It seems as though nearly every city which sits in the highlands of Latin America anywhere near the equator claims itself to be the “city of eternal spring.” However, if one city was to fit this billing it would be Medellin, Colombia. Medellin sits in the central highlands of Colombia and hums with the feel of spring year ’round. Nestled within the borders of lush mountain canyon the city of Medellin also springs to life well beyond the lush vegetation that covers any free space in town. On the weekends the city’s many party districts such as Barrio Colombia and Parque Lleras burst with activity and entertainment. Medellin, at one point in time one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia, may now be one of the most liveable in all of South America. Visitors come to the city for the perfect year ’round climate, but it is the friendly nature of the Antioquian people that have them falling in love with the city, and longing to return when they’re away. For those who spend significant time in Medellin, there is no question as to why this has become such a hotspot for travellers and expats alike.
Time Needed: 2-4 days
Budget: 30-40$ a day
Things to do in Medellin
- Botero Plaza: You’ll see Botero’s work all over Colombia, but it is especially present here in the famous artists hometown. This plaza is home to dozens of statues depicting the over weight figures his artwork almost always represents. This is a great place to go and take some fun photos. You can see more of Botero’s work in the adjacent Museo de Antioquia.
- Centro Commercial Palacio National: This place isn’t listed as a recommended visit by many, but I particularly enjoyed it as a photographer. This old building is now a shopping center, but the huge mirrors, old architecture and interesting perspectives make it a fun place to photograph.
- Museums: There are a number of excellent museums in Medellin starting with the Museo de Antioquia which features some natural history of the area as well as a small collection of the work of Botero. The Museo de Arte Moderno (modern art museum) and Parque Explora, which is actually a science museum geared at children, are also worth a look.
- Jardin Botanico: During March and April there is a huge display of orchids here at the Medellin botanical gardens, but the park is pleasant even when there are no orchids. You’ll find a number of flower displays and if you’re lucky you might even spot on of the giant iguanas that lives in the park. To get here take the metro to University station.
- Parque de Deseos: Just outside of the Jardin Botanico you’ll find the concrete “park of desires.” On the weekends this area bursts with activity as entertainers set up shop and families wander about.
- Parque Arvy: Just a metro stop beyond the main bus terminal at El Caribe you’ll find a connection to the Metro Cable which is a cable car. Take the cable car up the hills to visit Parque Arvy which is a restored area of town. This is a great weekend activity but I recommend going early in the day.
- MetroCable: You can also take the cable car to other locations in Medellin without going all the way to Parque Arvy. The barrios in the Santo Domingo area are quite interesting. It makes for a great trip to take the cable car to Santo Domingo and then hike back down to the bottom of town.
- Paragliding: There are great thermal winds in the valleys around Medellin which makes this a great place to go paragliding. The cost of paragliding in Medellin is about 40US$.
- Pablo Escobar Tours: A couple of tour companies have sprung up in the city taking people on tours out to Pablo Escobar’s former property, which is beyond extravagant. These can be booked through most hostels.
Where to Eat in Medellin
The most traditional food here is called a Paisa, a meal complete with chicharrones, rice, chorizo, plantane and Medellin’s famous beans. You can find this type meal at a couple of places near Parque Lleras, try the cuban place on the bottom corner of the park which does a great version for about 6US$. For dinner there are a couple nice place in Parque Lleras as well. The other Cuban restaurant on the plaza has great traditional Cuban food (meals about 13US$). On the top right corner of the plaza the restaurant serving 3 for 1 cocktails also has good food including a delicious filet mignon. If you are having a deep craving for steak, and are willing to hop a taxi, head to the mall on the corner of Carrera 33 and Calle 2 Sur and try a place called New York Steak House. The steaks are amazing and the portions are huge (meals about 15US$). Also, if you are craving sushi and happen to be in town on a Tuesday head to Sushi Light in Santa Fe mall for 2 for 1 sushi night.
Where to Drink in Medellin
In my two months living in Medellin I have become very well served in the drinking community. Most people start their nights in Parque Lleras for a couple of drinks before heading out. The majority of people don’t hit the night clubs until between 11pm and midnight. Some places worth checking out are Luxury and Prizma in the Barrio Colombia district and Dulce Jesus Mio in Las Palmas. There are a couple places in Parque Lleras but you’ll find most of them quite empty most night. Just off of Parque Lleras on Calle 10B there is a place called Bendito Seas which is jam packed on Fridays, but is most popular on Thursdays do to the open bar (all you can drink for 20,000pesos or 11US$) from 10pm until midnight.
Where to Stay in Medellin
The heart of the Medellin travel scene is in the district of El Poblado. There are places to stay in the other parts of town but I wouldn’t recommend staying there. Look for a hostel close to Parque Lleras, which is the center of entertainment and is filled with restaurants and bars. The favourite hostels in town here are Casa Kiwi Hostel and the Tiger Paw Hostel, and you can’t go wrong with either of them.
Getting out of Town
Medellin actually has two airports, so make sure you head out of town to the international airport for your flights. If you are travelling by bus the are also two bus terminals, although the vast majority of trips leave from the north terminal found at the El Caribe metro stop. Popular routes are you Bogota (10hrs), Cali (8hrs), and Cartagena (14hrs).
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