10 Best Things to Do in Medellin
Medellin is an exciting and vibrant city with great food, museums, art, and culture. Medellin has recently gone through a transformation which has made it a great international city to visit. Our favorite city in South America is Medellin, and these best things to do in Medellin will show you why. Known as the city of eternal Spring, Medellin has great weather, with the temperature staying around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Medellin is a great city to spend a few days exploring, with so much to see and do. Follow this guide for the 10 best things to do in Medellin.
How to Get to Medellin
Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia, so you can find direct international flights. You can fly to Medellin directly from some United States cities, but it can be more expensive than flying to Bogotá. Search for flight deals with Skyscanner. If you decide to fly into Bogotá and need to get to Medellin from there, the best way is to fly with one of the airlines that operates domestically such as Latam or Avianca.
Flights from Bogota to Medellin can be as low as $30 roundtrip. If you are coming from a different city in Colombia, flying is typically still the best option because it is significantly faster and still cheap (although not as cheap as the bus, but personally I’d rather pay $30 to skip an eight to ten-hour bus ride). If you are flying to Medellin from another city in Colombia, look for flights to EOH which is the airport located right in Medellin. The main international airport in Medellin (MDE), is located about 45 minutes to an hour east of the city.
TIP: The easiest way to find flight deals to Colombia is to sign up for going, a travel membership that sends you flight alerts for deals from your chosen airport.
Where to Stay in Medellin
Medellin has a range of hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs. If you are looking to stay in a hotel or a hostel, booking.com has many options that you can search for and sort by price. Airbnb is also a great choice in Medellin, as there are a variety of accommodations ranging from private rooms to entire apartments. We stayed in this incredible Airbnb in Medellin right in El Poblado near Parque Lleras. It was the most amazing location and was so comfortable and clean.
I recommend staying in El Poblado as it is a short Uber or metro ride away from the best things to do in Medellin and is considered safer for tourists. There are a lot of great food options here, and although it is more expensive than other areas of Medellin there is a lot of variety and the food was delicious.
How to Get Around Medellin
Medellin Metro Map
The best ways to get around Medellin is Uber and the Metro. Uber is so cheap in Medellin that if you are 2 or more people it can sometimes be cheaper than taking the metro. The metro in Medellin is also a good option especially if you are going further and during rush hour. The metro takes you close to most of the main attractions in the city.
Tips for Visiting Medellin
- Get a SIM card so you can use Uber. You can find a sim card and data plan at many vendors in the cities. Look for small stores that have phone plans. The main companies in Colombia are Claro, Tim, and Movistar.
- Medellin is known to always be around 75 degrees, but it can actually get hotter, so be prepared. When we were in Medellin in August it got up to the high 80s and it was humid. Make sure to bring light clothing in case it gets hotter than usual. Don’t forget a light jacket for the evenings.
- Don’t only spend your time in El Poblado! Medellin is an exciting city with so much to see and do. El Poblado might be the most comfortable area, but make sure you leave El Poblado and explore more of the city.
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10 Best Things to Do in Medellin
Open this interactive Medellin map by clicking on the map image below.
1. Explore El Poblado
If you don’t go to El Poblado then are you even a tourist? Okay so El Poblado is extremely touristy, but we did stay with a local family in an Airbnb there so it felt a lot more authentic. This neighborhood is expensive for Medellin, but it is really nice and has lots of great restaurants and bars.
El Poblado is quiet during the day but there are some great brunch spots like Cambria and D’Andre Gourmet. At night El Poblado comes alive, with lots of great dinner spots, bars, and clubs. Our favorite restaurants for dinner were Bonhomia and 37 Park. El Poblado is a lot more lively during a Friday or Saturday night, so try to plan your trip during the weekend if you can.
If you are looking to go out for drinks and desert, Botanika Lounge has the most delicious chocolate cake (I’m still thinking about it). El Poblado was my favorite area in Medellin and one of the best things to do in Medellin is to try all the unique restaurants here.
2. See Street Art in Comuna 13
Comuna 13 use to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin. In 2002, the Colombian military overthrew the rebel groups in Comuna 13, which was controversial because it led to a lot of deaths. The residents have since turned to dance and art as a form of expression which has led to some of the most unique street art. In 2011, escalators were installed to allow the residents to more easily get up and down the neighborhood for easier access to better work opportunities.
Explore Comuna 13 by riding up the escalators and stop at different streets to checkout the street art and galleries. You will walk by dance performances and vendors selling food and crafts. We went to Comuna 13 on our own during the daytime and felt safe. We made sure to stay near the escalator area and around where the graffiti and other tourists were. You could also book a tour of Comuna 13 which will allow you to learn more about the story behind the graffiti and the history of the neighborhood.
How to Get to Comuna 13 Escalators:
To get to the Comuna 13 escalators and where the popular graffiti is, you can either take an Uber or the metro. If you take Uber make sure to put your destination as Escalator Comuna 13 which is the bottom of the escalators. If you decide to take the metro you would take orange line B to San Javier. From here it is about a 25 minute walk southwest up a hill to the beginning of Comuna 13 Escalators. The walk from the metro station to Comuna 13 didn’t feel safe as there were no other tourists around. Therefore I recommend booking a tour of Comuna 13 or taking an Uber straight to the Comuna 13 Escalators.
Check out this 10-Day Colombia Itinerary to continue planning your Colombia trip
3. Get a View of Medellin on the Metro Cable (Line J)
One of the best things to do in Medellin is to ride the metro cable to see more of the city. From San Javier station you can take a Metro Cable (line J) up to La Aurora. This metro cable goes over some of the poorer neighborhoods in Medellin. When you get to the end of the line at La Aurora you can stay on the cable car and continue back down.
Try to hop on an emptier cable car if you can so you can enjoy panoramic views of Medellin. If you happened to get on a crowded one, get off at the next station and wait to get back on when you see an empty one. The cable cars are cleaned frequently, and when they are cleaned the doors are closed until the next station so there are plenty of chances to get empty cable cars.
4. Admire Botero Paintings at Antioquia Museum
Antioquia Museum in Central Medellin has a lot of great exhibits including the popular Fernando Botero exhibit. Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist known for paintings that play with proportions and size. There are also often hidden stories in his paintings that are fun to look for. Visiting this Fernando Botero exhibit is one of the best things to do in Medellin. Antioquia Museum has many exhibits including an international art hall, Luis Caballero room, and 20th century room.
How to Get to Antioquia Museum:
Antioquia Museum is located a couple minutes walk from Parque Berrio metro Station on line A. The metro is the easiest way to get here since this is a very busy part of Medellin.
5. Look at Sculptures at Plaza Botero
Right in front of Antioquia Museum you can find Plaza Botero. This plaza has many of Fernando Botero’s most famous bronze sculptures. Out of these 23 sculptures you can find caballo (horse), cabeza (head), gato (cat), hombre a caballo (man on a horse), perro (dog), mano (hand), and more. This plaza can get busy and is known for pickpocketers so watch your valuables!
6. Learn About the History of Medellin at Memory House Museum
Memory House Museum (Museo Casa De La Memoria) is a museum with exhibitions regarding the armed conflicts and Medellin’s history and transformation. The museum is free and is a great place to spend a couple hours to learn more about Medellin and Colombia. We felt like this museum gave us a better understanding of the city and what the residents have gone through. I recommend visiting this museum earlier on during your time in Medellin.
Looking to spend more time in Colombia? Check out this unique destination: Guide to Visiting Tayrona National Park
7. Take a Day Trip to Guatape
Guatape is a colorful town about 1.5 hours from Medellin beside a beautiful lake. The lake surrounding Guatape is man made, created by a dam. Near Guatape you will also find Piedra Del Peñol, or Peñon de Guatape, a granite rock towering at 656 feet. You can climb up the 740 steps to the top of the rock near Guatape for an incredible view. Guatape and Piedra Del Peñol are an easy day trip from Medellin which you can do on your own or by booking an organized tour to Guatape. For more information read our guide for how to visit Guatape and Piedra Del Peñol in one day.
8. Ride the Metro Cable to Parque Arvi
The metro cable is very easy and convenient and since it is a form of public transportation and not a tourist attraction there is barely any wait compared to cable cars in other cities like Bogota. To get to metro cable K you will need to take metro line A to Acevedo metro station. Metro Cable K is only about 2 minutes up to Santo Domingo Station. At Santo Domingo Station you will get off and find metro cable L which goes over the neighborhoods in northeast Medellin for about 6 minutes and then over the forest of Parque Arvi for 9 minutes. This metro cable ride offers great views of Medellin and Parque Arvi. When you get to Parque Arvi you can do some hikes, relax at the cafe, or rent a bike and go for a ride.
9. Hike in Parque Arvi
Parque Arvi has many hiking trails through the forest. This is a great way to explore the nature in Medellin and away from the busy city center. You can also rent a mountain bike and go for a ride on your own or with an organized group.
10. Try Different Food at Mercado Del Rio
Mercado Del Rio is a high end food market with all different types of food including Peruvian food, Mediterranean food, Mexican food, Spanish food, crepes, hamburgers, sushi, and pasta. There are many different stalls on the bottom floor and a couple of restaurants on the top floor. You can find nice outdoor seating here where you can enjoy your meal and the pleasant Medellin weather.
How to Get to Mercado Del Rio:
Take line A to Industriales and take a right when you leave the metro. Take a right on the first street on your right and continue walking south. Total walking time from the Industriales metro station is about 10 min.
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