The Quick and Dirty Guide to Visiting Medellin, Colombia

It wasn’t all that long ago that Medellin was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world; being the notorious hideout of Pablo Escobar, an infamous Colombian drug lord and cocaine trafficker, it’s hardly any wonder why. But today there is a tangible feeling of hope that pervades the city. Paisas (people from Medellin) are extremely proud of their home—even if it does still have its flaws—and more and more travelers and expats are finding themselves extending their stay in the red brick metropolitan valley.

 

Quick and Dirty Guide to Medellin Colombia

 

Despite our unfortunate incident in Bogota on our last day in the country, Colombia remains to be one of our favorite places in the world. And of the few places we visited in the country, Medellin was without a doubt our favorite. Paisas are kind, funny, warm and hospitable, and though we only spent about two and a half weeks in the city, we formed many wonderful relationships we’ll remember for much longer.

 

Medellin Colombia

Friends in Medellin

 

You can see all of Medellin’s tourist attractions in just a couple of days, but we highly recommend prolonging your visit to have more time to sample the food, meet the people, and allow the City of Eternal Spring to fully win your heart.

 

What To Do

 

Go For A Ride On The Metrocable

 

Cable Car

 

If you do one thing in Medellin, make it riding the metrocable up to the Biblioteca Espana. A ticket on the metro system takes you to any stop, including the top of the cable car, for under a buck. The cable car offers one of the best views of the city, with vistas extending out to the surrounding mountains and valley below. What’s even better, the addition of the cable car to the metro system has helped bring affordable transport to the surrounding favelas, connecting the marginalized slums and underdeveloped barrios to the city center.

 

Explore The Cultural Center

 

A great place for a photo opportunity and a unique place to explore is the Biblioteca Espana, the impressive community center at the top of the gondola. Don’t be afraid to take a glimpse inside the massive complex while you’re there.  This awesome free resource gives the community access to computers, a library, seminars and all sorts of great stuff for kids and adults. It’s an amazing example of community development and education.

 

Go For A Hike

 

Arvi Park Medellin

 

For an extra fee of just 4,200 Colombian Pesos (just over $2 USD), you can take the cable car onward to Arvi Park. Medellin’s signature eternal spring weather offers the perfect opportunity to get outdoors, and Arvi Park is a great place to do it. The 1761-acre valley contains various attractions, including hiking trails and an archaeological site. While we didn’t explore in depth, we did have the chance to hike along one of the park’s many trails. The park contains both paved and unpaved trails, and is open from 9am to 6pm from Tuesday to Sunday. We recommend going during the morning hours to avoid hitting the heat of the day.

 

Go For Drinks In El Poblado

 

On the other side of the city center is the neighborhood of El Poblado. A stark contrast to the favelas on the way to Arvi Park, this fancier side of Medellin is host to some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and shops. This is where a lot of expats live, so you’ll find plenty of places that cater to foreigners. For an action-packed night, head to Parque Lleras where you’ll find the younger crowd drinking in the park while others sip their cocktails from the many bars in the area. And shots…expect lots of shot bars.

 

Photograph The Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro

 

Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro

The Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro

 

Talk about a name! The Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro is an impressive looking church located adjacent to the metro line at the Exposiciones stop. Honestly there is no need to exit the metro line as you can see the church perfectly well from the passing train and the Exposiciones train platform.

 

Experience El Centro

 

El Centro Medellin

 

The heart of the city can be found at the Parque Berrio metro stop. Start here and walk towards San Antonio and you’ll go right through a good portion of Medellin’s highlights.

 

Wander Through Statue Park and Botero Museum

 

Botero Statue Park and Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture Medellin

Botero Museum Medellin

Botero Statue Park Medellin

 

In the center of town is the popular and whimsical Botero Statue Park, a plaza comprised of 23 sculptures by Botero. Botero is a Colombian artist famously noted for his “volumous representations” and the way he plays with sizes and proportions in both people, animals and things. Judging by the unique characteristics of his work, it’s understandable that Botero is one of the most recognized and quoted living artists from Latin America.

 

The park is situated adjacent to the equally impressive Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture and the Museum of Antioquia. The museum houses over 100 pieces of Botero’s artwork and sculptures that he has generously donated.

 

Shop!

 

While walking around centro you’ll find heaps of cheap quality but cheaply priced shops and stalls. The brand names are actually just knock-offs, but you’ll find designer shoes for 15 bucks and t-shirts for 5. You’ll have to hunt hard to find the good stuff that doesn’t include sequins or some obscure picture, but it’s always a fun afternoon out.

 

Parque de Las Luces

 

Edificio Vasquez Medellin

Edificio Vasquez Madellin

Parque de Las Luces Medellin at Night

 

Continuing on the pedestrian road you’ll end up at Parque de las Luces and Edificio Vasquez. These are the old warehouses where Pablo Escabar used to process his massive cocaine exploits. Today the area has been transformed into a historic site with an adjacent park which lights up spectacularly at night. It’s a beautiful symbol that demonstrates the people of Medellin investing in their city to reshape their future.

 

Get Wet At Barefoot Park

 

Barefoot Park Medellin

 

Hang a right through Parque de las Luces and a bit further down the street you’ll find Barefoot Park. A family-friendly spot in town, the park features a “no shoes allowed” sandbox and waterfall, encouraging people to get grounded and connect with the earth.

 

Travel Through Time At Pueblito Paisa

 

Pueblito Paisa Medellin

Pueblito Paisa Medellin

Church at Pueblito Paisa Medellin

 

Opened in March of 1978, Pueblito Paisa is a town replica built to look like a typical Antioquia town. It is positioned on top of Nutibara Mountain, smack-dab in the middle of Medellin. The direct translation of Pueblito Paisa is ‘little town,’ and that’s precisely what it is. The ‘town’ is only made up of a few buildings, but all are made to feature the unique and colorful Antioquia style. The main features include the central square with a fountain, church, rectory, barbershop, and schoolhouse. While the town may be small, the views are quite expansive. Several viewpoints around the area offer a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding mountainside.

 

Cheer On Your Favorite Team

 

If you really want to mingle with the locals, you can’t find a better spot than a local soccer match. Soccer is like a form of religion in Latin America and the same holds true in Colombia. Fans go all out for their teams, cheering and chanting throughout the entire match. If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, check out the sports complex nearby the stadium that hosts all sorts of sports like break dancing, wheelchair handball, martial arts and outdoor skateboarding.

 

Climb El Penon de Guatape

 

El Penon de Guatape

 

It’s basically a gigantic rock, but after conquering all 659 steps to the top, you’ll be wowed by the amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding lakes and islands. What’s even better, it costs just $5 USD to climb to the top.

 

El Penon de Guatape

View From El Penon de Guatape

 

Once you’ve gotten your fair share of photos, head back into town for a colorful and vibrant walk through town. The buildings are covered in brightly colored wall art, and the town boasts a fresh, clean and friendly atmosphere.

 

Guatape Colombia

 

Guatape is about a two-hour scenic bus ride from Medellin, which can be reached from the North Terminal. The bus costs $6.75 USD. The trip can be done in one day, but it is recommended to stay the night so as not to feel rushed.

 

Where To Stay

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin

 

Medellin is famous for its artistic and eclectic style, so it was only fitting to stay at a hotel that was equally chic and creative. We chose the conveniently located and relative new comer to the El Poblado area Hotel Le Parc.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Entrance

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Art

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Botero Art

 

From the moment we walked in we knew we were in for a treat. The stylish lobby set an elegant tone, with couches and a coffee table that we were able to lounge in while the eager staff took care of getting us checked in. The staff spoke impeccable English and was very helpful, able to provide a map and explain all of their favorite spots in the area. Once we were finished checking in, we were whisked away to our room, our bags already there to meet us.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Welcome Drinks

 

The rooms are spacious to say the least, and we might go so far as to say that Le Parc has the best dollar-to-floor space deal in the entire city. (Which of course thrilled Casey as she had plenty of room for her hotel room yoga!) The room can basically be broken down into three sections that all flow seamlessly together:

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Room

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Bed

 

On the far side of the room is an enormous and comfortable bed. We appreciated the full-length window that helps to bring in plenty of that famous Medellin sunlight.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Room

 

Beside that was a coffee table and sofa chair facing a big screen TV that literally welcomes you by name when you turn it on.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Room

 

Adjacent to that was the kitchen and bar area complete with stove, fridge, coffee maker and coffee. We were surprised though to find that even though we had a stove, there were no pots or pans with which to cook with, nor any plates or utensils to eat with. We do hope these accessories will be added later as it’s always a nice to have the option to eat in.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Mini Bar

 

The bathroom was crystal-clean and well-equipped. We did have some trouble with the hot water during our stay, but the hotel staff was quick to act and had maintenance in our room within 5 minutes. In the end we had to switch to the adjacent room while the maintenance crew went to work on the hot water, but we were impressed with the quick and courteous staff eager to fix our problem.

 

Hotel Le Parc Medellin Bathroom

 

Breakfast is served on the second floor, complete with omelet bar, fruit, various juices, meats and pastries.

 

Hotel Le Parc Breakfast

Hotel Le Parc Breakfast

 

Hotel Le Parc is located just over a minute’s walk from Parque Lleras. It’s the perfect spot to be able to walk up the street to get to the most popular bars and restaurants in Medellin without catching all the noise of the street parties. We would definitely stay here on our return visit and recommend it to anyone traveling to the city.

 

Where To Eat

 

DSC_0647

 

If you only eat one dish in Medellin, make it Mondongo. While it might not be the most delicious dish, it gets bonus points for its uniqueness. The soup consists of diced trip (cow’s stomach) and slow-cooked vegetables. If you’re going to give the dish a try, be sure to sample it at the famous restaurant by the same name, Mondongos. It wasn’t our favorite soup in the world, but it was worth a try for sure.

 

Another Colombian specialty is Bandeja Paisa. We ventured out to Brasarepa to give the massive platter at try, an unassuming restaurant just outside the city that was first made famous by Anthony Bourdain. Bandeja Paisa consists of soup, meat, fried plantains, fried egg, chorizo, chicharron (thick pork fat), beans, avocado, rice, and a small salad—basically a whole lot of sodium, cholesterol and fat inevitably resulting in a food coma. It’s totally worth it though, especially to indulge in once!

 

 

And that sums up our quick and dirty guide to Medellin! Again, don’t forget to schedule in some time with the locals while you’re there—the friendly and hospital people are always the highlight!

 

Have you been to Medellin? What did you think?

 

We were guests of Hotel Le Park. All thoughts and opinions to eagerly return are entirely our own.
 
 

Meet: Dan Moore


Dan is the photographer, social media strategist and second half of the A Cruising Couple team. He has been living and traveling full-time in various countries since 2011. His award winning photography has been featured on National Geographic, CNN and New York Times Travel.

42 Comments

  1. I think I said before that Colombia is at the top of my destination wishlist for South America, and I’m glad to hear that after your horrible incident in Botoga that you can still look with fondness at the country. Seeing your photos of Medellin has made me even more exited to visit some day—I love that it seems to have both beautiful buildings as well as amazing natural scenery; it’s easy to see why so many travelers have fallen in love with it! It looks like nowhere I have ever been… I so wish I could go right now!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Pigging Out in Paris (AKA “That Time We Ate All the Cheese”)My Profile

    Reply
    • We love the balance of city and nature in Medellin and the views are absolutely spectacular 🙂

      Reply
  2. That looks amazing, I love the art work! Your pictures aren’t really how I’ve imagined Colombia, but honestly whenever I hear about Colombia it tends to be about drug cartels or something so I’m glad to get a better picture
    Rebekah recently posted…The Many Emotions of ChinaMy Profile

    Reply
    • That was always our first thought as well Rebekah! When that’s all you hear about a country you tend to believe it. We were so glad to be able to go and experience it ourselves. We are now able to say that while it does have it’s problems, it’s not all drug cartels and violence 🙂

      Reply
  3. This post brings back such fond memories for me. I spent two months traveling around Colombia earlier this year and it is by far one of my favorite countries EVER! Sadly, I didn’t spend enough time in Medellin. But I was there during the height of the World Cup and one of my most fond memories was gathering in a public square along with hundreds of fans to watch team Colombia. The excitement was completely palpable, and it was one of my favorite travel moments during my time in Colombia. Your photos of El Penon de Guatape are amazing. I regret that I didn’t get a chance to go there. Ah well, all the more reason to return to Medellin 😉
    Justine recently posted…A Frugalista’s Guide to Kuta, BaliMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wow! I can imagine the excitement of the Colombians cheering on their team for the World Cup (we were doing the same in Brazil watching all the games in the public squares and bars!) Colombia is such a special place. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as we did 🙂

      Reply
  4. Colombia has never been top of my list of places to see a part from the fact that I have a friend from there, that l met whilst in the UK, that has now returned to her hometown. She tells me all the time to go and visit her, maybe I should after all. Judging by your post and photos Colombia, and Medellin in particular, looks like a beautiful place to spend some time, why not?
    Franca recently posted…Lights & The Invisible Walls Of BerlinMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Medellin is an awesome place to travel to… But from experience… Once you “pass through” you’ll never want to leave! You guys pretty much hit most of the popular tourists spots but like you mentioned… Try to extend your stay to get a true taste for the city.

    Reply
    • It’s so true! The hardest part about visiting Medellin is leaving :-p

      Reply
  6. Such a full guide to a city our Colombian friends in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have been urging us to visit.

    Reply
    • Every Colombian friend we’ve made has told us that we absolutely had to visit. Now we know why 🙂

      Reply
  7. We made a far-too-short trip to Colombia a few years ago to visit Bogota and Cartagena. We’re planning a return visit to Colombia next year to spend some more time and I look forward to visiting Medellin! El Penon de Guatape looks amazing, I’ve never seen a staircase running up a rock like that! Such a gorgeous view.

    We’re planning to visit family in Cali, and I’d also love to get up to coffee country. Did you guys go to either of those areas?
    Cassie recently posted…Everything I Knew About Balsamic Vinegar Was WrongMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s so exciting that you have the chance to go back to Colombia! We don’t get the chance to revisit countries often, but we do hope to return to Colombia someday soon. We didn’t get the chance to see Cali or coffee country, but I’m sure they are worth the trip. Cali we’ve heard is exceptional if your into dance 🙂

      Reply
  8. Consider me convinced, if only for the Mondongo! No real, I’ve always loved Botero and have a Colombian friend who can’t sing enough praises – this is comprehensive and awesome advice!
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted…Thirteen Weird Spanish SuperstitionsMy Profile

    Reply
    • The Mondongo is super delicious! I hope you get the chance to try it sometime 🙂

      Reply
  9. Funny, I never (not even once) thought about or wanted to go to Medellin. Must be the whole Pablo Escobar thing. But, you certainly managed to have a lovely time there, and this is after your Bogota experience; a lesson for us all.
    Jennifer recently posted…Semester at Sea: Highlights of SwedenMy Profile

    Reply
    • Historically, Medellin has had a pretty bad reputation. But the city is really turning around and has a lot to offer both travelers and expats 🙂

      Reply
  10. I appreciate your article! I flew Spirit Air for the first (and hopefully only) time this Fall and saw that they also fly to the Medellin. I was like “what!?” Who goes there? What’s there to do other than something illegal. Wow was I wrong. This is why travel is good – to educate us and clear our misperceptions.

    Reply
    • Haha! There is loads to do and it’s totally legal 😀 We were so glad to see it for ourselves, if only to dispel our own myths about the country.

      Reply
    • Glad we could shed some positive light on Medellin. It certainly deserves it 🙂

      Reply
    • Colombia is such an amazing place – you would love it! Hope you get to visit soon <3

      Reply
    • We definitely plan on doing more hiking next time we visit. It’s such a lush country!

      Reply
    • The weather was seriously amazing! One of my favorite parts 🙂

      Reply
  11. Aww thanks for reminding me of why I chose to live in this city! I don’t get many opportunities to explore at the moment but in the next couple of months I will definitely have checked all of these activities off my list!
    Leah of The Mochilera Diaries recently posted…A Dose of Adrenaline With 100% AventuraMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s awesome you live in Medellin!! Do you absolutely love it? Happy exploring!

      Reply
  12. This guide has gotten me even more excited about moving to Colombia, possibly Medellin next month! Thanks guys!
    Sarah recently posted…Flash visit to Kotor, MontenegroMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s awesome you are moving to Colombia!! Medellin would be a wonderful place to choose to base yourself 🙂

      Reply
  13. Great post and photos, guys! I’ve been to a fair bit of South America, but I haven’t been to Colombia before. If I ever go I’m sure this post will come in handy. Sounds like you had a great time. 🙂
    Taylor Hearts Travel recently posted…Taylor Hearts Travel GossipMy Profile

    Reply
  14. I will trip to medellin with my 8 years daughter. Can you tell your bad experience in Bogota?

    Reply
  15. Medellín is a city full of surprises! It´s the only city in Colombia with a metro system and they also have the largest collection of Botero Sculptures on public display in the world. It’s a rapidly growing city by any standards and we at Palenque Tours are very proud to be a part of this amazing, innovative city.
    #TheAnswerIsColombia
    Palenque Tours recently posted…Win a trip to Nuquí ColombiaMy Profile

    Reply
  16. Hello All! I was born in Medellin and grew up in New York. I’m currently vacationing in Medellin with my boys. I’m thrilled to hear you had a great time here. The people are very welcoming, friendly, polite and tons of fun. Hope more people visit and have a great time!

    Reply
  17. I love Medellin! I’ve been living here for 3 years now and I love the city more every day. I recently moved to El Poblado. I rented a luxurious apartment from . I highly recommend visiting Medellin.

    Reply
  18. I am getting ready for my 3rd trip to Medellin in September. LOVE IT . Paisitas ( wink ) wink) 😉

    Reply

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