Narcos, Pablo and violence – all things associated with Medellin Colombia and all things Medellin is no longer! The city of eternal spring has undergone a massive change in the last twenty years and what was once the most dangerous city in the world is now one of the top cities in the world for digital nomads and travellers from all over the world. Do yourself a favour and visit this city, and if you can only stay for one day, pack it up with as much as you can, but you’ll want to stay longer!
GUEST POST BY ROMI R.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MEDELLIN?
Medellin is named “the city of eternal spring” so the weather will always be in the 20-degree sweet spot. Christmas is an amazing time to be in Medellin because of its festival of lights and as the tourist season starts in January – you won’t have as many crowds of tourists but experience a more local Medellin. March through August is the rainy season and the Holy week is from March 25th to April 3rd – at this time everything in the city will be a bit more expensive so avoid this time if you’re on a budget. End of July is the flower week – a great thing to experience but as well a bit more on the expensive side!
A FEW FACTS ABOUT MEDELLIN
Medellin is one of the most innovative cities in the world. Largely due to its massive transformation from the “tragic era”. What were once shady alleys and dark squares are now libraries, galleries and universities. Medellin is a part of the Antioquia region and people from this region are referred to as “Paisa” and they are very proud to be “Paisa”. Locals will more often call themselves “Paisa” than Colombian.
ONE DAY IN MEDELLIN ITINERARY
Take the Famous Medellin Metro to The Botanical Gardens
Botanical gardens at Medellin are located at the Universidad Metro station. The Medellin metro has an interesting story. The city became building it in the 80s when Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world, at the same time, there was a massive volcano explosion in Colombia killing over 10 000 people. The locals see the Metro as something good that overcame all the bad in the city at the time and they treat is as almost a holy site. You will find one of the cleanest spaces right in the metro, and it’s worth seeing!
Take the metro to the Universidad and visit the botanical gardens – a great first step to your day in Medellin. The gardens are free to the public and with over 1400 flowers and over 100 of recorded bird species and butterflies this 14-hectare beauty makes for a relaxing morning in the otherwise busy and energetic city of Medellin. You can also find a rainforest exhibit and see many of Colombia’s wildlife!
Explore The Parque Explora
Located right next to the gardens is the Parque Explora – an interactive science museum and largest south American freshwater aquarium. You will find over 300 interactive attractions in the museum but you can also enjoy the planetarium as well as a 3D auditorium and a vivarium. You can easily spend a few hours here and the cost of admission for all of the interactive attractions as well as the planetarium is only 9 USD, and if you want the whole thing including the planetarium and the vivarium it goes up to 13 USD.
People Watch at Botero Plaza and the Parque Berrio
A few stops south from the Universidad Station is the Parque Berrio station named after the park you want to go to! This place is perfect for people watching or trying some of the street food. The locals will approach you but don’t be intimidated. They are always welcoming tourists and they want to know all about you! A short walk north is the Botero Plaza. Fernando Botero is a painter and sculptor famous for his unique style also called “Boterismo” which depicts his subjects in a unique disproportionate style.
Botero has donated numerous art to his hometown Medellin (as well as Bogota) under the condition that his work is always available to the public for free. You can see his sculptures all around the Botero Plaza and if you take a short walk south you will find the Birds of Peace – two identical sculptures but one destroyed and the other in one piece.
The original statue was destroyed when a bomb was planted inside and exploded during a celebration so Botero made an identical and placed it right next to the original to send a message of rebirth and recovery.
Eat Bandeja Paisa
By now you have worked up an appetite and nothing satisfies the hunger more than the massive Bandeja Paisa. You can try Bandeja Paisa anywhere in Colombia but it is a Paisa meal so Medellin prides itself on having the best one. Bandeja Paisa is a food extravaganza and you will find beans, white rice, chicharrón (pork belly), carne en polvo (ground beef), chorizo sausage, fried egg, ripe plantain, avocado and arepa all on your plate. Close to the Botero Plaza is Hacienda – a great place to try the real Bandeja Paisa. Two people can share one order as you will get a huge portion, if you manage to eat it yourself, you will want to take a nap!
Try The Colombian Coffee and Shop At El Poblado
Once you’ve recovered from Bandeja Paisa take the Metro or Taxi (you can download the app called Tappsi for all taxi rides in Colombia, just to stay on the safe side) to El Poblado. This is the most popular neighborhood for foreigners and one of the most upscale places you’ll find. Colombia has excellent clothes for an amazing price so this is the place to renew your wardrobe (go to Carrera 35 or 37 for the best stores) or if you need to wake up try the coffee! Colombia is known for its coffee but contrary to the popular belief the locals don’t indulge in it as much, most of it is sold to Europeans.
However, since you’re at the source, you have to give it a try, only know where to go. You can find a Starbucks in Medellin if you really want to, but you can also try the local Juan Valdez Cafe. If you want to support a local business you can try “Hija Mia” or “Cafe Velvet”
Go To Comuna 13
This neighborhood was once the most dangerous neighboorhood in the most dangerous city in the world. Over the past 10 years, Comuna 13 has undergone a massive transformation and what was once a place for narco-trafficking and murder is now a place where you can feel safe and welcomed. Tourists wouldn’t dare to go into Comuna 13 just a few years back but now you can take one of the many tours offered. One of the tours is the “narco tour” but this one is for the most part very disrespectful to locals. Try the graffiti tour where one of the locals will explain the history and the messages behind the wall art.
Enjoy the Nightlife In Poblado or Laureles
There are millions of places you can go to a party in Medellin, it all depends on what you’re in the mood for. For a nice dinner and if the budget allows, try Carmen located in El Poblado or if you want to save your money for the party go to Sancho Paisa or Toro.
You will find salsa bars as well as Latin and pop music all over Poblado but if you want a more local experience with salsa or alternative music head over to Laureles. The places aren’t as large or extravagant but there is many to choose from and they are all in the walking distance.
These neighborhoods are safe to be around at night but if you want to know where to go and more importantly where not to, follow this guide and you will be just fine!
WHERE TO STAY IN MEDELLIN?
Celestino Boutique Hotel
Carrera 37 # 8A – 60, El Poblado, 050021 Medellín
Spectacular views of the whole city make this hotel in El Poblado is one of the traveller’s favourites. The hotel offers amazing service, clean facilities, a pool and jacuzzi and its surrounded by vibrant nightlife, restaurants, shops and local cafeterias in the nicest and safest Medellin neighboorhood. Public transport is nearby and you can end your nights on a sun terrace enjoying the mountain view!
Carrera 70A #42-39, Laureles – Estadio, 050010 Medellín
Located in the convenient but safe neighboorhood of Laureles, Hotel Vivre is an excellent choice for a mid-range budget. They offer breakfast and are located near all public transport as well as many tourist locations. You can enjoy the hotel bar or walk out and pick one of the many offered in the area. The hotel is a clean, safe spot in the central location and great for anyone looking to get the best of Medellin!
760 Carrera 47 CR 47 # 7 60, El Poblado, 050022 Medellín
Vibes Hostel is the best choice for the budget traveller. It offers all the conveniences of a hotel with a hostel price. The hostel has two pools to choose from and you are getting the most for your money right here. It’s located in El Poblado so you will always feel safe and welcome. There are plenty of places to go nearby and you can even visit the Poblado park or Museum of Modern Art!
MEDELLIN DAY TRIPS
Whether you have two days, a week or two months do not miss Parque Arvi. You can reach it by the cable car connected to the Medellin Metro and be there in less than an hour. It is a park and a historical site with breathtaking views of Medellin and the mountains. You will explore more than 50 km of trails and see the wildlife only native to Colombia! The prehispanic trail shows all the antique buildings as well as platforms and gardens!
Located just two hours away by bus is the stunning Guatape. You will see the massive rock that has the elevation of 2,135 meters and you can take the steps to the 360 platforms at the top for some spectacular views and of course that perfect Instagram photo. The view is of the lakes and a number of small islands and you can enjoy lunch while looking at this natural wonder.
Check out the town as well! It is a colourful charming town full of history and great ice cream!
Three hours from Medellin you’ll find Jerico. It’s one of the least talked about trips to take and the best-hidden gem. The town is packed with beautiful views and waterfalls without the crowds!
Here you’ll find a real Colombian coffee farm. Once you reach the town you can find one of the coffee farm tours and try the best coffee while learning the process of making coffee and enjoying the surrounding views and nature.
Do not miss this underrated location!
Jerico’s popular cousin and a must-see for coffee lovers is the town Jardin. It’s a bit further away then our other day trips but if you have the time to enjoy it, you won’t regret it!
The charming town is full of coffee shops painted in the brightest colours and surrounded by waterfalls and coffee farms. It is the locals favourite as well so when in Medellin ask around and you will find just how popular Jardin really is! You can take the cable car to enjoy the views and for those looking for a bit of adventure you can try zip lining or just sit, people watch and sip the greatest coffee you will try in your life!
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING MEDELLIN
Medellin is the city with amazing energy and friendly locals, but stay smart. Be aware of your surroundings and stay away from bad neighbourhoods. Act street smart and as Colombians would say – “No dar papaya”.
Avoid the Escobar topic. Many people here lived through the tragic times of Escobar and do not wish to talk about this – there are plenty of other topics.
Shorts and flip flops only show you’re an easy target. Talk to the locals – they want to know all about you and you will learn so much about Colombians if you engage in conversation! They are the friendliest people in the world who just want to show you how beautiful Colombia and its people are!
PIN FOR LATER!
If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Medellin Itinerary, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Romi is a llama coach from Split, Croatia. This sounds made up but it’s true. She lived in Toronto, Canada for about ten years, give or take, but she wasn’t working with llamas. She was working in PR, restaurants, daycares, one yoga clothing store. She doesn't know how she got that job as she has never done yoga at that point. She taught English in Colombia and Vietnam. Traveled the world for two years. Then she got into writing. Actually, she was always writing, but then someone paid her to write. Then more people paid because they saw she was making them money. Then it became a thing she does for a living. And here we are now. Specializing in travel, real estate, and digital nomad guides, familiar with SEO, and always ready to learn something new so she can branch out and take over the world.