Are you traveling to Colombia and wondering what to do in Medellin?
You’re in the right place… Let’s grab a coffee and take a look at the things you can do during your stay in the city of eternal spring.
With lots of fun to be had, Medellin is popular with backpackers and for some people, the city is one of the best cities to visit in Colombia.
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What to do in Medellin, Colombia
I first made a trip to Medellin after hearing about the exuberant lifestyle and how it’s one of the top places to visit in Colombia.
Meeting the right people is key to experiencing the many cultural things to do in Medellin and will give you access to the beauty of the city.
Arriving to Medellin
Depending on whether you are flying to Medellin or arriving by bus, you may find this info useful. Flying in from Miami is a breeze.
I arrived by plane direct from Bogotá with my backpack. I prefer to travel overland, but on my first trip, time was of the essence.
José María Córdova Airport in Rionegro is the home of Viva Air Colombia – a budget airline serving most of the country.
Book early to get the bargain prices and try to avoid booking during Días Festivos (bank holidays) if you want to save money.
💡Smart Travel Tip
Use the local buses located outside the terminal to get into Medellin from the Airport; the cost is around 10,000COP per person.
Medellin Typical Costs and Budget
🇺🇸 1USD – 🇨🇴 3.8KCOP
My daily budget:
Up to 133K COP daily
Is it possible to travel to Medellin on a Budget? Of course 🙂
Below, I’ll share my best Medellin travel tips that can save your hard-earned cash so you can reserve it for more important things.
When deciding where to stay in Medellin, El Poblado has a great selection of hostels and hotels suited for all travelers. Expect to pay anything from 7-10USD for the most basic option. Also check out Laureles or even Envigado.
Medellin has different tons of Colombian food dishes to choose from. Whether it be local dishes (soups, meats, potatoes, and rice), international dining, or something more exotic; can all easily be found in El Poblado.
With the sheer amount of people transport in Medellin is some of the most efficient in Colombia. You’ll find cable cars, taxis, buses, and the metro for getting around. You can get a Civica card to save money on tickets.
Fancy learning more about Coffee? Or maybe scaling the gigantic rock in Guatape. There are many tours for one person or more that can be found in Medellin. You can find tours starting from US$20
You’ll need at least a few days here to be able to settle and I get used to the city. There is far much more than meets the eye and I have found that the more you explore the city the more interesting it becomes.
Where is Medellin, Colombia: Map of Medellin
Medellin is known for many things but where is it located on the map? Take a look at the interactive map below to get a better idea.
Medellin is located in a valley that is known for favorable weather conditions. See the best time to visit Colombia to learn more.
What to do in Medellin
Now you’ve got an idea of what to expect in terms of cost and some general travel advice, let’s see what you can get up to in Medellin:
When it comes to traditional food in Medellin you have tons of options. So when you want an authentic dining experience with local food prepared in a typical Antioquian style Hacienda will not disappoint.
This place gets very busy with locals (especially during lunchtime) so don’t expect super speedy service. Order a Limonada de Coco sit back and watch the waiters do their magic.
Expect a mountain of food, especially if you order the Bandeja Paisa one of the most populated dishes with visitors to Medellin.
Everything about the place is fantastic the decorations, the pleasant attentive waiters, and even the traditional clothing they wear.
El Castillo Museum
Dare I say this is a bit of a hidden gem in the city. This Medieval Gothic-style castle has a very interesting story.
Here you can escape the city and explore the gardens. The castle offers a guided tour of the permanent exhibition displaying antique furniture, antiques, and paintings collected from around the world.
The guided tour inside is spoken in Spanish so be sure to brush up on your Spanish conversation before taking the tour here.
Otherwise, you can just sit and enjoy the beautiful fully well-pruned garden, along with the view of the valley.
Medellin Walking Tour
This tour is worth it; it is by far one of the best things to do in Medellin and one of the most fantastic walking tours I experienced.
Check-in with one of the hostels in Medellin I have mentioned to get information on the free walking tours.
Walking around, the city you’ll learn a lot more and see some of the most important, popular sites on offer.
Metro Cable See Medellin From Above
It’s safe to say that traffic can be quite hectic in Medellin, seriously.
Hence, why taking the Metro cable was one of the transportation experiences I enjoyed the most.
The metro cable transportation system is managed by the government, and it is a well-recognized regeneration initiative for urban settlements.
It offers tourists an insight into the barrios (neighborhoods) from an up-close and interesting perspective.
There are two major cable transport routes in Medellin; one of them provides access to the East of the valley and the other to the West.
I recommend this plan, and it’s actually one of my top things to do in Medellin. It’s perfect for having a whole view of the city and its people.
💡Smart Travel Tip
Get a Civica card to save money and time when using public transport. This works on the Metro, Metro Bus, Tram, and Cable cars.
Museo Casa Gardeliana
This landmark is a must for Tango lovers. It gives you the chance to get off the beaten track and explore a slice of Medellin’s musical history and deep connection with tango.
This is a great place to come if you are learning how to dance tango or, just want to see the Gardel statue which is located on the same block as the museum in the Manrique neighborhood.
On my arrival to station Santa Domingo Savio, I took another cable car to Parque Arvi, one of the tourist attractions in Medellin.
The car goes through the forest for about 15 minutes, and it was all breath-taking fun. I definitely have to go back there one day soon.
There’s a small token to be paid to access the park, but it’s worth it and even possible to hike without a guide showing you around.
Colombian Coffee Tasting
In Medellin, Juan Valdez is a popular coffee shop. Juan Valdez represents the heart and soul of the Colombian coffee growers.
You’ll find it’s a tad more expensive than others, and what originally drew me to this chain is the environment it creates for its customers.
However, Juan Valdez does not serve the best coffee in Medellin (or Colombia). If you want higher-quality coffee, visit the places below:
- Pergamino Coffee: Cra. 37 #8A-37
- Macanas: Cra. 34 #7-100
- Café Revolution: Cra. 73 #410
- Café Vallejo Medellin: Carrera 74B #39B-126
Unfortunately Macanas is now closed due to parking restrictions in El Poblado making it difficult for customers to be able to easily pop-in.
I recommend you get yourself out to the sede (branch) in Jardín for a superior cup of coffee that will explode your taste buds.
Bunuelos are known as a Christmas treat but for many locals they are an evergreen treat that can be enjoyed all year round.
These small and sometimes giant dough balls are filled with cheese and give your mouth a unique flavor explosion that is hard to replicate.
The special cheese used and the oil temperature is the key to getting everything right. Sabaneta is one of the best places to try Bunuelos so get on the metro and head to Parque Sabaneta to sample yours.
Anyone visiting Medellin with a day to spare should consider visiting Guatape. A small town located around one hour from Medellin, which has various attractions including a giant rock.
You may have heard of El Peñol (the rock) located close to the town.
I have written a short guide explaining how to get from Medellin to Guatape by bus so you know exactly how to get there.
I’ve visited the town various times and it makes the perfect day out because you can escape the hustle and bustle of El Poblado or just the city itself, and connect yourself with a more rural setting.
You may be offered one of the many day trips from Medellin which offers round trip tours to Guatape but if you’re feeling adventurous I highly recommend you go solo via public transport.
If this is not one of the best things to do in Medellin, it’s definitely one of the most sought after. A trip to one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world is at the top of the list of many travelers.
I’ve listed this as one of the most unusual things to do in Medellin, partly because doing the Comuna 13 tour has become so popular.
Entire families’ lives have improved through the influx of people eager to learn more about the transformation of the neighborhood.
It’s worth noting that you can take the bus and visit the Comuna by yourself. This would be considered a self-guided tour of Comuna 13.
This is a great cultural experience to have if you have enough time to visit while in Medellin, just be prepared to use your feet for walking uphill.
You can not visit Medellin without exploring the city center or downtown area for yourself. Get off at Berrio Park Metro station.
I recommend you do a day tour as it will give you a better insight, and you’d feel more at ease walking around with your camera gear.
Just like with the Pablo Escobar tour, this downtown area of the city is not usually recommended by locals, nor for the faint-hearted.
Meeting local people is among the unique features of visiting Medellin if you are interested in learning about Paisa culture. Here you’ll get a feel of some of the more local day-to-day things to do in Medellin.
Museum House of the Memory
The house of memory will give you insight into Colombia’s history.
The museum provides a historic overview of specific events from different cities and regions via audio guides of each display.
Inside you’ll also find maps and graphical displays (with English translations) that allow you to interact with the information. Expect rich clippings from newspapers and television.
The ‘Memory space’ which celebrates the lives of important and significant people in the community is a nice addition.
Carry some headphone with you as won’t be able to fully interact with the installation. However not to worry if you don’t, it is still worth a visit.
Mi Viejo Pueblo
if you’re looking for souvenirs this artisanal market is a hidden gem that can be found on the main Walking Street in downtown Medellin.
You’ll find all sorts of gifts at reasonable prices and you can negotiate on bigger ticket items in many cases. The vendors are open to showing you their store and you can take pictures inside without any problems.
Free Things to do in Medellin
One other thing I love about Medellin is that there are so many things you can do, and in most cases, without even spending a cent.
- Take a free walking tour and see almost 30 Graffiti murals in Ayacucho Street. From San Antonio Metro Station take the Tranvía to San Jose station. There you can enjoy some the best street art in Medellin.
- If you’re into fitness, try the Cerro de las Tres Cruces hike. You’ll enjoy epic views of the city from above.
- Visit Museo Cementerio San Pedro, its known for it’s monuments, mausoleums, graves and statues. Admission is free and it’s open from 7:30am to 5:30pm. There’s also special events and guided visits.
- Go hiking in Envigado: Chorro de Campanas and Cuevas del Higuerón are most popular with visitors who travel to Medellin.
Would you be interested in Paragliding by any chance? You could even head out to San Félix and have the most incredible experience.
Medellin Travel Tips
Below are some of my best travel tips for Medellin.
Throughout this blog, I will always note little tricks and tips for South America that I feel can enhance your experience, or save you money.
I have spent months on end backpacking Colombia over the years and can help you gain new insights and knowledge on this country.
⤵️ Dan’s Travel Tips For Medellin:
- Only use flip flops if you want to look and be treated like a tourist. It’s not common that locals use them, not even on Sundays.
- Remember universal rules for safety in Medellin, especially downtown. Don’t walk with your phone out and try to look like a local.
- Try Vegetarian Resto a vegan restaurant with guaranteed delicious food. It’s located in the Suramericana, close to Laureles-Estadio.
- Uber and InDriver are highlighted as alternative taxi services.
- Travel by Metro is quite easy. If you want to use it occasionally, buy a card for $5.100 and charge enough money for your travels. It’s cheap.
- Although if you plan to use the Metro so often, it’s a good idea to have a personalized travel card. It’s free. Go to the Civica office in San Antonio, Itagüí, or Niquia Station with a copy of your passport and you can get the travel card which offers you a cheaper fare.
- Visit Ciudad del Río, where you’ll find cultural venues Museo de Arte Moderno MAMM, a cinema, restaurants, and green spaces.
- Spend a weekend in Jericó or Jardín. Just 2.5 hours from Medellín and best known for high-quality Colombian coffee and ecological hikes.
- Be sure to visit Café Otraparte in Envigado, it’s not the best place for coffee but is quiet and perfect for hanging out with friends.
- Mercado del Río is a cozy place with plenty of great food. It’s located just in front of Ciudad del Río, next to Industriales metro station.
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What to do in Medellin
Without a doubt, a visit to Medellin was a great experience–from my arrival to checking into accommodation.
My time in Medellin is always memorable, filled with fun, excitement, and learning, and relationships I’ll never forget.
When you’re looking for things to do in Medellin, keep in mind that it’s possible to see most tourist attractions in just a few days.
If you’re looking for a quieter pace of life you can get yourself to Jericó in just a few hours for a more off-the-beaten-track experience.
I recommend extending your stay to get a good feel of the place and its people. So, with that said how many days in Medellin will you spend?
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Ed and Jenn Coleman says
I was just researching Medellin the other day and it seems like a fascinating city. I particularly like all of the Botero statues around the city. While it’s amazing (and totally cool) that he would donate millions of dollars worth of statues to his home city the story of the exploded bird statue was what really touched my heart. Leaving the damaged statue up as a reminder of the 22 people who died from the blast is a touching memorial.
Great idea about flying directly to Medellin. It seems logistically easier than overland travel and a smidgen safer as well.
That would be so convenient to have cable cars take you to the Eastern part of Medellin, another to the Western part, and a third through Arvi Park. Using the civica card is a big bonus! Although I couldn’t quite appreciate what Mayorista was all about except for the fruits and vegetables. Is it a market?
Daniel G says
Carol, thanks for asking. The Mayorista is a huge wholesale market where you can find many different types of products and services (agriculturally speaking). It’s a very important platform for the city and is responsible for most of the produce arriving into Medellín and it’s surrounding area. I will update the article to reflect this later.
What a delightful city to visit. I am hoping to explore that part of the world sometime soon. When i thought of Columbia, I used to think about Bogota. Now I think I would definitely like to see Medellin. This guide of things to do makes me feel comfortable to go there and experience the local culture, and of course I will be trying the local coffee.
Archana Singh says
I am dying to visit Columbia and I always thought of visiting Bogota. But reading your post about Medellin, I am inspired to put it as well in my ‘places to visit’ list of 2018. Your tip to use the local buses located outside the terminal to get into a city is something I follow during my travels too.
Paulina On the road says
Oh I would love to visit Columbia… I think so many things have changed in the last years. In university, where I as studying Latin American studies, Medellin was still considered one of the most dangerous cities…. Now I would love to explore!
I know of Medellin because of Escobar and it’s definitely a city that has seen a lot of loss over decades, so reading this post and learning about how it is slowly turning into a wonderful and modern place, not to mention that simultaneously it is keeping its heritage and traditions alive, makes it quite the destination. A wonderful article that covers all aspects of the city and the perfect guide for a visit.
Katie @ CreativeTravelGuide says
I have never heard of Medelin but it looks great! Colombia has been on my bucket list for a very long time! I love the look of those cars! Pretty awesome!
Bailey Mills says
I have never been to Columbia but it’s definitely up there on my list! I would love to try visiting some of those awesome cafes. This is the perfect guide for a city to visit in Columbia if I make it there sometime soon, thanks!
Most innovative city? Now, that’s something intriguing! I’d love to visit the city myself!
Arvi Park sounds totally my kinda place! I always take the Free Walking Tour in all cities. Its the best way to have an overview and its ‘free’!!! Haha!