By Briana Seftel
The second largest city in Colombia after Bogota, Medellin is a city reborn. Despite its troubled past, Medellin has worked hard to become one of South America’s most exciting and cultural cities. With this helpful guide, discover what to see, eat and explore!
What to Know
Nicknamed the "City of Eternal Spring" for its idyllic climate, Medellin lies in a long valley between two Andean mountain ridges. It’s the capital of the Antioquia province, a region famous for its coffee and flower farms and friendly residents known as “paisas.” With the introduction of a metro system in the 1990s, Medellin has blossomed into a year-round destination for culture vultures, nature enthusiasts and partygoers.
When to Go
Medellin enjoys a temperate climate all year, meaning there’s no bad time to visit! With temperatures hovering around a pleasant 70F, you won’t have to worry about being confined to indoor activities. Rain is a given any time of year, so you should pack an umbrella or light rain jacket.
How to Get Around
Medellin is home to Colombia’s only metro system, and boy is it useful. Clean, affordable and efficient, you won’t find a better way to get around. Adding to the above ground metro, the city’s four cable-car lines from the city center to the different neighborhoods (barrios) offer a scenic and enjoyable way to navigate the city. If you plan on staying in Medellin more than a few days, consider purchasing a Civica card for discounted tickets and faster access. Taxis are also cheap and plentiful.
Where to Eat
It may not have the culinary prowess of Lima, but Medellin certainly holds its own when it comes to cuisine. Just look at the bandeja paisa - Antioquia's signature dish of ground meat, beans, sweet plantains, chicharron (fried pork skin), egg, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and rice. The glamorous El Poblado district has the city’s best concentration of dining and nightlife, including plenty of rooftop bars to enjoy scenic panoramic views of the city!
- Restaurante Santas Melonas a 10-90, Cra. 43b #10-2, Medellín Phone: +57 4 5831314
- Mondongos Cl. 10 ##38-38, Medellín Phone: +57 4 3122346
- Hatoviejo Centro a 10-90, Cra. 43b #10-2, Medellín Phone: +57 4 2512196
- Empanadas Envigadeñas Cl. 10 #41-45, Medellín Phone: +57 4 3113169
- Carmen Cra. 36 #10a-27, Medellín Phone: +57 4 3119625
- La Gloria de Gloria Cl. 37 Sur #355, Envigado, Antioquia Phone: +57 4 2701967
- Pergamino Cra. 37 ##8A-37, Medellín Phone: +57 4 2686444
- Cafe Zorba 42-33 Calle 8, Medellín Phone: +57 4 6044529
- El Cielo Carrera 40 # 10A-22, Medellín Phone: +57 4 2683002
- In Situ *Carrera 52 N° 73- 298 Jardín Botánico, Medellín
What to See
An escape from the hustle and bustle, Parque Arvi is an eco-paradise that’s more national park than city park. Spanning over 4,000 acres high above the city, this nature reserve is a great place to hike, bike, picnic and birdwatch. On Sundays, visitors can shop handicrafts and food specialties at the farmer’s market.
House of Memory Museum
The House of Memory Museum (Museo Casa de la Memoria) serves as a stark reminder of what Medellin once was and how far it has come. Through engaging, multimedia exhibits, visitors will learn the history of Medellín and its violent past. A must-visit for those wishing to gain a fuller understanding of the city.
Thinking of where to begin your Medellin sightseeing? Consider starting at Plaza Botero, home to 23 sculptures by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Even if you’re not familiar with his works, you’ll be delighted by the voluptuous bronze sculptures of women, men, cats, dogs and horses. Across from the plaza is the Museum of Antioquia, home to many other works donated to the city by Botero himself.
Fans of street art should spring to the colorful neighborhood of San Javier, also known as Comuna 13. Once known as Medellin's most dangerous area, Comuna 13 has transformed into an outdoor art gallery with eye-catching murals and graffiti.
Tips and Tricks
Consider yourself a flower fan? Plan a visit during the annual Feria de las Flores, a week-long flower festival celebrating one of Colombia’s biggest exports.
On Sundays, most of the local businesses and some restaurants either close early or don’t open at all.
Paisas love to salsa! Consider taking a class while you’re there or just join in at one of the city’s many vibrant salsa bars or clubs.
Take a look at exotic tropical fruits like lulo and granadilla at the Minorista market at Plaza Minorista José María Villa.
About two hours west from Medellin is Guatapé, arguably the most photogenic town in Colombia. Famous for its colorful friezes (known in Spanish as zocalos) that adorn many of the homes and businesses, walking through Guatape feels a bit like walking through a fairy tale. Many visitors choose to combine the town with the nearby El Peñol, a massive rock that can be climbed for dramatic views of the surrounding lakes and islands.
Santa Fe de Antioquia
The former capital of Antioquia, Santa Fe is located approximately an hour northwest of Medellín and is a perfect day trip to experience Colombia’s more relaxed lifestyle. Stroll through cobblestone streets and past colonial architecture of this charming village, making a note to walk across the Puente de Occidente, a suspension bridge crossing the Cauca River.