Colombia is by far one of my favorite places I have traveled to thus far! The people are so kind, and the country is so incredibly beautiful, lush, and diverse. I traveled there with a group of friends, 6 of us starting with New Year's in Cartagena and then traveling to Palomino, Medellin, and Gutapé.
Nestled in the Andes mountains in Aburrá Valley, Medellin is the second-largest city in Colombia and the capital. of Antioquia, the beauty this city holds is unparalleled!
Straight out of a fairytale, the mountains that surround Medellin are abundantly lush, a dense jungle and its flora rips through the city, refusing to be destroyed by architecture, here the jungle and city are one.
I remember seeing the size of the monstera plants in the El Poblado and thinking to myself, my brain understands the size of dinosaurs now.
Colombia truly has so much to offer depending on where you are, and Medellin offered the exact city experience and nightlife that I was searching for! Known as the city of Eternal Spring, Medellin is consistently lush with mostly great weather year-round (perfect for exploring), which makes Medellin great for travel whenever your schedule aligns!
Medellin has a dark history and because of that, there is such a sense of community within the city. I was never so cared for and looked out for than when here. I felt safe the entire time I was here traveling and had only amazing experiences! So don't let the history of Pablo Escobar stop you!
Check out our free 3-Day Medellin Colombia Itinerary here.
10 Must-Dos in Medellin, Colombia
Free Walking Tour
Walking tours are one of the best free things to do in Medellin and the perfect way to get to know the city when arriving for the first time. There is only one company worth mentioning, and that’s Real City Tours.
The itinerary focuses on Medellin’s downtown (El Centro) and does not include Communa 13, which you should dedicate time to visiting as well.
The tour runs twice a day Monday-Friday and once in the morning on Saturday (no tours on Sundays). It lasts 3.5-4 hours, and payment is based on tips. Bookings are essential – reserve a place online.
This area is known as the hip neighborhood of Medellin, filled with hip restaurants, bars, tattoo shops, and clubs this is the area I would book your hostel or Airbnb in.
You won't go wrong spending time here, with street vendors, cute shops (I got the most amazing leather backpack for such a good price), and a plethora of options for lunch or dinner here. There was so much fusion of food from different cultures and I was not disappointed by anywhere I went! This area was also abundant with vegetarian and vegan options.
Traveling and working at the same time? This area was also flush with open-space coffee shops and wifi so you can enjoy a coffee and, or cocktail while you work from paradise.
3 Restaurants I Recommend:
The nightlife here is well, proper nightlife to say the least. As someone who loves the house and techno scene, it's always amazing to travel to a city with proper clubs.
The top clubs in Medellin are Salon Amador, Heard From, and Sonorama, but when I'm in a city, I always check Resident Advisor to see if there is anything going on, and I've been pleasantly surprised (saw DJ Tennis in Amsterdam by doing this).
When checking the scene while we were in Medellin, I didn't find any artists I knew of (we were just missing them by a few days) but I did find some amazing local house artists that lead us to Viuz, where we danced the night away and even learned about Colombia's infamous pink powder, Tusi.
We were out on a Wednesday or Thursday, and while it was an intimate crowd, the vibes here are immaculate and the staff was amazing.
Comuna 13 is the most well-known of Medellin’s hillside barrios and home to over 100,00 people. This area has a rich history and was once considered to be one of the most dangerous places in the country (and one of the deadliest in the world). But after facing such darkness, the community came together and has undergone an immense transformation through various community projects.
One of the projects giving a major glow up to the community, the escaleras electricas (outdoor escalators) ‘reconnected’ the area with the rest of the city. The community is now known for its vibrant street art and large-scale murals, making the community resemble an open gallery.
Want to learn more about Communa 13 now? Check out the history of Communa 13.
Visiting Communa 13 you’ll learn a lot about the events of the past, including Medellin’s gang violence, and most of all witness how hopeful people are for a brighter future.
I absolutely recommend visiting Comuna 13 with a local guide who can add context and narrative giving the experience an added level of authenticity. I've included a few great tours below, depending on the level of storytelling you'd like to experience.
Communa 13 Tours
Medellín: Comuna 13 District Tour with Cable Car Ride (Small Group)
Ride the Medellin Metrocable
Soaring above the rooftops in a gondola is a must-do adventure and an affordable way to get spectacular views of the city. The Metrocable (cable car system) is the way of life for locals as the cable cars are the only practical way to access the hillside barrios where the streets are too steep and narrow for buses.
The Metrocable has six lines that connect downtown. A single fare for the Metrocable costs 2,750 COP (around 70 US cents) or 2,430 COP if you have a (free) rechargeable Civica card. The L Line to Parque Arvi costs 10,600 COP.
Visit Botero Plaza
Plaza Botero is The heart of Medellin’s historic Old Quarter and one of the most delightful squares in the city. Abundant with monumental pieces of architecture and museums, the plaza itself is a beautiful place to admire the arts and culture of Medellin.
Botero Plaza is dedicated to Fernando Botero, the Medellin-born artist. Botero’s daring bronze forms push the boundaries of physics and political correctness alike. Some of his most iconic works include ‘Roman Soldier’ and the buxom ‘Eve’.
Rubbing the statues is said to bring good luck, so you’ll notice that many are buffed in certain ‘special’ locations, he donated 23 to the city so make sure you rub them for luck when you see one!
Palace of Culture
Within the Plaza Botero, the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture is one of the most distinctive buildings in Medellin. With black-and-white stonework and Gothic-style arches its design is one of a kind and the work of Belgian architect Agustín Goovaerts. He designed the Palace as a venue for cultural programs and exhibitions staged by the regional government.
The building is open to the public. Inside, the Institute of Culture and Heritage of Antioquia houses a photo archive. There’s also a library, an art gallery, and a cafe.
Museo de Antioquia (Museum of Antioquia)
Also located on Botero Plaza, the Museum of Antioquia (Museo de Antioquia) is the top choice of museum in central Medellin. This was the first museum established in Antioquia and is devoted to who else but two of the city’s most acclaimed artists, Botero and painter-muralist Pedro Nel Gómez.
If you love Botero’s sculptures, wait until you see his paintings. The work that most people make a beeline for is ‘Death of Pablo Escobar’ (1999), which depicts the infamous gangster’s demise against a backdrop of Medellin’s orange rooftops.
The museum is open 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday. The entrance costs around 18,000 COP. There is a free guided tour available every afternoon at 2pm.
If you’re planning to visit Medellin in high season, you may want to pre-purchase a skip-the-line ticket to avoid having to queue.
El Castillo (Museo El Castillo)
Astoundingly beautiful and slightly out of place, is El Castillo Museum (Museo El Castillo), a 17th-century castle built in the style of those in France’s Loire Valley. You'll find this castle behind heavy, iron gates in the affluent neighborhood of Poblado, lined with French and Spanish art, which harbors a poignant family history.
The Castle only became a museum in 1971 when the wife of Diego Echavarría Misas, Benedikta Zur Nieden, known as "Dita", decided to donate the house and all its furnishings after the death of her husband.
The beauty and views of the property alone are worth the tour, but hearing the history of this unique castle and viewing the art on its walls make it worth all the time spent roaming around.
Cementerio Museo San Pedro
The San Pedro Cemetery was constructed in 1842 and made a museum in 1998, a cemetery as a museum is a beautiful and complex idea because it furthers our questions and thoughts on life, death, and art.
Cemeteries are actually some of my favorite places to visit in foreign countries and when traveling. It is beautiful to see the respect that so many cultures have for their dead. The honor, intention, and love that goes into the traditions and ceremonies, the practices and rituals. It's inspiring and so breathtakingly beautiful.
I encourage you to bring a journal and sit with the thoughts that come up. I often will visit the cemetery on days I need to rest and recoup.
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