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Nick Wharton By
Posted 25 Mar, 2020 | 20 Comments
Posted in: Colombia, Things To Do, Travel Blogs

In this article, you’ll learn the top 12 things to do in Medellín, including the best places to visit and the top attractions. 

Watch a football match, go hiking in a nearby park, visit the local communities, party all night, or even put down some temporary roots here as many digital nomads have done recently.

Nature, food, culture, history, sports, there’s something for everyone in Medellín! 

Our Experience in Medellín

The city of Medellín has shed its rough skin as one of the most notoriously dangerous cities on earth, but today many parts of the city are safe, and travellers who have their wits about them need not worry too much about crime or violence.

There are still areas in Medellín where you simply don’t go, but these places are quite easy to avoid.

For us, we felt safe the entire week that we spent in the city and this feeling of security was just one of the many ways that we were surprised by the “City of Eternal Spring”. Not to mention, the fact that there are so many fun things to do in Medellín!

Travellers and digital nomads alike had told us how fantastic the city of Medellín is and while we did enjoy our time there, we didn’t feel that it had the immediate charm that we have felt in some other places (particularly other cities and towns around Colombia).

visiting medellin colombia watch a football game

The only “central” area for tourists is El Poblado.

Sure, it’s packed with cafes, vegetarian restaurants, yoga studios and other amenities which are great for the weary traveller, but it’s also packed with gringos, backpackers and all-night partiers.

If you’re into that, great! If you want a more authentic Medellín experience, most locals and expats would tell you to venture elsewhere, or at least find the cool bars in Poblado (like Social Bar) that are frequented by Paisas (people from the Antioquia region of Colombia).

where to drink in medellin colombia
Goats Having a Drink at Social Bar

Still, the city does have a particular vibe and it’s inhabited by some of the friendliest people anywhere. There are wonderful day trips from the city and there are some charming barrios (neighbourhoods) to explore.

Just don’t go to Medellín with the vision of wide leafy boulevards, Spanish colonial architecture and quiet green plazas.

This is a congested place and while you can find some respite in the Botanical Gardens and up at Parque Arvi, for the most part, Medellín is a bustling, noisy, chaotic (but, fun!) South American city.

There is definitely enough to keep you busy here for 5 – 10 days.

We’ve created this list of 12 things to do in Medellín for travellers, but if you plan to live in the city, you will find countless events, concerts and festivals that you can take part in nearly every day!

botero statue in medellin

So, here it goes, 12 things to see and do in Medellín, Colombia.

1. Visit Comuna 13 and See the Street Art

This is one of the few comunas (districts) in the city which has undergone a famously successful transformation. This is one of the more interesting places to see in Medellín for sure. 

After the construction of escalators and a series of street art paintings around the neighbourhood, crime levels in Comuna 13 dropped and it is now a safe(ish) and interesting part of the city to explore.

Some crime still happens here, so while you’re probably ok to head to Comuna 13 independently and ride the escalators yourself, it’s still recommended to go on a tour with a local, and avoid nighttime visits.

One such tour is the highly-rated Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour which doesn’t just explain all of the best street art, but also about the history of the neighbourhood and how the transformation was so successful. Click here for details about that tour.

comuna 13 medellin

Getting There:

If you want to do the tour, check out Comuna13Tours on Get Your Guide, otherwise, you can take the metro. Hop on at Poblado Station and ride the A-Line north. Then change at San Antonio station and head west on the ‘B’ line getting off at the final station called San Javier.

From San Javier you can walk to the escalators in about a half-hour, or hop on one of the public buses that say “Escalas Electricas” in the window (1,000 COP, $0.33). Click here to find Comuna 13 on the map.

2. Check Out Parque Arvi

If you’re wondering what to do in Medellín to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Parque Arvi is your answer.

This was probably the highlight of our entire stay and is one of the best things to do in Medellin. Perhaps it was the fact that we were so used to living in the Caribbean that we simply weren’t prepared for the chaos of city life, but this quiet, lush park was a nice respite from the city.

This greenspace is 39,500 acres (16,000 hectares), and offers 54 kilometers (33 miles) of walking trails! 

Ride the metrocable to the park and once there, you can enjoy a quaint little farmer’s market just as you step off at the last station. From there, you can go for a hike in the cloud forest.

There are a couple of well-marked trails that loop back to the starting point, where you can end your visit at one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Colombia (Cable a Tierra).

For the hike, get off at Parque Arvi and follow the only road you see up and around a rocky bend to the right. In about 5 minutes you’ll meet the main road where you’ll find a group of restaurants (including Cable a Tierra Vegetarian).

Turn right up the hill following the main road. Once you get to the police station you’ll see a sign for the Flora Trail on the left. This path is very well signed and eventually loops back to the main road where you can get back to the restaurants and metrocable station.

hiking in parque arvi medellin

Getting to Parque Arvi:

Get on at Poblado Metro Station and ride the A-Line all the way to Acevedo station. From there you can hop on the K-Line metrocable on the same ticket, go to the Santo Domingo station and change to the L-Line metrocable.

Here you’ll have to pay again. Take the ‘L’ all the way to the end at Parque Arvi and get off (Total for metroline & metrocable: 2,150 pesos or $0.68). Click here to find Parque Arvi on the map. Current fares for the metro and metrocable can be found here

3. Ride The Metrocable

It may sound strange, but one of the top Medellín attractions is the metrocable

These gondolas climb the mountains on the northern and western ends of Medellín and they not only help residents cut their commute time in half, but they’ve also successfully connected some of the poorer barrios with Medellín’s economic core.

This means that more of the money from the middle-class of downtown has been able to funnel up towards the hillside neighbourhoods and this has helped with jobs and with the distribution of wealth in the city.

The people are very proud of the entire metro system and so they should be.

For travellers, riding the metrocable is a cheap and fun way to see more of the outlying areas of Medellín. Both the K-Line (Arvi) and the J-Line (San Javier) climb over some lively and fascinating barrios.

metrocable medellin things to do

While you’re cruising above the neighbourhoods you’ll hear live music and see people going about their day-to-day lives. These gondolas are fantastic. The ride to Parque Arvi is the most beautiful one you can do.

4. Check Out El Poblado

This is most likely where you’ll stay and while it’s commonly referred to as “Gringolandia” it’s not a bad place to hang out! We were actually pleasantly surprised by El Poblado.

For one, it’s safe to walk around here day and night. Another thing that really surprised us was that while most of the vegetarian restaurants and hostel bars were packed with backpackers, some of the funkier local joints were frequented by mostly Paisa people.

This made it easy to meet local friends over a couple of cold beers.

Social Bar was our favourite place for sure, but also 37 Park was a funky bar with lots of local people and tourists all drinking and having a good time together.

Just walking around El Poblado was a lot of fun. There are some parks where people meet for pre-drinking (although legally you can’t actually sit down and drink in a park and you may get kicked out by police).

Medellin

There were also free outdoor gyms, one of which was aptly named “The Prison” because it looked like a jailhouse gym with cement barbels and a few rougher-looking characters hoisting them.

For coffee, there are numerous boutique cafes in the area, check out Pergamino or Cafe Velvet.

Things To Do in Medellin

Getting There:

You’re probably going to stay in Poblado, so you will really be “getting back there” after exploring other parts of the city, rather than “getting there”.

But taxis are cheap in Medellín so you can always get back to central Poblado for very little (under $7), otherwise, get off at the metro station “Poblado” and walk 15 minutes up the hill the central El Poblado.

Where to Stay in El Poblado


* We stayed at Maloka Hostel in the private rooms and enjoyed our stay there. The location was excellent. Click here to see the latest price on Booking.com.

If you’d rather stay in a private or shared apartment, check out Airbnb for accommodation, and get your discount here

Click here to see all available accommodations in Medellín on Booking.com

5. Join a Free Walking Tour (what to do in Medellín when you first arrive)

In my opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Medellín.

Everyone who visits the city should definitely take part in this tour and preferably on the first day or two of arriving. The tour gives travellers a much better understanding of not just Medellín and Paisa people, but of Colombia as a whole.

For more information on the tour, check out my recent post: Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Medellín Walking Tour. The meeting place is on the pedestrian bridge at Alpujarra Station.

medellin-walking-tour-drink

While the cost of the tour is free, it’s tip-based, so you should expect to leave a few dollars at the end.

6. Explore Parque Botero

This park is a cool place to hang out and spend a couple of hours in the afternoon. There are dozens of sculptures by Fernando Botero, as well as the Museo de Antioquia and a really nice cafe that serves delicious cold brew coffee.

The park is also very close to one of the dodgier parts of Medellín, but it is well-policed. The combination of armed officers and shady characters makes for a safe, but a fun place to people watch. This area is one of the more popular places to visit in Medellín, for both locals and tourists. 

travel to medellin plaza botero

Getting There:

Ride the A-Line north from Poblado Station and get off at Parque Berrio. Parque Botero is just around the corner of the unmissable, checkered Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe. Click here to find it on the map.

7. Visit Parque Berrio

Not to be confused with Parque Botero, Parque Berrio is the first park you’ll see when you get off of the metro at Parque Berrio Station. The cool thing about this park is that in the afternoon, groups of people congregate here to play games and music.

Nobody is really looking for money. In the late afternoon, there will be a few musicians that just randomly start playing and they always form crowds around them. People buy beers from the local tiendas (shops) and before you know it, there are a few mini-concerts going on in the park.

The locals here are friendly and having a good time so it’s the perfect place to meet some new friends and have a couple of beers.

While you’re not technically supposed to stop and drink in Medellín parks, no police officers seem to mind here and they’ll often be enjoying the music with the groups.

You’ll also find some street performers and people playing chess and dominos here on some nights.

places to visit in medellin parque berrio

Getting There:

Hop on the A Line metro at Poblado station and ride it north, getting off at Parque Berrio Station. Walk down the stairs and you’re in Parque Berrio. There’s a nice landmark church on the far end that you can check out as well. Click here to find Parque Berrio on the map.

8. See a Football (Soccer) Match

If you’re lucky enough to be in Medellín for a football match, don’t miss it! Watching a game is one of the top things to do in Colombia as a whole. 

The energy in the stands is incredible. You should head to the stadium a day or two before to pick up tickets, which are pretty cheap by tourist standards. A good seat in a safe area of the stadium will cost you around $15. This is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Medellín!

Most locals will recommend that you don’t stay in the south area (Popular Sur) as that is where the crazy fans are and it can get a bit wild.

We had seats in the Oriental Alta section and it was close to the loud fans, but far enough away that we could still enjoy the game without getting stomped by loco locals.

Read More: Canadians in Colombia – Experiencing our First Football Match

canadians in colombia our experience at a medellin football game

When you enter the stadium, you’ll get searched. This slows down the lines considerably (especially for women) so it’s best to arrive at the stadium an hour or two early.

There is no alcohol served in the stadium, but after the game, you can stay for a beer at one of the surrounding bars.

If the home team loses, it may be a better idea to get out of dodge because there have been known to be fights, riots and even stabbings after competitive matches.

If all of this sounds a bit too crazy for you to fathom doing on your own, or if you’d like to have a local there with you who can tell you about the teams and what’s going on, then I recommend checking out this tour. It’s affordable, fun, and includes game tickets, guide, a pick-up and drop off from your accommodation, a drink and more. Get more details here.  

Getting There:

Hop on the metro at Poblado Station and take the A-Line north to San Antonio. Switch to the B-Line heading west towards San Javier. Get off at Estadio Station and walk with the crowd to the stadium. Alternatively, a taxi from Poblado area won’t cost you more than 20,000 COP ($6.66).

Planning a trip to Medellín? Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance – it’s the one thing you should always pack. World Nomads is a popular choice for backpackers and travellers. Enter your information below and get a free quote.

 

9. Learn Salsa

There are countless places to Learn Salsa in Medellín, but one of the most popular is DanceFree in El Poblado. Here you can enjoy private or group classes weekly. On the weekends, this turns into a bit of a bar with awesome dancing.

If you want to simply go out and watch, or try to practice what you’ve learned, Laureles, Estadio and Suramericana are modern, middle-class neighbourhoods where you’ll find some of the best salsa dancing bars in the city.

10. Take a Spanish Class

Medellín is home to one of the most highly recommended Spanish schools in Latin America called Toucan Spanish School. Taking a Spanish class (or two) is one of the recommended things to do in Medellin when you first arrive. 

Knowing some Spanish is essential for getting by in Colombia (and most parts of South America). Check out Toucan’s “Quick & Dirty” class which helps you learn the essentials fast, without having to focus too much on confusing grammar.

11. Day Trip To Guatape

The beautiful colonial town of Guatape and the towering granite rock shouldn’t be missed.

I recommend climbing up the 700 or so stairs to reach the top of the Piedra del Peñol (Rock of Guatape). Once you reach the top of the granite monolith, enjoy the fantastic view over the surrounding manmade lake country before descending back down into the valley. 

After conquering the rock, make sure to head into Guatape. This tiny town is super colorful and is worth a couple of hours lazily walking around before heading back to Medellín.

Guatape is a pretty easy day trip from Medellín — especially if you join this small-group tour. The tour includes all transportation, two meals, a boat trip, numerous sites, a knowledgable guide, and your own free time to explore. 

With the affordable price and what’s included with the day trip, joining the tour is a no-brainer. Click here for details.

For a more in-depth guide to day-tripping to Guatape, click here.

Check out our video of Guatape here:

12. Learn About Coffee

Colombian coffee is famous worldwide, so it’s no surprise that one of the top things to do in Medellín is to visit a coffee plantation and learn about coffee production. 

Take a day trip out to San Sebastián de Palmitas, which is about 45 minutes from the city. Visit a coffee-making farm and learn a brief history of the origin of coffee (including how it was brought to Colombia), and see the process that the coffee bean goes through before it reaches your cup. 

Of course, you’ll sample coffee, and you’ll also receive food on this trip. Check out this highly-rated, affordable tour which includes return transport, guide, food, coffee tastings and coffee for you to take home with you. Alternatively, click the image below for details.

coffee tour medellin

If you’re heading to Salento after Medellín, don’t miss the coffee farms there.

Now You Know What To Do in Medellín!

While there are quite a few things to see and places to visit, Medellín isn’t really a place for sightseeing, it’s more about exploring, feeling and simply enjoying the vibe. Travellers and expats love the amenities, friendly locals and the glorious year-round springtime climate.

The city might not immediately seduce you with romantic plazas, colourful balconies and colonial architecture, but Medellín has a vibe that is undeniable.

The city is alive, bustling and in the middle of a miraculous transformation. Come and see for yourself. With so many things to do in Medellín, you may never want to leave…

Check out our video of our time spent in Medellín!

Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock — a website for sourcing royalty-free images and videos.

Read more about Medellín:

Backpacking Medellín Colombia, a Beginner’s Guide

Travelling to Medellín Colombia: Our First Impressions and Experiences 

Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Medellín Walking Tour

Canadians in Colombia: Experiencing our First Football Game in Medellín

Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Medellin 

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Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission. This will never cost you extra and in many cases you receive a special discount. We appreciate your support!

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Nick Wharton

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Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Nick’s advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and he spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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20 thoughts on “12 Best Things To Do in Medellín, Colombia

  1. Nicely written and useful. By the way, you missed out Nutibara Hill, where you can see the whole place for sure you will love it anyway thanks for sharing with us your trip experience.

  2. What a beautiful place! All of the food looks so good.
    The scenearies is lovely too. I would love to visit there someday.

  3. Wow thank you for this inspiration. I would like to fly there right away.
    Nice written. Thank you for sharing.

  4. So, right after you talk about Juan Valdez being your favorite coffee shop, the picture shows you enjoying a lovely cup of coffee at Pergamino, which is not mentioned in the article. Pergamino completely outshines Juan Valdez, by the way.

  5. Something funny about this blog is they say Juan Valdez coffe is the best but the picture is at cafe pergamino. Very reliable the info…

  6. There is a must visit traveler gym in Parque Lleras, Poblado. It’s called ALPHA Fitness & lifestyle, filled with good vibes and inspiring people. Best workouts and flexible traveler prices. Go there if you wanna stay in shape and meet other expats and travelers.

  7. Awesome tips! I’ve been hearing more and more about Medellin recently, but didn’t actually know what to do there!

  8. nice list, medellin is just an awesome city but only done a few of the things you mentioned so far, need to head back and check the rest out

  9. This is a good list you guys! We really hope to make it to Medellin in the next year, maybe even stay there for a little while. Anyway, this inspires us even more!

  10. Thanks for the Cable a Tierra recommendation! It was one of the best menu del dia’s we’ve had in Medellin (and we’ve had 50+).

    Next time you’re in Medellin and go back, try the backdoor hike up to Parque Arvi. It’s an off-the-beaten path adventure that’s got the absolute best views of the city from Cerro Pan de Azucar. And, like the Grouse Grind back in Canada, you can take the gondola back down.

    Also, just to update the cost of the metro: It’s now 2,400 COP to ride the metro + Metrocable plus another 5,500 from Santo Domingo to Parque Arvi.

  11. Thanks so much for the information on the vegetarian place in Parque Arvi! That place was amazing. THe food was so delicious and the owner was so kind-hearted and gracious. One of the best parts of an awesome trip to Medellín.

  12. I’m sooo happy to hear that you had a good experience at that restaurant. Thanks for commenting to let us know

  13. Heads up to readers that the Flora Trail was closed when I went to Parque Arvi today. That and all the other paths seemed to be gated; you have to pay for a tour with a Spanish-speaking guide or go to another park with an admission fee in the area; I took the bus to Piedra Blanca where there was a butterfly garden, insect museum, boats to take on the lake, and a couple small paths.

  14. Great help and ideas. But Parque Arvi cost us 12,000 pesos EACH for Line L, plus 5.100 EACH for the Metro EACH WAY. That’s 34.000 for the two of us. That’s a “bit” more than the 2.150 mentioned here, per person, and it seriously impacted the small amount ofcash we had for the day. No lunch for us!

    Maybe correct your cost figures?

  15. Hey Jon,

    Thanks for the update on the costs. The prices in this article are what we spent when we were there, so obviously they have gone up. Cheers

  16. Nice website for a first impression – but perhaps more insider tipps with addresses – for a day and night stay in medellin for example.

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