With its blissful temperate climate, Medellín is known as the City of Eternal Spring. Nestled in a narrow valley, it offers outstanding nightlife, clamored-for restaurants, and riveting history of transformation over the decades to a cosmopolitan hub brimming with sophistication and style. Now known for being one of South America’s most irresistible cities, the country’s second-largest city offers visitors fascinating museums, lots of public green parks and plazas, and a prominent art scene. Plus, all the neighborhoods are easily accessible to get to thanks to its innovative mass transit and metro system. You’ll rest your head easy at night because Medellín is home to some of Colombia’s most stunning luxury hotels, from family-run hotels to upscale art deco skyscrapers with rooftop pools. For when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, there are plenty of day trips that you can take, including a visit to one of South America’s most colorful and vibrant villages—Guatapé.
Our favorite neighborhoods
Medellín, Colombia is divided into six zones, and within those zones, they are divided into 16 communes. These communes are then divided into neighborhoods, each with its own distinct flair and personality. Head to upscale El Poblado or the upcoming neighborhood of Laureles for shopping, restaurants, and rooftop bars. For a glimpse of the more authentic daily life of Paisa culture, head to Commune 13. The once-dangerous neighborhood has undergone an enormous transformation and is now known for some of the best walking tours and street art in Medellín.
Get Pampered in El Poblado
Located in the southeast part of the city, you’ll find yourself in the glamorous El Poblado neighborhood frequently to visit its chic cafes, upscale shops, and vibrant nightlife. It’s also home to some of the trendiest hotels including ElCielo and Patio del Mundo. Here you’ll find a wide range of high-quality restaurants, like Oci.Mde, and Alambique serving an array of international cuisines. Further north in the neighborhood, you find the Museo de Arte Moderno which screens arthouse films and has permanent and temporary evolving exhibitions. As for its nightlife, El Poblado tends to be the epicenter. Medellin’s top nightclubs are concentrated in the Provenza area and Parque Lleras, a park where people mingle at all hours of the night.
On the Northwest side of Medellín is the more laid-back residential neighborhood of Laureles. It’s home to the Estadio Atanasio Girardot soccer stadium, where Medellíns two soccer teams compete. Around the stadium, this sporty neighborhood is full of skateboard parks, outdoor gyms, beach volleyball courts, and lush green areas. Unlike other neighborhoods, it’s relatively flat so it’s easier to explore by foot or bike, due to the impressive network of cycle lanes.
It has a great mix of cafes, bars, traditional Colombian restaurants, bakeries, local street food vendors, and smaller museums like Fundación Aburrá, with a collection of nearly 3,000 pieces of pre-Hispanic art. Try the tasty and perfectly crispy and seasoned empanadas at Empanadas Boomerang. Here, you’ll also find many street food vendors selling Colombia’s most famous snack, the arepa. These cornmeal patties come in a variety of different variations but try one with typical Paisa flavors such as chicharron, chorizo, beans, avocado, and cheese.
For a night out, head south of the Estadio metro station down to Carrera 70 known as La 70. The party street is lined with bars, local restaurants, and street vendors. Although less of a party scene than El Poblado, good spots include the Panorama Rooftop Bar and La Charcu, both offering great views of the city. If you want to dance the night away, head to the Salsa spots like Son Havana or El Tíbiri Bar.
Explore the Artistic Transformation of Comuna 13
Located on the western fringes of the city, this commune has about 12 separate neighborhoods. It’s most famous for its graffiti, impressive murals, street art performances, and walking tours. There’s always some kind of impromptu art event going on, so there’s a chance to check out music performances, breakdancing, hip-hop dancers, and rappers that perform throughout the squares in Comuna 13.
Once isolated from the rest of the city, because of how high it is in the hills, Comuna 13 has some of the best views over Medellín. Because of this, the government installed escaleras electricas, a series of outdoor escalators that connect it to the rest of the city below.
Take a tour to learn more about the city’s turbulent past and support the local guides that will tell you firsthand about the neighborhood’s history and details about the street art and artists. Although the area is now considered much safer than it once was, the most ethical option to help rebuild the community is by booking a tour with a local guide that will give you insider knowledge about the neighborhood’s impressive evolution to the art center it is today—we know the best one we’ll book for you in advance.
Where to Stay + Sleep
Tucked away in a tranquil garden in the El Poblado district, Patio del Mundo is a beautiful boutique hotel with just seven rooms made up of two charming villas that were recently renovated and restored by a French family—a little oasis in the middle of the bustling city. Each room is tastefully decorated, inspired by destinations from around the world like India and Bali. The rooms vary slightly in size and some have private patios, hammocks, and private jacuzzis. The secluded garden with an enchanting view is, full of lush tropical plants including mango trees and orchids, makes you feel worlds away from the busy city. In the morning, enjoy a fresh breakfast, including seasonal fruits and a cup of the best local Colombian coffee, which is served on the garden’s terrace. Follow the short stone path into the garden that leads to a deck where you’ll find a jacuzzi and loungers to relax after a long day out on the town.
Considered one of the most elegant hotels in Medellín, the family-run Elcielo’s architecture has a contemporary and modern ambiance. The suites have marble floors, Italian-style deep soaking bathtubs, and luxury amenities, with perfect attention to details. The rooftop has a pool and gym and provides 360 panoramic skyline views of the city. Plus, the award-winning Elcielo restaurant is on-site. We’ll make reservations for you in advance. It’s renowned for its Avant-garde dining experiences that includes molecular gastronomy, blending scientific techniques with local ingredients for a truly sensory experience.
Where to Eat + Drink
Considered one of the best fine-dining experiences in Medellín, Oci.Mde features elevated comfort food all from ingredients found in nearby markets. It offers an ever-changing menu that is renewed every six months, to satisfy all palates using only foods like fresh fish straight from the Pacific Ocean, and organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Chef Laura Londoño and her husband Santiago Arango, an architect who designed the restaurant, wanted the restaurant to be warm and modern, with a “food to be shared” concept allowing diners to try new dishes at every visit. The industrial-style contemporary restaurant dishes out mouthwatering meals like pork chistilla slowly roasted over five hours and glazed in guandolo and black beans ceviche.
Come to the family-run Mamasita Medallo for its hearty traditional Colombian dishes, and stay for the delicious cocktails and live DJ’s. Located in the Manila neighborhood close to El Poblado, this bohemian restaurant focuses on carefully handcrafted Paisa recipes and the cocktails are inspired by the tropical fruits of Colombia. Try the chicharron parrandero, a deep-fried pork dish that is slowly cooked for over 15 hours. Be warned, the dish is so large it can be shared with loved ones. It’s served with onion, mango, and lemon accompanied by crispy arepas, fried plantains, and an avocado puree. It pairs nicely with the cocosita cocktail, made with white rum, fermented coconut water, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Alambique’s speak-easy vibes first found behind an inconspicuous blue door that leads to an open-air restaurant. Covered in greenery, the wooden interior showcases antiques and odds and ends that are cluttered throughout, giving it a rustic-chic feel. They serve delicious food, but the real star of the show here are the cocktails. Many are adorned with flowers but instead, try their unique spicy concoctions. The smokey-flavored beso de mezcal is made with tequila, mango, guava, and lightly dashed with cayenne pepper and jalapeno. It’s near Parque Lleras and the rooftop provides ample opportunities to people-watch once the sun sets.
If you’re looking for authentic Colombian food, Hatoviejo is one of the best places to find it in Medellín, especially since it has a few locations throughout the city. Bring your appetite because their extensive menu features large-portioned dishes that are popular throughout Colombia. Start off with appetizers including empanadas, and Antioquian-style fried potato pies served with a hot sauce. A must-try here is the Bandeja Paisa—famous in this region. It’s a hefty portion of pork belly and minced beef, chorizo, rice, beans, fried plantains, avocado, and a zesty tomato sauce. Each location has its own style and all are decorated with Colombian folk art.
Uno más uno Restaurant
For those on a budget who want to try the menú del día, head to Uno más uno Restaurant. This affordable, no-frills restaurant serves a set daily lunch menu at an affordable price. Here, a typical menú del día consists of a starter, usually a flavorful soup, and a main dish with meats and veggies and rice, usually accompanied by a tamarind juice or hibiscus tea. They have a regular menu as well, but the menu of the day offers a rotating and perfectly-executed meal in a casual yet cozy atmosphere. Plus, they have vegan and vegetarian options to please everyone.
Not-to-be-missed Experiences Around Medellín
Medellín Botanical Garden
The City of Eternal Spring is famous for all things floral, including the city’s annual Flower Festival. So it’s not surprising they have a 34-acre botanical garden. Boasting over 4,000 types of flowers and over 1,000 species of plants, it’s easy to spend the afternoon exploring the nature and garden’s unique ecosystems. Head to the central part of the park to admire the modern architecture of the Orquideorama, a canopy structure that holds an impressive collection of orchids. The park also includes a lake, loads of trails, a collection of preserved plants in the JAUM Herbarium, and a spectacular butterfly enclosure. Events are held year-round, including yoga sessions, music festivals, and book fairs. There are restaurants and cafes within the park, but entrance k is free. Don’t miss the Esquina de las Mujeres behind the park— sculptures that pay tribute to notable women from Colombia.
Take the Gondola for spectacular views up to Parque Arvi
Medellín is famed for its innovative and impressive public transportation system, including the metro stations and the metro cables. So getting to Parque Arvi is half the fun. Take the gondola up to the park for amazing city views. To get to the eco-reserve, take the L line metrocable to reach this incredible nature park that focuses on sustainable tourism. Arrive early so you can explore the huge seven-square-mile green oasis, full of canopy lines, lakes, eucalyptus and pine forests, and amazing lookout points. There are trails for hiking, biking, and towers for birdwatching. We can arrange a bike rental or guided tour here as well.
Explore La Candelaria on foot
The downtown area of La Candelaria— also known as El Centro—is a great place to explore during the daytime due to the many attractions within walking distance of each other. First head to Plaza Botero, which features the giant sculptures of Fernando Botero, one of Colombia’s most beloved artists and a Medellín native. In the same neighborhood, one of the city’s most important churches built in the 1770s remains. Basilica de la Candelaria is one of the few remaining colonial buildings in the city and you’ll find many markets and food vendors surrounding it.
On the edge of Plaza Botero is the Museo de Antioquia, which holds a massive collection of Botero’s artwork. The permanent collection includes 19th-century pieces, religious artifacts, interactive installations, and pre-Columbian relics. They also have a temporary exhibition with all forms of modern art, from contemporary graphic arts to photography, local Indigenous crafts, and documents about the history of the city.
To the south, head to Barefoot Park, or Parque de Pies Descalzos. This zen-like green space was designed for you to take off your shoes and relax as you enter one of the many interactive sensory zones. Wade in small pools that are designed for soaking your feet, some with jets to give you a nice foot massage after a long day of exploring La Candelaria. A local favorite is the Zen Garden, surrounded by tall bamboo plants and covered with rough stones to exfoliate your feet.
Easy Day Trip from Medellín
Visit the nearby colorful city of Guatapé and climb El Peñól de Guatapé
Located a short two-hour bus ride from Medellín, be sure to visit the nearby colorful rainbow-colored village of Guatapé. Visitors are drawn to this tiny Antioquian town for its brightly-colored buildings, turquoise lake, and climb to El Peñón de Guatapé. After a steep climb of more than 700 steps, the top of the rock provides a worthwhile panoramic view of the landscape. The town is a peaceful escape from the city, offering many lively restaurants, specialty shops, and colonial-style buildings. Be sure to visit the Plazoleta de Los Zócalos, a plaza with cafes, crafts shops, and a colorful, picturesque staircase that’s popular with photographers. When browsing the winding streets, be sure to pay attention to the lower half of the bright buildings, many of them have relief depictions at the bottom of craftworkers, local people, and animals common to the region.
So there you have it—our Extraordinary guide to Medellín, Colombia. Do we have you convinced to visit one of the coolest cities in South America yet? Reach out to our South American expert to book your trip to Colombia, starting with some time spent in this wonderful city.
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