Things you should do in Medellin
Frequently I publish posts on my travel blog about the most beautiful places in Colombia, like magical pueblos, amazing beaches, impressing volcanoes and majestic jungles and even though I spend the most time in Medellin it never occurred to me to write a post about the city I live in. But now Medellin, the maybe most exciting city in Colombia will get its credit.
Now it is time to pay homage to the once most dangerous city in the world that recently has been voted most innovative city ahead of New York and Tel Aviv.
What makes this city so unique, exciting and incredibly attractive? The city is neither very glamorous like Paris with the Eiffel tower, London with the Big Ben or New York with the statue of liberty nor does it have the artistic vibe like Barcelona or Berlin. No, it has has no landmark that you can compare with one of the ones I just named but still Medallo is one of the most charismatic cities in the world. Why this is, I would like to explain you now.
The city of eternal spring is simple but still exciting, surprising, full of energy and soulfulness. The one thing that makes this place such an incredible city are the people whose friendliness will always make you smile. You can feel the joy of life daily like I have never felt so intensively before in any other big city.
I remember exactly when I arrived on the 24. September 2012 at the Airport Jose Maria Cordova in Rio Negro and with open windows, while Reggaeton was pumping through taxis speakers, I drove down the curvy roads from Rio Negro to Medellin and suddenly saw the colorful lights in the valley of the capital of Antioquia. At this point I was already sure that I would never regret the decision to move here.
Things you should do
As I mentioned before the city is not full of attractions, the daily life is the attraction itself. Here now a few things you should consider doing once you visit the city of Medellin:
Parks und Places
Metrocable and Parqu Arvi – With the Metro you go to the station Acevedo and from there you proceed with the Metrocable to Santo Domingo. In Santo Domingo you have to change the cable car and buy another ticket in order to get to Parque Arvi. Only the ride on the Metrocable delivers you a spectacular view over the city. Don’t forget to bring a jacket as Parque Arvi lies pretty far up the hill it can get pretty cold.
El Centro – No visit is complete without a trip to the city center. I admit the center of Medellin is not the most beautiful part of the city and at night you should rather avoid it but it also shows the real life of the locals. Apart from that you can see the statues created by Fernando Botero, the Museo de Antioquia and the Parque de las luces. A walk through this frantic and energetic neighborhood can be very interesting and exciting.
Jardin Botanico – The Jardin Botanico at the Metrostation Universidad is perfect for spending some relaxed time with a book or to watch the iguanas that are running around everywhere. At the weekend frequently events take place in the par. The Jardin Botanico is one of the few proper parks with a green area to lie down on.
Pueblito Paisa – The replica of a typical Colombian village is located on ahill the Cerro Nutibarra about 20 minutes away from the metro station Industriales. From here you have a great view but apart from that it is very touristy. If you want to see a real pueblo just take a bus to Santa Fe or Guatape.
Ciudad del Rio – Is a small Park between the metro station El Poblado and Industriales next to the Autopista Regional. Usually a lot of students hang out here to catch some sunrays. Apart from that you will most likely see some street artists and skaters.
Parque Envigado – Just about 30 minutes out of town is the Parque Envigado. Here in the Parque Ecologico you can either have a BBQ or go for a swim in one of the small pools or go zip lining. Also very close is the former jail of Pablo Escobar. La Catedral the jail that he built himself is nowadays a monastery.
Tours and Activities:
Learn how to dance Salsa – If you want to dance Salsa you might have to learn it first. This you can do for instance in the dance schools Magia de tus Bailes in Envigado or Santo Baile in El Poblado. But not only Salsa even other dances like Bachata or Merengue are offered. You can either book private or group classes.
Graffiti Tour – Definitely a highlight is the Graffiti Tour through La Comuna 13 the former most dangerous neighborhood in Medellin. The situation changed a lot over the last years and with real Graffiti and Hip Hop artist as a guide this is a very exciting experience. Here you can learn more about the Hip Hop culture and different Graffiti styles. You can book the tour here Medellingraffititour.com.
Pablo Escobar Tour – For people that want to know something about history of Medellin and Colombia in the 80s and 90s I would recommend you booking the Pablo Escobar Tour for 47 Euros with Viator . During a typical half day tour you will visit Monaco, the building where the Cali Cartel tried to end Escobars life with a bomb attack, the house where Pablos was eventually killed and the family graveyard on the cemetery in Itagüi south of Medellin. People that feel a little bit more adventurous can easily visit these places by themselves which will turn out to be a little bit cheaper as well.
Beer Tasting at Tres Cordilleras – If you feel like doing something different you can go to a Beer tasting at the brewery Tres Cordilleras for 20,000 Pesos in the Barrio Industriales not far from the identically named Metro station. But this is not only a tour and a beer tasting but you can also listen to Live-Music and have a good time with a few beers.
Paragliding – For an unbeatable price you can go paragliding just 50 Minutes away from Medellin in San Felix. Prices start at 95,000 COP per flight.
Football – If you are in Medellin you shouldn’t miss out on a football match of either Atletico Nacional or Independiente Medellin. Only the atmosphere in the stadium is already reason enough to visit a match even if you are not a football fan. It is very probable that you have never experience such an atmosphere before. Generally a football match of either of these two teams or La Seleccion de Colombia (Colombian national team) are amazing to watch no matter if in a stadium or in a bar as the passion of the Colombians for football is phenomenal. Even the majority of the women are supporting their teams.
The nightlife is amazing and it can also become very hot and sexy. People dance excessively to Reggaeton, Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and of course Vallenato rhythms. Furthermore there is a lot of Ron de Medellin and Aguardiente flowing usually within a circle of friends or family while people preferably dance with a partner on the dance floor.
El Eslabon Prendido – For exceptional Salsa parties that always reminded myself a little bit of dirty dancing El Eslabon Prendido in the city center is a great address. Every Thursday you can listen to Live-Salsa Music- One of my favorite Salsa Bars in town.
Cuchitril – Another Salsa-Bar is El Cuchitril, near the airport Enrique Olaya Herrera in El Poblado. In this lovely bar that even has a small backyard usually play live Salsa on Fridays but also Reggaeton, Reggae and Dancehall is pumping through the speakers.
Calle 9 – When it comes to electronic House Music there is no way passed Calle 9 or as it is called as well Calle 9+1. The club is located in a lateral street to Calle 10 near Parque Lleras. Address: Carrera 40 #10-25, Poblado
Hip Hop / Crossover
Fahrenheit, VIP und Palmahia – Fahrenheit is especially popular with people who had their last drink in Parque Lleras but are not yet willing to end the night. The same applies for the Clubs Palmahia in Itagui and VIP which are usually open much longer than the rest of the bars and Clubs in Medellin.
La Tienda – Fondas are typical Colombian bars like you find them in a Pueblo. These bars are extremely colorful and look everyday like its Christmas. My favorite Fonda is La Tienda in Sabaneta.
Blue – Blue is located on Calle 10, here you can listen to Rock tunes. Once a month you can listen to the sound of the 80s.
If you like it a little more sophisticated you can go to the Centro Commercial Rio Sur, here are some clubs resident that play different kinds of music, from Black Beat and Hip Hop to Reaggaeton. Here you will meet most likely the rather upper class Colombian party people and it reminds me a little more of Europe or The States than Colombia. Even the prices remind more of the European party scene.
Apart from Parque Lleras and Parque El Poblado, where most of the bars are located and plenty of foreigner celebrate together with Colombian there are also some alternative to foreigners rather unknown locations where you can celebrate the nights away. The Barrio Colombia, La Calle 33 or La 70 are places where you will most likely meet less foreigners which doesn’t mean that the atmosphere is any less vibrant. It might be even the opposite I for instance made the experience that the Colombians are here even more open to conversation with foreigners.
Personal Tip: The Quick Market in Envigado across the street of Cafe Otra Parte in la calle 27 A Sur # 42B – 80 is actually a gas station which is also used as an outdoor. Many people gather here during the week but especially on Friday and Saturday people tend to come here for a few Club Colombia or Pilsen. Drinks here are particularly cheap and for me it is my favorite spot to start a night.
Café de Otraparte – For people who like it a little quieter in the evening I recommend the Café de Otraparte in Envigado. The Café Otraparte is located right next to the Museo Casa Fernando Gonzales, were frequently cultural events and concerts take place. The Café might be the most beautiful one in Medellin and Envigado. Equipped with a lovely interior and a nice garden and a fishpond many students spent their evenings and nights here!
Discover Colombian Food
O. k. I admit this you can obviously not only do in Medellin but still I would like to give you some tips where you can eat some authentic food.
Brasarepa – The Brasarepa serves typical Colombian dishes from Ajiacco (typical soup from Bogota) to Chicharron and was even mentioned 2008 in Anthony Bourdain’s Colombian episode. A lunch will cost you 10.000 COP
Hato Viejo – One of the most famous typical dishes in Antioquia is theBandeja de Paisa. Probably there are very few people on this planet that still need a dessert after a Bandeja de Paisa. Dishes cost around 20.000 COP
Ajiacos y Mondongos – Ajiaco ist a soup consisting of different kinds of potatoes, chicken and is most of the time served with corn, avocado and sour cream. The soup originates in Bogota but is famous all over the country. If you prefer to eat something from the region here at this restaurant you should try Mondongo but you should maybe rather not think about what the main ingredient is as tripe is probably not everyone’s favorite. I personally love Mondongo. Prices start at 15.200 COP
Dos Sabores – Das Sabores is one of my favorite places for lunch in Envigado, the choice of dishes is rather small but therefore you get some local good quality food. The typical lunch Menu “Menu del dia” that includes a soup, drink, main dish and desert cost just 11.000 COP. I highly recommend the fried liver.
Restaurante Portón de La Aguacatala – Budget traveler should stop by El Portón de La Aguacatala under the bridge at Aguacatala Metro Station where many Colombian spend their lunch break. A lunch menu including a beverage, soup and main dish cost just 5.000 COP
Some typical dishes of the Colombian cuisine are Arepas (corn flower bread), Morcilla (Blood sausage) or Sancocho (Colombian stew)
You can read more here about the Colombian food and specialities
In case you want to learn or improve your Spanish knowledge, there are plenty of Spanish language schools in town. For more information please read my post about language schools here
Pueblos (villages) nearby
If you are in Medellin you will probably also have the intention to to make a daytrip. Probably the most interesting places to see are the beautiful Pueblos that are located just a few kilometres from Medellin. In case you want to escape the trouble of the big city you should definitely visit one of these two villages on the countryside
Guatapé – The colorful Guatapé is located just about 2 hours by bus from Medellin. A trip to the beautiful village can easily be planned by yourself or as well with a tour company. The highlight are definitely La Piedra del Peñol the 220 meter high monolith from which you have a spectacular view and the colorful city center of Guatapé. The trip to Guatape can easily be done in one day. Apart from that you can also visit the remains of one of Pablo Escobars houses. The bus to Guatapé leaves from the Terminal del Norte and cost 12,000 COP, the entrance fee for La Piedra is another 10,000 COP.
Santa Fe de Antioquia – Another beautiful village that is suitable for a daytrip from the capital of Antioquia is Santa Fe de Antioquia which is just 80 Kilometers away from the capital of Antioquia. Santa Fe de Antioquia was founded 1541 by Jorge Robledo and is known for its charming cobblestone streets, the churches and the beautiful colonial buildings. Busses to Santa Fe leave daily from the Terminal de Norte near to the Metro Station Caribe. A one-way ticket cost 8,000 Peso. Don’t forget to bring your shorts as it gets really hot in Santa Fe.
If you look for accommodation I recommend you one of the following hostels or you can book an apartment via Airbnb if you don’t have an account yet I will even give you 31 Euro for free for your first booking. Simply sign up via this link.
I created an an extra page for The Bests Hostels in Colombia. This page will be updated on a regular basis and you will find some nice options for Medellin.