Medellin, Colombia is an incredible city filled with culture, great food and incredible landscapes – want to know specifically what to do in Medellin? Keep reading!
Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and the capital of the northwestern region Antioquia Department. While it was once coined the most dangerous city in the world, this has since changed. Medellin has opened itself up for tourism with their efficient public transportation and welcoming locals.
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When to Visit Medellin
Medellin is nicknamed the “city of eternal spring” due to his temperate weather. The average temperature in Medellin is 22 C (71.6F), with warm days and cooler nights, the weather is ideal for traveling. The main two seasons to consider when traveling is whether you want to visit during their dry season or rainy season. Their dry season is December – February and their somewhat dry season is June – August. These drier seasons are the recommended months to visit. During rainy season, it often rains every day however the rain isn’t continuous so still doable for visiting. If you’re considering what to do in Medellin and this includes weather dependent activities, such as paragliding, then the dry season is most recommended.
What to do in Medellin:
Day trip to Guatape & La Piedra Del Penol
Guatape is a small town outside of Medellin that cannot be missed. Filled with colorful buildings, history and unique landscapes – you won’t be disappointed! Furthermore, traveling from Medellin to Guatape takes about 2 hours, making it the perfect day trip destination. Guatape is easily be accessed by bus or via a tour company.
When visiting Guatape we recommend wandering around their colorful streets and enjoying all the street food options. Additionally, you can climb La Piedra Del Penol, which is a granite rock that sits 675m above ground. Our Guatape day trip guide can better help you plan this day trip.
Tour Comuna 13
A few years ago Comuna 13 was known as the most dangerous area of Medellin. Comuna 13 started as an illegal settlement, but turned into a perfect area for drug and cartel activity in the 80s/90s. At the time, you would find gang activity, drug trafficking and cartel conflicts. However, today this area is better known for its beautiful street art and talented street performers. Comuna 13 now has cable cars which makes this area better accessible and with many improvements, it has opened itself up to tourists. Most people complete a walking tour here, which we believe is important as the history is key to appreciating the area.
While you wander around, you will see colorful street art, talented street dancers and sweeping views of the valley. The area has truly become a great place to visit as a tourist and provides insight into the country. We highly recommend visiting!
Explore El Poblado
El Poblado can be found in the metropolitan area of Medellin. This area is know for being one of the most exclusive and affluent areas in Medellin. El Poblado is the main area to go for an evening dinner or some nightlife. With safety being a priority, you can feel safe to explore this area at night. Additionally, El Poblado is filled with greenery, making the area feel like a mix of jungle and urban city.
Visit Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero is located in the Old Quarter of Medellin. This plaza is surrounded by the Museum of Antioquia and the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture, along with many Botero sculptures. Fernando Botero is a Colombian sculptor who donated 23 pieces to Colombia, which are now proudly displayed in this open plaza. This area is also close to the city center and Parque Berrio Metro Station, making this an easy stop along your day.
Medellin’s geography is similar to that of a cup, meaning the downtown core is in the bottom of a valley and surrounded by mountainous hills. With this geography this is truly one of the best places to paraglide. Paragliding will usually be about 45 mins in the air and provides some of the best views of Medellin. When determining what to do in Medellin, consider the timing of seasons as paragliding is often cancelled in rainy season due to poor visibility.
Take a metro cable ride
In an effort to make the remote towns, found in the hillsides of Medellin, accessible the government built cable cars. These cable cars have enabled access to the previously inaccessible Medellin core, which has changed the lives of many. Most often these cable cars are used as public transportation by commuters. An unintended outcome of the cable cars is the tourism attraction. Taking a metro cable ride is a quick, easy and cheap way to get a birds-eye view of the city. So, while the cable cars offer stunning views of Medellin – they also play a vital part in the revitalization of Medellin. Make sure you check the schedule for the metro cable operating hours.
Enjoy the coffee
Whether you visit a coffee farm or not, you have to try some of the local coffee. As one can imagine there are more coffee shops to choose from than time, however you can try! Some coffee shops we recommend include, Pergamino, Toucan Cafe, Hija Mia Coffee Roasters and Cafe Velvet. Juan Valdez is the Colombian version of Starbucks, however despite being a chain – the coffee is still good! Lastly, when deciding which coffee shops to visit, ensure their coffee beans are locally grown.
Take a walking tour
The city of Medellin has several walking tours, which are a great way to better understand the complex and recent history of the city. Some walking tours will include an insight into the cartels and Pablo Escobar, which is really interesting. Furthermore, you can have a walking tour take you around their downtown area and insight to the sculptures and buildings around you. Lastly, if it’s a free tour, you should tip your guide the equivalent of a tour ticket as this is their livelihood.
Tips & Safety When Visiting Medellin
- Be aware of your surroundings. Medellin is a lot safer of a city to travel to than it was 10-20 years ago, that being said you still need to be aware of where you are. Some districts are safer than others and rules of city safety still apply. Ensure you aren’t at risk for being pick-pocketed (ie. loose purses), leave valuables at home, use certified cabs or Ubers, etc.
- Don’t be insensitive to their past. Don’t glamorize their past with referencing Narco’s, etc. Pablo Escobar has caused tremendous lose and hurt among this area, don’t be insensitive with bringing these topics up.
- Use their public transportation. Their public transportation is efficient, clean and safe – something they are very proud of. Using the trains and metro cables will be your fastest away around during rush hour so take advantage of this.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Medellin is a very hilly city and will include a lot of walking, you don’t want to be caught with uncomfortable shoes.