ColombiaOne.comCultureVisitor’s Guide to Medellin, Colombia

Visitor’s Guide to Medellin, Colombia


Medellin, the second-largest city in Colombia, has earned the endearing nickname “The Capital of Eternal Spring.” Credit: Guia de Viajes Oficial de Medellin/CC BY 2.0

Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, has rapidly emerged as a magnet for travelers seeking vibrant culture, picturesque landscapes, and an evolving culinary scene.

Discovering Medellin’s distinctive charms

Medellin has emerged from its tumultuous past to become an example of progress and transformation.

The city offers a wide range of experiences for local and foreign visitors: with its pleasant climate, stunning landscapes, rich culture and friendly people, it has become a must-see tourist destination in South America. Here are some destinations that you shouldn’t miss during your first visit to Medellin.

Comuna 13

Dive into the lively streets of Comuna 13, embodying Medellin’s resilience. Enriched by vibrant street art, this neighborhood narrates tales of community strength amidst adversity. Explore alleys adorned with murals reflecting the spirit and determination of its residents: a journey from a tumultuous past to a promising present.

Comuna 13 of Medellin. Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

Free tour offers a captivating three-hour experience for your mind and senses. Explore the neighborhood further by wandering its streets and discovering hidden alleys.

Make a pit stop to grab the incredibly cheesy arepas covered in condensed milk (an experience in itself) from a street food stall and wash them down with a beer brewed by a former gang member alongside one of Medellin’s finest views.

Pueblito Paisa

Ascend Cerro Nutibara to discover Pueblito Paisa, a charming replica of an Antioquian town. This cultural gem offers panoramic views, inviting travelers to indulge in Colombia’s rich heritage amidst cobbled streets, quaint houses, and artisanal shops—a nostalgic journey amid breathtaking panoramas.

As you wander the cobblestone streets, you will find rainbow-colored buildings, beautiful colonial architecture, and a lively market where local artisans display their crafts.

The bustling and atmospheric central square hosts quaint shops and cafes selling a variety of traditional Colombian dishes. Try: obleas (Circular wafers sandwiched with cream cheese, caramel, jam, sprinkles, and chocolate), strawberries and cream or fruit micheladas.

Guatape and El Peñol

Embark on a day trip to Guatape, renowned for its kaleidoscopic streets adorned with vivid murals. Located 75 kilometers from Medellin in the east of the Department, this town is attracting many visitors, drawn by the beauty showcased in thousands of traveler photographs on social networks.

Guatape, a town that captures the essence of Colombia in its vibrant colors, rich culture, and stunning natural surroundings. Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

Paved streets adorned with multicolored houses and standout two-story buildings with wooden balconies make Guatape a visual marvel. Its proximity to the reservoir offers water sports opportunities, while the surrounding forest vegetation invites activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Guatape is a beautiful and entertaining destination, perfect for a visit any time of year.

Peñol Rock seen from the Guatape reservoir. Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

A must-see in Guatape is El Peñon, also known as “La Piedra del Peñol.” This 220-meter monolith, nestled between Guatape and El Peñol, boasts 702 steps leading to its summit.

Plaza Botero

In La Candelaria, Medellin’s historic center, encounter Plaza Botero. Unmissable, this square is adorned with statues of inflated figures, including the famous sculpture of a soldier on horseback, by Medellin’s renowned artist Fernando Botero.

Sculpture by Fernando Botero. Credit: Nelsonc/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Aside from admiring these sculptures, you’ll find intriguing stalls and performances.

Tip: La Candelaria bustles with crowds and pickpockets. Stay vigilant with your phones and belongings. Consider wearing your backpack in front for added security.

Visiting museums

Medellin boasts numerous museums. Exploring them ranks among the best things to do, especially during unfavorable weather.

Museum of Antioquia: Showcasing pre-Columbian artifacts and works by the renowned Fernando Botero, this museum sits adjacent to Plaza Botero in the city’s historic center.

Casa de la Memoria: Honoring lives affected by the ’80s and ’90s conflicts that plagued the city.

Medellin’s Planetarium: A space museum with exhibits about our planet and the solar system.

El Poblado neighborhood

Visiting El Poblado is among the best free activities in Medellin. If you’re not staying here (like most tourists), visit in the morning or afternoon.

This lively district hosts affluent locals, foreigners, high-rise buildings, exclusive restaurants, hipster cafes, upscale boutiques, numerous bars, and nightclubs. It also features a small river surrounded by greenery and several parks beautifying the urbanized area.

Nightlife and dance

Parque Lleras in Poblado is the go-to spot for dancing, music, and excellent dining. If this area feels too touristy, head to Calle La Treinta y Tres, which attracts more local middle-class visitors. Notable bars and clubs along this lengthy party street include the beer-heavy Public House, dance-centric La Rouse, and the intimate Le Cafe.

While salsa music is prominent here, it’s not the city’s only style: tango holds a significant place in Paisa culture. For an authentic tango experience, visit Salon Malaga, an institution in the city center. The owner, Don Gustavo, has curated a vast collection of tango memorabilia scattered throughout his bar, which also hosts live music and tango performances.

Ideal visiting seasons

The best times to explore Medellin are from December to February and June to August, when there are mild temperatures and minimal rainfall. However, while the city’s climate remains spring-like year round, it’s important to remember the impact of the rainy season on travel plans.

Guide Medellin Colombia
Tourists enjoying street views in Medellin. Credit: AP/Colombia One

Accommodation and culinary delights

Consider the bustling El Poblado for its vibrant nightlife, luxurious accommodations, and proximity to trendy restaurants and bars. Alternatively, Laureles offers a relaxed atmosphere with charming cafes and easy access to local parks. Beyond these spots, Medellín offers a wide range of accommodation options catering to diverse preferences.

What to eat in Medellín

Sample Medellin’s essence with Bandeja Paisa, a hearty dish encompassing tradition and flavors: rice, beans, ground meat, chorizo, pork rind, fried egg, ripe plantain, avocado, and a tasty arepa harmoniously combine for an authentic Antioquian culinary experience.

Bandeja Paisa

Indulge in the Arepa Antioqueña, a thicker, fluffier version of the traditional arepa, often filled with cheese or pork rind, perfectly golden-browned—a delightful complement to various dishes or a tasty standalone snack.

Savor the crispy delight of chicharron, fried pork belly or pork skin; it perfecly encapsulates the rich flavors of Antioquian cuisine, and can be enjoyed as a savory appetizer or tempting topping.

Where to eat

Poblado offers the best dining experiences, from taco stands and Japanese-run ramen restaurants to charming cafes and high-end eateries. The area around Parque Lleras buzzes with nightlife on weekend nights, making it a fantastic setting for dining and drinks.

Popular options include the elevated contemporary cuisine at Carmen, multisensory gastronomic delights at modern El Cielo, and Mexican/Caribbean fusion at Milagros. To taste authentic paisa food, head to Mondogo’s and try the namesake dish, a thick soup made with tripe and vegetables cherished by Colombians. Alternatively, for a culinary journey beyond the country, you can enjoy Thai cuisine at Royal Thai near Parque Lleras.

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