tourists in medellin square

Medellin is part of the department of Antioquia and with 2.7 million citizens, it is the second-largest Colombian city, leaving Bogotá in the lead. Some people might think that this city is small because of it being surrounded by hills but believe me, there is a great diversity of things to do in Medellin!

Even though it used to be infamous because of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel, its reputation is changing and changing so fast that you will be surprised! Medellín is now officially the coolest city in Colombia as it is the cultural hub! It is also the most developed city, even more so than Bogotá, as it’s the only city in Colombia with a metro system!

I agree that Latin folks are very warm and cheery compared to other cultures, and Medellín people are some of the nicest and most smiley people in the world! Of course, there is much more to Medellin than lovely people that come across your path and that is why I have created this list of the best things to do in the city!

For those with a lack of Spanish skills, I’ll start you with a video on how to pronounce Medellin! Oh and also, for those forgetful heads,  it’s Colombia not “Columbia”! 😉

Let’s share the ideal list of activities and events to see and what to do in Medellin below:

1. Explore Plaza Botero & Parque de Las Luces – Downtown Medellin

medellin tourism

Whenever you are heading to Downtown Medellin, there are two places that you just can’t miss: Plaza Botero and Parque de las Luces.

If there’s a place that is known as the hub of Medellin it is Plaza Botero! Plaza Botero is a place dedicated to Fernanco Botero, a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor, born in Medellin and creator of the “Botero” style in which he depicts significant people and figures in an exaggerated form.

This central plaza has about 23 of Botero’s sculptures that range from a positively chubby lady to a massive cat, and is a meeting point for many tourists taking pictures or street performers showing off their talents!

Parque de las Luces o Plaza Cisneros, is just a 5 min walk from Plaza Botero, and it’s better explored at night. Why? Because here, you can find 300 light towers that make an amazing light forest during the night!

things to see in medellin

However, you know that we don’t always have time to do our research into the city’s biggest landmarks so for that, we’ve got our best friend, the Medellin walking tours! Check out this free walking tour, where for just a voluntary tip you will get a general idea of the must-see spots in Medellín!

Alternatively, and if you want to make sure that you’ll love the tour, you can take one with great reviews like this super complete 6-hour walking tour in Medellin that will take you through the main landmarks in downtown Medellin, Cerro Nutibara and Pueblito Paisa, that we will talk about down below! Otherwise, if you prefer a private and personalized tour, you can check out this 5-hour private Medellin city tour that includes visiting Medellin’s most popular spots and Pueblito Paisa, all by private transportation!

PRO TIP: Make sure you do your walking tour as early in your Medellin trip as you can! Tour guides are very valuable sources of information; I always love to pick their brains! (Mostly about places to eat 😉)

PRICE: US $20 for a group walking tour.

2. Ride the cable car to Parque Arví

what to do in medellin colombia

Arvi Park is found in the mountains next to Medellin. A pre-Hispanic archaeological site and nature reserve, it makes for an amazing nature getaway and a great sunset spot! Definitely a must in your Medellin travel plans!

There is a cable car that connects it with the city so you would only need to

  • get to Acevedo Station ->
  • change to Line K to Santo Domingo Station ->
  • then transfer to the cable car Line L Arví.

On this 20min ride you can admire the beauty while going past the hills and view the valley and city from up high!

The cable cars are a great way to see the city in an inexpensive way. The most famous ones are Parque Arví MetroCable and San Javier MetroCable, in Medellin. All these were part of a city initiative to connect the farther away and poorer neighborhoods with the center, where the jobs are more plentiful and the pay is better. But don’t worry, this doesn’t make them any less safe!

PRO TIP: No need to pack snacks-make sure you check out the food stalls!

PRICE: Free entrance to the park. Guided walks are COP 25,000 (US $7.30) beginning at 10:00 a.m. from the Interpretation Center “El Tambo” and you can check them out here.

3. Walk around El Poblado

woman bienvenidos el poblado

Poblado Barrio (neighbourhood) is probably one of the coolest areas in Medellín and the most upscale neighborhood in the city!

Full of bars, food spots and hostels, it is one of the favorite places for expats and foreigners to live and also to hang out! From a wild night out to relaxing while you eat arepas at Parque Lleras (which we will talk about down below), if you are not staying in Poblado, make sure you make time to visit it!

Another thing that Poblado is not missing is coffeeshops, and the best way to discover the premier ones is by getting a Medellin coffee tour such as this one, 3 hours of pure caffeine from the country that makes the best coffee in the world!

Alternatively, you can check out Laureles, the neighborhood that is quickly stepping up its game and becoming one of Medellin’s most important cultural hubs!

PRICE: Free

4. Learn about historical art at the Museo de Antioquia

museo de antioquia

If you liked Plaza Botero, you will love this place as it is home to a large collection of paintings by the very same artist, Fernando Botero. One of the top things to do in Medellín!

Found near Plaza Botero, the Museum of Antioquia is Medellin’s former city hall. Probably the most popular museum in the city, it was founded in 1881 and it displays many pre-Colombian works, national and international works, as well as photographs and sculptures.

PRO TIP: Start at the top of the museum and make your way down the stairs for a perfect learning experience about Colombian art!

PRICE: COP 18,000 (US $5.50) for foreigners

5. Be amazed by the beauty of the Botanical Gardens

botanical garden medellin

The botanical gardens or Jardín Botánico are a perfect escape from the noise of the city while still doing some Medellin sightseeing. But because of its vast size it has also been the center of music festivals and concerts throughout the year! In the 14 hectares of land, there are about 4,500 flowers and close to 139 bird species!

The territory is also divided between a butterfly garden, a cactus garden and a section for lovely orchids. You can walk around each sector and admire the beauty in nature’s flower creations and all the species found in each garden. But you could also just sit on a bench and enjoy the quiet while reading a book.

PRICE: FREE (unless there is an Orchid Exhibit, which you can check here)

6. Casa de la Memoria

visit medellin

photo credits: Casa de la Memoria

As I talked about in the intro, Medellín has got a wild, dangerous past, that is fortunately long gone now!

Casa de la Memoria is a museum that commemorates the victims of this dark past, when Medellín was the most dangerous city in the world due to Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel.

If you haven’t had a chance to talk to a Colombian, you can head here to get a local’s perspective on this, and even a victim’s perspective. It really gives you an insight from the families that suffered through this period. It is totally moving and I can’t recommend it enough!

PRICE: Free

7. Visit the traditional Medellin town of “Pueblito Paisa”

medellin what to do

If you’d like to see what a traditional village from the Medellín area used to look like, you should visit Pueblito Paisa! This town still holds the uniqueness of the 20th century up on the Cerro Nutibara, which is 80 meters over the Aburrá valley. You can admire a cute little church, and even a stone-made fountain at the small plaza!

Check out the scenic view of the whole city of Medellín from there and support the local craftsmen and women while purchasing a souvenir. If you can, try to visit it at sunset as the views are just incredible and the pretty night views will also be so worth it!

Moreover, it is just a US $3 taxi ride away from El Poblado, and you can always get a taxi back as it is quite a popular destination with taxis always flocking around there!

PRICE: Free

8. Check out the food and produce markets

medellin colombia

Wherever you go, check out the markets. That is the motto that I live by and that helps keep the cost of my travels quite low so I can dive into the culture like the locals do!

In Medellín there are a couple of markets that are worth your time and attention: Plaza Minorista Market and Mercado del Río, both amazing but they couldn’t be more different!

Plaza Minorista is a bustling produce market where you can get the freshest fruit this side of the Atlantic and you can get a great overview of daily Colombian life while you watch locals buy and sell produce!

In Mercado del Rio, beyond produce you will find around 50 little food stalls with cuisine from all over the world, heaven for those foodie travelers like me!

PRICE: Free

9. Try a traditional Bandeja Paisa

traditional food colombia

Although there are many must-try dishes in Medellin, it is bandeja paisa, the signature dish, that represents the region! I’m sure that just by reading this description, you will back me up when I say this meal will leave you full and satisfied for hours.

The meal is served in dishes called “bandeja” which means “tray”, and the ingredients are white rice, ground beef, fried egg, patacón, chorizo with lemon, arepa, pork rind, hogao sauce with tomato and onions, beans, and avocado.

As to where to find bandeja paisa, you can find the best in the following restaurants!

However, when it comes to food and drinks, Medellin guides are the best to teach you about the flavors and history of their local dishes! If you are a foodie and like to discover new cuisines, this 4-hour food and drink tour is what you need, and you will end up saving money on a meal, such a good value!

PRO TIP: Bandeja paisa is a heavy meal so if you are more of a light eater, I recommend sharing the order with a friend, or if traveling alone, some restaurants offer an express version of bandeja paisa.

PRICE: US $34 per person

10. Take your body for some salsa dancing

things to do in medellin

Colombia has always been known for its salsa dancing, so why not take the opportunity and learn from the Colombian people?!

Even though Cali is the capital of salsa, Medellín isn’t far behind! Whether you already know some starting steps or you are just too shy to try new dance moves, you just can’t leave Colombia without trying it (sorry, not sorry)!

DanceFree is known to have private and group salsa lessons that offer the perfect chance to mingle and make new friends. If you’d rather go straight to a live salsa music place, you will enjoy the Son Havana or El Eslabon Prendido.

However, if you don’t want to go by yourself, I get you! And that’s why they organize these 3-hour Salsa tours where you get picked up and taken to many different salsa spots with other travellers where you get to dance the night away in a safe environment, Colombia style!

PRICE: US $94

11. Admire Street Art in Comuna 13

medellin tours

Just like I explained in my Bogotá post, Medellín also has a massive street art scene!

The main place to see this is Comuna 13, one of the neighborhoods most affected by the guerrilla and drug war. After the military moved into the neighborhood for several years and built the cable car connecting it to the rest of the city, the Comuna 13 neighborhood flourished with the street artists giving this place a new outlook on life, creating a safe place to visit in Medellín!

The best way to explore this art is by booking a tour like this free walking tour of Comuna 13 (tip based) or this reasonably-priced 4-hour tour that takes you to Comuna 13 and the best street art spots in the area!

PRICE: US $22

12. Discover Pablo Escobar World

medellin pablo escobar

House of Pablo Escobar is now a museum with objects used by the cocaine trafficker in the 80’s

And if you want to learn more about the city’s problematic past, you can also head to Pablo Escobar’s House (Hacienda Nápoles) that has become one of the most popular Medellin attractions!

In case you haven’t seen “Narcos” yet, Pablo Escobar was the head of this Medellín drug cartel and the cause of turning Medellín into such an unsafe place to be.

Locals still differ in their opinion about this man. Most of them don’t want the Colombia or Medellín image to be associated with him because they don’t like him for obvious reasons, while a few others believe that he was Colombia’s very own Robinhood, as he donated large amounts of money to charity and built schools and sports fields.

Whether Pablo Escobar was more of a villain than a Robinhood or vice versa, I don’t think anybody knows! Maybe you will have a clearer idea after your visit to Medellín!

Make sure you get one of the Medellín tours of Pablo Escobar’s mansion and visit his Hacienda Nápoles turned museum and amusement park to learn more about this. On this full day tour, you will have fun on the different rides and waterpark slides while you learn about the most curious facts about Colombia’s most infamous drug lord!

PRICE:US $82

13. Enjoy Parque Lleras by day or night

medellin city tours

This park is located in the center of the Poblado area, a major hotspot for nightlife in the city that is full of people throughout the day. You can find street vendors, food sellers, and local or international musicians. It is a great spot to sit for a bit and look around just to see the locals in their zone!

Want to go for a night out with your friends? Try out the regional anise-flavored Colombian spirit Aguardiente or the local Aguila beers! These beverages, as well as international cocktails and beers, are found in every one of the bars nearby.

You will find bars, restaurants, and clubs around the entire park. Make sure you check out the famous coffee shops like Pergamino, or Café Velvet, serving some of the best coffee around!

PRICE: Free

14. Learn and have fun at Parque Explora

parque explora

Did you think that Parque Explora was just for children? No way! Anyone can honestly go and enjoy the park, no age restrictions. This science and technology venue has more than 300 interactive exhibits in the building, a planetarium, a 3D auditorium, and even a television studio!

There are not many places in the world that house a planetarium, an aquarium and a science museum in the same time! Some of their exhibition areas change their theme to adjust to new discoveries, so keep your eyes open in case you see an interesting topic you might want to check out!

PRICE: COP 27,000 (US $8)

15. Get lost in the city parks

medellin tours

The Medellín of today is a Medellín full of open spaces, green areas and parks! Quickly after visiting this city, you will realize that it’s full of these wide open spaces that are a favorite among locals where they can chat, meet up or just watch the world go by.

Apart from the ones that we have already talked about, there are three other parks that I would like to mention as they are also favorites of mine!

  • Parque de los Pies Descalzos – A beautiful Zen inspired park in La Candelaria neighborhood.
  • Parque de Berrio – Located in the heart of the city, it is the most popular plaza to meet up with your friends.
  • Parque de San Antonio – Located in one of the oldest Medellín neighborhoods, it is a great place to admire some more of Botero’s sculptures!

PRICE: Free

BONUS 1: 7 Extra things to do in Medellin

If you’re still looking for more things to do, you’re in luck! I have listed below my favorite Medellin activities that are off the beaten path of the tourist trail and you will definitely love and enjoy them all!

1. Enjoy more art at the Medellin Modern Art Museum

top things to do in medellin

The Museum of Modern Art is an impressive modern architectural structure! It may be a little small, but it has many permanent and temporary exhibits from Colombian and other Latin American artists ranging from paintings and sculptures to 3D creations! Besides, I love small-ish museums because you can explore them in one day!

PRICE: COP 12,000 (US $3.50) per person, free the last Friday of every month from 6pm to 10pm.

2. Watch a football game

colombia fans

Football is big in Colombia, very big! In Colombia, every time your team wins you celebrate with fireworks and if you’re in a car you will honk the horn until your hands hurt! Whether you are at home or in the street, there’s no way you can miss the celebration!

The sport is also historically important as it helped connect people through the rough times that Medellin went through, so why not head to a match to support the local team, Independientes de Medellín? You will love blending in with the crowd and soaking in all their enthusiasm about their most beloved sport!

PRICE: From COP 10,000 (US $3) to COP 50,000 (US $15). You can check for tickets here.

3. Learn at the Planetarium

medellin things to visit

photo credits: Medellin Planetarium

Planetariums are my favorite places in the world, so there was no chance I was going to miss the one on this list!

The Medellin Planetarium is a fun, romantic (yes, I said romantic) and alternative learning experience that takes you through the most remote places in our cosmos! It’s quite a contemporary building and full of extremely interesting exhibits, so do not hesitate to visit this masterpiece of a museum!

PRICE: COP 16,000 (US $4.70)

4. Discover the El Castillo Museum

visit medellin

If you’re from Europe and you’re missing home, make sure you check out the El Castillo Museum which is a castle that was built for a wealthy family in the 1930s.

Nowadays, this castle, inspired by the Loire Valley’s castles in France, is being kept exactly as it was almost 100 years ago and it’s home to many art pieces from Colombian and international artists. Make sure you don’t miss the perfectly adorned gardens-they are such a delight to walk through!

PRICE: COP 15,000 (US $4.50)

5. Explore the city on a bike tour

botero square

If your back hurts from so much walking, I have been there! Being a traveler is sometimes a little exhausting, which is why doing bike tours makes so much sense!

There are plenty of these in Medellín, but the best ones out there are this 4-hour Medellin bike tour by day, where you get to explore the city’s most famous landmarks through the most secret back roads, or this 2.5-hour night bike tour, where you will visit the most famous street places for nightlife in a super safe yet fun way!

PRICE: US $26 each

6. Take part in a Flower Festival

medellin festival

This is made of flowers!

NOTE: This festival is held every year during the first week of August.

Have you ever visited a city or town when they create these colorful Flower Festivals? Let me leave you speechless with this-I was astonished after seeing only a little bit of the whole week-long Flower Festival event in Medellin! So many colors, flowers, and decorations, this activity is my favorite one out of all the things to do in Medellin!

This week-long festival is held the first week of August in Medellin to commemorate the independence of Antioquia. And you can see it all throughout the city; it is completely decorated with flowers in different forms and quantities. You will find these masterpieces on the streets, at recreational parks, at the Botanical Garden (which we mentioned previously), and even in the malls!

PRICE: FREE

7. Museo Cementerio de San Pedro

I always try to visit a cemetery in every place that I go to, does that sound too weird?

Well, cemeteries are quickly becoming just another main attraction in most important cities; just have a look at Paris’ Pere Lachaise or London’s Highgate! It’s a great way to discover a culture, just by looking at how they treat their dead!

If I haven’t creeped you out already, I would love it if you could visit the Cementerio Museo de San Pedro! The oldest Christian cemetery in Medellín, it has been categorized as a national monument and it’s got the most majestic mausoleums you’ve ever seen!

PRICE: Free

BONUS 2: 5 Awesome day trips from Medellin

1. Guatapé

guatape colombia

Guatapé is a colonial and colorful town outside of Medellin, but still in the region of Antioquia. This town, commonly known as Paraíso Paisa (country paradise), and its surroundings make for one of the most famous Medellin day trips, and as soon as you get there you understand why!

La Piedra del Peñol (Rock of Guatapé) is a definite stop when driving around Guatapé.  This famous rock is a landform that has not suffered damage like the nearby bedrock and has a staircase carved into the northern face which is used by visitors. The view from up top is breathtaking from all 360 degrees; not only can you see the beautiful colored water but also the small islands across the landscape!

HOW TO GET THERE ON YOUR OWN: To get to Guatape by public transport you just need to head to Terminal del Norte in Medellin and get one of the buses that depart every half an hour to Guatape. The trip should be COP 14,000 (US $4), and before getting to Guatape, the driver will ask if anyone wants to get off at El Peñol. Do that, explore el Peñol and then walk just 10 min to Guatape!

Alternatively, check out this full day Guatape Tour, where for a very affordable fee you’ll be taken exploring in this town, checking out the view from the rock, hopping on a boat ride and last but not least, feasting on a delish traditional Colombian lunch!

IMPORTANT: You have to climb 740 concrete steps to get to the top of Piedra del Peñol.

PRICE: COP 18,000 (US $5.30) for entrance to El Peñol.

2. Jardin

woman medellin house

Another great day trip from Medellin is Jardin! This tiny, 10,000 person town is a little less touristy than Guatapé but just as beautiful, if not more!

The colors, the people, the food! Everything in this village makes you fall in love with it a thousand times over. You can check Yulia’s experience visiting this village, how to get there, the most fun activities and all the details regarding her visit in her post here!

3. Santa Fé de Antioquía

medellin vacation

This perfectly preserved colonial town is another must on my list of day trips. I hope you have enough time to fit at least a couple of these day trips in, otherwise, read along and choose wisely!

Santa Fé de Antioquía, as its name describes, is quite the religious town. It’s got at least 6 different churches that you can visit that only make this place even more beautiful and it even has the oldest suspension bridge in Colombia!

HOW TO GET THERE ON YOUR OWN: You can get a bus from Terminal del Norte. They leave frequently and cost COP 15,000 (US $4.50).

Otherwise, and to save you some time and hassle, you can hop on this full day tour that will introduce you to the historical richness of this town and you’ll even get on a cable car ride between the mountains surrounding this village!

PRICE: US $50

4. Cocorna

cocorna colombia

Cocorná, located just 1.5 hours away from Medellín is a lesser known spot for day-trippers from Medellín. Travelers looking for adventure and nature sports often find themselves exploring the landscapes of Cocorná, admiring the waterfalls, rafting its rivers or even paragliding above its dreamy countryside scenery!

PRICE: US $90 for a paragliding experience

5. San Rafael

medellin sightseeing

The little village of San Rafael might not seem anything more than a little colonial village to the untrained eye, however, it is not from colonial times, it is a mining village! Founded quite “recently,” not even a couple of centuries ago, it attracted miners due to its abundance of gold!

If you head there, make sure you visit the Guatapé River as it is especially beautiful at this point and it really makes the surroundings of San Rafael a unique day trip adventure!

Medellín tourism – Practical Information about traveling to the city

medellin trip

You need to have all the essentials sorted out before you are able to enjoy all of these sights! That’s why the following guide on practical information about traveling to Medellin is so useful! Have a read if you want to know things such as where the best place to stay is, what food you should try and how to get from the airport to the city or vice versa!

How safe is Medellín?

what to see in medellin

The safety situation in Medellin has radically changed. I spoke to a guy who lived in a poor neighbourhood during Pablo Escobar’s time and he said shootings were frequent. However, now it is a completely different story!

Back in the nineties, Medellín was one if not the most dangerous cities in the world due to the constant fighting between the Medellín drug cartel, the guerrillas and the Cali cartel. However, after the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993, things started to calm down!

Now, Medellín is the most prosperous city in Colombia! While I was there, I felt completely safe at every moment.  While you always have to be wary of your surroundings wherever you are, this is a city that knows what real fear is and its citizens are now successfully making it a very safe and comfortable place to live and travel.

PRO TIP: The chances that you’ll get robbed are slim, but if you do, do not resist! That is when it gets real dangerous!

How to get from the airport to Medellin city

medellin day trips

In Medellin, there are two main airports that you might be flying into. One of them is the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE) that serves international flights and is located 35km away from the city while the other one is the Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) that serves domestic flights and is located in the city. There are two main ways to get from the airport to the city and vice versa, check it out below:

1) Jose Maria Cordova International Airport

By Bus

This is the cheapest option, the bus-duh! Just like the colectivos, some of them will go to the San Diego Mall (25min ride) and others will go to The Nutibara Hotel (45min ride), so check which one suits you better, location- and time-wise, pay the COP 10,000 (US $3) and you’re on your way!

NOTE: From the airport, the buses operate 24/7, however, if you’re taking a bus to the airport, they will just operate from 3:30am to 10pm.

By Colectivo

medellin activities

These taxis are white taxis shared by strangers, which makes them a more affordable option that a normal taxi! They only leave when they are full (4 passengers) and they only go between the airport and the San Diego Mall, just four blocks away from the Exposiciones metro station. The trip is between COP 17,000 (US $5) and 20,000 (US $6).

By Taxi/ Uber

As the Jose María Cordova airport is around 35km away from Medellín, the rides will be a little pricey. There are three main companies that offer transport services to the city, and these are Acoa Taxi Aeropuerto, Rápido Medellín Rionegro, and Aerotaxi. These taxis have a fixed rate of COP 80,000 (US $23.50), traveling through a new tunnel that makes for a faster trip, or COP 75,000 (US $22) on the old road. The ride is around 40 minutes depending on traffic.

You can also get an Uber; just download the app on your phone, input a payment method and voilà! You can  use the airport internet connection to book your Uber and it should cost just about COP 65,000 (US $19)

IMPORTANT: Beware of taxi drivers asking for you to pay the toll, that’s already included in the price!

2) Olaya Herrera Airport

By Bus

things to do in medellin

Terminal del Sur in Medellin is just a block away from the Olaya Airport and buses from this airport to the city center cost around COP 2,500 (US $0.75). For instance, to  reach El Poblado, you can take bus #304 that gets you there in a 10 min ride.

By Colectivo

As this airport is so central, I haven’t found any colectivos that travel this route. However, keep reading, there are buses available!

By Taxi/Uber

Olaya Herrera Airport is in the city, literally a 30 minute walk from El Poblado, which means that taxis will be more affordable, yay! Taxi fares depend on where in the city you are located but it is usually COP 10,000 (US $3) to the center. 

Transportation inside Medellin city

medellin city tours

Transportation in Medellin is pretty much the best in the country so you will probably find yourself taking very few taxis as public transport is so cool and modern! It is quite a big city so they needed an efficient way to transport all the citizens which is why Medellin has the only metro system in the country! Keep reading below to find out how to travel throughout the city:

By Metro and MetroCable

medellin metro passengers

The entire system has two rail lines, four metro cable car lines, two elongated bus lines, one tranvia tramcar line, and about 200 white Metro feeder buses. To understand the route you might need, you can find a map of the system here.

It is a smart and effective system to get people moving safely and quickly through the city. As for tourists, it is very convenient as long as you know your stops before climbing on board. It stops at the most important landmarks in the city such as Parque Arví and the Botanical Gardens!

To use it and get cheaper fares you should get a Civica card. Just head to San Antonio Metro Station with a form of ID and then you’ll be able to buy it. From then on, the metro trips should cost you COP 2,255 (US $0.65) each.

You can check the updated fares per route here.

By Taxi/Uber

medellin people

You can definitely get a taxi in Medellin. They’re safe and reliable and they’re usually not that expensive. The starting fare is US $1 and then it increases US $0.40 per km; a 10 minute drive should cost you COP 9,000 (US $2.63). But if you want to rent a car, check my rent a car in Bogotá post; the tips are good for both cities!

I used Uber while I was in Medellín, but later I learned it was illegal! I had no problems whatsoever, but I thought I would let you know! I prefer Ubers because it feels safer since cars always have seatbelts and they feel more sturdy and secure!

By colectivo

Colectivos are these Latin American vans that act as public taxis, where people hop on and off as they wish. They usually have a sign at the front displaying wherever they’re going so you only need to flag them down in order to get on!

These vans are a legit form of transportation in Medellín. They’re cheap, worn out, you’re likely to get lost if you don’t speak Spanish but they’re so much fun and the typical local way to get around.

The price depends on where it goes and you can check the destination either from the dashboard or the screams from the driver. Try it at least once you won’t regret it!

By Bicycle

tour medellin

Although there are some parts of the city with so many hills you might want to skip the use of a bike, it is still the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to move around the city. And this is achievable with the help of a bike system called EnCicla.

It is free with the Civica card mentioned above and you can use them for an hour before you return them back to another charging spot, usually located next to metro stations. Check the map of charging stations here.

Best Hotels in Medellin

swimming pool hotel medellin

If you were looking for a place to stay in Medellin, you’re in luck! Here are the best hotels in Medellin I found worth sharing, sorted by price (without tax) for you to find the perfect fit! All of them have amazing reviews and for that reason I recommend you book them ASAP because the good ones are the first to go! If you want to see more options, I have created a full post on the best hotels to stay at in Medellín as well-check it out here!

Luxury (US $160 and up):

  • Estelar La Torre Suites is a 5-star accommodation with all the necessities you could imagine in enough space for you to be comfortable. It is walking distance to a couple of the best parks!
  • You could also go for Café Hotel By Lars, also located in the area of El Poblado and offering airport shuttle service. It is considered a boutique style of hotel and many people have praised the exceptional staff.

medellin best hotels

Middle-priced (between US $56 and US $160):

  • Apartamentos Excelente Ubicación is ideally located near some of the local tourist spots and public transportation to move around the city quickly. Get ready to receive top-notch service from the owners!
  • Upscaling a bit, an option like Hotel Medellín Gold is recognized for its location and for making travellers feel at home because of the staff’s warm service.

Budget (up to US $56):

  • Mochillin House is a local hostel that offers access to a shared kitchen and dining area. While also being in an area popularly known for hiking, feel free to ask for a bike rental to get out and explore the surroundings. 
  • Megua Hostel is a guesthouse located very close to Lleras Park, Pueblito Paisa, and Explora Park, ideal for all kinds of tourist preferences!

Food to try when in Medellin

what to eat in medellin

One of my favorite things about traveling is that you get an excuse to try all the culinary delicacies from an area. I usually like to make a list so I can cross things off as I try them, and I usually HAVE to try them all before I leave a place.

Check out my list below:

1. Bandeja Paisa – As explained above, it’s a tray with beans, meat, egg, avocado, etc. Good luck trying to finish that up!

2. Arepa con queso – A round bread created from fresh cornmeal and found at every meal next to the main dish but also eaten alone. The simplest way is with butter and cheese, ideal for breakfast or a snack.

3. Sancocho – Hearty flavorful soup that has different kinds of meat but also pieces of corn, yucca, potatoes, or even plantains.

4. Empanadas – Deep-fried pockets usually filled with chorizo, beef, chicken or cheese and spinach.

5. Ajiaco Santafereño – The ajiaco that I talked about in my Bogotá post! A creamy version of sancocho.

6. Posta Cartagerena – Meat stew from the Caribbean coast of Colombia!

7. Mazamorra con Blanquiao – A soup dessert made of corn and milk

8. Chicharrón – Very simple but tasty deep-fried pork belly

9. Aguardiente – Alcoholic beverage that means “Fiery Water”, no words to describe it, have a shot and I’m sure you will realize why!

10 Coffee – Colombian coffee is one of the best in the world if not the best! You can’t leave Medellin without trying out this liquid gold!

PRO TIP: Make sure you order “Menu del dia.” In Spanish speaking countries this is the specialty of the day, and it’s cheaper than the regular menu!

You can also try everything on the same day! If that sounds like a plan, you can get this super affordable 4 hour food tour where you’ll get to taste all the best snacks from the street vendors in Medellin!

Great Medellin restaurants and cafés

where to go in medellin

If you want to know where the best places to try all these dishes are, you will want to check out this list! Medellín has such a wide variety of good quality restaurants and cafés that is many times hard to choose, however I have found the best ones for you:

  • Hatoviejo – This place is THE place for typical food in Medellín. It is a little pricey but it is definitely worth it! The freshness of the produce and the service make it one of the top restaurants in the city!
  • Hacienda Junin – A little more affordable than Hatoviejo, Hacienda Junin is also a great place to try out the traditional Colombian meals mentioned previously. Make sure you try their bandeja paisa when you head there!
  • Mondongo’s – A Medellín institution is Mondongos, famous throughout the city for the traditional bandeja paisa. It is a very popular lunch spot among locals. Simply a must!
  • El Rancherito – With 10 locations across Medellín, El Rancherito is a favourite with tourists and locals alike. Traditional decor and flavourful dishes make this one a winner.
  • 3 Tipicos – Consistently rated among the best restaurants in the city, 3 Tipicos is  foodie heaven. Specialising in grilled meats and ‘la parrilla’, you will want to go on an empty stomach!
  • Pergamino – Among the best coffee shops in the city, Pergamino is an institution in the coffee world of Medellin and there’s no traveler that doesn’t stop for a coffee there at least once.
  • Café Velvet – With great atmosphere and incredible coffee. The location is just perfect and a great place to work from your laptop (shout out to my fellow digital nomads!)

Money and Prices in Medellin

medellin colombia

Cost for things in Colombia depend widely on how you look at them. If you come from Western countries, you are most likely going to find it quite affordable, proof that many digital nomads move there to work, most specifically to Medellín where prices are awesome and the quality of life is great!

Check out the average prices below:

  • A meal in an inexpensive restaurant for 1 person – US $3.80
  • Dinner for 2 in a restaurant – US $20
  • A night in a hotel (very approximate) – US $70
  • Taxi – US $0.40 per km + US $1 initial charge
  • A bottle of water – US $0.60
  • Domestic beer 0,5L – US $0.90
  • Metro ticket – US $0.70
  • Average price for a museum – US $0 to US $5
  • 1 l of gas (1/4 gallon) – US $0.75

TIPPING CULTURE: Tipping is a little controversial in Colombia. Some people do it, some don’t. It’s not necessarily expected but wealthy people do tip, so if you can afford to, I would advise you to tip. You can tip around $1 unless you’re in a fancy restaurant, then the usual tip is around 10% of the bill.

Getting a SIM card in Medellin

medellin city

Some people like to disconnect when traveling, but purchasing a cheap SIM card never hurt anybody, mostly because it makes your walk around the city more accessible and reduces the risk of getting lost.

Here is some information on the best service provider for you to choose. The main advantage of going to the mall offices and not small recharge kiosks around town is that you are more likely to find someone that speaks English there, in case you have not mastered basic Spanish words.

Claro is the market leader when it comes to sim card providers in Colombia and it is the one I will be recommending, as their coverage is the best and they offer the best deals.

Their basic SIM Card is called “Prepago fácil” and when you take your own phone, the welcome package is just US $1 up to US $5. You can adjust the amount of MB you want per day and for how many days you want it. For instance, you can get data for 15 days (1.5 GB) for COP 20,900 (US $6) which should be enough to find your way around and book Ubers.

PRO TIP: When heading to the big stores, remember to carry your passport and have your hotel address as proof that you currently have a local address, just for internal regulations.

When to visit Medellin

medellin by night

Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its almost perfect weather; it rains once in a while, but is usually very sunny with clear skies! This means that you can go at any time of the year to enjoy the parks, climb up the Rock of Guatapé, eat some bandeja paisa, and explore the museums!

If you are not only going to Medellín, but also to Bogotá, or maybe the Caribbean part of Colombia like Cartagena or Tayrona National Park, you might want to skip the rainy season because you will suffer with the weather more in these areas than in Medellín. The rainy season is from April to May and from September to November.

Medellin has so much lovely culture to offer that is hard to decide which activities to skip or how to fit it all in one trip. Unless you are into a speedy trip with back to back activities, I do recommend at least a week to calmly enjoy everything and to be able to check out activities from my things to do in Medellin list.


Conclusion

medellin cablecar

Medellín is a surprisingly well organized, urbanized and developed city that unfortunately is clouded by too many misconceptions!

It has an amazing transportation system and it is astonishing how fast they recovered from their dark past. Many foreigners move here for retirement or to work on their projects online and that’s a really good sign!

Truth is, one starts writing about the places to recommend for friends to visit and then ends up remembering the whole trip which makes these suggestions so much richer in information. I mentioned more than enough tips for you to choose from to create the best itinerary to fit your travel budget!

If you can, make sure you check out my Best Hotels in Medellín post, filled with the best accommodation providers in the city, at the best prices!

I honestly hope this information has been useful for your future travels. If you have any more questions about Medellin or even about Colombia as a whole, I suggest you have a read of my Colombian posts, or just leave me a line below in the comments, I will be more than happy to help!

Happy travels!

Arantxa

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