Medellin; a forbidden name that was once synonymous with the infamous Pablo Escobar and the drug cartel. Once known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Medellin has since transformed itself into one of the most progressive cities in the world. However, convincing visitors of this fact has been a bit of a challenge for this now vibrant city. After visiting in May of 2017 with my fiancé, I can attest to the fact that it is, indeed, a safe place to visit, but also a surprisingly delightful destination filled with the best food we had in all of our time travelling through Colombia. Colombia on a whole is a beautiful and adventurous country, & if you’re planning a trip to the country, do refer to this detailed itinerary for Colombia. But don’t go anywhere yet, while I’ll present the 5 top things to do in Medellin Colombia.
Medellin Travel Guide | Top things to do in Medellin, Colombia
Colombia is emerging in terms of tourism with a variety of places to visit and amazing things to do. A top tourist destination in South America, famous a “City of Eternal Spring”. The annual flower festival attracts millions of tourists, but there are various other things to do in Medellin.
So, what are the top things to do in Medellin, Colombia? Well, I’ll give you five!
Take a Free City Walking Tour with Real City Walking Tours
If you want a real look into the city’s deepest, darkest history from the view of a true paisa (local Medellin resident), then I highly recommend this tour. This is a free tour, though you are expected to tip the guide. This tour will take you through the heart of Medellin, including a brief walk through a museum that showcases the work of Fernando Botero, one of Medellin’s most beloved artists.
Visit Plaza Botero
Fernando Botero is most famously known for his rotund and voluptuous sculptures made of bronze. He gifted several of his sculptures to the city of Medellin to share with the community and visitors with no entry fee. You too can take your photo with a giant, rotund happy man with abs and a tiny shield.
Visit La Casa De Memoria
This museum is dedicated to real residents sharing their stories of what it was like to grow up in Medellin through the darkest of times during the drug wars. This is a very sombre visit, so be sure to do something a bit happier or upbeat after you exit. Entry is free.
Take a Stroll Through El Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden)
The fresh smell of flowers is a nice reprieve from the polluted city air that engulfs the city. During our visit, we saw a few huge iguanas sunning themselves on the trees! Entry is free.
Visit Comuna 13
This was once Medellin’s poorest city, and is now Medellin’s most innovative city! With escalators and cable cars to get to and from work, this city has turned into a colourful and vibrant area where locals still live and tourists visit. During the drug wars, there were no cable cars to carry passengers safely in between the slums, which meant that people were robbed, beat and killed if they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Comuna 13 is situated within a very hilly area, so the cable cars are a great way to allow residents to be transported safely to and from their homes into the city.
Suggested Read – Awe-Inspiring Places to visit before you die!
Where to eat in Medellin
Here are some of our favourite restaurants in Poblado:
1. Cambria Resto Cafe – Italian & bakery
2. Il Castello – Italian
3. Restaurante Delirio Exquisito – Mexican
4. Tabun – Arabic
Where to Stay in Medellin
Medellin is a huge city with various districts & numerous neighbourhoods (barrios). The famous districts of Medellin are Laureles, Poblado and Envigado, popular with the expat community mainly. But you’d have to choose wisely where you stay, close to the centre, or the attractions or pick a quaint Medellin neighbourhood. I am going to share some of my recommendations based on traveller’s picks
Some of my recommendations as the best places to stay in Medellin:
Hotel Lomas 10 – The hotel is less than a kilometre away from El Pablado Park with an amazing restaurant. The best part is that they also have a terrace for amazing city views. Buffet breakfast, free wifi, and all the Medellin attractions within 5 km make it the best place to stay in Medellin. My favourite part of the hotel is their amazingly beautiful restaurant, with a garden view and outdoor seating.
Terra Biohotel – This one is located within 5 min of distance from Plaza Mayor and is the amazing pick if you want to stay nearby to famous attractions. The hotel boasts vertical gardens, solar panels for hot water and LED lighting as a part of their environmentally friendly initiatives. Apart from this, they also provide Airport shuttle and have an in-house bar, amazing, isn’t it? Terra Biohotel is perfect for couples which makes it one of the best places to stay in Medellin.
Novelty Suites Hotel – A four-star hotel in El Poblado with a bright decor, Novelty Suites is an amazing place to stay in Medellin. Apart from the routined 4-star services like wifi, cable TV, sofa beds & kitchen, the hotel also has a sauna & Turkish bath which makes it an exceptional place to stay in Medellin. The hotel has a great breakfast buffet along with flaunting the famous Colombian coffee.
Leblón Suites Hotel – Hotels with picturesque interiors are usually my favourite and especially when they provide in-room kitchen, big rooms and huge bathrooms. They are also featuring a sauna, a nice restaurant and a humble & helping English speaking staff.
Affinity Aparta Hotel – Anyone here loves rooms with balconies? The Allinity Aparta hotel should be on your list of the best places to stay in Medellin. The rooms are furnished with modern decor extra bathrooms with toiletries & bathrobes and private balconies for city views. The buffet breakfast shouldn’t be missed because they serve Colombian coffee along with tropical fruits. The bright restaurant, sauna facilities & Turkish baths make it an amazing hotel.
Medellin Travel Tips
As I took you through the top things to do in Medellin, let me provide some general tips about travelling in Medellin, Colombia –
* Guard your valuables (in Medellin they have a saying for this, which is “no dar papayas”, which literally translates to “don’t give papayas“. Basically, don’t give an opportunity to steal something, meaning don’t be careless and leave your wallet hanging out of your back jeans pocket. Petty theft is rampant throughout many foreign countries, and Medellin is no different, so just be on your guard.
* Carry cash (but not too much). Many places in Medellin accept a credit card, but the local eateries and some stores only take cash, and most places still prefer cash. Don’t carry too much at one time (or carry it in different places; in your pocket, in your wallet, in your backpack, in your shoe, etc., so that if something gets stolen you don’t lose everything.
* Go prepared to know some Spanish. As tourism increases to Medellin, there are more and more guides and locals who speak English, but if you get out into the more local or rural areas and need to figure out your way back home, it would be helpful to know a few words and phrases.
* Haggling is common in shops. If someone offers you a price of $20, offer $10 and let them come to a middle ground. Just try not to go over 50% lower as that may be considered offensive, especially if the product is hand-made by a local artisan.
* Be sure to check out Poblado, the foodie town of Medellin! Our favourite place in all of Medellin was by far Poblado because of its hip and happening foodie scene, sophisticated bars and restaurants, and plenty of expatriates and international travellers, as many of the hostels are located within the area. You will find an array of authentic ethnic cuisines such as Arabic, Asian, Italian and American, and all for decent prices! Though Poblado was more expensive than any other city we visited in Colombia, the food certainly made up for it!
We spent a total of six days in Medellin, and never found a shortage of places to visit and things to see. One of our favourite pastimes was simply to have a coffee in the main square and watch the people go by. I hope these five things to do in Medellin will inspire you to visit a city once laden with fear. You may be surprised by what a wonderful experience it is.
If you want to spend a few months in South America, check out this guide about a backpacking trip!
Which of these places to visit in Medellin Colombia would you like to see? Share your thoughts with me!
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Lisa is a guest writer for The Wandering Core! She is the writer and photographer behind Cultural Foodies. In 2014, she traded rubber flip-flops, bikinis, and kukui nut leis for warm boots, fleece scarves, and REI gear & moved from O’ahu, Hawai’i to Seattle, Washington. She lived in the Emerald City for four years where she met her now-husband, Sasha. In 2017 they left our corporate careers to travel abroad for half a year, visiting ten countries and over 50 cities!
– The Wanderer