Medellin would be the big city in which we would choose to live out of all those we have visited in Colombia. Despite the sea is far away from the city (and that has a lot of weight for us), Medellín offers unlimited plans, open-air galleries, music for all tastes, heat without sultriness (or it would not be the city of Eternal Spring) and some paisa smiles that will make yours bigger the more days you spend around here.

Medellin doesn’t make it easy for you to meet it in such a short time but it was a crush on us. It’s a puzzle between mountains, although some pieces fit better than others. It rewards you if you slowly uncover it with unexpected corners and a fresh Chelada. Medellin is much more than yesterday’s rough story. It went from bullets to art, from cracks in the wall to colorful murals and graffiti, from tears to hip hop, to cumbia. Medellin is amazing, much more than they say it is.

Inês con una de las obras que más nos han gustado n el tour de la Comuna 13
Inés with one of the artworks that we liked the most in the Commune 13 graffiti tour

When to go to Medellin

Being known as “the city of Eternal Spring“, there are no wrong dates to visit Medellin. Due to its location in the “Valle de Aburrá”, which is at an altitude between 1500 and 1800 meters above sea level, Medellín enjoys a mild spring weather with temperatures between 16º and 28º all year round, with a yearly average of 22º.

At the rainy level, these are relatively abundant throughout the year, being the driest season, with fewer days of rain, the one that includes the months from December to March, months which are also ideal for other areas of Colombia such as the Caribbean, the “zona cafetera”, etc.

How many days you should spend in Medellin

We understand that in a 2-week trip to Colombia you can not spend in Medellin all the time that it deserves, but go for at least 2 entire days for the city, and count on investing at least one more day in one of its surrounding villages.

Guide to enjoy Medellin

Things to do and see in Medellin

Plaza Botero and its sculptures

Adán y Eva en la Plaza Botero
Adam and Eve at Plaza Botero

An outdoor sculpture parade made by the probably the most internationally known Colombian artist: Fernando Botero. The artist has donated 23 bronze sculptures, exhibited here, in the open sky, in the heart of the city.

Plaza Botero y culete
Plaza de Botero and Adam’s buttocks

Although the square is an artistic marvel (it is almost a luxury to be able to enjoy such works in the open air for free), it gave us a bad vibe when it came about security level. Many local people warned us that it is a dangerous square at any time (but more at dawn and dusk when there are fewer people), so we were already suspicious. The truth is that when you arrive, you do not feel comfortable at all (many eyes on you, a crowd of people going everywhere) so our advice is that you go around 11 am, enjoy the square all you want, and enter the museum.

Mujer reclinada, Plaza Botero, Medellín
“Mujer reclinada”, Plaza de Botero, Medellin
Mujer con fruta, Plaza Botero, Medellín
“Mujer con fruta”, Plaza de Botero, Medellin
Inês con Gato, Plaza Botero, Medellín
Inés with “Gato”, Plaza de Botero, Medellin
Rapto de Europa, Plaza Botero, Medellín
“Rapto de Europa”, Plaza de Botero, Medellin
D’ Antioquia Museum (also known as Botero Museum)

In the same square you can find the most famous museum in the city, with many works by the artist (including the famous paintings he painted on the death of Pablo Escobar), also donated by himself: the Antioquia Museum, although it is also known as Botero Museum and you can totally understood why.

From Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5:30 pm, Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Admission price: 18.000 COP for foreigners, 12.000 COP for nationals.

How to get there: Take the subway line A (blue) and get off at Parque Berrío.

Inês ama Medellín (las famosas letritas frente al Museo de Antioquia, en la Plaza Botero)
Inés loves Medellin (the most famous letters in front of the Antioquia Museum, in Plaza de Botero)
"Pablo Escobar muerto", 2006. Obra de Fernando Botero en el Museo de Antioquia
“Pablo Escobar muerto”, 2006. Artwork from Fernando Botero in the Antioquia Museum.
"La muerte de Pablo Escobar", 1999. Obra de Fernando Botero en el Museo de Antioquia
“La muerte de Pablo Escobar”, 1999. Artwork from Fernando Botero in the Antioquia Museum.

In addition to several works by the renowned artist that you will find in different rooms (some are interactive ones, highly recommended to go with children), the museum also has an interesting collection of works (many installations) of contemporary art.

Inês en el Museo de Antioquia
Inés in the Antioquia Museum

Graffitour in Comuna 13: from bullets to art

Once the most dangerous area of Medellin (and the most violent in the world), Comuna 13 is now an open-air art gallery and the Casa Kolacho graffitour is something essential to do in the city.

Daniel, nuestro guía de Casa Kolacho, frente a una de las obras en Comuna 13
Daniel, our guide of Casa Kolacho, next to one of the graffiti from Comuna 13

This “comuna” of Medellin (the 13th of the 16th) was created with the displacement of many peasant farmers who were fleeing the guerrillas (especially from the Chocó area) in the 1960s and 1970s. It was also, for its strategic location, a mountainous corridor that links the southwest of the Antioquia region with the sea, and a very interesting place for arms trafficking and cocaine exporting.

Vista de Comuna 13, Medellín

View from Comuna 13, Medellin

With Pablo Escobar behind, Medellin became the most dangerous city in the world in the 1980s and early 1990s. Escobar died in 1993, and the idea that the city would move into a transition to peace was an utopia. New criminal groups emerged, and Comuna 13 remained under their control, with many innocent casualties month after month.

Un niño improvisa un tobogán en su casa, la Comuna 13, con una enorme bolsa de plástico, agua y jabón
A boy improvises a slide in his house, Comuna 13, with a huge bag of plastic, water, and soap.

Another peculiarity of Comuna 13 was the CAP (People’s Armed Commandos), which did not depend on either the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) or the ELN (National Liberation Army), but shared with both the need to confront the state. The CAPs were notably successful as they were made up of people from the comuna and put political action before military action.

Grafitti en la Comuna 13
Mural in Comuna 13: “La 13 es Mundial”

It’s important to tell you all of this, so you understand the context of Comuna 13; In the early 2000s, the ex-president Álvaro Uribe decided to act in the city and the CAPs (and everything that was resistance, especially violent) did not fit into his plans for the city… So, in 2002 the government started a series of military operations (according to what people told us, operations with war tanks, helicopters shooting against the rooftops, 3000 soldiers, …) and clashes between armed groups and the police began.

Arte en la Comuna 13
Mural in Comuna 13

During one of these clashes, a stray bullet killed a minor under six years of age, Sergio Céspedes. Nowadays, there is a playground named after him (‘Parque Infantil Sergio Céspedes’) and some slides as a tribute in the place where the little boy was killed. We were told that there is only one requirement to use them: as you come down, you have to smile. And that’s what we did :)

Los toboganes del Parque Infantil Sergio Céspedes en la Comuna 13, Medellín
The slides of the ‘Parque Infantil Sergio Céspedes’ in Comuna 13, Medellín

Nearby here, in the upper part of comuna 13, there is a place called La Escombrera, where tons of garbage are dumped each year (we were told that more than 900 per year), making it one of the largest in Latin America. It’s said that here, in La Escombrera, lie the bodies of all the people who disappeared during those operations.

Vista de la Comuna 13
Comuna 13 View

At the same time, in the 2000s, a group of young people began to use art as a response to violence and transformation of their comuna, their home. Graffiti, hip hop and breakdance emerged in La Comuna 13. One of the pioneer groups of this transformation is precisely Casa Kolacho with whom we recommend you to take the tour to visit Comuna 13. Daniel (our guide) told us that it was thanks to the migration of many young people to the United States that they received this hip hop influence, directly from the Bronx.

Mural en Comuna 13: "Transformación" ;)
Mural in Comuna 13: “Transformación”

Comuna 13 also has a hip hop collective for young people: Black and White Crew. The only requirement to be part of the Crew is… to keep studying and attending school.

La crew Black and White de la Comuna 13 en acción ;)
The Black and White Crew from Comuna 13 in action.

Many of graffitis and murals from Comuna 13 speak about freedom and transformation, and what a transformation the commune 13 has undergone in recent years. By the way, do you know what is the difference between a “graffiti” and a “mural“? We learned it here: a graffiti is made with spray and a mural with brushes. In addition to learning a lot and enjoying this gallery, we were allowed to try graffiti at the end of the tour. You don’t need anything else to convince yourself to do this tour, do you?

You can go on your own to Comuna 13 but in this case, we highly recommend that you do it with Casa Kolacho. Not only will you learn about what is behind each graffiti or mural but also the context in which they were created, the story of the artist who did it and, in addition, you have the opportunity to support a local project that deserves it (the “Graffiti Tour” is one of the funding channels of the Casa Kolacho foundation).

You also have the opportunity to visit Comuna 13 with a free tour, which we never recommend since in most free tours the people who make them have very precarious incomes and the groups tend to be very big (hindering the lives of local people).

Randomtrip en la Comuna 13 de la mano de Casa Kolacho
Randomtrip in the Comuna 13 by the hand of Casa Kolacho

There are two options to book a tour with Casa Kolacho:

  • Book it with Toucan Cafe, which costs 80000 COP/person (22€) from Poblado. The one we made ourselves (we didn’t know about the second option, that is the one we recommend you). You have to sign up on the web (we did it the same day at 8 am) and be ready in Toucan Cafe at 9am, to leave around 9.30am. They take you by metro from Poblado to San Javier (Comuna 13), and then by bus to the top. In theory, 22% of the price goes to Casa Kolacho. This option is perhaps better for English speakers since most of our group did not speak Spanish (we were lucky because the few of us who spoke Spanish were in a separated group at the end, much smaller.)
  • Book it directly with Casa Kolacho: the one we recommend you. You can contact Casa Kolacho directly through its facebook and pay the tour to them when you arrive, at a much more affordable price (30000 COP/person, 8€). You must arrive on your own (it is easy) to the meeting point they will tell you.

How to get there: metro from Poblado, take the blue line, change in San Antonio to the orange line and get off at San Javier. Once there, you get on a local bus (it’s all included in the price of the tour with Toucan Cafe), which takes us to the high part of the mountain and then walk down.

Is Comuna 13 safe? Although it was once one of the most dangerous areas in the world, today it is no longer so. This does not mean that it is a completely safe area, as there are still occasional clashes between bands (although not in the area you visit on the tour), and it is possible that occasionally some days the tour is not available if they consider that it is not safe. Therefore we recommend to do it in a tour (not on your own) with Casa Kolacho.

"Vida" cotidiana en Comuna 13
“Life” in Comuna 13

El Poblado: street art where Medellin was founded

The best thing to do in El Poblado is to get lost in its streets until you reach Lleras Park (the center of the neighborhood) enjoying all the urban art that the neighborhood has to offer. It is also, in our opinion, the best area to sleep (see the “where to stay” section of this post), and where to eat and go out for a drink as it concentrates a lot of gastronomic and leisure places.

Inês frente a una colorida pared de El Poblado
Inés in front of a colorful wall in El Poblado

El Poblado is called like that because it was the first populated place in the area and that is why it is so important in the city. It is the 14th comuna of the city and was the first colonized neighborhood, where the city of Medellin was founded.

There is a sculpture representing this first village with an indigenous woman showing her breasts: the church across the street forced the municipality to turn the statue… One example more of the double standards of the Catholic institution that asks for a “Free the Nipple” (the movement “Free the nipple”, which claims women’s right to show their bodies).

By the way, the explosion of urban art in the streets of Medellin was the result of a long process, as we were told in the Comuna 13 tour. And El Poblado (comuna 14) along with comuna 13 were the comunas with the biggest transformations. As you can see from the metro cable or one of the city’s viewpoints, Medellin has a lot of brick and little by little its inhabitants began to give life to the city using color. The government reacted to this by painting above using the grey color and people reacted with rude graffiti (for example, painting a penis) which led the city government to organize a street art project. Currently, there is an official project called Pictopia Medellin that updates the street art of the city every 3 years.

Un mural en El Poblado
Mural in El Poblado
Impresionante mural en el Poblado
Impressive mural in el Poblado

It won’t take you long to see, walking through the streets of El Poblado, that you are in one of the most expensive and exclusive areas of the city. This is where many expats live and the gastronomic and accommodation offer is huge. That’s why we also explored other areas of the city and propose them as options on the Where to Stay section, if you want to stay in a more local, less expat neighborhood.

Inês en unas de las calles de Poblado
Inés on one of El Poblado’s  streets
Una esquina de Poblado
A corner at El Poblado

On Sundays, it is a great plan to rent a bike on the Ciclovía El Poblado (10 #52A-18 street). Yes, every Sunday several roads are enabled to tour the main places of the city by bike while practicing some sport. You can rent a classic, modern bike or a tandem bike (yes!) and go from El Poblado Park to La Frontera in Envigado and return to the starting point. Bike rental costs from 13000COP/h (4€), you can book by Whatsapp 1 hour in advance.

If you happen to be in Medellín during Christmas, do not miss La Ramada Casa de Oficios (only in December), where you can learn about traditional work, get close to the local design (and try not to fall into the temptation of buying everything), supporting entrepreneurs and chatting :)

Buenos Aires and its Street Art

In addition to getting to know one of the most fashionable mobility systems in Latin America (although it does not beat the modern teleféricos of La Paz, in Bolivia),  the controversial new tram (as its construction affected in a negative way to the neighbors), takes you to one of the most traditional neighborhood of the city: Buenos Aires.

Un increíble mural en Buenos Aires, Medellín
An incredible mural in Buenos Aires, Medellín

You can take the tram at San Antonio subway station and you can pay it with the same card you use for the subway. We got off at Alejandro Echavarría and came back using the road following the tram and enjoying such an urban art corridor. There are several murals and, in theory, they keep creating new ones. When we arrived to the Bicentenario station, we got back on the tram to went back to San Antonio in order to take the subway.

Vista del barrio de Buenos Aires desde la vía del tranvía
View of the Buenos Aires district from the tram
Street Art en Buenos Aires
Street Art in Buenos Aires
La vía del tranvía en Buenos Aires
The road of Buenos Aires’s tram
Edificio en Buenos Aires
Building in Buenos Aires

Parks and green areas

Medellin has many parks and green areas to visit, here are some of them:

Botanical Garden

A green corner and an oasis of peace in which to disconnect, in the middle of the city, and learn about different species of plants, where the highlights are the butterfly garden and their Orquideorama.

Lago del Jardín Botánico
Botanical Garden Lake. Credits: Vientodelcaribe

Admission is free and opens every day from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Parque Arví

Located in the district of Santa Elena, this ecotourism destination of 16.000 hectares offers 54 kilometers of paths to walk with 9 trails with different degrees of difficulty for you to choose the one that best suits you. Ready to enjoy the diversity of flora and fauna of Medellin?

El Parque Arví en medellín
Parque Arví in Medellín. Credits: csaldarriagamusic

Here you have more information about the trails you can walk there. To get to Parque Arví by public transport: for example, by metro/Metrocable you can get into the train in Acevedo, K line until Santo Domingo and there transfer to L Line that will take you to the park.

Parque Explora

It’s an interactive museum for science divulgation, and while it may seem like something for kids, a lot of the adults also goes as it’s very well made. If you want to learn about science interactively, this is the place!

Aprende sobre ciencia en el Parque Explora en Medellín
Learn about science in Parque Explora in Medellin. Credits: airpanamaviajes

Unfortunately, there is a part of the center that we cannot recommend: they have an aquarium and a vivarium where they keep animals in captivity, something that involves animal abuse and non-responsible tourism. If you go, please don’t visit these spaces.

Other Parks

Other interesting parks that you can find in Medellin are:

  • Parque Pies Descalzos: a zen park in which you are invited to remove your shoes and tour its fountains, the forest of the lovers (made of bamboo), its zen garden or the sand park.
  • Parque Lleras: in the center of El Poblado, if you stay there you will visit it for sure.
  • Parques del Rio: yes, Medellin has a river! The problem is that nobody took care of him for years and it is very polluted. A few years ago a project was created to reuse the spaces next to the river (that to 2019 is not yet concluded) and that is becoming an interesting attraction in city

Cerro del Pan de Azúcar

Stay away from noise and tourist pollution and experience a quieter experience near nature at the top of Pan de Azúcar (the Colombian version of the famous giant Rio de Janeiro). To reach the summit, 2138 meters above sea level, you must follow the Camino de la Vida, a stone path that recalls the indigenous streaks and that is surrounded by different species of trees. The best: the panoramic view of the city that the viewpoint offers :)

El atardecer desde el Cerro Pan de Azúcar.
Sunset view from Cerro Pan de Azúcar. Credits: sabiasqantioquia

Pueblito Paisa: Medellín by night

Vista de Medellín de noche en Pueblito Paisa
View of Medellín by night in Pueblito Paisa

The “Pueblito Paisa” is a recreation, at the top of a hill, of what a small town in the countryside (Antioquia region) was like in the 20th century. The place itself is very very touristy, but its privileged location gives you a great view of the city.

So, if you want to get a glimpse of the city of eternal spring at night, we recommend you go to Pueblito paisa at sunset (or a little bit earlier if you are interested in getting to know the Pueblito paisa itself) and prepare your eyes (and your camera) to enjoy the view.

Museums

Apart from the museum of Antioquia, of which we speak in Plaza Botero, Medellin has many more museums that deserve the visit.

From Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturdays from 10am to 6pm, Sundays from 10am to 5pm. Holidays closed. Admission price: 12.000 COP, 9.000 for children under 12 or over 60 years and students. Free entry on the last Friday of each month between 6pm to 10pm.

How to get there: Subway A line (blue) and get off at Industriales. You can also walk from Poblado (that is how we got there)

Inês en una de las obras en el MAMM
Inés next to one of the artworks at MAMM

The museum is quite complete and ideal to delve into modern and contemporary Colombian art. It also has something we loved: each work is accompanied by the context in which it was created, a brief description of the author, and an interpretation. : )

It also has an incredible view from the terrace, in the 5° floor:

Vistas de Medellín desde el 5º piso del MAMM
Views of Medellin from the fifth floor of MAMM

And it does not stop there: In the museum, there is also a cinema-theater, where we went to see the film about the Wayuu community (the largest indigenous community in Colombia) highly recommended: “Pájaros de Verano“. Cinema’s tickets were 8000 COP (2€) per person.

Other interesting museums that we have not the chance to visit were

From Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last admission at 4:00 p.m.) Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission at 5:00 p.m.). Entrance: 6000 COP (1,6€)

An interactive museum in which you can learn about our most precious asset: water.

Tuesdays to Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays closed, except holidays (in that case, closed on Tuesday.)

Built in 2006, it is a place to learn about the armed conflict in Medellín and Colombia in general.

One thing NOT to do in Medellín: Narcotourism

With the success of the series “Narcos” (by Netflix) several tours related to Pablo Escobar (the so-called ‘narcotours’ ) have emerged in and around Medellin. These tours pass through several emblematic points of the “patrón”‘s life (the prison ‘La Catedral’ is one of them for example) and even his tomb.

On the one hand, personalities such as Escobar are part of the country’s recent violent history and need to be talked about to understand the current moment that Medellin and Colombia are going through – and what a transformation they have experienced! It is tangible with the proliferation of the cultural activities around the city that also emerged in part, thanks to Escobar money. On the other hand, many of these tours (if not all) speak of the drug trafficker as a “hero” while many of the victims’ relatives are still alive, witnessing all of this, with the wounds caused by that tragic period still open.

Pintada de Pablo Escobar con juego de palabras en la pared de un bar d'El Poblado
A painted mural about Pablo Escobar, with a wordplay for a shot of Tequila, in a bar at El Poblado (targeting expats and tourists)

For example, the official caretaker of the Escobar family tomb at the Jardines de Montesacro cemetery in Medellín explains how some people (such as the famous rapper Wiz Khalifa) took a picture there, brought flowers there, or even honored the sanguinary capo while smoking a joint or a crack of cocaine in his grave. The mayor of Medellin claims that something is being done wrong when in the ‘narcotours’ the tribute is being paid to the murderer instead of the victims.

From our 3 months around the country, we can assure you that the vast majority of people we have met are not amused neither by this type of tourism nor the “Narcos” tvshow (please refrain from making jokes with the “hijoeputamalpario”) and how this character’s story is being told.

It is also true that many people still admire him (especially in poorer comunas totally forgotten by the Colombian government) since one of Escobar’s strategies was to “buy” the most disadvantaged population by housing those who did not have one, providing medical services to whom needed them, building schools where there were none, etc… For example, the homonymous neighborhood of the city (Pablo Escobar neighborhood, created by him) refuses to change its name today despite several attempts by the government.

Graffiti del barrio de Buenos Aires
Graffiti in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Medellín

Apart from narcotours, you’ll also find t.shirts, cups, and other souvenirs about the narco. People who sell this kind of product to tourists justify themselves saying that they have had to live such a hard time that now that they can at least benefit from it, they want to take advantage of that.

In our opinion, in this type of tours, the curiosity wins over the historical memory and, since we promote responsible tourism, our advice is not to contribute to this kind of tourism (which in turn is also non-responsible tourism).

So if you come to Medellin remember that it’s much more than the narco universe and that’s exactly what we are showing you in this post.

Where to eat in Medellin

Here we recommend some pearls that we discovered during our two weeks in Medellin when you want to give a break from street food and the markets which are, in our opinion, highly recommended. How can you be in Colombia without eating lots of their arepas and carimañolas?

  • Restaurante Justo: I think we can say that it is the best vegan restaurant of all these 8 months of travel. How wonderful… Whether you are vegan or not, go there and let yourself be amazed by how delicious and creative all of their organic dishes are. Besides the beautiful space and a great selection of craft beers. They also have a biological market, so if you’re in an apartment with a kitchen it’s a good option to do the shopping. The dishes are between 20.000 and 25.000 COP (between 5 and 7€), expensive for Colombia, cheap for the quality it offers.
Una maravilla todo lo que probamos en el restaurante Justo, en Poblado
Everything we tried was wonderful at Restaurante Justo, in El Poblado
  • Bonhomía: Delicious pizzas made of thin dough. One is enough for 2 people (from 28.000 COP to 32.000 COP – between 7 and 9€).
La pizza de la pizzería Bonhomía
Pizza from Bonhomía
  • La Bronca: Tasty and creative food and excellent cocktails. It is for a treat (from 30.000 to 60.000 COP each dish – between 8 and 16€) but delicious.
Nuestra cena en La Bronca
Our dinner at La Bronca
  •  Crepes&Waffles: Yes, well, it’s a food chain, but we’re going to tell you why we are including it here… in the months we spent in Colombia enjoying its gastronomy, sometimes we needed a break from the arepas, the Carimañolas and, ultimately, the “fritanga”, and also our bodies were asking us for something healthy. This chain has a buffet in all its branches, just like this one you see in the photo in which you can make your own salad for 11.900 COP (3€ approx.). For us, it was a discovery we used several times. For example, you have one at El Poblado and another close to MAMM (Museo de Arte Moderno) 
El buffet de ensaladas del Crepes and Waffles
The Crepes and Waffles salad buffet

Where to have a drink in Medellin

When it comes to having a few beers (or having a few dances) at night, El Poblado is “the place to be”. More specifically, the district of Provenza. Ideally, stroll through its streets and let yourself going in where you find the best atmosphere or music. We recommend you a few places that we liked:

  • La Perla: Comida y Baile a granelLa perla: comida y baile a granel jajaja (Poblado, Medellín)

La perla: comida y baile a granel jajaja (Poblado, Medellín)

  • La Central de Amigos: a place where the terrace is ALWAYS full. Lots of ambience to drink beers and some tapas (tequeños and little more) from where you will surely not leave without knowing anyone ;)
  • Alambique: Here, in addition to having a drink (indoors or outdoors) you can also eat and have dinner.

Where to stay in Medellin

For us, there are three options to stay in Medellin: The area where we recommend you to sleep and where we stayed in the city is El Poblado: very nice, very green, with lots of offer but also lots of foreigners and expats. If you are looking for something more local, another option would be to stay in Laureles (we stayed there the last few days) and finally an area that is gaining more visibility with several accommodations is Envigado. We do not recommend you stay in the center (where Plaza Botero is) because even in broad daylight it feels a bit unsafe.

Where to stay in El Poblado

El Poblado has a lot of accommodation options, a lot of gastronomic offer, and it is also where there is an interesting nightlife of bars in the evening if you feel like unraveling a little. It’s a fairly safe area (we didn’t feel insecure at any time during day or night) unlike downtown (where local people constantly warn you), and we also found a hotel with one of the best quality/prace ratio of our time in Colombia.

In El Poblado, we stayed at the Hotel Casa La Fleur. Highly recommended as it is at the heart of El Poblado (within walking distance of the famous Parque Lleras) but in a quiet location, so it has a good location but allows your to rest at night. The double room with private bathroom costs 27€/night approx. On the same street, there are many restaurants and shops.

Chris recién duchadito en el patio del hotel la Fleur donde sirven los desayunos
Chris after a nice shower in the courtyard of the Hotel la Fleur where we had our breakfasts
Nuestra habitación en el Hotel La Fleur. Al dar al patio tiene luz pero no ruido.
Our room at the Hotel La Fleur. As it is next to the courtyard it has a light but no noise.

Another excellent option to sleep in Poblado is Selina, a chain that always guarantees a level of quality and a superior aesthetics compared to the average. Here the double room with a private bathroom comes out for about 50€.

You also have the Hotel Florence Plaza Medellin, which has a rooftop jacuzzi where you can relax with these views after sightseeing around the city. You have dorms for 47000 COP/person (13€) or a double room with private bathroom and breakfast for 180000 COP (49€)

El Jacuzzi en la azotea del Florencia Plaza, donde podrás relajarte tras un día de turisteo por Medellín
The Jacuzzi on the roof of Florencia Plaza, where you can relax after a day of sightseeing in Medellin

Where to stay in Laureles

Another area where you can sleep, more local but also safe is the Laureles area. Since we stayed in the city for a long time, we wanted to explore it too, so we decided to spend there our last few days in the city. In this case, we rented a small apartment with a kitchen and…surprise surprise, with a jacuzzi!

Despedimos el año en el jacuzzi de cocina de nuestro apartamento en Laureles
We celebrated the new year in the jacuzzi on the kitchen of our apartment in Laureles.

The thing is that the Jacuzzi was inside kitchen (yes, with a view of the sink haha) but hey, what a Jacuzzi! We enjoyed it a lot. The apartment costs 27€/night and you can book it here. Also, if you sign up for Airbnb with this link you’ll get 25€ for your first booking, which is such a great deal! Another option on Laureles is this apartment with views, for the same price.

Where to stay in Envigado

Finally, the other increasingly fashionable area where you can sleep is the neighborhood where Escobar was born: Envigado. If you prefer to stay here, a good option is this apartment that can accommodate up to 8 people (43€/night depending on the number of people).

Apartamento en Envigado
Apartment in Envigado

Where to go near Medellin

Medellin also has interesting getaways places near the city that can be visited on the same day, although if you have days and you want to sleep over, you know, even better.

Guatapé and la Piedra del Peñol

Slip away from Medellin and get to know (2 hours by bus!) the colorful village of the zócalos (indeed, it was one of the most colorful villages we have ever been to) and the towering Piedra del PeñolInês en una de las calles de la colorida Guatapé

Inês on one of the colorful streets of GuatapéIn Guatapé all the houses have zócalos in their facades: all different, representing the family that inhabits/inhabited the house, the craft/business to which they dedicate or directly a portray of the inhabitants of the house. Literally (see photo below hahaha)

"Esa nariz no me favorece"
“That nose doesn’t suit me”

It is said that this thing with the zócalos in Guatapé began in 1919 with José María Parra Jiménez who started to portray everyday scenes in reliefs of cement in the hallway of his house.

Un zócalo en un bar de Guatapé
A zócalo in a bar in Guatapé

From there, the art got out to the street, from the street to the square and grew to become a real “orgullo paisa” – paisa pride (have we already told you that paisa is denonym of the people the region of Antioquia?)

Calle de Guatapé
Street in Guatapé

One thing to note is that, in most of the zócalos, we barely saw women represented, and when we found some example, they were represented doing care work… We hope this changes in the near future, so these zócalos adapt themselves to the XXI century representing women doing all kind of things, as women from Guatapé do.

Dos mujeres en el zócalo: una empujando a un carrito de bebé, la otra haciendo la compra...
Two women in the zócalo: one pushing a baby stroller, the other doing shopping…

Apart from many zócalos, there are also many tourists in Guatapé! But, truth be told, it’s worth dodging them to get lost in its streets. Look at how many colors it has:

But there is also another reason to come here. Next to Guatapé is the towering Piedra del Peñol, also known as Peñon de Guatapé: a monolith of 220 meters to which one can climb (700 steps to be exact) and contemplate the magnificent views from above.

Las vistas impresionantes desde lo alto de la Piedra del Peñol
The stunning views from the top of the Piedra del Peñol

But these sights hide a sad story behind… This water is from an artificial reservoir and its construction meant the disappearance of an entire town. Yes, as you read it. At the beginning of the twentieth century, other ways of supplying energy to the country began to be valued. And of course, this space turned out strategic in the industrial boom of the region as it had a river very appetizing for a hydroelectric plant.

So what happened then? In 1961 the construction of the reservoir became official and ten years later, in 1971, something inevitable was made for this construction: flooding the town

The overwhelming majority of the people of Peñol opposed to the project (of course, it was their house they wanted to flood it) and demonstrated to make their position clear. However, other voices were heard louder (for example, those of the EPM – Empresas Públicas de Medellin), so the population was relocated to another town that was built with the same name – El Peñol – and the flood took place in 1978. Meanwhile, a replica of the old town of Peñol was built near the current Peñol and it can be visited nowadays.

Today, it appears to be an important source of energy for the country. The town of Guatapé (which also underwent some changes with the construction of the new reservoir) faces this “inland sea“, as they call it. On the contrary, the people of Peñol do not. Not looking at it, they say, was the way to heal these resilient people.

La Piedra del Peñol
Piedra del Peñol

How to get there: On your own, go to the Terminal Norte in Medellin, buses from a company called Sotra Sanvicente leave all the time. We bought our tickets on the same day (about 8 am) for 14000 COP/person (3,7€), and you can get off either in Piedra del Peñol or in Guatapé. Between the Peñón and the village, you can move on the same bus that stops on the road (2000 COP, 0,5€,  per person) or in a tuk-tuk (10000 COP, 2,6€, for the whole tuk-tuk).

To climb the Peñón you have to pay a ticket of 18000 COP (5€)

If you don’t dare to go there by your own and/or you also want to see more things, there are tours from Medellin that take you to both places and make some extra stops, like this one that costs 34€

If you prefer to sleep in Guatapé, you can stay in La Madriguera which offers simple rooms with spectacular views of the Peñol for 29€/night for 2 people with private bathroom:

Vistas del Peñol de Guatapé desde el alojamiento La Madriguera
Views of Peñol de Guatapé from La Madriguera

Or if you want to give yourself a special treat, the Bosko (160€/night approx. for 2 people) offers you more than a room, a unique experience where you can sleep under the stars, with all the luxuries…

El Bosko, una suite con vistas a las estrellas y a las montañas en Guatapé
The Bosko, a suite with amazing views of the stars and mountains in Guatapé.

Jardín

This small paisa town full of colors is located about 140km from Medellin and is also surrounded by nature, so in addition to taking a few photos of its colorful houses, you can venture out for some hiking tour and visit some of its nearby caves.

Colores en Jardín (Antioquia)
Colors in Jardín (Antioquia) – Credits: Eddy Milfort

From Medellin, you can get to Jardín from the southern terminal in about 3 hours. Two companies that make the journey are Fast Ochoa and Transports Southwest, and the ticket costs about 25000 COP (7€).

If you have time, you can stay one night in Jardín, so you can visit the town and its surroundings more calmly. For example, you can sleep at Fami Hotel Vive Jardin (80000COP – 22€ – double room with shared bathroom) or Hostería El Paso (170000 COP – 46€ –  double room with private bathroom)

If you want more information about Jardín, take a look at this post by Travelgrafia

Santa Fe de Antioquia

One hour away from Medellin you will find Santa Fe, a small city where you can walk around admiring its historic colonial buildings and get to know its long suspension bridge, a major Colombian engineering work of the late 19th century.

La Catedral de Santa Fe de Antioquia
The Cathedral of Santa Fe de Antioquia. Credits: Rainero Cobos

More information about how to get there and what to see and do in Santa Fe de Antioquia in this Travelgrafia article.

If you don’t want to get there on your own, you can book a tour like this one to go to Santa Fe de Antioquia from Medellín for 45€

Other towns in Antioquia

The region of Antioquia (to which Medellin belongs) has many more interesting towns and corners, so if you have time, don’t miss exploring them. Here you have a post made by Travelgrafia with a top 10 best towns in Antioquia 

Zona Cafetera

Medellín is also a place close to our country’s favorite region: the “Eje cafetero”. So if you also want to get into the green coffee plantations dotted by those colorful villages, in this guide of the region we tell you everything you need to know to enjoy it to the fullest. Don’t miss it :)

How to get to Medellin

By plane

If you arrive in Colombia from another country, you will likely arrive by plane to one of the main cities (Bogotá, Medellin, Cartagena…), with Medellin being a fairly common option. If you go from Spain, there are direct flights to Medellin, although they are usually more expensive. We recommend you to look for and compare in sites like Skyscanner and Kiwi, and be as flexible as you can with dates.

If you don’t mind doing a stopover, you have low-cost flights like those from Norwegian and Level to points near Colombia and you can get a good price (we did Madrid > Florida > Cartagena for less than 350€ one way)

If you come to Medellin from another city in Colombia and want to do it by plane, the cheapest options is usually VivaAir, a low-cost company with fairly cheap flights. Mind you, they’re like Ryanair and Easyjet, so mind the fine print, especially with the luggage. We also recommend you to take a look at flight comparators like Skyscanner and Kiwi as you can sometimes find offers from other companies.

In our case, we flew to Medellin from Cartagena, with a checked bag and fast track for 35€/person, with VivaAir.

How to go from the airport to the center of Medellín

You will most likely land at José María Córdova International Airport, which is quite far from the city (in a town called Rionegro, about 30km away from the Medellín). As always, you have different options, cheaper or more expensive depending on waiting time, comfort and whether you are left in your accommodation or not:

By road (by bus/car)

If you come by road, Medellín is well connected with most cities and points of interest in Colombia, so you will have no problem finding a transport that suits your needs.

We recommend you to check different buses and schedules, and buy your tickets, on websites like Redbus or Pinbus, which work very well and where you can choose your seat (watch out because those sites don’t have all the available options, so there may be more schedules and/or companies). You can also check information (not always updated) in https://www.horariodebuses.com.co/

How to Get Around the City

Metro/Metrocable/tram: yes, Medellín has a modern subway which is also “orgullo paisa” (you will often be told that Medellin has a metro and Bogotá does not, there is rivalry there hahaha). To be able to use it you have to buy a card that can be recharged. In our case, we bought the white card that says “Viaje Metro”, which can be recharged and/or purchased at the stations’ machines or the lockers. The card is valid for the three modes of transport. A single trip costs between 2000 and 4000 COP (between 0,55€ and 1,10€).

When the card is empty the machine will swallow it, and on some machines, you can only buy the card with one trip (it would be of only one use). If you need help ask the staff and they will help you for sure.

Nuestras dos 'MetroCard' en el metro de Medellín
Our two MetroCards in the Medellin metro

With this card, you can also use the modern tram (we talk about it in this article to go to the neighborhood of Buenos Aires), and the cable car (for example, in Comuna 13)

Uber and taxis: Uber is illegal in Colombia, although it exists anyway and, many people use it because it is cheaper and safer than taxis. Since it is illegal, one of the passengers always has to go in the front seat, next to the driver, in case the police stops the car. Since local peopl don’t recommend to catch taxis on the street, alternatively there is another app, Easy, which now belongs to Cabify (2,5€ discount with the code 4wr775), from which you can order regular taxis. In Uber, the shortest journeys usually cost about 9000 COP (2,50€), and for example from the city to Poblado it costs between 15000 and 30000 COP – 4 to 8€ – (be aware of traffic, it took us an hour and a half becasue of the traffic jam and we paid 27000 COP from the city center to El Poblado)

Security: warnings and advice

Don’t give papaya!

The advice that most local people throughout Colombia will give you regarding security is: Don’t give papaya!

It is an expression they use to indicate that you should not become an easy target: do not go out to the street showing valuable things (smartphone, camera, money) and thus avoid attracting attention.

Chris ejemplificando qué significa "Dar Papaya"
Chris exemplifying what “Dar Papaya” means

Obviously, as tourists/travelers, we like to photograph places, look for information on our smartphones, etc., and this does not mean that you can not do it. Just be more cautious than usual and try to limit the amount of time you walk the streets with you expensive camera hanging on your neck.

We were in Medellin for 2 weeks (and 3 months in Colombia), we took pictures of everything we wanted, we used our smartphones, and we had no problem (although, indeed, we walked more carefully and we tried to keep the camera or the smartphone hidden when we did not use it, inside the backpack/pockets)

In any case, always travel with travel insurance!: medical expenses, theft or problems with your plane on a trip can be a hassle, so ideally you should hire a travel insurance. We always use IATI and we highly recommend it (in this 7-month trip around Latin America we hired the IATI Star Premium ). If you hire your travel insurance with IATI using this link you’ll obtain a 5% discount on it.

¡Medellín pues!
¡Medellín pues!

Aren’t there so many reasons to visit the city of eternal spring?

I don’t know what you’re waiting for… but please tell us in your comments when you go!

Organising your dream trip? We can help you!

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Phew, excellent guide friend, Medellin is too beautiful a city. Colombia has some very beautiful places, once I was able to go to a town called Salento, it has very nice coffee farms.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *