My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!
Table of Content
- What to see in Medellin and Activities
2.2 Inside the city
2.3 Outside the City
- Accommodation in Medellin – Hotels and Hostels
- Where to drink a Coffee
- Cultural Agenda
6.1 Event Agenda
- Where to Stay
- Shopping in Medellin
- Where to eat
- Best Time to Visit
11.1 Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport
11.2 José María Cordoba Airport
12.1 Bus Terminals
- What I like about Medellin and What I don’t like
Medellin is the capital of the Department of Antioquia. It has over 2,5 million habitants. It is Colombia’s most innovative city and sits on over 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level. It was founded in 1541 by the Spaniards and has an area of 380 km2 (236 Square miles). It has a good public transportation system and is known for its good quality of living.
Medellin is only part of Colombia, get an appetite for more in my Colombia travel guide!
2. What to see in Medellin and Activities
There are a bunch of tour operators and guides in Medellin and some offer great tours. Below you will find the most common public tours, which I can recommend. If you are more the private tour type, you can always contact me and I will offer you a great experience.
The Comuna 13 Tour is definitely one of the most famous tours one can find in whole Colombia. To get there it is actually quite easy. If you are not on a private tour, you just take the Metro to San Javier and you are already very close.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you “the great tour operator” as there are so many providers, ranging from travel agencies to individual guides. Some call themselves “free tour” but expect a tip of minimum 20,000 Pesos, others charge up to 70,000 Pesos per person in a group tour. Some say the money goes into social projects or kids teaching or whatever.
I cannot tell who is sustainable and donates what to whom. I have been to the Comuna 13 like 4 times, twice alone, once with a private guide and once on a public tour with Kabala, a local guide. With a guide it is certainly good, as you will receive valuable information about the history and the development of the neighborhood. Alone you are well off if you just want to take pictures of the great Graffiti’s. Also for blonde girls the area is totally safe as tourism is their economic fundament. I liked the private tour most, as we could have a beer and food wherever we wanted and also had more interaction with the locals. The idea of the Comuna 13 actually is, that visitors consume and buy stuff in the local shops.
What to Bring?
- Comfortable clothing
- Rain Protection
- Something to shoot videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you should have no worries to also bring a more expensive camera
Free Walking Tour
There are many options of companies that offer free walking tours in Medellín. Real City Tours is one of the best companies in the city. Their free walking tour visits the most important highlights in downtown Medellín, where you can have a complete introduction of the history, culture and some gastronomy of this vibrant city.
This is always a good way to start your visit in Medellín if you don’t mind being part of a 20+ people group. Those tours expect the participants to tip the guides, so the price of the tour is up to you.
The tours run from Monday to Saturday at 9:15, 10:25 and 14:20 and start at Alpujarra Metro Station.
What to Bring?
- Comfortable clothing
- Rain Protection
- Something to shoot videos and/or pictures.
2.2. Inside the City
Communa 13 is a neighborhood that has believed in tourism as a livelihood alternative. In the past it was a very dangerous neighborhood, with a history of violence that is well known worldwide. Today visitors can find a lively neighborhood, street art, stories, friendly people and a very nice view over the city of Medellin. It is a must for anyone interested in knowing a little more about the country’s history.
If you want to visit Commune 13, we recommend going with a local guide to learn about local history and not be at risk of getting lost. Some offer their services by picking up visitors at the “San Javier” subway station. You can take the bus 255 to drive uphill until the neighborhood.
The Arví Park is an ecotourism park located very close to Medellín. It offers, among other things, hiking, bike tours and bird watching in some areas of its 16,000 hectares. If you are a nature lover I recommend not to miss the opportunity to visit it, admission is free and they offer guide services within the park (this service has a cost).
Getting to Arví Park is very easy, since this park has its own line of cable cars that connects it with Medellín. Just take the Metro to the Station Acevedo. There you switch to the Metrocable Line K until the station Santo Domingo. There you switch again the line L and you will get to the Arvi Park. From the park it is also possible to visit the Santa Elena region, famous for the cultivation of flowers.
The Botero Square is one of the most iconic places in the city and you will find the biggest outdoor exhibition of Fernando Botero’s sculptures in the world. It is located in front of the Antioquia Museum and the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture, the city’s architectural icon. The nearest metro station is Parque Berrio.
If you like art or are interested in Fernando Botero’s, you should also visit the Museum of Antioquia. It exhibits more than 5,000 pieces of Colombian artists and has a room dedicated to Fernando Botero.
It is located right in front of Plaza Botero and the entrance for foreigners costs COP 18,000 (price as of October 2019). Visitors 60+ will receive a 50% discount. Groups of more than 5 people receive a 30% discount.
The Botanical Garden is a great place to get away from the city noise. A good option to learn about Colombian plants, as well as to read, walk, take pictures and relax.
Entrance is free, however you have to check in case there is a special event. It is right next to Explora Park. The nearest metro station is Universidad.
Would you like to be set back to your childhood? This park is so much fun and you can literally touch everything. I had a lot of fun visiting it! It has interactive rooms and toys and everywhere you can learn something new. A recommended plus is the largest freshwater aquarium in South America.
The entrance fee is 27,000 COP. It is next to the University of Antioquia and the Botanical Garden. The nearest metro station is Universidad.
This museum shows contemporary art of Colombian and Latin American artists. In recent years, the museum expanded its exhibition space, therefore the museum has now also a large space that serves for temporary and artistic exhibitions. The entrance fee is 8,000 COP, about 3 USD.
The nearest metro station is Industriales. Very close to the museum you also find Mercado del Río, which is actually a huge 2 floors food court with great offer.
One of the most important events in Colombia is the Medellín Flower Fair. Visiting Santa Elena, one of the 5 rural areas of Medellín, is therefore great complementary experience. Flowers are sown throughout the year not only for export, but also for the fair. Visiting one of the farms is an incredible experience.
This is one of the most interesting museums in the country. It shows and preserves the memory of the armed conflict in Medellin.
It is a very interactive and complete museum and the best place to find out more about the violent history of Colombia. It is located in the Bicentennial Park.
The area surrounding Lleras Park is well known for its nightlife. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are perfect nights to visit since the party permeates the atmosphere.
In addition to bars and clubs, there are also good restaurant options. It is even a good place to shop. Walking in the area gives a sense of security, so if you are looking for nightlife in Medellin, this is the ideal place.
The nearest metro station is Poblado, 15 minutes walk uphill.
If you want to have a great view of the city, this is the perfect place to go. In addition you can find the replica of a town (Pueblito Paisa) with classic architecture of the region.
Best way to get up there is by taxi.
This is actually an amusement park. If you want to go on a roller coaster ride, this might be perfect for you.
It is located in front of the Botanical Garden. The nearest metro station is Universidad.
2.3. Outside the city
Those are probably the most famous attractions near Medellin. Guatape is also one of the most colorful villages in the country. Personally, I love it.
Guatape can be reached within 2 hours by car from Medellín. It is situated in the middle of the Peñol – Guatapé reservoir (an artificial lake built in the 70s). Buses leave from the northern transport terminal and cost around 15,000 COP. I usually send my clients with a guide and private transport. There are also many local operators that offer cheap group tours. For more upscale travelers there is also a helicopter option.
In combination with Guatape visiting the rock El Peñol is a must. The gigantic rock that stands out in the reservoir needs to be defeated first. The only way to climb to the top is to climb the 740 steps. However, the beautiful landscape that can be seen is worth the effort. In addition, at the top you can reward yourself with a cold beer or ice cream. The entrance fee costs 18,000 (price October 2019).
Looking for a charming and beautiful small town in Antioquia. It is not just one of the 17 Colombian Heritage Towns, but also has abundant natural attractions as rivers, waterfalls and forests.
To arrive to El Jardín you need to take a bus from the South Bus Terminal in Medellín. It costs about 30.000 COP one way per person and it takes about 4 hours to arrive.
This is another of the Heritage Towns of Colombia. Within Colombia it is actually recognized as one of the best-preserved towns from the colonial times. It was once the capital of the department of Antioquia and you can find beautiful churches and houses that take you to the past, amazing sceneries with the nearby mountains and rivers.
Other than that, there is the Puente de Occidente (Bridge of the West), the once longest suspension bridge of the continent.
And also, do not forget to admire the silversmiths working on filigree jewelry!
To get to Santa Fe de Antioquia you can take the bus from Medellín’s Northern Terminal, close to Caribe Metro Station on Line A. It costs around 15.000 COP one way and takes about 1 hour.
Fredonia is the perfect destination for having a coffee experience in one of the local coffee farms.
Located just 2 hours from Medellin, to get there you must take a bus at the Transport Terminal del Sur.
3. Accommodation in Medellin – Hotels and Hostels
Also there are always good options on:
Nevertheless I will give you some of our preferred options:
Calle 5G No. 32-49
House with a beautiful garden and 7 beautiful rooms
Calle 10A No. 34-11
Great view and comfortable rooms.
Calle 8 No. 43C 37
Carrera 41 No. 9-31
Carrera 36B No. 11-12
Old style hotel, some rooms remodeled.
Calle 8 No. 42-25
Modern style hostel.
Carrera 32D No. 9-17
Chain of Hostels around the world.
4. Where to drink a Coffee
Coffee is one of the flagship products of Colombia. However, quality coffee is not found everywhere. There are some very interesting places where to have a good cup.
The region of Medellín produces large quantities of coffee. Therefore, when I travel to Medellin I always try some new places. Following some of my recommendations:
Carrera 37 No. 8A-37
One of the most famous ones in Medellín. Comfortable environment to work or read both inside and outside.
Calle 37 No. 79-32
One of the first specialized coffee shops in the city. Small but cozy.
Calle 30A Sur No. 44A 29
Spacious. It also offers a delicious home-made coffee, a wide menu of food and snacks.
Transversal 39 No. 76-12
Very original decoration (vintage?) And with a large covered patio.
Circular 74ª No. 39B-22
They specialize in coffee produced in Medellín. Small place, but with baristas who demonstrate their passion for coffee.
Medellin’s nightlife is quite varied. Being the second largest city in Colombia, it has a wide variety of entertainment offers.
First I would like to clarify that it is not a park, it is rather a square, in which there are a lot of bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes. It is located in neighborhood El Poblado. Once there you also can visit Provence and Manila, where you will find even more supply of bars and cafes.
If you prefer a more authentic Colombian party, you should visit the street “La Setenta” – 70. It is located near the stadium and you can find two of the recommended places to dance salsa:
You will also find a choice of restaurants in the area. Another option for an authentic Colombian party is 33 (Avenida Calle 33).
If you feel like a VIP, then you should head to the Barrio Colombia and Las Palmas. The first is recognized for its spacious nightclubs, just 10 minutes by taxi from El Poblado. The second is known for the great view over the city. Both places are a bit more expensive.
Remember, do not trust strangers and don’t loose sight of your drinks. Drunken tourists, especially when under additional influence of other drugs, are preferred and easy targets.
6. Cultural Agenda
Medellin has a fairly wide cultural offer. In addition to the museums mentioned above, the city has several theaters, large and small. Among others are:
Colombiamoda is one of the most recognized events. In a week, the Colombian fashion industry shows it stuff, from textile producers to designers.
Tango in Medellin
In addition, the city is known as the “Colombian capital of tango.” Carlos Gardel died here, the best-known tango singer and songwriter of all time. Tango is an important part of the culture of Medellín. If you feel like dancing or listening to music, every Thursday from 8:30 p.m. at A Puro Tango (map). Entry is free.
- International Tango Festival of Medellín in the month of June.
Flower Fair in Medellin
Jazz Festival in Medellin
The International Jazz Festival takes place during the first days of September.
Rock in Medellin
Finally, the rock scene in the city has an important space in the Altavoz festival, one of the most important Rock festivals in South America.
6.1 Event Agenda Medellin
- Colombia Tex: January
- Festival Internacional del Tango: June
- Festival Internacional del Poesia: July
- Colombiamoda: July
- Feria de las Flores: August
- Festival Internacional de Jazz: September
- Feria Nacional de Artesanías: November
- Alumbrados de Navidad: December
7. Where to stay in Medellin
As it is the case in Bogota, same applies for Medellin. The best place for you to stay depends a lot on your interest and your agenda.
This is undoubtedly the best-known neighborhood for foreigners visiting Medellin. If you are looking for a wide range of bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes, this is your place.
The Provence area is more elegant and tidy. Lleras Park on the other hand concentrates the party, and attracts prostitution (demand and offer). However, in general El Poblado is a very visited area with many options and not everything is like the Lleras Park.
- Laureles Center: You can find many cafés and it is close to nightlife areas and it is more authentic, unlike El Poblado. The only downside is that it is a little remote from the subway, approximately 30 minutes walking.
- Zona 70: Then we have the area of 70, famous for the nightlife. Therefore, if you are looking for rest and tranquility, it may not be the best choice. It has several options for eating and drinking and is close to the Estadio metro station.
This neighborhood has the most local vibe. It has been inhabited by middle class citizens and has shops and restaurants where the common people go. It is close to “33”, an avenue where clubs and restaurants can be found found. However, since it is not so touristy, it does not have many things to do and does not have a nearby metro station.
Envigado used to be a remote population of Medellín, but with urban growth it became part of the city. It is also a quiet neighborhood with a very local vibe. It is mostly residential and has many green areas. It offers lots of cafes, restaurants and places to hang out. It is the area furthest from the main tourist areas, so backpackers do not visit it.
8. Shopping in Medellin
You can find several options of Colombian designers in independent stores. Particularly you can go to the Via Primavera (Carrera 37) where you will find several options just a few steps from the busy Lleras Park.
You might also head to the city center where you will find several cheaper shops. Saying that, it is actually not the place where I would go for shopping as also lots of fake products are offered.
9. What and where to eat in Medellin
Being a large and modern city, Medellín offers all kinds of cuisine. Lately they have opened contemporary restaurants of very good quality. However, there are some typical dishes that are worth trying.
This is undoubtedly the most emblematic dish of the Antioquia region and the city of Medellín. In most places dish is served with beans, white rice, ground beef, sausage, black pudding, pork rinds, sweet plantain, fried egg, avocado and arepa. Before you order that, make sure you are really hungry.
Arepa is a food derived from corn. Each region of Colombia has its own version of the arepa and it can be accompanied with different things. In Medellín it is usually served with several dishes, it is white and without much flavor.
This soup contains potatoes, cassava, plantain, corn and three types of meat (pork, beef and chicken). It is usually accompanied by rice and avocado on the side.
Below you will find a selection of the best restaurants in the city based on my own experience and restaurant guides of 2019:
Calle 16 A Sur # 9 F-13
Great panorama with great view over the city.
Carrera 36 # 10A-27
Known for its contemporary Latin American Cuisine in a wonderful environment.
Calle 24 No. 48-28
This is not a sole restaurant but a huge market hall with different restaurants and food stands. At night it is a casual and hip place for upper class and trendy Colombians.
Carrera 40 # 10A-22
Juan Manuel Barrientos is one of the most famous chefs in Colombia. He is famous for his social engagement and hiring ex guerillas to follow a civil career. He describes his restaurant in Medellin as a multi-sensory experience.
Calle 13# 43D-58
Located in the Manila neighborhood, it offers contemporary and innovative Colombian food.
10. Best Time to Visit Medellin
Medellin is as the city with the most pleasant climate with an average of 23ºC (74ºF), having an average of 27ºC (80ºF) on warm days. The rainiest months are April, May, September and October. Months with less rain are December and February. If you visit Medellin in December, you can enjoy the beautiful illuminations throughout the city.
As travel specialist for Colombia in Bogota Colombia we gladly organize your trip to Colombia. Contact us today.
11. Airports in Medellin
The city of Medellín has 2 airports:
11.1 Enrique Olaya Herrera (EOH) Airport (map)
It is within the city and is mainly used for domestic or regional flights and has schedule restrictions (from 4:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.).
- Apartadó (Easy Fly, Satena)
- Quibdó (Easy Fly, Satena, Chárter: (Sarpa)
- Bogotá (Satena)
- Bahía Solano (Satena, Chárter: Sarpa)
- Nuquí (Satena, Chárter: Sarpa)
- Florencia (Satena)
- Bucaramanga (Easy Fly)
- Pereira (Easy Fly, Chárter: Sarpa)
- Montería (Easy Fly)
- Ibagué (Easy Fly)
- Corozal (Easy Fly)
- Manizales (Easy Fly)
- Armenia (Easy Fly)
- Cúcuta (Easy Fly)
- Villavicencio (Easy Fly)
- El Bagre (Chárter: Aeroejecutivos, Searca)
- Acandí (Chárter: Aeroejecutivos, Searca)
- Tolú (Satena)
- Sincelejo (Easy Fly)
- Montelíbano (Chárter: Searca)
11.2 José María Córdova (MDE) Airport (map)
José María Córdova is located in the nearby town of Rionegro, has international and domestic flights and operates 24 hours a day. The transfer from the city to the airport takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the starting point and the traffic.
- Madrid (Avianca, Air Europa, Iberia)
- Caracas (Avior Airlines)
- Lima (Viva Air, Latam, Avianca)
- Ciudad de Panamá (Copa Airlines)
- Balboa (Panamá) (Wingo)
- México D.F. (Interjet, Aeroméxico)
- Cancún (Interjet)
- Miami (American Airlines, Avianca, Viva Air)
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit, JetBlue)
- Orlando (Spirit)
- New York (Avianca)
12. Transportation in Medellin
The Medellín public transport system is the best of Colombia. It is the only city with a Metro, which makes it easy and fast to get around. Check also the App Metro de Medellin.
The city is connected from north to south and from downtown to west, buses (Lines 1 and 2), Tram, Metroplus and Metrocable (Lines J, K and L). The latter connects the lower parts of the city with the communes (middle and lower class neighborhoods), which are generally in the upper parts of the hills.
The ticket costs less than 3,000 COP (1 USD) approximately, and if you have a “Carrier” card it is possible to change from one service to another for a less value.
The Metro runs from Monday to Saturday from 4:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 5:00 a.m. at 10:00 p.m. However, if you want to use the Arví cable you must keep in mind that it does not run the first business day of the week. It works from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. at 6:00 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
If you want to download maps of the transportation system, you can do it on the Medellín metro website.
The city of Medellín has two transport terminals. You actually can get take buses to most destinations in Colombia from Medellin.
13. What I like about Medellin and What I don’t like
The weather is very comfortable and not without reason Medellin is called the city of eternal spring. It is also clean and organized and the locals are business focused. The local culture is among the friendliest in Colombia. Also one feels very safe, although this might be a subjective impression.
Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite cities in Colombia. Whenever I go I discover some new place and I don’t stop being amazed by all that this city has to offer.
What I don’t like about Medellin is the kind of foreigner/expat and type of tourist it attracts. Not all of them but more than in other places in Colombia they live mostly in their expat bubble, do not learn Spanish and do not care about the culture and often have questionable behavior. Drugs, prostitution and child sex is a big issue. If you go out around Lleras Park on the weekends, you will see by yourself what I am talking about.
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