Medellin, the city of Eternal Spring, literally leaves everything to your imagination. This buzzing city known for wanting to distance itself of its bad reputation of being known as the city where Pablo Escobars’ drugs politics were reigning or the city where the crime scene was reaching its highest toll. The goal was to attract more tourists. They succeeded for 100%. If you are traveling in Colombia you can not miss out on Medellin. This city has so much to offer and I felt this vibe since the moment I arrived.
Coming from the airport, at night, I got welcomed by a skyline filled with millions of lights stretched over a huge valley. This city is alive night and day.
During my stay I stayed in El Poblado, known as the more fancy and tourist friendly neighbourhood, filled with some hipster boutiques and restaurants and bars for everyone’s needs from Veggie to Italian to Asian Streetfood. At night time this street is buzzing with locals as well as travelers hanging out and going out for drinks. It is cool to grab a drink and eat some food here but I would recommend to definitely check out the other ( less known and rated as more dodgy) neigbourhoods, I am mentioning later in my posts, to get the real Medellin experience.
If you go down a few blocks from El Poblado, you will find the Zona Rosa surrounding Parque Lleras which is full of clubs, nice restaurants and hip bars. Parque Poblado is spacious, and at night, full of young people drinking and chatting. One personal recommendation is to go to Calle 9+1, situated as the name says itself, in Calle 9. For the lovers of the underground party scene this is the place to be to catch a techno party in a kind of hidden bar in this street and party until the sun comes up. Ask the locals for this place and they will show you the way. They play an alternative, funky techno-style music and they have special guest DJ’s almost every weekend.
Another strong aspect of Medellin is definitely the public transportation, consisting of a strong metro line of 5 different lines bringing you wherever you want to in a finger snap. Just keep in mind that they are almost every time super crowded. If you are coming from El Poblado, the easiest way to take the metro is to start in San Antonio, which is kind of the middle of the whole principal metro line. So you can start exploring the different barrios in both sides.
My first stop took me to Parque Berrio where you can find a nice mix of some architectural highlights as well as some little plazas where you can stroll around and sniff up the atmosphere of Medellin.
From the Botero Plaza, I started walking around the whole city for hours. What I love the most about Medellin is that it is a city full of contrasts. First of all there is a lot of contrast between the different barrios with different styles of architecture. From modern skyscrapers to churches on the little plazas to the houses in the favelas at the highest point of the city. This city is so diverse. Second there is so much street art on every corner of the street which makes Medellin such a treat for the eye and it adds up an extra touch of that charm it already has.
After soaking up all the street art around town, tasting the delicious street food you can find on every corner of the streets, you can start discovering these other highlights in Medellin, you can not miss out on.
El Centro – The city center of Medellin
Plaza Botero — the plaza filled with Fernando Botero’s most famous sculptures
Museo de Antioquia — art museum in front of Plaza Botero
Jardín Botánico – a beautiful botanical garden, great to just wander around or spend an afternoon in the parc. While there, don’t miss out on Orquideorama or the butterfly house.
Carabobo y Avenida Junin – The busy shopping streets of El Centro, definitely cool to check out this busy street where the locals are in their element trying to sell as much as possible.
Barrio Populares y Communa 13
Barrio Populares or the Favelas of Medellin and its famous communa 13 were just a few years ago known as one of the most dangerous barrios in Medellin. It was not a place to be for tourists as violence was around every corner. However through a series of events, violence has been significantly reduced. Communa 13 is now an important tourist attraction and you can not miss out on being there to see how the city has moved forward from its history and bad reputation. Although it sounds like taking your belongings or life at risk, there is plenty of security and police everywhere in the barrio just to put you at ease and to keep everything under control.
Best way to get there: Take the Metro Cable in La Estrella. The metro line changes into a cable lift which takes you all the way up above the Favelas, treating you with a breathtaking panoramic view over the city and the green valley filled with a sky full of clouds and rays of sunlight touching the city every now and then.
If you really want to indulge into the streets of the Favelas, take the Toucan’s Café’s Medellin Graffiti Tour. This tour is organised by a foundation of a group of local graffiti & hip hop artists who are responsible for making Communa 13 beautiful again by realising 95% of the graffiti art in the area. When you join this tour you also financially support them in their mission to educate local youth in the art of graffiti, hip hop, breakdance and rapping.
Other famous barrios to visit are Envigado and Sabaneto.
Ofcourse Medellin has a lot more to offer. To really get the best Medellin experience, just walk around town, speak with locals to get recommendations and explore but be conscious of encountering any less touristy, kind of dodgy neighbourhoods, taking care of your belongings.
Depending on how adventurous or maybe crazy you are.. I found it cool to wander around in these areas too, such as La Playa where you can see and feel the contrast of the Upper Class in El Poblado to this kind of drugscene, more lower class area in the city. I had an amazing hamburger at a little food stand on the square. The size of it is enormous so maybe you’ll make some homeless people happy too by offering them to finish your food just like we did.