With so little time to spare, it’s sensible to organize a guided tour for at least part of your one full day in Medellin. Some people prefer to explore a city independently, but with just 24 hours to spend in a big city like Medellin, 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 Medellin and learn about the history and culture of the city is undoubtedly the free walking tour with Real City Tours, which takes around 3–4 hours. It’s a significant chunk of the day, but it takes in Medellin’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 Medellin and Antioquia department. It’s the perfect way to spend your morning.
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 Medellin’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 faint-hearted, but 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; their bandeja paisa is massive and absolutely delicious. If there are two of you and you’re not big eaters, consider splitting a portion!
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 for the afternoon. Luckily, the fantastic Medellin 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 Medellin 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. Spend an hour or so relaxing here, and then it’s back to the Metro.
Once you’re back on the Metro, head north for three more stops until you reach Acevedo station. From here you can transfer onto Medellin’s famous Metrocable cable-car system. Depending on how you’re doing for time – that bandeja paisa might well have taken more than an hour to digest! – either ride the cable-car up to the Santo Domingo neighbourhood for a stunning view over the city, or ride over the mountains to nearby Arvi Park, a gorgeous natural park 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.
By now it should be getting on for the evening, and you’ll be thinking about dinner. With just 24 hours available, it would be best to stay somewhere around the popular traveler neighbourhood of El Poblado, as you will also be right alongside some of the best bars and restaurants in the city. Once again, as it’s a flying visit, you should make sure to sample traditional dishes, and there’s nowhere better in Poblado for that than OCI.mde restaurant. This upmarket restaurant serves mouthwatering plates of traditional Colombian food in a gorgeous setting. It’s a little pricey, but you only have 24 hours, so it’s time to splash out.
Should you not be too 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 Medellin.