Medellín City Guide
With a potent mix of vibrant city life, stunning biodiversity and cultural wealth, Colombia has defied the odds in becoming one of the world’s most exciting travel locations over the last few years. With this in mind, no city quite embodies Colombia’s evolution from no-go zone to must-visit destination like Medellín. Over the past decade, Medellín has been transformed by smart urban design and cooperation between authorities and rival factions, and as a result the city has flourished, allowing its pulsating nightlife, thriving culture and a perfect, balmy climate to really shine. Keep reading our Medellín city guide to find out why you should visit the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ on a tailormade Colombian trip!
Art and design in Medellín
With both a complex and colourful national history, Colombian artists have never been short of inspiration. Medellín, in particular, is fortunate to have both a burgeoning arts scene among the younger generation along with a selection of celebrated artists and architects that have put their unique spin on the city. To experience their vision, begin in downtown Medellín, home to the wonderful art deco Museum of Antioquia. A great deal of the work inside is contributed by Medellín’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero, whose comical yet perceptive artwork presents an incisive view on key cultural and political figures. Continue to explore downtown with one of the hugely informative city tours, as fascinating local anecdotes and historical facts are revealed every step of the way.
Also essential to visit in Medellín are the Botanical Gardens, a favourite hangout for many locals who can be spotted reading a book or having lunch together. Free to enter, you can wander through the beautiful flora while admiring some of the countless birds and even rogue Iguanas that share the space. Don’t miss the ’Orchideorama’, a wooden hexagonal roof that collects water and shelters the garden’s butterflies and orchids; stunning to behold. Also key to the city’s design is its widely praised cable car network, linking Medellín’s most under-served communities to the centre of town. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Medellín is to catch the ‘Metrocable’ from Acevedo Metro all the way to the top, and drink in the beautiful view of the valley below you. Alight at Parque Arvi, and stroll through the pine trees and green space above the city; before heading back make sure to sample some of the delicacies at the local market found by the cable car entrance – they are irresistible!
Medellín music and dance
Having long played second fiddle to the dance powerhouse of Cali, Medellín is now a force to be reckoned with. And, while they’d rather not admit it, ‘Los Caleños’ are beginning to realise that the salsa scene is just as vibrant in Medellín as it is in Cali. In truth, salsa – along with merengue and vallenato – is the heartbeat of Medellín; to know the streets you have to embrace the music pounding from every single bar, restaurant and taxi within sight. The most popular location for this experience is El Poblado: begin the evening with a drink in the green square of Parque Poblado, where you can chat with locals and fellow travellers alike. Soak up the ambience for a while before choosing from a myriad of discos to settle into for the evening. Whether you choose to simply sit and enjoy the atmosphere or throw yourself onto the dancefloor, it’s impossible to not enjoy the infectious energy of Medellín’s nightlife scene.
For those looking to really get to grips with some steps, then opt for a dance class at the legendary El Tibirí on La 70. This salsa institution has been teaching novices (and experts) for decades and shows no signs of slowing down. From here, why not try out your new moves in Son Habana, located a few streets away and primed with a live band on Fridays and Saturdays. Or, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you can experience one of the most authentic nightlife venues at El Eslabón Prendido in downtown Medellín, where the dancefloor is always packed full and the music is among the best in the city!
Where to eat in Medellín
When visiting Medellín it is important to acknowledge the pride taken in local agriculture and home-grown products such as potatoes, rice and beans, each of which provide the foundation to traditional Colombian cuisine. Head for La 33 or La 70 in Laureles to experience hearty dishes such as cazuela de frijoles (meat and bean soup) or la bandeja paisa (rice, beans, avocado and meat). Mondogos is a Colombian institution famous for both plates, along with its celebrated soups, and is therefore a wise choice for anyone looking to sample the local delicacies. For a touch of something a little more refined, make for the district of El Poblado where an array of international cuisine is served. Zorba, found just above Parque Poblado, is a pizzeria of the highest class and offers vegetarian friendly options, while the ever-popular Carmen serves delicious contemporary cuisine.
Where to stay in Medellín
Patio Del Mundo
A serene guest lodge found up in the district of La Florida, Patio Del Mundo is an intimate boutique hotel tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Verdant walkways, tropical plants and wooden decking offer a peaceful atmosphere, while a vibrant, modern interior ensures comfort will never be out of reach. Breakfast on the patio, along with massages and yoga classes, round out a very relaxing stay.
Found at the top of El Poblado, Diez Hotel offers breathtaking views of the city from the comfort of its hotel restaurant. Spacious bedrooms and a contemporary design define this simple yet inviting hotel, while top of the range amenities include a gym, Jacuzzis and massage service for added indulgence.
The enormous Intercontinental hotel has you covered for an utterly luxurious stay in Medellín. With a palatial swimming pool and outdoor area, a sumptuous spa and even a nightclub – not to mention fine dining restaurants – no stone has been left unturned here. What’s more, the rooms and suites are tastefully styled with modern Italian décor, and feature thick double beds, soft carpets and en-suite bathrooms – heavenly.
While the city itself is brimming with things to see and do, Medellín’s proximity to other wonderful highlights of Colombia also makes it the perfect base camp from which you can explore the region extensively. Just a couple of hours away lies the beautiful valley of Río Claro, a favourite spot for many Colombians; here you can swim in the river, go for long walks and even discover some of the valley’s hidden caves. Equally spectacular is the astounding rock of El Peñol, whose 740-step staircase provides awe-inspiring views over the countless shimmering lakes below. Take a boat tour to best experience the beauty of the region, before enjoying lunch in the colourful village of Guatapé, whose walls are painted in a kaleidoscope of colour. What’s more, further afield you can find the famous Coffee Region with its beautiful valleys, typified by their noble wax-palm trees and, of course, unbeatable coffee beans.
And so, with the use of this Medellín city guide you should feel ready to dive head first into its wonderful culture and hospitality found in Colombia’s incredible second city! Start planning your Medellín trip with Discover Your South America: handpick the hotels and activities you want, adjust time spent in each place depending on how long you want to stay, and have fun in the process!
Surtrek is always at hand to help out. Call us on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to an expert, and Discover Your South America with Surtrek!
For more inspiration on tailormade trips to Colombia, take a look at our other blog articles by clicking here.