Medellin, Colombia is hailed as the "City of Eternal Spring." While this may be referring to its pleasant year-round temperatures, it's the perfect way to describe how the city has reinvented itself and transformed into a modern-day eco-city.
But that wasn't the first thing that came to your mind, was it? When I first decided to go to Medellin, I also wondered about the cartels...
A city that many once feared, Medellin has an unbelievable history. And over the past few years, the city has done a fantastic job of honoring its history while making it a hub for foreign travelers by focusing on safety.
Nowadays, it's a hub for growth, innovation, and tourism. If you'd like to explore "The City of Eternal Spring," you're in luck because I've got some of the best things you can do in Medellin, Colombia.
After spending 8 days in this beautiful city, I've got the insider scoop for you. Discover what to do in Medellin to ensure you have the most memorable trip!
What Happened in Medellin and Is It All in the Past?
As you probably know, Medellin has a complicated past.
The city was once the playground of notorious drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar. During his time in power, the city was known as "the most dangerous city in the world." Cartels reigned supreme, violence was always around the corner, and locals struggled daily with fear ever present in their lives.
This was all possible due to Colombia's unique agricultural conditions and geographic positioning.
But, the history of Colombia isn't as clear cut as it might appear. The people's strength has turned Medellin into one of the fastest-growing economies in South America.
Recognized globally as a leader in innovation, the city's communities overflow with culture, excitement, and unlimited possibilities. All without hiding from its unbelievable past.
I invite you to explore and experience all that Medellin, Colombia has to offer and learn about its revival. Let's get into the best things to do in Medellin!
9 Best Things to Do in Medellin, Colombia
9. Explore the City Of Eternal Spring on Foot
I found that one of the best ways to explore any walkable city is through a walking tour. Medellin may not be flat, but there's so much to see with every step.
Medellin offers some of the best city walking tours, many completely free. These tours allow you to explore the heart and soul of the city and see it through the eyes of a local.
My guide told me how the city came to be and what it has gone through to become the vibrant place it is today. I was able to see amazing street art, beautiful landscapes, and even ride an outdoor escalator!
These walking tours are famous worldwide and, in my opinion, a must for all visitors to the city should do as soon as they land in The City Of Eternal Spring.
8. Dive Into the Many Food Options of the Region!
Not sure where to eat in Medellin? In that case, I would recommend one of the city's top specialty tours, include exploring the city on an e-bike or going on a Medellin gastronomic tour, including food tastings, market visits, and more.
These specialty tours will cost you a little extra, but they're definitely worth it! Indulge in local dishes, such as the Bandeja Paisa, Mondongo, or Cazuela de Frijoles.
If you're not too picky, grabbing a spot for breakfast at a local cafe and embracing the balance of a peaceful table and a busy community is perfect for embracing Colombia.
As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, there is a large variety of ingredients available to the chefs of Medellin. Even meals not "traditionally Colombia" will have amazing flavor.
Which naturally brings us to....
7. Experience the Heart of Local Colombian Coffee
Medellin is situated on a narrow valley in the Andes. Its pleasant weather and fertile mountain terrains is responsible for Colombia's world-renowned coffee.
In fact, did you know that Colombia produces 10% of the world's coffee and is the third-largest coffee exporter globally?
Medellin allows coffee-lovers to immerse themselves in the city's vibrant coffee offerings, with diversity within small regions of the country. Coffee in Medellin is primarily something to be shared and a reason to connect, rather than a caffeine surge. Expect to see sippers at every time of day.
While some of the more world-famous coffee plantations reside closer to Bogota than Medellin, there are trips and tours to local farms to witness the bean to brew process firsthand. For the sustainable-minded and environmentally-friendly travelers - some Colombian farms even produce Bird Friendly Coffee - the gold standard of sustainable coffee.
Many of the locals will sip on Tinto. Tinto is an intense, bitter coffee with a slightly thicker concentration than ordinary coffee—popular because most of the best beans get shipped out of the country.
For those interested in cafe-hopping, you'll find more high-end arabica brews at the newly established and ultra-modern cafes in Medellin's upscale El Poblado neighborhood.
6. Party After Dark
During my time in Medellín, the city's pulsating nightlife truly impressed me. As the sun sets, Medellín comes alive with a multitude of options for night owls, ensuring there's never a dull moment.
From the chilled vibe of cozy bars with live music to the energetic rhythm of dance clubs, or the chic allure of rooftop bars boasting panoramic city views, Medellín has it all. And, let's not forget about the warm, welcoming locals who definitely know how to keep a party going!
El Poblado district, especially around Parque Lleras, was my go-to spot. It's the beating heart of Medellín's nightlife, teeming with a diverse range of bars and clubs.
Here are some fantastic spots that stood out during my nights in Medellín:
- El Cielo: A stylish restaurant that also features a bar, making it an excellent spot to kick off your evening.
- Bar Envy: Perched on top of the Charlee Hotel, this upscale bar offers incredible city views and an extensive cocktail menu.
- La House Provenza: A chic bar known for its innovative cocktails and trendy atmosphere. It's a great place to unwind and immerse yourself in the local scene.
- Salón Amador: This unique club and cultural space showcases a wide variety of music, from electronic beats to live bands.
- Dulce Jesús Mío: Decorated to resemble a traditional Colombian town, this bar provides a fun and cultural spin to your night out.
- Bolivar: A must-visit for electronic music fans, where the beats keep you moving till dawn.
Whether you're looking to dance the night away, mingle with locals, or simply savor a cocktail under the stars, Medellín's nightlife will cater to your every whim. It's a city that truly comes alive after dark, and it's an experience not to be missed!
5. Discover the Works of Antioquia's Greatest Artists
Medellin is covered in artwork. I couldn't go more than half a block without seeing something from an artist. Home to some of the world's most celebrated artists from sculptors to graffiti. While you'll see plenty of art daily, it would be a shame to visit Medellin and not visit some of their amazing art exhibits.
The artists to come out of Medellin spans the various art mediums, each adding the true Colombian spirit to their work. Some of the most famous artists to come out of Medellin include J Balvin, Karol G, Maluma, Pedro Nel Gómez and most notably Fernando Botero.
Plaza Botero is a 7,000 m² space dedicated to the weird and wonderful works of the famed Medellin artist. Boterismo is the signature style of the celebrated Colombian artist.
His work is characterized by animals and people depicted with prominent exaggerated features and voluminous figures. I found his work has a humorous element and often critiques politics, society, or pop culture. The artist donated his monumental bronze sculptures to the Museum of Antioquia, another must-see for visitors wishing to uncover the works of great Colombian artists.
The Museum of Antioquia is a dedication to the artistic history of Colombia. The museum takes visitors on a journey through the ages, from pre-hispanic art to the work produced during the colonial years and into the future of Colombian skill and artistry.
4. Visit Comuna 13 to See Medellin in Full Revival
Comuna 13 was one the most dangerous and certainly notorious places in Medellin. A place where the locals our of fear barely left their homes has now become a tourist destination. While I would expect to encounter some large crowds, the art and history on display is unforgettable.
I can't begin to describe how impactful a tour of this area will be for you understanding and appreciation of Colombia, but I can assure you it is well worth your time. If you are a fan of street art and graffiti style, the self guided graffiti tour along Comuna 13 will give you a real thrill.
After riding some outdoor escalators to the top, enjoy the vistas, grab a bite to eat, and work your way across to a smooth ride down.
3. Marvel at the Natural Beauty of Medellin
Visitors to Colombia's second city are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to natural wonders and serene vistas.
In the heart of the Andes Mountain Range, Medellin's ideal location allows you to observe this beautiful city from every angle. One of the best ways to view this majestic city is to whizz right over it with the Medellin's efficient Meterocable. The Metrocable is a basic mode of transportation in the city and one of my favorite parts of the journey.
For many, it helped revive the city of Medellin and transform it into the hustling and bustling city that it is today. For tourists, riding the gondolas of the Metrocable is the best way to go on a self-guided tour of Medellin.
2. Visit the Parque Arví Natural Reserve
Speaking of self-guided tours, I would recommend a visit to Parque Arví.
The Parque Arví is a 40,000-acre nature reserve home to thousands of plant and animal wildlife. Parque Arví's natural oasis is one of Medellin's most popular tourist attractions. I just loved being able to immerse myself in one of Colombia's most beautiful natural landscapes.
The Parque Arví also contains dozens of archaeological sites, some of which are 2000 years old. These archaeological sites allow visitors to see what life was like in the forests of Colombia before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.
One of the best ways to explore this natural wonder is on foot. The nature reserve has over 54 km of well-maintained walking trails. For the more adventurous type, there are excellent hiking and cycling trails. And for those who like to do things a little differently, you can also explore the park on horseback.
1. Take a Day Trip to Guatapé
One of my personal highlights while staying in Medellín, Colombia, was the delightful day trip I took to the nearby town of Guatapé. This colorful oasis, just a short journey from Medellín, left a lasting impression on me and I'm sure it will on you too!
Guatapé is like stepping into a vivid painting. The town's vibrant houses, decorated with traditional "zócalos," or bas-reliefs, create a patchwork of colors that's simply enchanting. The locals, with their warm smiles and welcoming demeanor, added another layer of charm to this quaint place.
But the magic of Guatapé extends beyond the town. There's the monolithic El Peñón de Guatapé, a towering stone sentinel that overlooks the region. I remember the feeling of triumph after climbing the 700 steps to the top, and the rewarding panoramic view that awaited me. I was greeted with a sprawling vista of serene lakes and islands that seemed to stretch on forever.
From the lively town streets to the awe-inspiring views from El Peñón, my trip to Guatapé was an unforgettable part of my Medellín adventure. I highly recommend making the journey to this delightful town – it's a day trip that promises to be a highlight of your Colombian journey!
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