Medellin City Guide
The second largest city in Colombia, Medellin is nestled deep in the Aburra Valley surrounded by a sea of green mountains. The city, home to over 3 million people, runs from north to south of the valley. Dubbed the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, it’s hard to believe that Medellin was ever considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It has since undergone a remarkable transformation, shaking off its dark and ominous past tainted with drug lords and drug-related crime.
The most notorious drug-lord of them all was Pablo Escobar, who met his fateful demise in the mid-nineties. Following his death, crime and murder rates plummeted, which meant neighbourhoods in Medellin were deemed safer to travel to and live. Medellin is now home to warm and friendly locals and has a vibrant culture to boot. A city reborn, it’s no wonder the Medellin was awarded Wall Street Journal’s title “Innovative City of the Year” in 2015.
Things to Do
Museo de Antioquia
Many have bravely overlooked Medellin’s sinister past and travelled to the city of mountainous emerald green. There’s so much to explore in the valley from its museums and parks to its colourful markets. Art lover or not, head to Plaza Botero where the Colombian artist Fernando Botero has gifted his bronze sculptures to the square. His artwork breathes life to the square where the Museo de Antioquia is conveniently located. Head inside the museum to peruse more of his iconic work alongside art from other modern, international artists.
The Medellin Metrocable
As Medellin reinvented itself from a cocaine-producing gangland to a flourishing city, soon parks, libraries and museums all came into being. Another equally fun and breathtaking addition was a gondola that sweeps over the city and its lush valley. The Medellin Metrocable connects the poorer communities living in the hills with the rest of the city. Although it’s primarily a transportation system, the gondola has become a bit of a tourist attraction offering scenic vistas to the surrounding mountains. While the new ‘J’ line is exclusively for tourists, the gondola can take you off the beaten track into neighbourhoods that aren’t yet safe.
Party at Parque Lleras
You can’t visit Medellin without spending a night or two hanging out at Parque Lleras. The park is lined with restaurants and bars and is the heart and soul of the city. Here locals and tourists come together to drink Colombian Aguardiente, dine and even dance before hitting the bars and clubs for the night. Whether you’re in the mood for a full on maracuya-lulo mojito-fuelled party, or to relax and watch the world go by, then a visit to the park in the Poblado district is an absolute must.
Parque Lleras is conveniently also the place to sample the local South American cuisine. While empanadas are a universal staple in this region, dare yourself to feast on stews made with either chicken or tripe if you think you can stomach it. A culinary tour of Medellin would not be complete without a healthy dose of real Colombian coffee.
Pablo Escobar Tours
While Medellin has turned over a new leaf, there are many tours in operation that will allow you to retrace the steps of the infamous drug-lord, Pablo Escobar. Many tours are running to take you to the house where Escobar was finally caught by the Police and met his fate. This is followed by a visit to his final resting place.
While Medellin has progressed to a safer city, it’s always advised to travel with caution and use common sense. Poorer areas are unsafe so it’s best to avoid travelling to these parts of the city. As with any other South American destination, it’s best not to flash your cash, jewellery or draw attention to yourself. That’s just asking for trouble.
When to Go
Although Medellin is situated at an altitude of 1500m, it’s also not that far from the equator. This is why the mountainous city is blessed with warm weather all year round. Do however expect the odd tropical downpour.
The Metrocable is a handy and scenic way for tourists to get from the city to its neighbouring districts, but on solid ground, there are a few ways of getting around. The metro cable is connected with a metro network, which services the city’s central destinations alongside an overhead train line. The easiest means of transport remains the trusty yellow taxi.
Medellin has several districts where you can perch your head at night, Poblado being the most popular. Wherever you decide to stay, you need not sleep with one eye open. Take a look at our listing of available accommodation in the city and find the place just right for you.