Medellin was by far our favourite of the big two cities in Colombia, it’s incredible to see the transformation this place has undergone considering just 20 years ago it was viewed as the most dangerous city in the world!
It has to be said… Pablo Escobar forms only one part of Medellin’s rich history. It’s clear when you’re there, locals don’t want to hear his name every 5 minutes and are very keen to make sure you find out about the rest of the countries history. They are moving away from darker times that cast a bad shadow on the country.
It’s now bursting with sounds and smells, an absolute heaven for digital nomads & definitely going to become one of the most progressive cities in the world. The only down side… El Poblado is where it’s all happening for people visiting & this seems like one small area compared to the whole city! Over the coming years it would be good to see multiple districts of Medellin setting up for modern tourism. El Poblado has got it spot on! So what is there to do in Medellin?
What to do in Medellin!? Our top 15:
1. Take a free walking tour
We always find this a great way to start our stay in a new city. The tours give you general historical knowledge, helping you to appreciate things more as you see them, get guidance on navigating around the city & useful info about where to visit / what to see. There are a few in the city, we did it with www.realcitytours.com & recommend them, you need to reserve a spot online. Location: Meeting point is at Poblado metro station. Cost: Donation usually around $10.
2. Explore El Poblado
This really is where it’s all happening for visitors to Medellin, trendy cafe’s, awesome drinking spots, amazing food & live music. El Poblado, located in the South of the city is likely to be the place that you’re staying in, wonder around, explore it & enjoy! Cost: Free.
3. Visit Comuna 13
If visiting once the most dangerous city in the world isn’t enough, you can visit a Comuna 13 – the exact place within the city that became the most dangerous. This Comuna has now been completely transformed by art & is safe to visit yourself or on a tour, and it’s huge! Can you imagine escalators in a Comuna… they have them. We went on a tour & learning the extra history made it worthwhile vs doing it ourselves. Cost: $70,000COP/$22 each or free self-guided.
4. Chill in cosy cafes
There is no shortage of these in Medellin or should we say, El Poblado! We were so impressed by the amount of awesome places to chill, meet people and be able to work remotely. Here are some of our top recommendations all in El Poblado. Cost: A coffee.
Café Velvet – a chilled vibe, good internet, comfy sofas and a nice open plan space.
Pergamino Café – fancy an outdoors working space to get creative, this is your place.
Selina – An awesome concept that will be coming to Europe very soon if not already! A hostel and digital nomad hub providing a workspace / desk. You can pay $10 for a desk space or chill in the cafe on the ground floor.
5. Get a wake up call by embracing the City Centre
Completely different to El Poblado & it kind of slaps you round the face! You’ll be overwhelmed with sounds, smells & the amount of people hustling to make their living. It’s such a vibrant place & definitely one to just wander and explore, embrace it! Usual rules apply of watching your belongings, though it’s safe, just stay in the main areas. Location: Take the tube to Parque Berrio. Cost: Free.
6. Stroll along the Golden mile
If like us you like to check out the business districts in cities to see what kind of vibe they have, this is the place to go. Referred to locally as ‘the golden mile’ here you’ll find the skyscrapers, banks & other financial institutions as well as a huge shopping centre! Location: Walk along Carrera 43 from Parque la Presidenta to Santafe Mall Cost: Free.
7. Visit the square of ‘fat’ sculptures
As you travel Colombia’s cities, you will notice a theme… Botero (a.k.a the artist who plays with volumes) & Medellin is no exception. You’ll find 23 of his bronze sculptures which he donated to the city under one condition… that they would always be free for anyone to visit, so it’s like an open air museum. Location: Plaza Botero. Cost: Free.
8. Be amazed by the Christmas lights
If you happen to be here at the end of November through to the end of December you’re in for a treat! We haven’t seen anything quite like Medellin’s Christmas lights, renowned for being some of the best in the world. Medellin’s utility company puts on the display each year for everyone to see & this year they celebrated Colombias natural wonders! 26million lights made up incredible formations of wildlife and plants ❤️ we absolutely loved it. Location: Get the tube to Parque Norte, cross the road to your right & follow the crowds. Cost: Free.
9. Bring on the P.A.R.T.Y. Whyyy… Coz I gotta! Bars & nightlife
So so many cool places! It’s like a huge Shoreditch! Here are some of our favourites for you to check out. Cost: A few beers.
Burdo – awesome hipster vibe and plenty of drinks to choose from. More on the expensive side though worth it for 1 or 2.
Cafe Zorba – really good pizza and life music most nights. Make sure you check out their garden spot.
37 Park – a really cool outdoor bar with rope lighting and bunting, right next to the park so you can hear the river in the background.
10. Tackle 700 steps up to Guatape for an incredible view
Up for climbing 700 steps!? It’s not as bad as it looks… Quatape is a lovely (cash only) town 2 hours away from Medellin. It reminded us of a mini Ha Long bay with a huge rock and lots of lakes and islands that were partly formed by a local dam flooding in 1970. The view from the top of the 70 million year old rock is awesome, definitely a place to explore. You can get there by tour or self-guided, we did it ourselves by getting the bus from ‘North bus terminal’ in Medellin, (counters 9-14 & cash only) to Guatape. Cost $12,000COP/$4dollars.
11. Visit Guatape town
After climbing the rock, make sure you head into the nearby quaint town of Guatape. It’s streets are filled with colours and each house boasts unique sculptures beneath its windows. A place full of charm (and non stop insta pics!). Cost: Free.
12. Admire traditional music in the square
This was one of our highlights in Medellin and the best part is its possible for everyone to see. Around 4pm each day, elderly locals gather in a small circle at Parque Berrio to play traditional music. As the sun sets, couples begin dancing and the place is just filled with love, its a memory you will cherish. Cost: Free though good to give a small donation to the musicians.
13. Have a beer in the oldest tango bar
Luckily one of our guides told us about this place and we’re glad he did! is a saloon style bar, in the evening it also becomes a tango spot. Salon Malaga is a great place to hang with the locals and embrace to spirit of Medellin. Location: On the right of Calle Bolivar as you’re facing the San Antonio tube station. Cost: A beer.
14. Take in the reality of Medellin’s past at a creative free museum
You won’t find too much advertising about this place, we found it in a blog post and it’s definitely a worthwhile visit. Museo Casa de la Memoria explains Colombia’s history and grief in a very creative way, using pictures for stark facts and real life stories of locals, past to present. Mostly in Spanish, though this doesn’t matter, you can still connect with the messages that are being conveyed and you will leave feeling much more educated about the reality of whats happened. Location: Calle 51 by Parque Bicentenario. Cost: Free.
15. Wander around the small parks
Loads of these in Medellin! We loved how green they have kept the urban city. Each park is unique in its layout & always makes for a good afternoon stroll! A few of our favourites:
Parque Arvi – A big park you could spend the day in, either walking around or by taking the cable car, get a picnic ready & enjoy.
La Presidenta – A smaller park with a much more local feel, if you are there on a Sunday morning from 7am to 1pm you’ll see a locals market with fruit, veg, books & small ornaments, it’s cute!
Botanical gardens – It’s a good idea to spend a day as there’s lots to see & free to visit! The huge variety of plants & trees, along with its inspiring landscape makes it worth a visit.
We hope this gives you a good guide of things to do in Medellin, it’s a city we love and we’re pretty sure you will too! It’s developing so quickly and we are sure in 6 months time there will be even more great things happening, we’d love to hear from you if you visit!
If you have any questions or need to know anything else just drop us a comment or message and we’ll help you out.
Digital Nomads – get yourself there now!
Shay & Iban 👬 💻