have the option of a bunk bed for 47000 COP/person (13 usd), or a double room with private bathroom and breakfast for 180000 COP (49 usd)
Where to sleep in Laureles
Another area where you can sleep, less expat and more local but also safe is the Laurel area.
The apartment costs 27 euros/night and you can book it here.
Where to sleep in Envigado
Finally, the other increasingly fashionable area where you can stay overnight is the neighborhood where Escobar was born: Envigado.
Gastronomy of Medellin
Here are the dishes that you absolutely need to taste if you travel to Medellin.
For more information please read our guide to Colombian Food and Drinks
- La bandeja paisa : made with beans, rice, fried eggs, chorizo, etc.)
- Arepa (corn cake)
- Tamal (made with grilled pork, rice and vegetables).
- La mantecada (vanilla cake)
- postre de nata (milk cream cake).
- Colombian coffee
- Rum Medellín
La Bandeja Paisa
It is a super heavy and rich dish.
It has a kind of sausage, blood sausage, pork rinds, a good piece of bacon.
Besides this, it has rice, beans, patacones (fried plantains), avocado, hogao (tomato with onion).
There is still more?
Yes, arepas antioqueñas and ground beef (shredded meat).
If you are not much of a eater, I recommend that you share your bandeja paisa.
Where to eat in Medellin
Here we recommend some pearls that you shoud try if you travel to Medellin
One of the best vegan restaurants in Medellin
Whether you are a vegan or not, go there and let yourself be surprised by how delicious and creative all their organic dishes are.
In addition to the space that is beautiful and a great selection of craft beers.
They also have an organic market so if you are in an apartment with a kitchen it is a good option for shopping.
The dishes are around 20,000 to 25,000 COP (between 5 and 7 euros), expensive for Colombia, cheap for the quality it offers.
A marvel all that we tried in the restaurant Justo, in Poblado
A marvel all that we tried in the restaurant Justo, in Poblado
Excellent thin crust pizzas.
One da for 2 (from 28.000 COP to 32.000 COP – between 7 and 9 ?).
Rich and creative food and excellent cocktails.
It is for a whim (30,000 to 60,000 COP each dish – between 8 and 16 euros) but very tasty.
Has a really healthy buffet where you can make a salad to your liking for 11,900 COP (3 Usd approx.).
There is one in Poblado and another one near the MAMM (Modern Art Museum)
Where to take a Drink
As far as going out for a few beers (or dancing) in the evening, the Poblado is “the place to be”.
More specifically, the neighborhood of Provence.
Ideally, you should stroll through its streets and drop in wherever you feel like it because of the atmosphere or the music.
We recommend a few of them that we liked:
La Perla : Comida y Baile al granel
La Central de Amigos
a place whose terrace is ALWAYS full.
Lots of vines to drink beers and some snacks from where you surely won’t leave without meeting someone 😉
Here, besides having a drink (indoors or outdoors) you can also have lunch and dinner
How to get around Medellín
Medellín and its inhabitants could not be more proud of their public transportation.
The city of Medellin offers various modes of transport, Metro, Bus, Taxi.
The best way to move around Medellín is the subway, it’s fast, clean and very safe.
The city is served by five metro lines, thus avoiding traffic jams.
The metroplus: Medellin’s metroplus (a kind of bus) has been providing transport in the city since 2010.
Stops are frequent.
The city has a well-developed bus network that operates with the Metroplus.
There are several taxi companies in the city of Medellin.
It is advisable to make a reservation by phone.
It is also possible to take a collective taxi.
How to get from the airport to the city
If you arrive by plane in Medellín, at its José María Córdova International Airport, in the municipality of Rionegro, you have several options for getting to the city.
This airport is located about 30 kilometers from Medellín : Taxi, Bus / Subway and Uber
If you decide to take a taxi, take one of the yellow ones, which are the official ones, and these are the ones I strongly recommend you use.
Bus + Subway
You can also take a bus from the Combuses company.
They leave every 15 minutes, and drop you off at the San Diego Mall.
From there, you can take the subway to your destination.
The closest subway stop is Exposiciones, and if you are staying in Poblado there are only two subway stops away.
In Colombia Uber works quite well.
What to see in the around Medellin ?
Medellín also has interesting escapes that can be done in the same day, although if you have time and want to stay overnight it is far better.
For more information about the best things to do in Medellin and its surroundings, please check our in-depth article :
Guatapé and Peñol’s Rock
Near Medellin (about 1h45 drive), the region of Lake Guatapape represents a relaxing stopover thanks to its green setting and its sumptuous lagoons.
Climb to the top of the Peñol Rock (an impressive granite monolith, 750 steps high) to enjoy a magnificent view of the lake, stroll through the village with its colourful walls (listed as a natural and environmental heritage site) and enjoy a dish made with trout, a specialty of the region.
If you want to have more info on how to get there, best places to stay tons of useful tips, please check this out :
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Located about 1h30 drive from Medellin, this village is a real jewel of colonial art from an architectural point of view, with its narrow cobbled streets, shaded by houses with white facades and pretty balconies carved in wood.
The town has four churches, the prettiest and most important of which is that of Santa Barbara, in Baroque style.
Santa Fe de Antioquia is the former capital of the department, supplanted by Medellin in 1826.
This small, colorful Paisa town is located about 140 km from Medellín, and is surrounded by nature, so besides taking a few pictures of its colorful houses, you can venture out on a hiking trail and visit some of its nearby caves.
Before departure it is strongly advised to consult your doctor and to subscribe to an insurance covering medical expenses and medical repatriation.
For any emergency dial 123.
The hospitals of the city:
Clinica Las Americas
- Diagonal 75 B-2 A-80
- Medellin, Colombia
- + 57 4 342 1010.
- Sede el Poblado
- Carrera 7 N.39-290
- Medellin, Colombia
- + 57 4 311 2800.
Don’t leave Medellin without bringing back some souvenirs of your stay such as
- Scarves (bufandas)
- Ruana (Colombian poncho)
- Indian pottery and leather goods as well as
- Beautiful blankets
- Gold jewellery
- A Bottle of Aguardiente
Is Medellin safe?
As long as you go to the areas indicated as touristic, you won’t have any problem.
But use common sense, if you are not sure about an area you want to visit, ask at your accommodation first.
They are more up to date on what’s going on in Medellin.
The expression No Dar Papaya applies like in every big city of the ocuntry.
For more information about safety in Colombia, with tons of useful tips, please read our in-depth article :
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Do you have any questions about Medellín ?
Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite tips about this destination ?
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.