Medellín is the favorite city of many backpackers traveling through Colombia, especially for the party-people. Most of them stay in the district Poblado, there are many bars, restaurants and discos. In addition to the lively nights, the country’s second biggest city has enough tourist attractions for a visit of at least three or four days.
How to get there
Medellín doesn’t have an own airport. Just on one flight lane can land small airplanes. José María Córdova International Airport, which is closest to the city, is located in the municipality of Rio Negro. About 1h drive from downtown Medellín.
In addition to international flights at this airport land planes from major cities in Colombia. We flew from Cartagena with Viva Colombia, a Colombian low-cost airline.
To get from the airport to Medellín city center, the cheapest option is by bus, which leaves from the airport (timestables at the exit) and costs COP 9,000 per person. The bus is quite comfortable and the last stop is at the North Terminal, where you can find the subway line Caribe. From the terminal it is also possible to take a taxi to get to the place where you will be staying.
Medellín also has two bus terminals: South and North, where you can arrive by buses from several cities, including Bogotá and Cartagena. However, as the city is in a mountainous region, the trips are usually quite long and cause nausea.
Where to stay
I would say that the most important thing in Medellín is knowing where you SHOULDN’T stay. Definitely avoid the area from Prado, the outskirts of Parque Berrío and Parque Bolívar. It’s a very, very weird region. If you want to enjoy the nightlife, Poblado is probably the best district. It is always the best to be near a subway station because the system works very well and it is possible to travel all around the city.
We stayed in the Las Colores district, which isn’t so touristy as it is a residential neighborhood, quiet, beautiful and has a main street with many restaurants, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies. We stayed in Sophia’s House and loved it. The house is huge, very pretty, has a pool and a kitchen. Sophia and her daughters are very friendly and helpful.
Medellín has a great transport system, by subways, which aren’t underground. You can get everywhere by subway. The public transportation card is for free and unified (subway, bus and cable car).
The city’s taxi fares are pretty cheap and are set by meter.
Medellín was once the most violent city in the world and was very dangerous, especially in the 90’s, after the death of Pablo Escobar, when a war between criminal gangs began. But a few years ago, the life in the city changed radically. And today it is possible to go there as a tourist without feeling insecure. Of course, should still be careful, especially in the city center.
Medellín is also the hometown of Fernando Botero, who is one of the most expressive artists in Colombia and has works scattered throughout the city. If you arrive in Medellín, I recommend to start visiting Plaza Botero, which has giant bronze works by the artist. Afterwards you should visit the Museum of Antioquia(18,000 COP), which shows works by Botero and other artists who were donated by him.
To visit the Plaza and the Museum, you will probably get off at Parque Berrio station. In front of this station is the Basilica de la Candelaria and the Palace of Culture (Palácio de la Cultura, which in my eyes is a building of bad taste). The Metropolitan Cathedral is also nearby. But on the way there, it isn’t very beautiful and there are many prostitutes and transvestites, even during the day.
There is a very famous and recommended Free Walking Tour which includes the city center of Medellin. But we didn’t go, as you need to book in advance. But some friends did and liked it a lot.
Another area that has many attractions is around the Botanical Garden (free admission), directly opposite of Explora Park (website in Spanish: http://www.parqueexplora.org/) (24,500 COP), recommended for those traveling with children and the Planetarium of Medellin (website in Spanish: http://www.planetariomedellin.org/).
From Universidad Station which is in front of the Botanical Garden, you can go to Acevedo Station, where you can take the cable car to Parque Arví. You don’t need to pay anything extra for the cable car as it is the same fare as the subway. From the cable car you can enjoy a great view overlooking the whole city, but I wouldn’t recommend to take it back down unless you want to visit the park.
Another place that gives you a view of the whole city is Pueblito Paisa (free admission). The pueblito is on the top of Cerro Nutibara and was built as a Colombian colonial village, with a small church, a small square and a little school. In the buildings you can find restaurants and craft shops.
And, finally, don’t forget to visit Poblado, one of the most beautiful districts in the city, modern, a lot of squares, artists, bars and restaurants. And for those who want to enjoy the nightlife, this is definitely the place.
Where to go next ..
From Medellín, don’t miss a one-day round trip or spend one night in Guatapé.
Another option from Medellín would be to travel to the Colombian Eje Cafetero, which includes the city of Salento.
From Medellín we continued our trip to Turbo, where we went by boat to the beaches Capurganá and Sapzurro, already on the border to Panama.
Written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa
Translation by Juliane Boll