If I could make another city my permanent home, Medellín, Colombia would be the one! But for now, I’m going to call it my home away from home. You are probably wondering why I love this city so much. I will fill you in on that one later!
Unfortunately, a lot of people miss out on going to Medellín because they often have mistaken it as a dangerous city. This misconception is mainly because the movie industry repeatedly associates the place with the problems it had with The Medillín Cartel decades ago. Well, my friends, times have changed!
Medellín went from one of the worlds most dangerous cities back in the 80’s to what I would call one of the worlds most changed cities. As far as South American cities go, I feel Medillín is one of the friendliest and safest. If you get a chance to do some of the walking tours here, you will learn the real history, see how good leadership has changed the city’s image and the way the friendly people of Medillín now live.
What To Do in Medellín?
I strongly recommend doing a city tour on your first day in Medellín. Doing a city tour is the best way to get a good feel for a new place. I recommend the city tour that I did through Real City Tours.
This company is great! They have three different excursions to chose from; a Free Walking Tour, an Exotic Fruits Tour, and a Barrio Transformation Tour. I did all of them, and hope to do the Exotic Fruits Tour again the next time I go to Medellín. These guys book up fast! So book a few days ahead if you can.
I liked the Barrio Transformation Tour the best because it truly was a unique experience. If you have the time, I suggest doing it. You get to see how the Barrio neighborhood was transformed and how the changes have affected the lives of the people that live there.
There are a lot of great companies that do city tours in Medellín. Like always, I say check out Trip Advisor and read up on all of the businesses that provide city tours of Medellín. You will see the company that I recommended topping the list!
If you want to do a more personalized tailored tour of the city, you can contact Carlos Garcia at +57 310 3599965 if you have a Colombian SIM. You can also use the same phone number via WhatsApp. This journey may cost a bit more, but Carlos uses a car and drives his guests to different locations within the city. He knows the city very well because he is from Medellín, and his English is clear and fluent!
I made a trip with Carlos to Comuna Trace(13), an area that was also transformed over the years. Comuna Trece was once a perilous place, plagued with gang violence and other crime. The city recently installed a 345-meter outdoor escalator to improve the lives of the people who live in the community. This elevator played a significant role in revitalizing the area. The locals now have easier access to the main metro line which gives them better opportunities for jobs within the city.
Local artists have also helped reinvent this neighborhood. The artists painted most of the alleys and houses vibrant colors, making the entire area look cleaner and safer than it used to appear. You can find some fantastic street murals along the walkways here.
Street Art has been known to give neighborhoods a cleaner, safer, more open feeling, helping to deter street crime. If you are interested in reading about how artists from all around the world got together to change the crime-riddled streets of Valparaiso(Chile) with graffiti art, you can check out this post; Valparaiso, Chile -A Blank-Canvas.
Day Trip To Guatapé
If you don’t have time to stay in the town of Guatapé, you can make a day trip for around $30-$40 USD. It is well worth it! The view from the tower is stunning! It is best to get a tour that includes some time to walk around the town of Guatapé. Guatapé is a unique place to see.
Guateapé is a small town approximately 50 miles(82km) East of Medillín and takes close to 2 hours to get to by car. Some buses go there from the city as well. Most day tours last about 10-12 hours and include lunch. You can also buy food from the many restaurants and cafes along the tourist drag in town.
Adjacent to town is Lake Guatapé. If you brave the 740 steps up the side of Peñol Rock, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The vista point onto of Peńol Rock is over 200 meters high.
Colombian Football Match
No visit to Medellín is complete without seeing a football game! If you are like me and know nothing about football, you will find that the atmosphere alone will make the outing worth your time! The people of Medellín often referred to as Paisas, make every football match a fun event regardless of which team is winning.
Most hostels in Medellín have organized trips to the stadiums during game day. You can ask at the place where you are staying, or any tour company as to how you can get tickets for the next game.
I recommend going with a group from a hostel. Even if you are not staying at a one, I’m sure you can inquire at any hostel that offers this to see if you can buy tickets from them and join their group. The overall experience is a lot more fun if you have some new friends to take along.
Parque Avri (Avri Park)
The journey to Parque Avri is an excellent adventure within itself. It consists of taking the city metro line (Skytrain) west to Acevedo station where you will switch to the Metro Cable(Gondola) Line “L” to station Santo Domingo. From this point, you will need to buy a special ticket within the station and take another Metro Cable up to Parque Avri. The total cost return is about $10USD, and you can quickly get to the park on your own.
The cable ride between Santo Domingo station and Parque Avri has a stunning view of the city and the local flora and fauna that can be spotted throughout the park. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Be sure to try some food from the many food booths at the top! I enjoyed the gourmet mushroom caps, with a bottle of local craft beer.
Medellín indeed is a friendly city. I used the metro cable twice within the past few years to go up to Parque Avri. Both times I made friends with some locals that were going up to the Park for the day. On this occasion, the family that I met bought me a coffee and shared some local snacks with me at the top.
If you have extra time and want to get some physical activity, you can hire a knowledgeable guide to take you for a hike along one of the many nature trails.
Poblado Area; Restaurants, cafes, nightlife.
The Poblado area is Medellín’s trendy & touristy area. Yes, the prices are higher here, but the restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs have a high standard as far as Western Comforts go!
Most backpackers stay at one of the many hostels in the Poblado neighborhood. The heart of Poblado lies within The Zona Rosa(Parque Lleras). It is a great place to go for the night with a group of new friends from your hostel. Many trendy bars and restaurants can be found near Parque Lleras.
Jardin Botánico(Botanical Garden)
If you want to see what the locals do on the weekend, then hop on the Metro and head to Estación Universidad where you can visit Jardín Botánico. It’s a beautiful park with lots of local food vendors selling fresh fruit and other snacks.
The garden itself is pretty big with a lot of different flowers and trees to admire while you walk along the footpaths. You can spend an afternoon here walking around and watching how Colombian families spend time together on the weekend. There is an excellent market within the park that has homemade chocolate, fresh coffee beans, and other natural organic products for sale.
Shopping in Medellín is second to none! Several big modern shopping malls within the city are full of Western stores and fast food restaurants. If I’m feeling a bit homesick during my travels, I find that a trip to a modern shopping mall ending with a movie to be a great way to recharge.
You can use public transport to get to any of the big shopping malls with ease. Some of the malls are only minutes away from the Metro for even easier access.
Desfile de Mitos y Leyendas (Myths and Legends Parade)
Although Medellín is not home to fluffy white snowflakes during the winter months, it is still a festive place to spend Christmas. All of the parks and houses of the city are decorated with Christmas lights. You can even get that Christmasy feeling here, but minus the snow.
If you do find yourself here on the night of December 7, then you can check out Desfile de Mitos y Leyendas! It is a parade that celebrates the myths and legends of the area and the beginning of Christmas. One would think it is more of a Halloween type event with all of the cool legendary figures that show up in the parade marching through the main areas of Medellín. I loved this event!
So what is it that I love so much about this city? Well, Medellín is nestled within the foothills of the Andean Mountains surrounded with spectacular skyline views, it has modern shopping malls full of western comforts, good coffee shops, plenty of excellent restaurants and pubs, and a decent nightlife. Furthermore, it has a quick and convenient Skytrain for public transit, the cost of living is very affordable compared to most modern cities, and I feel safe and relaxed while walking around the streets. The best part of all is that the weather is consistently comfortable(18C to 25C).
Medillín does have it’s fair share of rain. However, I prefer that as to the blistering heat that most places experience in South America. Medillín is known as “The City of Eternal Spring!”
Although I feel very safe and comfortable walking around the streets of Medellín, I do recommend that you still take your usual safety precautions as no city is crime free! If you want some tips on how to protect yourself from pickpockets you can check out this post; 10 Safety Tips For Travellers.