Medellin is an outstanding city. One of the best we’ve ever visited in over ten years of travel. From the delicious food to parks and literal high-flying activities; there are so many great things to do in Medellin – It’s one of the reasons we so quickly fell in love with the city.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite activities for anyone visiting this great city; whether you’re a short-term traveller stopping by for a few days or a digital nomad planning to call it home for a few months. By no means is this a complete list of everything Medellin has to offer, but it will definitely get you well on your way!
Explore Medellin on Foot
This isn’t first on the list by coincidence. City walking tours are becoming more and more common these days. They’re not only a great way to see some of a city you might not otherwise visit, but they also provide a means for you to gather your bearings a little when you first arrive.
Medellin has several different tours available, some cost a fee, others cost nothing at all. Tours that are typically worth spending the money on are food tours. These are offered by both tour groups and resident travellers who have a deep understanding about the local cuisine – and where to find the good stuff. Food tours work in one of two ways, either you pay a flat rate that includes the guide fee and food cost, or the tour itself is technically free, but you pay for what you order/eat and simply tip the guide at the end.
Other free tours are more history and culture related. A guide walks you through different areas of the city, often ones you wouldn’t necessarily visit on your own, filling you in on the background of the places and buildings you see along the way. Because these guides are working for your tips alone, they’re typically very knowledgeable and informative.
The two best tours we’ve taken in Medellin are the Real City Tour, and the Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour.
Head Over the Hills to Parque Arvi
For a great break from the busy streets of the city, head up to Arvi Park, a tranquil nature reserve high in the hills outside of Medellin. Escape the chaos as you walk the trails of this beautiful park.
The park offers a well-marked trail system that you can hike solo or with a guide, or rent bikes at the main entrance and explore some of the farther reaches of the park. Spend an afternoon watching for exotic birds and reptiles as you take in the fresh, clean air.
There are a few great local restaurants only a short distance from the entrance, including a chill little spot offering some really great vegetarian options and craft beer. Another great option, and a favourite of ours, is to just pack your own lunch and have a picnic at one of the meadows tucked away in the forest.
If you’re not feeling up to the exercise, there’s a great little market right at the gondola station where you can pick up a snack and some artisan crafts.
To get there, simply take the metro to Acevedo station and hop on the metro-cable to Santo Domingo (2,400 pesos). From there, pay the additional fee of 5,550 pesos for the Parque Arvi line and enjoy the ride.
Beer & Explosives: Tejo!
What could be better than an evening spent drinking beer and throwing metal pucks at explosives?
Although some contest the claim, Tejo is Colombia’s national sport. It’s pre-Colombian origin date back centuries but this unique activity thrives to this day. The sport itself is quite simple, metal pucks are thrown at a round target in the clay, which is lined with little plastic triangles filled with gunpowder. Points are earned in many different ways, but unless you’re actually competing, the thrill comes from the bangs.
Another great aspect to this great game, is that you almost never play without a beer. While this often gives the game and it’s players a negative reputation, it makes for a much more exciting experience.
One of the best introductions to the sport for foreigners is through Chris, check out his website!
Eat Some Amazing Colombian Food
Colombia may not be well-known in the world food scene, but it should be. From bunuelos and empanadas, to arepas and the almighty bandeja paisa, it’s a heavy but incredible cuisine.
Medellin has no shortage of fantastic restaurants to suit every taste. From fine dining and gastro-pubs in El Poblado, hipster cafes and sandwich joints in Laureles, and a plethora of traditional restaurants and carts scattered throughout the town.
Cruise Around the City on a Bike
This is not only a great way to get yourself from place to place around town, it’s also a lot of fun. Over the last few years, Medellin has come a long way into becoming incredibly bicycle friendly. Many bike routes on and off the road weave throughout the city.
The best part is that you don’t need to own a bike to take advantage of the paths. EnCicla is a free bike rental system available to both locals and visitors alike, with bike docks located all over town. Although there is no actual cost involved to rent, you must register your credit card in case of damages. Check out their website to sign up.
One of the most exciting things to do in Medellin, is paragliding. Given the geography of the surrounding hills and the relatively constant climate, it’s a perfect spot to give it a go.
If you’re unfamiliar with paragliding, you attach yourself via harness to the ‘pilot’ and run off the edge of a cliff together. The wing (similar to a parachute) catches the wind and you sail through the sky. The pilot controls everything and you simply sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views.
I was a little apprehensive at first, heights aren’t really my strong point, but am I ever glad I went! I can’t think of another experience that gives such a sensation while being so comfortable and relaxing the entire ride.
We flew with Dragonfly, check out there website here for the most recent prices.
Party in El Poblado or Estadio
Definitely the tourist hub of Medellin, El Poblado is where you’ll want to go to party. With a huge variety of bars ranging from funky little places to brew pubs and wild night clubs, El Poblado has a watering hole for everyone’s taste.
Another great spot that has a more local vibe is along Carrera 70 in Laureles-Estadio. The bars along here are typically cheaper and more low key than in Poblado and tend to draw a lot more of the backpacker crowd. There’s also a lot of late night cheap-eats along here, which are always great after a long evening drinking Aguillas.
One thing to keep in mind however, while it might seem fairly common to drink in public, it is technically illegal in Medellin. Police patrol these areas day and night, so consider yourself warned.
Drink AguardienteAlright, so maybe sitting in your room alone with a bottle of Colombia’s favourite liquor isn’t the best idea, but drinking like the locals is a great time!
Walking along the streets on any given evening, you’ll surely pass some store with a few small tables pouring onto the sidewalk, locals happily talking away while a clear bottle of liquid sits between them.
This is Aguardiente. The anise-flavoured liquor can be found everywhere in Colombia, and Medellin is no different. The typical way to enjoy this beverage is to sit down at a table with friends or strangers and striking up a conversation. The uniquely delicious beverage is served one person at a time in the little disposable plastic cups that were likely given to you when you purchased the bottle.
Just go easy the first time, it can make for a rough hangover.
Chill out in the Botanical Gardens
Another escape from the hectic city streets is right in the heart of the city. With Colombia being one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, there’s plenty to see in this fantastic spot.
Walk along the many paths, passing exhibits showcasing the local flora. Learn about some of the unique plants and really spectacular flowers that are native to the region. On top of that, the park is home to several resident creatures who can be found sneaking around the grounds. The turtles and ducks naturally prefer the ponds, but the huge iguanas can be found walking through the grass at random.
It’s also a great spot to enjoy a bite to eat. First there’s El Vagon, a simple cafe built from an old train car, selling burgers and sandwiches. Another option is In Situ, an upscale bistro serving traditional in a modern style. Or if you prefer, simply bring your own picnic and enjoy a little tranquility within the city.
Entrance is free, so there’s no excuse not to check this place out. Simply take the metro A-line to Universidad station, the botanical gardens are just outside.
Information on current exhibits can be found here.
Ride the Metro-Cable
A simple but enjoyable activity, riding the metro-cable into the barrios in the hillsides is a great way to explore parts of Medellin once nearly unreachable. The view from the gondola is one of the best ways to see Medellin from above.
Currently there are two lines heading up the valley walls. The J-line leaves from San Javier station up into the area directly north of Comuna 13; while K-line heads up towards Santo Domingo (where you connect onward to Arvi Park) from Acevedo station.
Seeing as there is no added cost to take the cable once you’ve paid your initial metro fare, it’s easy to hop on for a quick ride if you’ve got a little extra time. Even better would be to explore the neighbourhoods that have recently been connected via the metro-cable. Just avoid visiting after dark, as these areas can get a little rough when the sun goes down.
Visit Pueblito Paisa
Another one of the great free activities to do while in town is visiting Pueblito Paisa. This mock Puebla is built up on top of Nutibarra mountain, west of Poblado. While it’s little more than a grouping of souvenir shops and food stalls, it’s still a great place to check out.
Locals can regularly be seen flying kites or having picnics in the tree-filled park that line the hillside. Mountain bikers also flock here to take advantage of the single-track trails right in the centre of town.
Pueblito Paisa is a fairly simple 25 minute walk from Industriales Metro station, or an inexpensive cab ride. Visit later in the afternoon for some great photo lighting.
Experience a Colombian Football Match
First of all, don’t call it soccer. Football is like religion to many in these parts, and it’s awesome to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport itself, just being in the atmosphere of these extraordinarily passionate fans is worth the price of admission.
It’s worth noting that Medellin has two teams: Independiente Medellin and Athletico Nacional. Occasionally, these two teams will play each other and these games can often get out of hand. During such games, the fans from each team are split on opposing sides of the stadium to keep things calm within. Unfortunately, it does little to stop chaos outside the gates. We’re not saying to avoid these games, just use a little more caution (and avoid wearing green/white or red/blue, the colours of each team!).
Matches are held every Wednesday night and occasionally Saturdays and Sundays. The stadium is located just northwest of the Estadio metro station. Ticket prices vary per game and which section of the stadium you sit. Some parts get a little crazier than others.
Explore Comuna 13
One of our favourite areas in all of Medellin is San Javier, also known as Comuna 13. Once the most dangerous neighbourhood in the city, it’s recently undergone some significant changes.
With the addition of schools and libraries, and the construction of escalators, residents and visitors alike now have a means to come and go with ease. The youth are taking back their streets in the form of art. Some of the best street art in all of Medellin can be found up here, as well as a thriving hip-hop and breakdance scene.
Aside from the art, cool little shops, cafes and bars are popping up all around the barrio. Grab some home-made gelato from Cremas Doña Alba and grab some tasty empanadas or obleas’ from the roadside carts. Buy some books or clothing from one of the local shops, help support the community in any way you can.
Although the Comuna has come a long way in the past few years, issues do still arise. We advise visiting in a group, specifically the graffiti tour, where the guides can shed a little light on the unfortunate history of the area.
If tours aren’t your thing, you can visit without, just keep it to daylight hours. To get here, either grab a taxi straight to the escalators. It’s possible to walk from San Javier metro station, but only if you are sure of the way.
For more information on Comuna 13, check out this post.
Parque Barrio and Plaza Botero
Visiting Plaza Botero is one of the most popular things to do in Medellin. The open space features many statues sculpted by famed local artist Fernando Botero. His unique style of “volume” can be seen here in the forms of dogs and horses, to naked women and Roman soldiers.
Another highlight of Plaza Botero is the Palace of Culture, featuring very impressive gothic architecture. Entrance is free and you’ll find several exhibits inside detailing the history and construction of the building. Aside from that, the highlight is taking in the views from the roof.
Just next to the Palace of Culture, across from Parque Barrio Metro station, is the park of the same name. This bustling open space with a few trees has been a central hub of Medellin over the past few hundred years. To this day, it’s a wildly popular spot for locals to gather day and night to mingle over a few beers.
On any given afternoon, especially on weekends, musicians and even dancers will flock to Parque Barrio and play for festive crowds. You’ll likely be passing by the Metro station at some point, why not hop off and have a look around.
Get your Culture on at the Museo de Antioquia
This museum, opposite Plaza Botero, features a ton of art and other unique items ranging from the pre-Colombian until today. A major focus of the museum is a huge collection of Botero’s other work, including more sculptures and many paintings. It’s one of the better museums in Medellin, especially if you’re a fan of Botero’s interesting style. Aside from that, it’s also a fantastic way to learn a bit about the history of the local region and Colombia as a whole.
Take a Side Trip to Guatape
Although not technically in Medellin, Guatape is one of the best things to check out while visiting. Only two short hours away, Guatape is famous for several awesome reasons, but two stand out.
First, they’ve got a big rock. So big in fact, it takes nearly 700 stairs to reach the top. The climb is relatively simple, but once you reach the top, you’ll get some ridiculously stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Second, is the town itself. Guatape is a strong contender for the most colourful town on earth. While many cities and towns throughout Latin America are often filled with colourful buildings, Guatape takes it to another level. There are several walking tours available in the town but it’s easy to walk the cobbled streets on your own. It’s a relatively small place, easily covered in an hour or two. Just be sure to have a full camera battery and empty memory card, you’ll be busy.
Although it’s possible to visit as a day trip from Medellin, it’s much more practical to spend a night or two. For a little more information, including how to get there, check out this post.
We truly hope you’ll get around to trying as many of these suggestions as you can while visiting Medellin and maybe even discover a few great new things on your own.
Enjoy your time, hopefully you’ll fall in love with this city as much as we did!
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