Medellín used to be one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia because of the influence of druglord Pablo Escobar. The government has invested to transform Medellín over the past decades and today it is one of the safest cities in South America and my absolute favourite city to visit in Colombia.
The streets of Medellín are covered in colourful murals and on every corner you’ll find a cute coffee shop. Because of the year round great weather Medellín is also called the city of eternal spring. Modern architecture characterises this bustling urban area and the infrastructure is well developed. Curious about the things to do in Medellín and where to stay? Check out my favourite spots in Medellín and the best districts to book your accommodations.
1. CERVECERIA 3 CORDILLERAS
There’s no way you won’t hit some kind of fiesta during your stay in Medellín. A combination of an educational and unique night out is a visit to brewery 3 Cordilleras in the southern part of Medellín, located close to metro station Industriales. The brewery is the proud producer of 6 delicious craft beers. When you take a beer tour in the brewery in the evening the brewing process is explained from A to beer. In the last and perhaps most important phase of the tour you can try all the craft beers while enjoying a live performance.
2. PARQUE ARVI
When visiting a metropolis like Medellín tall buildings and paved streets are probably what you’d expect. But just outside the centre is Parque Arvi, an ecological reserve with more than 54 kilometers of hiking trails. The park is accessible with a metro cable car from metro stop Acevedo. Parque Arvi is the perfect place to spot plants and animals as the reserve is home to more than 1000 animal species and 4500 plant species. Explore the park by yourself or with a guide, you can join a group every half hour between 10:00 and 16:00.
3. JARDÍN BÓTANICO
Jardín Botánico, the botanical garden of Medellín, is like an open air museum housing over a 1000 plant species. The architecture of the greenhouses in the gardens is remarkable and it is a wonderful place to enjoy nature in a tranquilo way. The gardens are located close to metro stop Jardin Botanico. You will meet all kinds of people here such as families, students and tourists. There’s also a great chance you might trip over an iguauna…
4. WALKING TOUR
The best way to get to know the authentic Medellín is by doing a Walking Tour with Real City tours. Real City Tours offers various tours showing off their great food, an informative walking tour in the centre or a unique tour about the transformation of Medellín. Can’t wait until you’re there? Check out this virtual tour! (costs are about 6 euros).
Guatapé is about an hour from Medellín and is one the most colourful villages in Colombia. Get lost in the narrow streets between all the coffee shops and dance to the cheerful music on the street. Hop on a TukTuk and finish your day visit to Guatapé by climbing the 740 steps of la Piedra del Peñol. Your hard work is rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view. Don’t forget to drink a michelada at the top, a Colombian style beer with a dash of lime juice and a salt rim.
Tip: Don’t allow yourself to be tempted by tours to Guatapé from Medellín. It’s super easy and cheap to catch a bus from Terminal de Transporte Norte (El Caribe metro station). The bus leaves every 30 minutes. Buy your ticket back to Medellín upon arrival if you don’t plan to spend the night in Guatapé to guarantee a seat.
WHERE TO STAY
Backpackers are dispersed over two districts in Medellín: Laureles and El Poblado. Laureles is a hipster neighbourhood with cozy cafes, the best salsa clubs and parks to relax. Popular places to hang out with locals in Laureles are Calle 33 and La 70. But it is important to note the majority of accommodations are located in El Poblado, the hot spot for tourists in Medellín. In El Poblado there’s a nice restaurant on every corner, there are heaps of shopping centres and it is the place to be for anyone who loves to party all night.
Both neighbourhoods are equally safe and well connected by public transport, but it is not recommended to wander the streets alone at night (like in any other city in South America). Which is the best neighbourhood for you in Medellín depends on what you’re looking for. If you like a good party and great gastronomy, El Poblado is the best fit for you. If you want to get to know the culture of the paisas (residents of Medellín) Laureles might appeal to you.