For many years infamous for being the home of international drug lord Pablo Escobar and the scene of excessive killings carried out by the cocaine cartels, Medellin has finally turned the corner and in the past 15 years witnessed a dramatic rise in fortunes, fast becoming a popular tourist destination renowned for its culture, the warmth and hospitality of its people and arguably Colombia’s most beautiful women.
Often overlooked in favor of Bogota and Cartagena, those who do make it to Medellin are treated to a city of traditional neighborhoods boasting breezy parks and plazas lining the networks of twisting streets. In fact, surrounded by verdant mountains in all directions, the city is felt to be one of the most picturesque in the country. More over, with a consistently mild climate, leading to its nickname of the “City of Eternal Spring”, Medellin is blessed with constant blue skies and unspoilt sunsets.
Since the demise of the drug lords the streets of Medellin have become safe to explore the true character of the city and with many of the main attractions situated within close proximity getting around on foot is easily achieved. The city also boasts an impressive metro system which incorporates a line of metrocables (cable car system) that travel up into the mountains and provide unsurpassed views of the city and valley. As safe as the city may be, when heading out at night - which with an energetic nightlife is a must do - visitors should keep their wits about them and take taxis when moving between bars and restaurants.
Medellin sits northwest of the Colombian capital Bogota and is well connected internationally and with the rest of the country. With two busy bus terminals, services are readily available to and from most popular destinations across the country. Use Terminal del Norte for Bogota, Cartagena, and Santa Marta, and Terminal del Sur for Cali. From the city’s international airport flights head out to Miami and New York and a whole host of South American destinations.
Things to do in
Medellin Architecture - The whole city in Medellin is blessed with some fine works of architectures, in particular its fascinating churches. Check out the neo-Romanesque Catedral Metropolitana in Parque de Bolivar, built with 1.2m bricks, which is largely felt to be a world record. The centrepiece of Parque Berrio, Basilica de la Candelaria is an imposing structure dating back to 1770 and the city’s most important church. The oldest church is Ermita de la Vera Cruz, built in 1682 with an attractive white and gold interior.
MedellinMuseums & Galleries - Medellin is awash with interesting museums and cultural centres ideal for culture vultures and history buffs. Be sure to check out Museo de Antioquia with its vast collection of works by Fernando Bortero, Casa Museo Pedro Nel Gomez dedicated to the artist of the same name, Museo de Arte Moderno Medellin and the various sculptures and murals of Bortero and Gomez that are spread across the city.
Medellin Parks - When the legs become weary there are plenty of parks and plazas providing the opportunity to kickback and relax alongside the locals. Both Parque de Bolivar and Parque Berrio are popular spots in the downtown district and especially busy during daylight hours. The Jardin Botanico in El Prado is home to more than 600 varieties of plants and trees and an extensive orchid display. Other favourite hangouts are Plazoleta de las Esculturas, home to numerous sculptures by Fernando Botero, and Parque de los Pies Descalzos (BareFootPark) where visitors are encouraged to walk barefooted.
Pueblito Paisa - Sat atop Cerro Nutibarra, Pueblito Paisa is a replica version of a traditional Antioquian town complete with chapel, school and mayors hall. It is also popular for the superb views of the city.
Medellin Festivals - Alike many Latin American cities, Medellin plays host to some colourful festivals throughout the year. The largest is Feria de las Flores, a week long celebration that includes horse and antique car parades and climaxes with the flower parade of campesinos (local farmers). Alumbrado is another popular celebration during December with a magnificent lightshow along the riverfront.
Medellin Nightlife - Once the sun has gone down the city is as lively as one would expect with a fine collection of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The best and liveliest areas are along Via de Las Palmas, a vibrant party-strip, and Parque Lleras in the La Zona Rosa district. The biggest and wildest clubs are Mangos Discoteca and Palmahia. Good bars for live music and more of a rock scene are Berlin 1930 and El Blue. For a more bohemian vibe check out Café Arcangel on Calle 47.
Budget Hotels Medellin
Black Sheep Hostel - Well-managed and well-equipped hostel a short walk from La Zona Rosa. Tel (57) 4 311 1589.
Casa del Sol Hostal - Basic rooms, friendly staff and breakfast included in room rate. Tel (57) 4 422 0531.
Palm Tree Hostel - Popular backpacker spot in the Suramericana district. Tel (57) 4 260 6142.
Midrange Hotels Medellin
Hotel Florida - God value step up from a hostel. Close to the metro and shopping malls. Tel (57) 4 260 4900.
Hotel Nutibara - Long-established hotel with plenty of charm and close to Parque Berrio. Tel (57) 4 511 5111.
Luxury Hotels Medellin