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When it comes to destinations in Colombia to visit, Medellin should be at the top of anyone’s list. It’s the second largest city in Colombia, so you can expect there to be a plethora of things to do in Medellin.
It became famous for being the home to the notorious drug cartel leader, Pablo Escobar, but what many people don’t know is that the city is incredibly beautiful.
The city is surrounded by mountains, offering plenty of nature spots to explore, as well as housing a vibrant art scene, spectacular nightlife, and bustling parks.
While Medellin rose to fame because of its crime, it has significantly cleaned up its act and is now a hot spot for tourists from all over the world.
To learn a little more about what to do in Medellin, we interviewed Dave Lee who has been living in Medellin since 2009 and has created his own Medellin Travel Guide.
Dave shares his insider knowledge on things to do in Medellin, as well as where to stay, eat, drink, and where to go for some salsa dancing. Here’s what he thinks!
- Is Medellin Worth Visiting?
- Best Things to Do in Medellin
- 1. Walk Around Botero Plaza
- 2. Take the Cable Car
- 3. Try Latin American Cuisine
- 4. Hit Up A Salsa Bar
- 5. Take a Day Trip to Guatape
- 6. Go Paragliding
- 7. Shop in Santa Fe
- 8. Attend One Of The Festivals in Medellin
- 9. Check Out Jardin Botanico (Botanical Gardens)
- 10. Take a Comuna 13 Tour
- 11. Take One of the Pablo Escobar Tours
- 12. Check Out The Pueblito Paisa Model Village
- 13. Watch a Football Match at Atanasio Girardot Stadium
- 14. See Works of Art at the Museo de Arte Moderno
- 15. Learn About Colombian History at Museo Casa de la Memoria
- 16. Check Out The Parks
- 17. Learn About Space at Parque Explora
- Best Time to Visit Medellin
- Getting To And Around Medellin
- Is Medellin Safe?
- Where to Stay in Medellin
- Popular Tours in Medellin
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Medellin
- More Colombia Travel Tips
Is Medellin Worth Visiting?
The city is situated in a beautiful valley, offering mountain views from every angle. Combining the natural setting with spring-like temperatures year round, Medellin offers a very comfortable climate both day and night.
Nightlife in Medellin is a big draw among younger travelers, as paisas love to dance, drink, and party. The women are reputed to be the most beautiful in Colombia, if not all of South America, and that reputation alone continues to attract more and more male travelers.
Most foreigners know little about Medellin other than it was the former home and stomping grounds of Pablo Escobar, and therefore once listed as the most dangerous city in the world (though not anymore).
In the last few years, several companies have set up organized tours to cater to the tourist demand for information on this tragic chapter in the city’s history.
It’s also become a hot spot for digital nomads over recent years because of its affordable accommodation prices and plenty of attractions in Medellin. If you consider all this, it’s definitely worth visiting Medellin.
Best Things to Do in Medellin
Now you know a little bit about why you should visit Medellin, here are all the top attractions to add to your list!
1. Walk Around Botero Plaza
Medellin is home to Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero. In the city center, you can walk through Botero Plaza and get your picture taken amongst a few dozen of his large metal sculptures (23 in total).
The plaza also features the Museo de Antioquia which features some of Botero’s paintings, as well as other Latin artists.
You can also find the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture Museum here too.
2. Take the Cable Car
One of the reasons Medellin is a popular place for expats to live in Colombia is the metro system. Medellin features Colombia’s only metro train.
From the main train line that runs North/South through the city, are several cable cars (like ski gondolas) that run up the mountains to poorer neighborhoods.
These cable cars are meant to give residents easier access to the city, however, they also offer a cheap and fun way to get panoramic views of the entire city making it one of the top attractions in Medellin Colombia.
The Metro Line Cable car is part of the metro network, so you can use them as you would a subway train. There are actually four lines, but line K has the best views. It starts at Acevedo metro station and takes you to the Santo Domingo neighborhood.
You can take the metrocable up and down in less than 30 minutes, and the views of the city below as stunning. If you’re looking for quick things to do in Medellin, this is a great option.
3. Try Latin American Cuisine
For a taste of the local cuisine, head to Mondongo’s where you can try the mondongo (tripe) soup.
Colombian cuisine is very hearty and filling. A popular dish is bandeja paisa, which contains sausage, pork cracklings, beans, plantains, rice, and a fried egg.
Mexican food is often done well, and I’m a fan of 1910 Revolucion Mexicana for the stylish decor as much as the food. And if you’re craving excellent creole or north Brazilian food, head to
And if you’re craving excellent creole or north Brazilian food, head to Bonuar, which is adjacent to the Modern Art Museum, and features live Blues during the week.
4. Hit Up A Salsa Bar
If you’re looking for things to do in Medellin at night, then you might want to visit one of the salsa bars. There is a five-block strip of salsa bars on La 33, or La 70, as well as a few clubs on the West side of the city.
A paisa favorite is the raucous Dulce Jesus Mio, which is decorated like a mock Antioquian pueblo. Workers dress up as caricatures of typical townspeople. Get there early (9 pm), and ensure you have at least one girl with you, to get a table.
If you actually want room to dance, then go to the upscale Cien Fuegos, which features the biggest dance floor in town.
When it comes to nightlife, Parque Lleras is the most accessible neighborhood. You can just walk around until you find a bar or discoteca (night club) that looks like fun.
Or, hop a cab to nearby Barrio Colombia and you’ll have a dozen different discotecas to choose from, all within a few square blocks. And you’ll see fewer foreigners than in Parque Lleras.
While the bars and discotecas around Parque Lleras are always busy on the weekends, there are many more places to party with locals than the Zona Rosa. A paisa favorite is the raucous
Be sure to take an Uber home if you stay out late and don’t wander the streets.
5. Take a Day Trip to Guatape
Guatape is a colorful pueblo a short 2.5 half-hour bus ride from Medellin. It’s situated on a lake and is just 15 minutes from El Penol, a monolith sticking out of the ground.
You can pay a few bucks to climb the stairs up the monolith. The view of the surrounding countryside from atop the rock is not to be missed.
You can visit Guatape and El Penol as a long day trip, but I recommend staying the weekend to relax like the locals.
6. Go Paragliding
If you prefer adrenaline-pumping activities, paragliding is a great adventurous activity in Medellin. Not only does it give you the thrill of flying, but it’s a great way to see the city from above.
If you’ve never been paragliding before, this is a great introduction, since flights go for as little as $45 per 25-minute flight.
7. Shop in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, located on Avenida Poblado, is the city’s largest shopping mall. The retractable roof allows fresh air and sunshine in on nice days.
The mall features movie theaters, a food court as well as some specialty restaurants like Sushi Light, and plenty of name-brand clothing stores.
8. Attend One Of The Festivals in Medellin
In early July, Medellin hosts Colombia’s annual salsa festival. The weekend event is a combination of salsa workshops, competitions, and at night, social dancing.
As the fashion capital of Colombia, Medellin hosts Colombiamoda (fashion week) every July as well. The 3-day event is open to the public during the day (a pass costs about $40), while the runway shows are invite-only.
La Feria de las Flores, the city’s annual flower parade, runs from the last week of July through the first week of August.
The weekends are busy with parades, including La Cabalgata horse parade, an antique car parade, and the flower parade. There are also lots of concerts and special events held during the 10-day celebrations.
9. Check Out Jardin Botanico (Botanical Gardens)
Visiting the Jardin Botanico in Medellin, Colombia is a must-do for anyone looking to explore Latin American culture and nature.
You can take in the lush beauty of the lush vegetation while learning about over 1,000 species of plants from all over the world.
There is also an impressive array of architectural gems, places to sit and relax, and artistic displays to enrich your experience.
The gardens also offer guided tours with their knowledgeable staff who can provide unique insights into local ecology and biodiversity.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day out or just need to breathe in some nature, the Jardin Botanico is one of the best free things to do in Medellin.
10. Take a Comuna 13 Tour
Comuna 13 has a notorious reputation as the once most dangerous neighborhood in Medellin, and it’s now one of the best places to visit in Medellin to see street art and is one of the city’s top attractions.
The streets are lined with graffiti, and to connect Comuna 13 with other neighborhoods, the city has built a series of open-air escalators to help bridge the divide between communities.
You’ll find that these escalators have also been decorated with colorful graffiti and murals, hoping to change the attitude towards this area and attract more people to visit it.
Of course, it’s still a little unsafe here, so we recommend going with a guided tour group for safety reasons.
11. Take One of the Pablo Escobar Tours
This is one of the biggest reasons why people visit Medellin, so we cannot skip past this top attraction in the city.
One top tourist attraction on the tour is Escobar’s former home, where he hid his family and where enemies tried to take him out with bombs.
Now, the site has been turned into a memorial park for the victims of the drug war.
You also visit “la cathedral”, the jail that Escobar built for himself in an agreement with the government, as well as the soccer field her built and where he gave speeches when trying to get into Colombian politics.
The final stop is the cemetery, where Escobar is buried next to family members and other gang members.
SIDE NOTE: You can see one of the sunken planes from Pablo Escabars drug running in the Exuma Islands on a swimming with pigs tour.
12. Check Out The Pueblito Paisa Model Village
The Pueblito Paisa Model Village was built to recreate the traditional style of architecture and living in the Antioquia region and offers a glimpse into how locals lived over 100 years ago.
Located atop Cerro Nutibara Hill, visitors can enjoy stunning vistas of downtown Medellin while exploring the cobblestone streets, rustic houses, and small shops that make up this unique attraction.
The Pueblito Paisa Model Village features several interesting attractions such as an old-fashioned market filled with souvenirs and regional artisanal crafts, a replica chapel made entirely out of wood, a theater where performances are held regularly, and several museums dedicated to preserving the legacy of local cultures.
For those looking for a truly unique experience in Medellin, visiting the Pueblito Paisa Model Village is a must.
13. Watch a Football Match at Atanasio Girardot Stadium
For those interested in soccer, be sure to check out one of the soccer stadiums in Medellin!
The Atanasio Girardot Stadium is home to the Atlético Nacional football team, one of only three clubs to have played in a first-division tournament.
If you happen to be in the city on game day, watching a soccer match will be a thrilling experience. There is no better atmosphere than in the stands of a match as the crowd sings and cheers on the players.
Top tip: Tickets go on sale to the public three days before each game, and you have to buy tickets from the stadium (window 2), which means you do need to plan ahead to get tickets.
14. See Works of Art at the Museo de Arte Moderno
The Museo de Arte Moderno is world-class with a remarkable collection of modern and contemporary art from Colombian artists.
Visitors can explore a wide variety of pieces ranging from painting and sculpture to photographs and interactive works.
Within its world-class collection are pieces by Débora Arango, Manuel Hernández, Beatriz González, Olga de Amaral and Ana Mendieta to name a few.
The Museo de Arte Moderno is also a building of architectural interest. It looks like a concrete block from the outside, but the gallery spaces feel spacious and light, and accentuate each artwork’s beauty while providing a relaxing atmosphere for contemplation.
Top tip: try to arrange your trip on the last Friday of the month between 6pm and 10pm when the entrance is free.
15. Learn About Colombian History at Museo Casa de la Memoria
The Museo Casa de la Memoria is a must-see for travelers looking to learn about the history and culture of Colombia.
This museum provides visitors with a unique window into the struggles and triumphs of Colombia’s past. Through its interactive exhibits, detailed multimedia displays, and an impressive collection of artifacts, the Museo Casa de la Memoria brings to life some of the most important events in Colombian history.
Whether you want to learn about the history of slavery, civil wars, political violence, religious persecution, or Colombia’s indigenous cultures, there is much to learn and explore here.
16. Check Out The Parks
As well as being rich in culture and history, Medellin is also surrounded by natural beauty. Be sure to take some time exploring the parks and outdoor spaces.
Barefoot Park, otherwise known as Parque de los Pies Descalzos, is a large urban park with several spaces designed to allow you to walk barefoot. Whether you want to dip your aching feet in a refreshing pool or walk on the soft grass, there is something therapeutic about wandering around without your shoes on.
Parque Arvi is another great park to visit. It’s located at the end of the cablecar metro and is a great place for a hike. It has several trails which you can run, walk, or bike. You can also do some horseback riding here.
17. Learn About Space at Parque Explora
Parque Explora is one of the top things to do in Medellin with kids. It’s an interactive science museum and a freshwater aquarium, all wrapped up in one package.
It’s famous for its unique architecture, which resembles four large red blocks built in a wavey fashion.
In fact, it’s South America’s largest freshwater aquarium! It has over 4,000 fish and marine life, from 399 different species that are common to Colombia. In its 25 tanks, you can see everything from piranhas to electric eels.
The science museum contains more than 300 exhibits, plus a planetarium and 3D auditorium.
Best Time to Visit Medellin
Summer, or the dry season, runs from December through February, so these are some of the best months to visit.
Every December, Medellin and the surrounding cities like Envigado and Sabaneta, put up millions of Christmas lights and decorations.
The entire valley is transformed, fireworks are lit off every night, and chivas (party buses) take both the locals and tourists around to see the displays. It all makes for a very festive atmosphere.
But Medellin is not called the “City of Eternal Spring” for nothing, it’s known for its year-round good weather, so any time is a good time to visit.
Getting To And Around Medellin
Medellin is well connected to other cities within Colombia by bus and air, and an increasing number of international ones as well. I’m a fan of
I’m a fan of Aires, a discount airline which was recently acquired by LAN Airlines. You can get domestic tickets to major cities like Bogota, Cali, and Cartagena for as little as $75, thus saving you a 10 to the 12-hour bus ride.
If you’re long on time and short on money, stick to the buses. Overnight buses are fairly comfortable, with reclining seats, though you need to dress warmly because the driver always has the air-conditioning on high.
Medellin, and Colombia as a whole, is slowly opening up to more and more international flights between cities such as Quito, Lima, Panama City, and Havana.
When it comes to getting around Medellin, remember it’s a large city, so while you’ll be able to walk around within neighborhoods, you’ll need public transportation to get you around the city.
Medellin has a pretty good public transport system. Bus rides, which can be confusing at first, cost about 65 cents each, while a single ride on the metro will run you 85 cents.
It’s the only city in Colombia with a metro, but it’s very easy to use, clean, and generally safe (there’s security at every station and platform).
Taxis are metered, and you can go from one end of the city to the other for $6-7, but you can also use taxi apps such as Uber as well.
Is Medellin Safe?
I believe Medellin is no more dangerous than any other large, Latin American city. The stereotypes from the days when Pablo Escobar, narcoterrorists, and the FARC used to cause widespread and indiscriminate violence live on, yet anyone who visits the city will see it’s not so scary at all.
Make sure you stay in the well-populated areas and the touristy districts, and don’t go out alone at night. The touristy areas have a high police presence which usually puts petty criminals off.
The best areas to base yourself in for safety are El Poblado, Laureles, Envigado, and Sabaneta.
While Downtown Medellin is the busiest area for attractions, it’s also where a lot of pickpockets happen, so be mindful of your belongings when you’re sightseeing.
Common street crimes such as pickpockets and robberies continue to be a problem, but violent crime against tourists is rare. As long as you use your common sense and are street-wise, you should have a safe trip.
Where to Stay in Medellin
Most visitors stay in El Poblado, the upscale neighborhood in Medellin. And with good reason. It’s pretty, clean, and generally safer than other parts of town. Most of the hostels are centered around Parque Lleras, with bigger hotels situated along Avenida Poblado.
Apartments are another good option with over 100 properties throughout the city. To find a room to rent, try CompartoApto, and to find an apartment, just do an internet search and you’ll find a bunch of agencies.
Don’t forget to get more tips in Dave’s travel guide to Medellin!
For more places to stay in Medellin choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancelation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.
Popular Tours in Medellin
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Medellin
I love Medellin because I’ve gained so much as a person from living there. The paisas welcomed me with warmth and curiosity. The natural beauty inspired me every morning when I woke up.
The friendly (and good lookin’) women inspired me to learn Spanish. And the Latin music inspired me to learn how to dance.
There’s plenty to see and enjoy here, you won’t ever find yourself having a dull day. Hopefully this guide has given you some inspiration for what to do in Colombia and helped you map our your itinerary.
More Colombia Travel Tips
Are you planning on visiting other parts of Colombia? Then you may find the below resources useful!
- Why Colombia is best for a solo travel adventure
- 11 important things to know before traveling to Colombia
- Horseriding in Cueva del Esplendora, Colombia
Do you have any tips on things to do in Medellin? Let is know in the comments.