Travel Guide to Medellin

Nestled in the Aburra Valley among the Andes Mountains, you'll find the city of Medellin. It's one of Colombia's largest cities as well as one of its main commercial hubs. Though the city has a tumultuous history, it has become one of the country's top tourist destinations at this point. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to enjoy its beautiful weather, incredible nightlife, breathtaking views, and other attractions.

If you're thinking of traveling to Medellin, you'll want to make the most of the time you have there. This travel guide can help you do just that. Read on to learn more about how to get there, where to stay, what to do in the city, and other important points.

Getting to and Around Medellin

First of all, you'll need to book a flight to Medellin. You'll fly into Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, which is about half an hour from Medellin's downtown area. Both direct flights and other options are available. Though the former is obviously faster and easier, layovers usually cost less, so they may leave you with a little more money to spend while you're in Medellin. Either way, you'll ultimately reach your destination.
  • By Air: José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) is the main airport, located about 35 km from the city center. Domestic flights also land at the smaller Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH).
  • By Bus: Medellín is well-connected by bus to major Colombian cities like Bogotá, Cali, and Cartagena.

Once you land and are reunited with your luggage, it's time to head out. Some people choose to rent a car so they can quickly and easily get around the city. Alternatively, you could take a taxi or shuttle from the airport and simply walk everywhere you want to go when you get there. Medellin is certainly a walkable place, and wandering around on foot will prevent you from having to deal with traffic. You could also rely on Uber or get a Civica card and take the metro.
  • Metro: The Medellín Metro is efficient, clean, and safe, with lines covering major areas.
  • Metrocable: A gondola lift system that connects the metro to hillside communities, offering stunning views of the city.
  • Buses and Taxis: Widely available and affordable. Use apps like Tappsi or EasyTaxi for convenience and safety.
  • Biking: The city has bike lanes and bike-sharing programs like Encicla.

Where to Stay

You'll have a vast selection of places to stay in Medellin from high-end hotels to nice, affordable hostels. If you want to stay in the heart of the action, El Poblado is your best option. It's a more expensive area, but it's also filled with bars, restaurants, music, and other attractions. For a bit of a quieter stay, the nearby Manila neighborhood may be a better choice. It offers plenty of restaurants and other places to visit, and it's still close to El Poblado. Another option would be Laurels. It's a quiet neighborhood with coffee shops, parks, and additional amenities. Again, you'll be well within reach of all the other attractions you'll want to visit.
  • El Poblado: A popular area for tourists, known for its vibrant nightlife, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Laureles: A quieter, more local neighborhood with beautiful parks and cafes.
  • Envigado: A suburb offering a more authentic local experience with fewer tourists.

What to Do

There's no shortage of things to do in Medellin beyond its amazing nightlife and dining experiences. You could visit Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Colombian town, for a glimpse into the area's history. You could also climb El Penon de Guatape via its zigzagging staircase or immerse yourself in local artists' talents with a graffiti tour in the Comuna 13 neighborhood. While you're in the city, you may want to catch a football game at Estadio Atanasio Girardot or take a gondola or cable car ride. Of course, you shouldn't leave Medellin without tasting the local coffee. Those are only a few of the options you'll have to choose from.

Top Attractions

  • Plaza Botero: Home to 23 sculptures by Fernando Botero, this lively square is a must-visit.
  • Museum of Antioquia: Located next to Plaza Botero, showcasing art and history of the region.
  • Comuna 13: Famous for its street art and history of transformation, best explored with a guided tour.
  • Arví Park: A vast nature reserve accessible by Metrocable, ideal for hiking and picnics.
  • Explora Park: An interactive science museum with an aquarium and planetarium.
  • Pueblito Paisa: A replica of a traditional Antioquian town located on Nutibara Hill, offering panoramic city views.

Cultural Experiences

  • Salsa Dancing: Take a class or watch performances at clubs like El Eslabón Prendido.
  • Local Markets: Visit Mercado del Río for a variety of local and international foods or Plaza Minorista for fresh produce and traditional goods.
  • Festivals: If visiting in August, don’t miss the Feria de las Flores (Festival of the Flowers), a celebration of Medellín’s floral industry.

Food and Drink

  • Bandeja Paisa: A traditional dish with beans, rice, plantain, chorizo, arepa, avocado, and more.
  • Arepas: Cornmeal cakes that are a staple in Colombian cuisine, often filled with cheese or meat.
  • Ajiaco: A hearty chicken and potato soup.
  • Café: Medellín is in the heart of coffee country, so visiting a local coffee shop or farm is a must.

Day Trips

  • Guatapé and El Peñol: A colorful town and nearby giant rock formation, perfect for hiking and exploring.
  • Santa Fe de Antioquia: A colonial town with cobblestone streets and historic churches.

Safety Tips

  • Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
  • Avoid Displaying Valuables: Keep cameras, phones, and jewelry out of sight when not in use.
  • Use Trusted Transport: Stick to official taxis, ride-sharing apps, and reputable tour companies.

Making the Most of Your Trip to Medellin

Medellin has plenty to offer visitors, including beautiful scenery, breathtaking art, diverse dining options, and numerous activities. Whether you're looking to enjoy its natural beauty, take in its history, or indulge in its nightlife, you won't be disappointed. You don't have to choose one over the other, either. You can take advantage of everything the city holds in store.

Useful Phrases

  • Hola: Hello
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does it cost?
  • ¿Dónde está…?: Where is…?
  • Baño: Bathroom

Travel Tips

  • Currency: The Colombian peso (COP). Credit cards are widely accepted, but carry some cash for small purchases.
  • Weather: Pack light clothing, but bring a jacket for cooler evenings and rain gear during the wet season (April to November).
  • Electricity: 110V, same as the US. Adapters may be needed for other countries.
Medellín offers a rich blend of culture, history, and innovation, making it a top destination for travelers seeking an immersive experience in Colombia. Enjoy your trip!