Travel Guide to Prado, Medellín
From the pulsating nightlife of Poblado to the tranquil, verdant plazas of Laureles, there’s no shortage of enthralling neighbourhoods to enjoy while visiting Colombia’s thriving metropolis of Medellín. Frequently flying under the radar amongst the city’s top neighbourhoods is the downtown district of Prado, filled with national heritage sites, decadent colonial houses and quirky Colombian designs. While there’s no doubt that the secret is already out on Medellín as a whole, the same cannot yet be said of Prado; as long as the neighbourhood remains a diamond in the rough, we suggest you take advantage of its relative anonymity! So, keep reading our Prado travel guide to get the most out of your time in this amazing Medellín barrio.
History of Prado
In the early 20th century, the architecture of Prado was dreamt up by Medellín’s wealthy elites who had fallen in love with the colonial buildings of Europe during their travels. Keen to incorporate such architectural splendour into their hometown, some of the city’s richest inhabitants financed urban designs that quickly saw the introduction of leafy avenues and grand townhouses. By the middle of the century, Prado had become a majestic neighbourhood blending classical and belle époque buildings, the likes of which the city had never seen before.
As industrialisation began to surge in the mid-20th century, thousands of Colombians came flocking to Medellín in search of greater employment prospects and an improved quality of life. This transition saw the growth of downtown Medellín, which quickly became the city’s financial hub and its busiest district. Prado no longer resembled the exclusive neighbourhood it had once been, and its wealthy inhabitants soon began to relocate to the more peaceful zones of Laureles and Poblado.
Prado safety tips
Over the years, part of the reticence to visit Prado has been due to the fact that petty crime used to be rife throughout Medellín’s downtown area. Thankfully, owing to the city’s resurgence and increased focus on safety, the area no longer poses a problem and travellers are free to enjoy its fascinating cultural heritage. That being said, night-time (from 6pm onwards) in the downtown area should be avoided. Likewise, visitors are encouraged not to wear jewellery or expensive items that will draw unwanted attention (but bringing a phone or a camera for photos will not cause you any inconvenience).
How to get to Prado
Part of Prado’s charm is that at every twist and turn you are likely to stumble across another wonderful building, so much so that wandering up and down the streets with no particular direction can be really enjoyable. There are, however, a few must-visits that truly characterize the best of the neighbourhood:
No other building quite embodies the eccentric side of Prado than the Egyptian Palace. Funded by a wealthy eye doctor in 1928 following a trip to Cairo, the Egyptian Palace was originally a site of much controversy. With its huge tower, intricate hieroglyphics and domineering pillars of stone, the inhabitants of Medellín were appalled at what they deemed to be the site of a monstrous cult. In fact, the mayor who granted permission for the palace’s construction was both sacked from his job and cast away by his local parish.
Today, for 10,000 pesos (around $3) you can enjoy an insightful tour of the palace and all of its fascinating chambers, culminating in magnificent views of the city from the rooftop. It also regularly hosts cultural events and musical shows, which you can find more about through your tour guide.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Fine Art Palace is a stunning, three-storied, art deco building designed by the famed Antioquian architect Nel Rodriguez, which once played host to numerous cultural events, musical recitals and concerts. Efforts are being taken by the city’s Office for Culture in order to reignite this beautiful edifice to once again become a home for the arts.
A prime example of what the present and future can hold for Prado is the ASMEDAS building, home to Medellín’s medical union. While there are many who fear that Prado will give way to the city’s increasing demand for apartment blocks and shopping malls, the ASMEDAS building has retained its remarkable exterior that closely resembles an ocean liner or a cruise ship. Meanwhile, the interior’s art deco design has benefitted from its daily usage, instead of being left to rust or decay like many other buildings in the area.
Museo Teatro Prado
The Prado Theatre Museum is Prado’s principle theatre and was once the host of countless plays, comedies and poetry recitals. One of the more classically designed colonial buildings you will find in Prado, its yellow and blue exterior is instantly recognisable and deserves the attention of anyone taking the time to enjoy the area. While it no longer puts on performances, the old theatre currently serves as the home for an organisation named Aguila Descalza (or ‘Barefoot Eagle’), which seeks to promote cultural activities throughout the city.
Feeling inspired to visit Prado in Medellín? Explore our Colombia itineraries and start building your trip. You can handpick the hotels and activities you want, adjust the durations depending on how long you want to stay in each place, 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!