While it may not be as big as Colombia’s capital Bogotá, Medellín has just as much to offer. The city is jam-packed with museums, restaurants, bars and clubs to keep you entertained during your visit. Check out the top 10 things to see and do in Colombia’s second largest city.
The sculptor Fernando Botero Angulo hails from Medellin and the Plaza Botero is the best place to see his larger-than-life figures. Centrally located in the “old quarter” of the city, it can be reached via the nearby Parque Berrio metro station. While you’re there, make sure you also check out the Museo de Antioquia. Entrance is free and inside you’ll find many of Botero’s paintings, as well as work from other famous Latin American artists.
Medellin’s Metrocable is an impressive transport system that connects the hustle and bustle of the city with the residential areas built up on the hillsides. It expands all the way up to Parque Arvi, a large nature reserve in the hills of Medellin and a great escape from the city. Visit the park for a bit of peace and quiet and observe the vast array of wildlife. Nearby is the town of Santa Elena, where you can grab a bite to eat or even lodge up for a night or two.
Although not a part of the city itself, Guatapé is a town in the larger municipality of Antioquia and is a real must visit for anybody spending time in Medellin. Located two hours out of the city, visitors come to admire the town’s pretty colored houses and soak up the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The main attraction of this small town is El Peñol, a towering rock peering over the whole surrounding area. The steep climb, some 600 steps, is worth the effort and the top offers some truly incredibly views of the lakes and hills below.
If you spend any time in a backpackers hostel in Medellín, you’ll certainly hear about the Medellín city walking tour. The tour guides are all locals and take you on a knowledgeable journey round Medellín’s downtown (El Centro). Completely free to attend, the guides instead accept tips from attendees as payment. The tours run morning and afternoon on weekdays and are extremely popular, we recommend booking a place in advance through the website.
Tour times: twice daily Mon-Fri, once on Saturday and no tours on Sunday.
Located in the ritzy neighborhood of El Poblado, Parque Lleras is a great place to go out any night of the week. The areas welcomes a varied mix of locals and foreigners looking to let loose and have a good time. Around the park there’s a great range of venues, from small salsa bars to bigger, mainstream clubs. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, just don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes.
Sample bandeja paisa
Bandeja paisa is considered to be the national dish of Colombia and is native to the area surrounding Medellin. Originally, this caloric meal was created to provide peasant workers with enough energy to keep them going throughout the entire day. With rice, plantain, an arepa (corn cakes), avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage, fried pork rind and with a fried egg thrown on top, just in case you’re still peckish. Found all over the city, ask a local and hunt down the best bandeja paisa you can find. You won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.
Dance salsa at Eslabón Prendido
Nightclub, Cocktails, $$$
Small, chaotic and somewhat a sweat box, Eslabón Prendido provides an authentic Colombian dancing experience. This nightclub is a salsa lover’s paradise and the unpretentious atmosphere means you needn’t be an expert to come and shake your body. Drinks are well priced and you don’t even need to bring a partner to dance with. We recommend visiting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when a live band plays, for an authentic night out.
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An oasis of calm in the busy city center, the beautiful botanical gardens are home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna and are completely free to enter. With their own butterfly house and great places to stop, sit, and admire the surrounding nature, these green gardens are a fantastic place to visit and relax for a few hours.
Discover the Quirky World of Fonda Dulce Jesús Mio
Nightclub, Cocktails, $$$
A club inspired by the typical bars found in rural pueblos, the Fonda Dulce Jesús Mio is not your typical club. Staff wear regional dress, huge plastic Pink Panthers and fairy lights adorn the interiors and cheesy music and live acts dominate the nights. Extremely popular with Colombians and foreigners alike, this is the place to come if you’re looking to let your hair down in a slightly different way.
The people of Medellín know a thing or two about looking good and this mega-mall has every shop and service you need to feel fabulous. You’ll find big brands such as Zara, Forever 21 and H&M, as well as a great range of Colombian chains and high-end smaller boutiques. If you get peckish, there’s numerous restaurants to grab some food to fuel your long day’s shopping.