Introduction to Medellin
As Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin has perhaps witnessed the biggest turnaround of all Colombia’s cities. Once the home of Pablo Escobar, Medellin also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ has become the Silicon Valley of South America and is a jewel in the crown of Colombia that absolutely cannot be missed! Nowadays this beautiful and thriving city is one of the safest cities in Latin America offering mountain and valley views, Medellin has a friendlier and provincial town feel to it rather than a bustling metropolis.
With a number of tourist and cultural sites, pleasant green spaces, interesting museums, a bustling center and thriving commercial areas Medellin is an exciting place to explore. The city’s top-notch restaurants and vibrant bars provide non-stop fun until the early hours.
What not to miss in Medellin
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Santa Fe de Antioquia lies 50 miles (80km) west of Medellin. Before entering the town of Santa Fe de Antioquia, you’ll pass by the engineering masterpiece of the Puente Colgante de Occidente, which was constructed in 1887. The town itself is a beautiful UNESCO Humanity Heritage Site itself and is filled with colonial architecture.
Guatape Town & Lake
The town of Guatape is famous for its pastel colored houses which are a joy to admire while walking next to the reservoir and strolling along the town’s charming cobblestone streets. Guatape is located on the banks of the beautiful Lake Guatape, where Pablo Escobar once had his holiday mansion.
Plaza de Botero
Plaza Botero (Botero Square) is a must see. It is located in the center of the city close to the Palacio de la Cultura and the Museum of Antioquia. The large square has 23 bronze Botero sculptures which were donated by Botero himself and creates an amazing outdoor exhibit.
Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica
This is the largest cathedral in South America and is also the world’s largest brick building. It was designed by a French architect Emile Charles Carre and was finished in 1931.
The modern Metrocable of Medellin is a great way to explore the city. It was opened in 1995 and is a complementary service to the ordinary metro system in Medellin. The Metrocable was developed to serve the poorer neighborhoods located on the surrounding hills of the city.
This is the second oldest museum in Colombia and is home to a number of beautiful pieces of artwork ranging from pre-Columbian and colonial pieces to contemporary art. The museum also features various pieces of artwork that were donated by Fernando Botero.
Pueblito Paisa (‘Little Paisa Village’) is located on top of the Cerro Nutibara, a small mountain that lies approximately 1.2 miles (2km) southwest of the city center. Although this is a somewhat kitschy reproduction of a typical Antioquia village, there is a platform from where visitors can enjoy an amazing view over Medellin.
Parque de los Deseos
‘Park of the Wishes’ is a thematic urban park that covers more than 129,166 sq.ft. (12,000 sq.m) and is filled with interactive spaces. Visitors can enjoy nature while at the same time learning about the influence of the stars on several services that we enjoy on a daily basis such as water, electricity and, telecommunications.
Parque de los Pies Descalzos
Translated into English, this park is called ‘the park of the bare feet’ and the park indeed does justice to its name, as visitors are invited to remove their shoes and get into direct contact with nature. Visitors will find a lovely bamboo forest, the so-called Zen Garden, water wells and a ‘sand park’.
What you need to know
when to go
All year round is a good time to visit Medellin, the weather is always lovely. We recommend you to go in August during the “Festival of the Flowers”. This is the most important event in Medellin, where visitors can enjoy parades with colorful floats full of flowers, old and classic cars, beauty pageants and music concerts.
Daytime temperatures can reach the high 80’s (25-31°C) and nightfall temperatures can drop to the high 50′s (10-15°C) at times. The average annual temperature of Medellin is 72°F (22°C) which has led to the city being known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’.
Summer, or the dry season, runs from December through February, so these are some of the best months to visit. Every December, Medellin put up millions of Christmas lights and decorations where the entire valley is transformed, fireworks go off and chivas (party buses) take locals and tourists to see these beautiful displays making for a very festive and enjoyable atmosphere.
How to get there
Medellin has two airports with all international flights and domestic flights to major cities departing from Aeropuerto Internacional José María Córdoba, just under 22 miles (35km) southeast of the city near the town of Ríonegro. The smaller Aeropuerto Olaya Herrera is next to Medellin’s Terminal del Sur bus station. Regional domestic flights leave from here.
The city of Medellin also has two bus terminals. Terminal del Norte, 1.9 miles (3km) north of the city center, handles buses to the north, east and southeast, including Santa Fe de Antioquia (2 hours), Cartagena (13 hours), Santa Marta (16 hours) and Bogotá (9 hours). The other bus terminal is located 2.5 miles (4km) southwest of the center, Terminal del Sur, which handles all traffic to the west and south, including Pereira (5 hours) and Armenia (6 hours).
Where to stay
El Poblado has quickly become the place to stay for most travelers and is close to the La Zona Rosa bars and restaurants, and is usually safe, even late at night. If you’re looking for a more authentic experience in Medellin you may want to stay in the area around ‘La Setenta’ which is less flashy than Poblado yet more orderly than the center. It is also near to Medellin’s Stadium and has quick Metro access.
Medellin has a free public bicycle system called Encicla where you are able to take out bicycles for short trips using your passport.
The city is also well serviced by buses, although you should find the metro and taxis sufficient for your needs. The majority of routes originate on Avenida Oriental and from Parque Berrío with buses running to around 10pm or 11pm.
Medellin’s Metro is Colombia’s only commuter rail line. It opened in 1995 and consists of a 14 mile (23km) north–south line and a 3.7 mile (6km) east–west line. Trains run at ground level except for 3.1 miles (5km) through the central area where they go on elevated tracks. The metro company also operates three cable car lines, called Metrocable, built to service the impoverished neighborhoods in the surrounding hills and Arví Park in Santa Elena. The Metrocable rides offer magnificent views and make for a unique way to see Medellin from above.
Taxis are cheap, safer, and a preferable mode of transport within the city – private taxis should be called by telephone as they are more trustworthy.