How to Spend 24 Hours in Medellín, Colombia

Sculptures by Fernando Botero, Plazoleta de las Esculturas, Medellín
Sculptures by Fernando Botero, Plazoleta de las Esculturas, Medellín | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Chris Bell

Medellín has become a hugely popular stop on the Colombian travel circuit, and most visitors will end up staying significantly longer than one day. However, should you find yourself in “the City of Eternal Spring” with little time to spare, there are still lots of great activities you can enjoy. Here’s our guide on how to spend 24 hours in Medellín, Colombia.

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Morning

Some people prefer to explore a city independently, but with just 24 hours to spend in a big city like Medellín, it’s advisable to devote at least part of your day to a tour with an expert. The best tour to get a good feel for the downtown of Medellín and learn about the history and culture of the city is the free walking tour with Real City Tours, which takes 3 to 4 hours. It’s a significant chunk of the day, but it takes in Medellín’s historic Centro neighborhood, including the Botero Plaza, the cathedral and the Parque de las Luces. You will also learn a great deal about the history and culture of Medellín and Antioquia department. It’s the perfect way to spend your morning.

Botero Plaza, Medellin, Colombia

Lunch

The tour should wind up around lunchtime, at which point you’ll need to find somewhere to eat. And luckily, you’re in the perfect spot to sample Medellín’s most famous traditional dish, the bandeja paisa. This gut-busting plate filled to the brim with rice, eggs, beans, meat, chorizo and avocado is not for the fainthearted. It’s about the most important traditional dish in the region, so you shouldn’t miss out on it. The best place to get one in Centro is Hacienda Junin, a traditionally decorated restaurant just a few blocks from Plaza Botero – the bandeja paisa is massive and absolutely delicious. If there are two of you and you’re not big eaters, consider splitting a portion!

Bandeja paisa, typical dish at the Antioqueno region of Colombia

Afternoon

If you’re not too deep into a food coma from your lunch, it’s now time to go and explore the city on your own. Luckily, the fantastic Medellín Metro is nearby, and connects the city from north to south. Jump on at the nearby San Antonio station and head north to Universidad station. Just outside the east exit of this station are the Medellín Botanical Gardens, the perfect spot to relax in the sunshine and take in some nature in the heart of the city. The main attraction in the gardens is the multitude of giant iguanas freely roaming its lawns and lake, as well as the beautiful Orchideorama “flower-tree” structures. Spend an hour or so relaxing here, and then it’s back to the Metro.

Head north for three stops until you reach Acevedo station. From here you can transfer onto Medellín’s famous Metrocable cable-car system. Ride the cable-car up to the Santo Domingo neighborhood for a stunning view over the city, or ride over the mountains to nearby Arvi Park, a gorgeous nature preserve just outside the city. Here you can take a stroll in the woods, sample some fresh coffee, or simply enjoy the fresh air and sunshine of the Colombian countryside. It’s the perfect way to get a little taste of rural Colombia.

Jardín Botánico Joaquín Antonio Uribe, Medellín

Evening

It’s best to stay somewhere around the popular traveler neighborhood of El Poblado, as you will also be right alongside some of the best bars and restaurants in the city. There’s nowhere better in Poblado to sample traditional fare than OCI.mde. This upmarket restaurant serves mouthwatering plates of traditional Colombian food in a gorgeous setting.

If you aren’t exhausted after a pretty busy day, there are plenty of great bars and clubs to enjoy in Poblado. The best of the bunch is hipster-hangout Calle 9, which hosts performances from popular local and international DJs on weekends. Once you’re done dancing the night away, it’s time to retire to your hotel or hostel and get some well-deserved shut-eye after an epic 24 hours in Medellín.

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