Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, Medellin offers way more than just good weather. The second biggest city in Colombia is a place where contrasting factors live harmoniously. You’ll experience the natural frenzy of a cosmopolitan city, just to have it fade away in minutes as you marvel at a skyline that reaches for the heavens.
Museums are found throughout Medellin, and even though the city’s history may be a harsh one, the people are not; in fact, Medellin is home to some of the friendliest people you will have ever meet, not only in Colombia but in the entire world. Some say the bliss point is the perfect blend of salt and sweet; this city, you could say, is exactly that.
So, with that in mind, there are an array of things to do in Medellin to suit every taste. Here we list our Top 10 Things to Do in Medellin. Make sure you don’t miss any on your next trip to the City of Eternal Spring…
When you visit Medellin one of the names you might hear often is ‘Fernando Botero’, a famous Colombian sculptor. ‘Plaza Botero’, as you may have already guessed, is being used as a homage to him, not only is it named after him but its also home to 23 of his huge bronze sculptures. You’ll find, The Hand, Eve, Maternity, Man on horseback, and Roman Soldier, among others. According to popular belief, rubbing the statues can bring love and good fortune. The park is also surrounded by the Museum of Antioquia and the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture located in the “old quarter” of the city. The park can be easily reached via metro from the nearby Parque Berrio station and is a nice breather from the bustling metropolis.
Parque Arvi is an ecological nature reserve on the north side of Medellin and a favourite amongst locals. It is known for its many trails and wildflowers, which attracts plenty of beautiful butterflies. Here you can go for hikes, take nature tours, or enjoy a bike ride. If you are feeling more adventurous why not try a zipline experience? The park is quiet and pristine and a great escape from the city on hot sunny days. Most tourists love not only the park itself but also the ride there as you will get to take the direct link in the gondolas (known locally as the metro cable). The views from the gondolas are stunning and make for one of our top highlights in Medellin. Near the park, you will find the town of Santa Elena, where you can grab a bite to eat or even stay for a night or two.
As mentioned, riding the Metro Cable is something everyone has to do when they visit Medellin. There are not many cities in the world that can pride themselves for having such an incredible public transit system as the one here. The Gondolas, or Metro Cable, opened in 2004 and is integrated into Medellin’s metro system. It is a fundamental element of the city as it carries over 30,000 people per day. Due to this, it has recently expanded to include 3 more lines including K and J which serve the communal areas, and L which connects the city to Parque Arvi. The Metro Cable is considered a great example of iconic innovation in terms of social urbanism as it aims to connect some of the city’s poorest residents with the main city. If all this wasn’t already reason enough to love the gondolas, you will be please to know that this is also the easiest and cheapest way to see the whole of Medellin.
When you think of Latin America you think of good weather, friendly people and lots of rhythm! Colombia is no exception, and Medellin just happens to have one of the best Salsa venues in the country – Eslabón Prendido. Located in Downtown Medellin, this little treasure is hidden on a narrow side street near Parque del Periodista. The place is small and hot but that only adds to its charm of a true, Colombian salsa bar. The band starts its magic at 10 pm and can usually be heard from a couple of blocks away. The atmosphere is so captivating that it is impossible to stop yourself from dancing once inside. There is a small charge at the entrance and the drinks are not expensive.
Home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna, the Botanical Gardens are one of the calmest and most beautiful spots you’ll find in Medellin. These gardens are home to more than 1,000 living species and 4,500 flowers, plus its highlight, the Orchidarium, a 65-feet high wooden mesh that contains an important collection of stunning orchids. The gardens also have a butterfly house, a cactus garden, exhibition spaces, a library, a pond, and a maze. Entrance is completely free and opening times are Monday to Sunday 9 am-5 pm.
Bandeja Paisa is the national dish of Colombia and is, therefore, a must-try when visiting. This high-calorie meal native to Medellin is too delicious to miss. Originally created for peasant workers, this energy-packed plate of food will keep you going throughout the day. The dish contains a generous amount of white rice, plantain, arepa (corn cakes), avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage, fried pork rind and all topped with a fried egg. Getting hungry?
Even though Guatape is not part of Medellin, its proximity to the city makes a trip there a must-do. You can easily take a bus ride as the town is located only 2 hours from the city. If you have heard of Guatape before, you might also have heard of the impressive Piedra del Peñol or The Rock of Guatape. If you are feeling energetic, this massive piece of rock can be climbed. It features a total of 600 steps all the way to its top. The hard work is very much worth it, as you’re rewarded with the most fantastic views over the surrounding manmade lake. But this gigantic monolith is not all that this town has to offer, Guatape is also famous for its pretty coloured houses, absolutely stunning surroundings, as well as a charming colonial flair. Make sure to save 3-4 hours to laze and walk around before heading back to Medellin.
Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, is a successfully transformed area in Medellin, once known as one of the most violent parts of the city. After the construction of escalators and a series of street art paintings around the neighbourhood, crime levels in this densely packed and deprived neighbourhood have dropped, making it a safer and more interesting part of the city to explore. On its narrow streets, you’ll see kids happily playing football, vendors selling; fruits, empanadas, or their famous and delicious green mango ice cream topped with lime and salt and residents going about their daily lives, as they’re no longer afraid to live here. Despite its calm and positive atmosphere it is still advised to explore Comuna 13 in a group, perhaps with a local tour guide. We recommend the Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour where you will learn more about the graffiti displayed on the streets and the neighbourhood’s history including how it has undertaken such an amazing transformation.
Even though commonly referred to as Gringolandia, the El Poblado neighbourhood is a favourite amongst visitors. It is home to several boutique stores, the best shopping malls in Medellin such as Oviedo, El Tesoro and the biggest one in the city; Santafe. In this area, you will also find fantastic nightlife as it is filled with clubs, restaurants, and bars.
Spend some time walking around and admiring the contagious liveliness of the area; pop by one of the parks to join the crowd that gathers for a bit of socializing before heading to the bars. There are also free outdoor gyms here. Another big plus of this area is that it’s safe to walk around here during the day or at night.
There is no better way to get acquainted with a city than by doing a city tour. Thankfully for you, we offer a wide range of Medellin city tours so that you have plenty to choose from. You might opt for a half-day tour which takes you to places such as; Plaza de Botero, Plazuela de San Ignacio (which is one of the oldest parts of the city), the baroque San Ignacio church, Parque de los Pies Descalzos, Parque de los Deseos, the Edificio Inteligente, the Metropolitan Theatre, the Parque Cisneros, Parque de las Luces and the Alpujarra.
If a tour of the city’s main sights is not what you are looking for, and you are more interested in learning about the social transformation that has happened in Medellin, then a half-day visit to see Medellin’s social transformation is your pick. This four-hour tour offers you the opportunity to understand all that has changed since the 1980s when Medellin was still seen as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
You’ll visit the barrio San Javier, La Plazoleta, Comuna 13 and have a chance to get closer to the graffiti art in this area as well as admire the beautiful view over the city from the balconies of San Javier.
If you want to get even closer to the graffiti and learn more about its origins you might want to take a Graffiti Tour. These usually last around four hours and takes you through the history/meaning behind all graffiti present in Medellin. You will understand its artistic, cultural and political context as well as learn more about the different styles of graffiti and how they work as a communication tool in the community.
For the more active visitors to Medellin, you might choose to do a La Miel Eco-Hike Experience which is a half-day activity that takes you on the eco-trail to the La Miel waterfall. Once there you can enjoy some nature activities such as swimming in the natural pools or getting more familiarized with the Andean flora and fauna in the nature reserve. The tour lasts four hours, and remember that when booking with Latin Routes, all city tours include transportation from the hotel, as there can be long distances between the different areas of the city.