The Ultimate List of Things to Do in Medellin

A city view of Medellin, ColombiaOne of my big goals for 2014 is to finally get to Colombia. It’s been on “the list” for a long time. Many of you have asked for information about the country, so today I turn the blog over to my friend Dave from Medellin Living. He traded his backpack for an apartment in the city. Dave gives us the ultimate list of things to do to one of the most popular destinations in Colombia.

Once dubbed “The Most Dangerous City in the World” by Time magazine due to the drug-fueled violence of Pablo Escobar, in the last 20 years Medellin has undergone a transformation. In addition to big improvements in public safety, there’s been a huge surge in urban development projects, including Colombia’s first metro system and cable cars to service poorer neighborhoods located high on the mountainsides, as well as new parks and libraries.

Now, Medellin is becoming one of the “it” cities in the world, with tons of tourists visiting and foreigners settling and retiring here.

Medellin is one of the few cities I’ve fallen in love with at first sight. Beautiful mountains, warm weather, friendly locals, and a vibrant culture are just a few of the reasons I’ve spent more than two years living in Medellin. And I’m here to show everyone that there are more than enough things to do to keep any visitor busy.

Plus, travel in Colombia continues to be an excellent bargain compared to other countries in South America. While it’s not as cheap as in Ecuador or Bolivia, your money will go a lot farther than it does in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, or Uruguay.

Explore the Numerous Parks and Plazas

Gorgeous park in the center of Medellin city
The natural beauty and unique climate of Medellin is something to behold. Set 4,905 feet (1,495 meters) above sea level in a valley surrounded by tall green mountains, its close proximity to the Equator ensures constant spring-like temperatures year round.

The pleasant weather lends itself well to enjoying the dozens of parks and plazas to be found in and around the city. Each space offers its own unique design and personality, with all of them being excellent places to grab a seat and watch the locals go about their daily lives.

My favorite places include:

  • Plaza Botero – Home to 23 of Fernando Botero’s larger-than-life sculptures, this plaza can be reached via the Parque Berrio metro station. Make sure to step inside the Museo de Antioquia, which faces the plaza. Entrance is free, and you can see paintings by Botero as well as other Latin artists.
  • Parque Berrio – Across the street from Plaza Botero, this small park is always filled with juice vendors and local street performers playing traditional Colombian music.
  • Jardin Botanico – Easily accessible from the Universidad metro station, the city’s botanical gardens host numerous events, concerts, and festivals throughout the year. Go here when you want a break from the city noise.
  • Parque Explora – Across the street from Jardín Botánico, this complex features Latin America’s largest freshwater aquarium, as well as an outdoor park with interactive games demonstrating the laws of physics.
  • Pueblito Paisa – A mock pueblo built atop Cerro Nutibarra, a small hill in the center of the valley. The hill offers terrific, near 360-degree views of the city. It’s about a 20-minute walk up from the Industriales metro station, or you can take a taxi.
  • El Castillo Museo y Jardines – Inspired by the castles of the French Loire Valley, El Castillo was constructed in 1930. Admission to the property, which includes the gardens and a guided tour of the castle’s interior, costs 8,000 pesos ($4 USD). The easiest way to get there is by taxi.
  • Parque Arvi – Escaping east over the mountains to one of the region’s largest nature reserves is as easy as jumping on the metro system. A regular ticket will take you as far as Santo Domingo. Once you exit the metro cable, buy another ticket for the separate metro cable that runs from Santo Domingo to Parque Arvi. The cost is 4,200 pesos ($2.20 USD).

Get Your Adrenaline Going

Five paragliders gliding over the city of Medellin
Medellín offers visitors a number of ways to get their adrenaline going, many of which offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

  • Paragliding – This is one of the most popular tourist activities, especially amongst backpackers, thanks in part to dependable thermals and incredibly low prices. You’ll be hard pressed to beat 80,000 pesos ($41.50 USD) for a 15- to 20-minute tandem flight anywhere else in South America. The action takes place in the mountains north of the city, about an hour’s bus ride from the Caribe bus terminal. Flights are weather dependent, but otherwise available every day of the week from several companies.
  • Mountain Biking and ATVs – Given the rugged topography, it should come as no surprise that there’s ample opportunity to go riding in and around the city. Whether you prefer mountain biking or ATVs, there are an increasing number of tour companies like Adventure Trails catering to foreign tourists, as well as Colombians.
  • Soccer Matches – South America has a reputation for rambunctious fans, making soccer matches between Medellin’s two local teams, Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin a real spectacle. Supporters for each of the teams occupy bleachers at opposing ends of the stadium. They shout, and sing, and unfurl massive banners throughout the full 90 minutes. Ticket prices are well under 40,000 pesos ($20.75 USD), and even if you’re not a huge soccer fan, the experience can send shivers down your spine.

Pablo Escobar Tours

Sight surrounded by flowers from the Pablo Escobar tour in Colombia
The legacy of Pablo Escobar is still a cause for division amongst residents of Medellin, with some people seeing the man in a positive light, while others do their best to relegate the violence of the 80s and early 90s to the history books.

Curiosity from foreign tourists, many of whom know nothing more of Medellin before they arrive than its association with Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, has led to a boom in Pablo Escobar tours.

A typical half-day tour will include visits to Monaco, the eight-story apartment building where the Cali Cartel detonated a car bomb in an assassination attempt, a visit to the building adjacent his final safe house where he was ultimately killed, and his family grave in the city of Itagui, south of Medellin.

Tours are available for as little as 42,000 pesos ($21.75 USD) per person through Zorba. All three sites can also be visited independently using a combination of the metro and taxis.

Take Salsa Lessons

Taking private salsa lessons in a dance studio is a great thing to do in Medellin
Cali may be the salsa capital of Colombia, but there are plenty of dance studios in Medellin where you can learn salsa dancing and other Latin styles, including the bachata and tango.

Santo Baile specializes in Cali style salsa, and is run by Mayra Cutiva, a Cali native who’s been dancing and teaching salsa for 15 years. Under the tutelage of her and the other teachers, you can go from wallflower to “So You Think You Can Dance” in a few weeks.

Academia Baila Latino is another popular dance studio, specializing in LA and Cuban-style salsa, including salsa casino.

The cost of one-hour private lessons has risen in recent years, but it’s still a bargain by Western standards. Expect to pay between 40,000 to 50,000 pesos ($20.75-25.95 USD) per hour, with discounts for purchasing four or eight hours at a time. If you want to spend less, sign up for group classes.

Both studios host regular dance parties for students and their friends and partners, thereby allowing them another venue beyond the city’s bars and dance clubs for showing off their new moves.

Sample the World’s Best Coffee

Fancy coffee with a heart formed in cream at the top
Colombia is one of the world’s top coffee producers, therefore it’s every visitor’s duty to sit down and enjoy a cup.

Oddly, for a country so highly respected for its coffee, Colombians don’t seem to have a huge coffee culture. Sure, you’ll see it available everywhere, from vendors selling little cups on the street to small shops and restaurants, but for the most part, they aren’t selling the country’s higher quality, export-grade coffee.

To assure yourself of a quality cup, there are a few places you can go. First and foremost, the Juan Valdez Cafes are Colombia’s version of Starbucks. They offer delicious coffee, pastries, and free Wi-Fi. In 2014, Starbucks is finally going to begin making its way into the Colombian market, starting in Bogotá and eventually expanding to 50 cafes nationwide.

If you prefer indie coffee shops, head to Pergamino Cafe in Parque Lleras. Since opening in 2012, it has received rave reviews from travelers and expats and has attracted a strong Colombian clientele too. Pergamino has free Wi-Fi, and they recently finished an expansion.

Discover Colombian Food

Delicious Colombia traditional food with corn and cream sauce
I like to poke fun at Colombian food for its lack of spices, but the truth is I’ve discovered quite a few meals I enjoy here.

More importantly, I’ve tried to find the best restaurants in Medellin, where you too can sample authentic Colombian dishes. Beyond the food, these places all have excellent atmosphere and service as well.

  • Brasarepa – Located in Envigado, a city just south of Medellin, Brasarepa serves up typical Colombian dishes in an unpretentious setting. The restaurant was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s 2008 Colombia episode of No Reservations. Lunch here will run you about 10,000 pesos ($5 USD).
  • Hato Viejo – This restaurant started out with a downtown location over 30 years ago and continues to go strong. Try the bandeja paisa, a signature dish from the region, which includes spicy ground meat, pork cracklings, fried egg, fried plantains, refried beans, rice, avocado, and a small side salad. Entrees average 20,000 pesos ($10.40 USD).
  • Ajiaco’s y Mondongo’s – Ajiaco is a potato-based soup with shredded white meat chicken, corn, capers, avocado, and cream. It’s originally from Bogotá but is available throughout Colombia. The cost here is 15,200 pesos ($7.90 USD). For the adventurous, try the mondongo (tripe soup).
  • Marmoleo – For a unique dining experience and some of the best steak (imported from the USA) in the city, check out Marmoleo. Entrees run from 30,000 to 50,000 pesos ($15.50-25.90 USD), making it the costliest restaurant on the list. They also hold special events, including horse parades and fashion shows.
  • Queareparenamorarte – Also featured in the 2008 Colombia episode of No Reservations, this restaurant is actually located about an hour outside of Medellin in Rio Negro. At 28,000 pesos ($14.55 USD), the average cost of an entree is on the expensive side, but the food is well worth the pilgrimage. I recommend the Cazuela de Pescado, a filet of fish served over rice with a sour orange sauce, onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, limoncillo, and cilantro.

As they say in Colombia, Buen Provecho!

How to Party Like a Local

Crazy adult costume party in Medellin
Medellin balances the feel of a small pueblo in the mountains with the vivaciousness of a major Latin American city. The nightlife options are limited early in the week, but the activity in bars and dance clubs slowly begins to pick up pace on Thursday nights thanks to a few popular ladies’ nights. Friday is big, and by Saturday everything is hopping.

The local firewater, and favorite drink amongst the locals, is called aguardiente, or guaro for short. It’s clear, anise-flavored liquor traditionally consumed as a shot, but don’t be surprised if you see locals drinking straight from the bottle too. It’s often chased with water or soda.

Another locally produced liquor is Ron Medellin Anejo. This rum is widely available and taken straight, on the rocks, or with ginger ale or Sprite. Colombians prefer their aguardiente and rum straight, saying it doesn’t produce as big a hangover the next day if you skip the soda.

There are tons of places to go out at night, but the epicenter of nightlife in Medellin is Parque Lleras, a dense collection of restaurants, bars, and dance clubs situated around a little tree-filled park in the upscale Poblado neighborhood. Within a few minutes walk from most of the city’s hostels and many hotels and apartment rentals, it couldn’t be easier to find a restaurant or bar to your liking.

Beyond Parque Lleras, there are plenty of other places to kick up your heels. Here are just a few of my favorites to get you started:

  • El Eslabon Prendido – Located downtown, El Eslabon is a salsa bar known for its live music on Tuesday nights. The cover charge is only a few thousand pesos (one or two dollars).
  • Dulce Jesus Mio – This is a typical fonda club, which is to say it’s a caricature of the typical bars found in rural pueblos. During the weekends, the cover charge is 15,000 pesos ($7.80 USD). If you’re a guy, they may not let you in unless you’re accompanied by a girl.
  • Luxury – Looking for a place that only plays reggaeton? A 10,000 peso cover ($5.20 USD) gets you access to this popular club.
  • Patio del Tango – One of the city’s few remaining milongas (tango bars) and a great place to grab dinner and a show on the weekends. There’s no cover charge, but they do have a 30,000 pesos ($15.55 USD) minimum for food and drinks per person.
  • Sixttina – Located on the seventh floor of the Rio Sur mall, Sixttina plays crossover music and often hosts live shows with top reggaeton singers. Cover is 20,000 pesos ($10.40 USD), but for just 5,000 pesos ($2.60 USD) more, your ticket is also good for the adjacent Kukaramakara club, which features live music.
  • Son Havana – Currently the best salsa bar in the city. Go on Thursdays and Saturdays for live music. Entry is free on Wednesdays, otherwise the cover charge is between 5,000 to 10,000 pesos ($2.60 to $5.20).

Visit Nearby Pueblos

David Lee from Medellin Living standing in front of the Colombian landscape
No trip to Medellin is complete without a visit to at least one or two pueblos. These small towns offer middle- to upper-income Colombians the chance to escape the city’s noise and craziness every weekend. Many locals own or rent fincas (country homes) in pueblos and the surrounding countryside.

Guatape is a colorful pueblo located about two hours by bus from Medellin. It can easily be visited as a long day trip, either independently (it’s safe) or as part of an organized tour. A one-way bus ticket costs about 8,000 pesos ($4.15 USD).

Guatape is situated on the edge of a lake, and it’s possible to take tours of the surrounding area by speed boat or party boat. You’ll see more with the former, including the remains of one of Pablo Escobar’s former homes.

A 15-minute rickshaw ride from Guatape is El Penol, a granite monolith with over 700 concrete stairs etched in its side. For a few thousand pesos (a few dollars), visitors can climb to the top for breathtaking 360-degree views of the region. Rock climbing is also an option, if you prefer a challenge.

Santa Fe de Antioquia became the first capital of the department of Antioquia all the way back in 1584. Santa Fe can be reached within an hour by bus, and due to its lower elevation, it’s noticeably warmer.

And as if this list isn’t long enough to keep you busy, there are a dozen or so festivals in Medellin each year, celebrating everything from Christmas lights and flowers to salsa, tango, jazz, and poetry.

Backpackers and budget travelers who take advantage of the local transport, eat like a local, and don’t go overboard with their partying can experience the city for as little as $40 a day. Add a few nicer restaurants, salsa lessons, or a tour or two, and budgets should be increased to $55-60 USD a day.

Medellin may lack big landmarks like you’ll find in Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, but spend a little time here, and you may find the spring weather, mountain views, helpful locals, and relaxed pace of life hard to leave. Combined with the low cost of travel and living, it’s no wonder more and more foreigners are deciding not only to visit Medellin, but to live and retire here too.

David Lee is the editor and founder of Medellin Living. He is also author of theMedellin Travel Guide: Insider Advice from an American Expat in Colombia and co-creator of the Medellín Guide iPhone app.

  1. I have been thinking about moving to Medellin recently and spending a semester there. Then, I see this post and it gives a kick in the butt to go ahead and just do it…


    • Take it as a sign to make it happen in 2014!

      Beyond enjoying the city itself, there’s a budding entrepreneurial scene, and the expat community has never been more connected (at least since I arrived in ’09).

  2. I am looking forward to going to Medellín late 2014. I didn’t really know too much about it but it sounds super interesting.

    I love the sound of the cazuela de pescado. I think I will have to come simply to eat at Queareparenamorarte. I don’t eat meat, so whenever I hear about fish/veggie specialities in places with a meat-heavy cuisine, I get a little bit excited!

    • I was at a closed door Indian dinner (hosted by a Canadian chef) earlier this month, and sat at a table with a Colombian for the night.

      Despite my experience seeing fish on a lot of menus in Medellin, she said it’s still not nearly as popular as meat. I think it has taken awhile for it to gain traction in Medellin given it’s a landlocked city in the mountains.

      In the last 5-7 years, sushi has become popular among the mid to upper classes, and the quality is quite good. I usually eat it once or twice a week :)

      I’m really excited about the growing diversity in the food scene. Bogota is still the most cosmopolitan city in the country, but Medellin is starting to catch up.

  3. I had no idea this area has so much to offer! It’s a shame that negative reputations seem to stick around as long as they do. The reputation was the reason I never considered researching this city as a possible travel destination. This was very eye opening!

    • That’s how I felt when I first arrived in Colombia, and I still hear travelers reacting the same way today.

      The country is huge compared to its neighbors in Central America, and offers such a variety of geographies and climates, from the steamy Caribbean coast, to deserts, snow-capped volcanoes, and the Amazon.

      It’s also one the world’s most biodiverse countries, ranking #1 for diversity in bird and orchid species.

  4. Harry Wilson

    ? Y, el Hueco? :)

    My favorite. Safe at most times of year, good buys, your colombian friends never go there and can’t believe you do!

  5. Dave. Any tips or posts on travelers staying safe in Colombia? I see so much negativity from documentaries channels like Vice on the safety, when I feel like it has made some huge progress in the last decade for the safety of tourists. I plan on a Central American + Colombia route, early 2014.

    • Hey Alex,

      Yea Vice covers some very salacious topics, which I get because they know it’ll draw views. The downside is it continues to paint Colombia in a negative light. Their video on scopolamine is scary stuff, and visitors should be aware of the danger of being drugged, but it’s not a common occurrence (mostly an issue in Bogota).

      Colombians are some of the warmest, friendliest people you’ll meet in Latin America. The average backpacker or tourist should have no problems, but like travel in any part of Latin America, you have to protect yourself against the potential for street crime.

      Simple stuff like:

      – Don’t wear jewelry, or flash valuables like smartphones in the street (or in taxis).
      – Take taxis at night (they’re metered in most cities, but not along the coast).
      – Keep an eye on your drink at bars and clubs, and don’t wander away from your group of friends, especially when drunk.
      – Carry a limited amount of cash with you, and to the degree possible, leave your debit and credit cards locked up in your hostel or hotel.

      It’s important to be aware, but there’s no need to be paranoid. Colombia is a beautiful country, and the vast majority of people there are good, and will do what they can to help us get around safely.

  6. Zelia

    Matt, I’m one of the many that has been inspired by your blog over the years and am currently on my second long term travel adventure and planning a visit to Medell?n. I’m interning at an outfit making tourism sustainable in the area around Bogot? (Andes EcoTours)–drop by if you make it here!

  7. Excellent resource. I visited Medellin about 3 years ago and very much enjoyed the city. Plaza Botero is an extraordinary park–considering it has several sculptures on display from a world-class artist and is totally free! My ride on the cable cars was also a highlight.

  8. Great timing on the post, I just bought a plane ticket from San Francisco to Medellin 4 days ago! Only cost $242.09 USD. I don’t arrive till February though so still got lots of time to plan and be excited.

  9. Killer write up Dave! Medellin is high on my list since I was in Panama and saw how cheap the flight was to jump down there. I keep my eye out for cheap flights on Copa from Toronto.

    Is public transportation worth using?

    This city is forever in the history books and thanks for the wonderful local insight.

    • Cheap from Panama?

      I found direct flights to be ridiculously expensive. I paid a little over $400 from Panama City to Medellin on Copa Airlines this past June. It would’ve been cheaper if I flew Spirit Air via Ft Lauderdale, but it’s only an hour as the crow fly’s and didn’t want to lose a whole day to going through the USA.

      Public transport in Medellin? Absolutely. The metro connects much of the city, and costs just under $1 per ride. It’s one of the cleanest metro systems I’ve seen anywhere in the world, they really take price in it. Local buses can get a bit confusing, but the taxis are so cheap I just take them everywhere.

      • Hey man,

        Yikes! Buddy at the gate told me he and his wife paid $280 round trip. Might have been during a sale as I got a ticket from Toronto to Panama for $320 last year.

        Thanks for the transport info. Didn’t realize they had a metro. Walking is great buta metro is my fav method of public transportation in a city.

  10. Tom

    I made my first trip to Medellin last month, and loved it ! I was only there for a week, but am already wanting to visit again. I was on Google looking for more info on Medellin, and I found this great blog Dave writes.
    I travelled from Ca. thru Ft Lauderdale to arrive. I was surprised how far away from the city the Medellin intl. airport is !
    I was alone, and it was my first trip there, so I didnt venture too much outside of the El Poblado area. Not sure how representative that area is of the overall city, since it appears to be an affluent area, and afterall the main drag is called the Milla d Oro ! I did eat well there, and also went to the Lleras area several times, and was especially impressed by the decor/design in the Wodka Club. Dave’s right about the taxi’s. They are very inexpensive, and a great way to get around quickly.
    It goes without saying, but I will anyways, the women are beautiful in Medellin. My Spanish is pretty good, and it was fun to be able to practice and use it down there. Next time, I’m hoping to see more of the city; especially the other parks and nearby pueblos mentioned in this excellent blog. Ideally, I’ll try and find a nice Paisa gal to accompany me and show me around. I could see myself falling for one of them real easy !
    I’d also be interested on my next trip in attending one of Dave’s “group meets”, and getting more input from other Americans that are living there or have visited many times..

    • Hi Tom, glad you had a great time on your first visit, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to meet on your next visit.

      It’s normal for first timers (and even a lot of expats) to stay in the Poblado area, so yes, it can become a bit of a bubble if you let it. But, it’s a good starting point for getting comfortable with the city and Colombian culture, and you can branch out from there.

      Happy New Year!

  11. Hi Christy,

    I’m not familiar with the Central Rail Station. Are you referring to the old Antioquia rail station which was renovated in downtown Medellin (and is across the street from Parque de las Luces), or Bogota or somewhere else?

  12. I went to Medellin a few years ago. I thought there was only a handful of decent things to see, but I found just walking around and trying to experience “living” like a local was much more interesting.

    • Agree Chris. Medellin doesn’t have a ton of sightseeing things to do, but in terms of ambience and living day to day life, I think it’s a lot of fun.

  13. I’m definitely coming back someday to Columbia to visit Medillin. I was supposed to visit on a trip to Columbia 3 years ago but got mugged in Bogota and spent time there sorting an emergency passport out that should have been used to visit Medillin. Ran out of time at the end of a long trip.

  14. I’ve never been to Colombia, but after Teaching English in China with a Colombian guy, we want to go there asap! We’re thinking about visiting Colombia this year actually and of course, Medellin is very high on the list of places to see.

    Thanks for all of the tips, we’ll refer back to this post and to your city guides closer to our departure.


    • Glad to hear you’re already thinking about visiting Medellin. I’d also recommend Cartagena and Salento (in the coffee triangle) to everyone. For off the beaten track, try La Guajira Peninsula in the northeast.

  15. Thomas

    I’m heading to Medellin end of February for about a year. Going in hopes to learn Spanish on a student visa. I can’t wait to get there.

  16. Nancy Jacobs

    This is an unbelievable writeup! You really cover everything! From where to eat to finding dancing lessons and paragliding, you leave nothing out.

    Have you heard of Users submit their travel itinerary so that other travelers can learn what locations are worth seeing and what to avoid. This would make a fantastic itinerary!

    Thanks for your effort on this article. Makes me want to pull the trigger on that trip to Columbia even more. ; )


    after reading this and looking at all, I decided to vacation there with all my family, if all agree, the beginning of July I’ll be there

  18. I went to Medellin and met the friendliest people there that I’ve encountered on my whole trip in Latin America. Met a guy at breakfast who invited my friend and I to his beautiful apartment overlooking the city, fed us and gave us ample supplies of wine then later that day, a woman who overheard us asking a waiter where we could find a nice spot to watch the sunset from asked if we’d like to go with her and her family to their house in the mountains. Both were such serendipitous experiences that have left me with extremely fond memories of the place. Thanks for the post :)

  19. David

    I have only been to Medellin once but it is great. I have family in Cali and I have to say don’t bother it has a zoo which is nice for people who have never seen a zoo before and shopping centers ditto. It also has cinemas and swimming pools, if you come from a small village and have never seen these things then Cali is interesting otherwise it is a waste of time.

    • I thought the zoo in Cali was excellent.

      The one in Medellin is about 60 years old, and unfortunately there’s not much space for the animals so it’s kind of sad. I’m hoping they build a big new one some day, maybe toward the north or south end of the valley.

  20. I’m hopping on a plan to Cartagena in less than week (WOW) and will spend the next 6+ months venturing around. I’m really looking forward to spending some time in Medellin (and everywhere else) I have heard so many good things about Colombia. I just subscribed to the Medellin Living newsletter, hopefully there’s an event or something happening when I make it there…

  21. Pao

    Great article, it covers everything. Colombia is a very beautiful country and Medellin I think is the most beautiful city. I’m from Cali Colombia, born and raised there. I live now in USA and I’m always missing the pueblos, I spent many vacations of my childhood in some pueblos around Medellin. The only thing that makes me sad to read is that they are offering tours about Pablo Escobar life, that shouldn’t be offered in the city, but that’s just me as a Colombian of course, but anyways great article.

    • Thanks for reading Pao. The pueblos are one of my favorite aspects of living in Colombia. It’s fun to escape the big cities for the weekend, and the views can be amazing.

      I agree about the Pablo Escobar tours, but it was inevitable.

  22. Medellin sounds a great place for a digital nomad to base themselves in South America … those pueblos look like quite the getaway too, can’t wait to see them for myself!

    • Medellin wants to become a hub for entrepreneurship in South America, and it’s working. There’s a vibrant and growing scene here. I was just hanging out with a bunch of digital nomads last night, many of whom have also spent time in Chiang Mai.

  23. Daniel

    I am an American, I have been living in Peru for the last year, but I have lived in Colombia for almost 7 years, and am a resident as well. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know.

    • Daniel, what other cities would you recommend besides Medellín? My husband and I love culture, music, salsa dancing, adventure, and meeting local people. Do you have any recommendations for us? :) Thanks!

  24. Hi Matt,
    Those are amazing recommendations. We definitely want to put Medellin on our Colombia bucketlist now! Thanks a lot
    Lauren – Community Manager at Epiclist (

  25. I love Medellin! I love the high number of independent fashion designers and boutiques you can find. Because the majority of Colombians aren’t rich, but still value high fashion, they have gotten creative and made their own brands and designs that more people can afford than just the 1%. Love Pergamino Cafe, it’s awesome!

  26. Ivan

    Ive seen a few blogs from you Dave specially the (Colombia Moda July) but I was wondering what month should my friend and I should be going? We are 20 years old and we wanted to know what month would we enjoy the best. By the way your blogs convinced me to plan a visit to Medellin Colombia this year.


    • Hi Ivan,

      I’m catching up on comments. You may have already visited, but for the sake of other’s reading, I recommend visiting in early August for the week-long Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) when there are lots of parades and parties.

      I also recommend December, as the Christmas light display throughout the city and valley is incredible. This year (2014) they hung something like 30 million individual Christmas lights. Very impressive, plus December is the start of the summer/dry season.

  27. Joni

    Hi Dave,
    We are be route to Medellin today and wondering if you had any bar recommendations to watch World Cup games? Any advice would be much appreciated.

  28. rob

    I’m beginning to think I’m the only person who hates this city (Medellín). It gets fairly hot and humid during the day (not like Cali or Cartagena, but still warm enough that you sweat), and there American or American style stores all over the American style streets. The people are tremendously fake and class/status conscious, and every other car seems to be a hummer or a beemer. I don’t understand why, instead of Medellín, people don’t simply move to LA or Miami. The only difference is that Medellín is about 10% cheaper.

    • Rob,

      No, you’re not the only person who hasn’t liked Medellín.

      I don’t pretend it’s right for everyone (either for a vacation or to live), but I do think there’s still a lot of ignorance out there when it comes to Colombia as a tourism destination. My goal is to show people it’s not that different from visiting any other part of Latin America.

      “It gets fairly hot and humid during the day..”

      The elevation is 1500 meters, so the sun is going to feel stronger than if you’re at sea level. The climate is subtropical, but I don’t personally feel it’s that humid. The average high is 82F, average low 62F. LA gets much colder in the Winter and Miami gets much hotter in the Summer. Medellin’s temps remains consistent all year.

      “The people are tremendously fake and class/status conscious…”

      An unfortunate legacy from the Escobar years, when the rich narcos placed a greater emphasis on beauty and plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is much cheaper than in the U.S., and therefore more accessible to locals (though quality varies, of course).

      Many women see larger breasts as a ticket out of poverty (by way of landing a rich Colombian or well-off foreigner).

      Medellín is the fashion center, therefore a lot of Colombia’s top models live here. Colombians generally regard it as the city with the prettiest women, something they take pride in, which further feeds this aspect of the culture.

      “…every other car seems to be a hummer or a beemer”

      Only if you spend all your time in Poblado, the wealthiest district in the valley. The number of luxury and sports cars on display here is nothing compared to what you see in the U.S.

      “I don’t understand why, instead of Medellín, people don’t simply move to LA or Miami. The only difference is that Medellín is about 10% cheaper.”

      You’re kidding, right? I have a much higher quality of life for $1500/month in Medellín than I’d have in LA or Miami, and I don’t need a car to enjoy it either.

      As I write this, the Colombian peso has fallen to a 5-year low against the US Dollar.

    • Jeff

      While some may not like Medellín, your observations are incorrect. So I’d like to set the record straight. There are too many inaccuracies I have seen about Medellín out on the Internet.

      “It gets fairly hot and humid during the day”.

      Medellín is located at about 5,000 feet above sea level. So it is known as the City of Eternal Spring. The average high is 82 degrees and it never gets above 86 degrees. The temperature is constant year round. If this too hot for you many neighborhoods are on slopes where temperatures can be slightly cooler with the surrounding mountains. This climate is why air conditioning and heating is not required in the city, making energy bills cheap. The percentage humidity in Medellín typically ranges from 65-73, which is lower than either Miami or LA, which you mentioned.

      “American or American style stores all over the American style streets.”

      I suggest getting out of El Poblado, which is not a good representation of the rest of the city. El Poblado is the ritzy part of Medellín. The rest of the city is completely different. If you visited El Centro, you would not have this impression.

      “Every other car seems to be a hummer or a beemer”

      This is completely inaccurate as the top car sales in the city are small cars like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo and Opel Corsa. The Volkswagen Golf was the most popular car sold in Colombia in 2013 with sales of over 470,000. The Ford Fiesta sold nearly 300,000 in 2013. The Renault Clio sold over 287,000. The BMW 3 Series had sales of only about 200,000 throughout the country in 2013 with the majority of sales in Bogotá. Even in ritzy El Poblado you don’t see many luxury cars, as they are very expensive in Colombia.

      “I don’t understand why, instead of Medellín, people don’t simply move to LA or Miami. The only difference is that Medellín is about 10% cheaper.”

      This is also completely inaccurate. LA and Miami are both fairly expensive cities to live in the U.S. I would say that Medellín is over 50% cheaper to live than either city. Where in LA or Miami could you rent a nice 3-bedroom apartment with two balconies in a high rise with 24×7 building security for only $448/month? This is what I am currently paying for such a 3-bedroom apartment in Medellín. Even in ritzy El Poblado in Medellín, the cost of living is significantly lower than LA and Miami.

  29. Chris

    Hey Dave,

    Im flying to Medellin at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning for the first time. Im 29 and traveling with a friend around the same age. Were looking for the single night life, and wanted to know if you have any suggestions considering our timing for this trip will only be from Sunday til Tuesday.

    Thanks! Great Info

    • Hey Chris,

      Sorry I didn’t see your comment before the trip. I’m sure you had a great time. The nightlife is centered around Parque Lleras, and that’s where I recommend most first-time visitors hang out as it’s easy to walk around and find a bar or club you like.

  30. Shelly

    Hi Dave,
    I will be traveling in Colombia in for 2 weeks February with my husband. We will be in Cartagena, Santa Marta (just one night there), Tayrona area, the Coffee Zona, Medellin and Bogota. We were planning to only stay 2 nights in Medellin (arriving in the afternoon) and 1 night in Bogota (heard it is not very safe). Is that a mistake? Should we stay in the Poblado neighborhood in Medellin? How far is it from the attractions that you mention in your blog?

    I hope you get back to me soon with any advice.

  31. Hi Shelly, you’ve got a full itinerary!

    I’m not clear on what you’re asking might be a mistake. Given all the places you’re trying to visit, I can’t say it’s a mistake to only spend 2 nights in Medellin and 1 night in Bogota.

    For a day in Bogota, I suggest visiting La Candelaria (the historic center), the Gold Museum, and taking the cablecar up Montserrate if the weather is nice. If you had more time, I’d suggest the Salt Cathedral, but that’s outside the city and requires a full day.

    In Medellin, the easiest place to stay is Poblado, around Parque Lleras, which is full of restaurants and will give you a taste of the nightlife scene if you’re here Thursday to Saturday (it’s pretty dead early in the week, but you’ll still see some people out drinking).

    I mentioned a lot of attractions in this post, so I can’t answer that question. You’ll have to be more specific. I tried to note which places are easily accessible from the metro, but the taxis are so cheap and plentiful, I suggest taking them after your an initial ride on the metro and metrocable.

  32. Ray

    Hey Dave. I have traveling to Medellin in January, 2015 for 9 night with my wife and another couple. I understand that its right after the holidays and it may not be as “busy” as it would be at other times. I heard things have started to slip back to the old days whereas its not the safest. Is this true? I am not too worried as my wife was born and raised in Colombia and the other couple I am traveling with are also from Colombia but they haven’t been back to Colombia for nearly 8-10 years so obviously things have changed. I guess my questions is can recommend a few places where two young couples can go and have a good time? We’re very outgoing and love the night scene. I’ve read all your recommendations but some are more than a year old so I was just wondering if those are still the places to go. Also, can you tell us the areas and places we should stay away from?

    Thanks in advance.


  33. Mike

    Great posting. I learned much from your info. I have been to Panama and Costa Rica several times and I am making my first trip to Medellin next month and traveling solo. My Spanish skills are basic. I am staying right near Lleras. I have a couple questions…..

    1) How difficult will it be to communicate/get around with basic spanish?

    2) What is the dress like there?

    3) Other than the obvious precautions, what other safety concerns should I have as a solo traveler?

    Thanks so much for your time and information.

    • The nightlife is amazing. Best thing to do is to go to Bendito Seas on Thursday night. Open bar till 1 and ladies get in for free. Also buying a bottle of rum from the local mom and pop liquor shop and drinking it at the park in Parque Lleras is always a great way to start the night.

  34. Hude

    Hi Dave,

    I am planning a trip to Colombia in mid April and my starting point is Medellin for about 3 days.

    I am planning to do a day trip to either Guatape or Santa Fe de antioqua. Which pueblo would you recommend? And is 3 days Medellin + a pueblo good enough?



  35. Ajay

    Dave – Can you please suggest things to buy in Medellin, specific to Colombian? I am leaving end of the month and spending a week there. TIA.

  36. Manny

    Hi. Some great information. I plan to live in Medellin with a friend for two months from November 2015. Can anyone please recommend suitable apartment rental websites? AirBnB seems to cater for more well-off individuals! We are not looking to live in El Poblado but somewhere safe and near a Metro station. Are there neighbourhoods people can advise? Many thanks :)

  37. Freddy

    Awesome article! I’ve been living here in Medellin for 3 years now and I cannot complain whatsoever. The best part about Medellin that I enjoy are the people and El Centro. I have lived in many places in Medellin; Belen, Laureles, Poblado, Manila, Floresta, Boston, and Centro. Best places I lived were in Boston and Centro. Maybe it is just me but I like the noisiness. However one of the nices apartments I did stay in was in El Poblado. I rented an amazing penthouse from Very luxurious.

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