14 things to do in Medellin
Once considered one of the deadliest cities in the world, Medellín has undergone a transformation over the last fifteen years that has made it one of the most modern places in all of Colombia.
The city has become a lot safer, there is a fantastic metro and cable car system that could rival the best in Europe, lots of parks, new buildings, libraries, restaurants, and a growing tech scene.
The city has changed a lot, and you can tell the residents are very proud of everything they’ve accomplished. There’s a palpable sense of possibility in Medellin. Optimism and excitement were always in the air.
If you’re looking to visit Medellín (and I don’t see why you wouldn’t be if you’re in Colombia), here is a list of good plansto do and see there:
1. Explore the Numerous Parks and Plazas
Medellín’s year-round temperate climate makes it a perfect place to spend a lot of time outdoors, where people are always lounging around and vendors are peddling food and drinks. Two must-visit parks are:
- Plaza Botero – Botero is a famous artist from Medellin known for his drawing and statues of oversized people. This plaza is home to 23 Botero sculptures and is always packed with people taking photos, street performers, and artists. Located in the Old Quarter, you’ll find a couple of museums in the square too.
- Parque Lleras – Located right in the center of Poblado, this park is full of people all day and night. There are street vendors, food sellers, musicians, and people drinking into the wee hours of the night. It’s a wonderful place to people-watch and one of the best places to have fun in the city!
2. Wander Parque Arvi
This park is worthy of its own entry. Located in the mountains near the city, you can take the gondola right from the subway to the park’s entrance. It’s a beautiful ride through the hills and offers some incredible views of the valley and city.
The park spans 16,000 hectares and includes trails that date back over 1,500 years. At the park entrance, you’ll find a small market as well as trails to hike. To visit, you now have to take a guided tour. It costs 5,000-7,000 COP ($1.50-2.25 USD) depending on the trail (most trails are 2-4km long). Bird-watching tours are also available.
3. Explore Jardín Botánico
The botanical gardens, a quiet retreat from the noise and chaos of the city, host numerous events, concerts, and festivals throughout the year. They cover over 14 hectares and are home to around 4,500 flowers and some 139 different bird species.
There’s also a nice (if not overpriced) restaurant in the center if you feel like spending more time here relaxing and taking in the scene.
4. See a Football Match
Football here is religion and, if there are games when you’re here, you should really try to see one. Medellín has two local teams: Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín. Supporters of each team occupy bleachers at opposing ends of the stadium since things tend to get rowdy and violent when they are near each other. Ticket prices are well under 40,000 COP (under $12.50 USD).
5. Take a Day Trip to Guatapé
Guatapé is the most popular day-trip destination from Medellín. It’s a colorful pueblo (village) situated on the edge of a lake about two hours from town, and it’s possible to take tours of the surrounding area by speedboat or party boat.
The main attraction is El Peñol, a granite monolith with over 700 concrete stairs etched in its side. For a few thousand pesos, visitors can climb to the top for breathtaking 360-degree views of the region.
6. Take a Free Walking Tour
Perfect for getting an overview of a place while giving you access to a local expert who can answer your questions.
Real City Walking Tours has a great free tour that will give you an informative introduction to the city. Don’t do any other tours; this is the only free walking tour you need, and it’s the best in town. You’ll get a lot of information, and the guides are wonderful. Be sure to tip at the end!
7. Tour Comuna 13
This area was once the most violent part of Medellín. Murder, drugs, and violent crime were rampant. You used to have to go through guards to get into this area; if you didn’t live here, you weren’t let in.
You can visit by yourself or go on a tour.
8. Visit the Museo de Antioquia
Founded in 1881, this interesting museum is home to numerous pre-colombian works as well as national and international works by famous artists (there are a bunch of Boteros here too) and a wide variety of photographs and sculptures.
9. Wander the Cementerio Museo de San Pedro
Built in 1842, this cemetery is also a museum where you can see the monuments and graves of many famous Colombians while learning about their lives and contributions. There’s a lot of large marble mausoleums and statues here. Keep an eye out for special events such as midnight tours and movie nights. The cemetery is small but it’s also close to the botanical gardens so you can do both one after the other.
Cra. 51 #68-68, +57 4-516-7650, cementeriosanpedro.org.co Open daily 7:30am-5:30pm. Admission is free.
10. See the Casa de la Memoria
This museum opened in 2012 and examines the history of armed conflict in Colombia. It sheds light on the struggles the people of Colombia have had to overcome to get where they are today.
Parque Bicentenario, +57 4-520-2020, museocasadelamemoria.gov.co. Open Tuesday-Friday 9am-6pm and weekends 10am-4pm. Admission is free, and there is also a free audio guide you can download. Guided tours are available on Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact the museum for details.
11. Visit the Museo de Arte Moderno
The Museum of Modern Art, located in a refurbished industrial building, is an awesome work of art in itself. There’s a ton of exposed area, giving it a really charming feel. Many people have a love-hate relationship with modern art.
The collection is small, but there’s also a beautiful photography section on the bottom floor. Even if it’s not your thing, it’s worth spending a couple hours here to get a sense of the modern art scene in the city.
12. Take a Food Tour
If you’re looking to taste a sample of what Medellín has to offer, there are a couple of food tour companies that can help. It’s a great way to get a taste for the local cuisine while learning about the country’s traditions in the process. There are plenty of options, such as street food tours from Toucan Café or more traditional local restaurant tours from Medellín City Tours. Both are good options!
13. Visit a Microbrewery
If you find yourself parched after an afternoon of sampling the city’s delicious cuisine, consider taking a brewery or craft beer tour to quench your thirst. There is an up-and-coming craft beer scene in Colombia, and Medellín has over 30 breweries and microbreweries. These are some of the best places to try a local beer:
- 3 Cordilleras runs tours Thursday and Friday evenings, offering five samples for 25,000-30,000 COP ($8-10 USD) per person.
- Cerveza Premium Apóstol has a tour every Thursday at 6:30pm where you can see the brewery, taste a few drinks, and enjoy a snack in the process. Advanced booking is required, and tickets are 35,000 COP ($11 USD) per person.
- 20 Mission Cerveza has great beer, great food, and it’s a fun place to hang out and meet people. They don’t offer tours, but they do host music events and DJs. It’s super popular and one of the best places in town to grab a beer.
- Brew House is a family-owned-and-operated brewery where you can take a tour and sample the offerings alongside their full pub menu.
- Medellín Beer Factory doesn’t offer tours, though it does brew its own beer, with over 50 kinds on the menu! It’s a great place to relax with friends.
14. Visit Comuna 8
Much like Comuna 13, this area was one of the poorest in Medellín — and it still is. This district was really isolated until the city built a gondola from downtown, allowing people to get to work a lot more easily.
La Sierra runs a tour to teach people about the history of the area, and, unlike Comuna 13, it’s not overrun with tourists. It’s a small district and the tour doesn’t last long, but you get a much more authentic look at the city and its people and history than you do in Comuna 13 (where the focus is more on street art).