Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia, and capital of the Antioquia Department, in northwest Colombia. Situated in a valley and surrounded by mountains, it has a population of about 2.44 million people. Once the home to the infamous Medellin Cartel - a network of drug smugglers - the city’s murky past is now long forgotten, as Medellin is now considered one of the best cities to live in worldwide.
Named as one of the most innovative cities, Medellin has made great strides in terms of politics, education, and social development. With a modern metro system, and a metropolis encompassing parks, museums, shopping malls, and libraries, the city has become an important part of the Colombian economy, for its universities, sciences, and health care. There are so many amazing things to do in Medellin, such as exploring the incredible Parque Arvi and visiting the Cerro Nutibara.
Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to its balmy climate, Medellin is home to the annual Flower Festival, a week-long celebration in August. See the beautiful, brilliantly-coloured flowers that grow in and around the city, and enjoy displays such as horse parades, music concerts and fireworks, among other activities. Below is our Medellin travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
CERRO NUTIBARA – This hill stands at 80m in height, and features a mini Antioquian township. The view that is offered is stunning. There is also a museum where you can learn about the city´s history.
RIO CLARO VALLEY – A valley which is once again safe to visit: what used to be a place riddled with cartels and gangs is now a beautiful area to enjoy bird watching, among other activities. There is also lodging offered here.
PLAZOLETA DE LAS ESCULTURAS – This park area contains many different sculptures by renowned local artist, Fernando Botero. Come here to enjoy a walk and some peace and quiet.
PARQUE ARVI – Accessible from the Santo Domingo interchange and situated on the mountainside is this park, which is a great space of wilderness. This is a fantastic escape from the city. There is a cable car which can be taken, as well as guided walks offered.
HACIENDA NAPOLES ADVENTURE PARK – Perfect for a family outing, this is a safari themed park. You can see Escobar’s mansion and the bombed-out cars. There is a T-rex, hippos, children’s rides, a water park, and a butterfly museum.
JARDIN BOTANICA – Roughly 14 hectares in size, this is a beautiful space of peace and quiet. Here there is an abundance of tree and plant species. A butterfly enclosure can also be found here.
MUSEO EL CASTILLO – This museum occupies a castle built in 1930 and was once the home to a wealthy land owner. Inside you can see the family's belongings, including some pieces brought from Europe.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
The Flower Festival: from July the 28th to August the 6th 2017. This festival has all kinds of celebrations over the course of the week - if you are here during these dates this is something not
El Poblado contains most of the best places to eat, with many of the traditional foods and cuisine. Here you can find your typical Antioquian foods.
For South American fare, go to Salon Versalles (Carrera 49 # 53-39 Paseo Junin). Founded by an Argentinean in 1961, here you can try local dishes with an Argentinean twist. There are two floors, and the ‘menu del dia’ - which includes a starter, main, dessert, and drink - is good value. Make sure you save room for an empanada or two!
If you’re after a lively atmosphere and a wide selection of food, don’t miss El Mercado del Rio (Calle 24 48-28). This is a large building which contains many eateries and bars. You’ll end up coming here every day of the week to work your way through the countless yummy dishes on offer.
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the main days to party. There are plenty of clubs and bars that are open most hours of the night, with El Poblado being the best area in the city to go.
If you’re with friends and you’re looking for one big crazy party, don’t miss Dulce Jesus Mio (Carrera 38 19 255). Weird and wacky décor, neon lighting, non-stop dancing, and of course copious amounts of alcohol will lead to a wickedly fun night out.
For a night that won’t disappoint, go to Trilogia Live Bar (Carrera 43G No 24-08). Open from 8.30pm ‘til 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, come here for the spectacular live band that plays anything from rock, to pop, to salsa. This is one of the best places to party in Medellin, for the amazing atmosphere of people singing, dancing, and enjoying the music.
Medellin has an average temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius. Although the rainy season is from March to November, there is rainfall most of the year. There is very little change in climate over the course of the year.
Medellin has an international airport that also offers domestic flights to just about anywhere in Colombia. Bogota to Medellin takes 1 hour, from Cali to Medellin it takes 55 minutes, and from Cartagena is takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.
For international flights, Medellin has connections with many destinations. From Lima, a flight with Avianca takes 3 hours and 10 minutes, and from Rio or Sao Paulo you’re looking at a journey time of at least 8 to 9 hours, with a stopover.
There are also two bus terminals in the city. They offer buses going to most of the places in Colombia. The north terminal is at metro stop Caribe, and serves destinations located in the north, east, and southeast of the country, such as Bogota (9 hours) and Cartagena (16 hours).
The south terminal is close to the stop El Poblado, and serves places situated in the west and south of Colombia, including Cali (9 hours) and Armenia (6 hours).
Most of the places to stay can be found in El Centro - or the central area of the city. The other place where you can find good accommodation is El Poblado. It is more expensive but has great places to stay, such as The Black Sheep (Transversal 5A 45133), and Casa Kiwi (Carrera 36 7 10).
For a sociable and friendly hostel, go to The Wandering Paisa (Calle 44 A No. 68 A 76). Here you’ll find very helpful staff, and many like-minded travelers. The place is airy and clean, the communal kitchen is a decent size, and the hostel is situated close to a metro station, in a safe, residential zone. With a downstairs bar, hammocks to relax in, and activities regularly organized - including karaoke night, salsa lessons, and open-mic nights – you’re in for a great time.
Always have a cautious mindset: whenever going around the city at night always stay within the main city square, and make sure that the taxi you choose is safe.