Published July 24, 2020
The prevalent thoughts people associate with Medellin are drugs and Pablo Escobar. While it can’t be denied that it has had a dark and infamous history, the future is bright for this city. It’s quite simply turned things around. Homicide rates have gone down about 94% since the peak of the drug cartels in 1991. This turnaround is said to be attributed to the introduction of the metro, the public transit system. It gave people hope that things could get better and provided opportunities that weren’t there before for work.
In the present, it’s touted as one of the best cities to live in South America. This astonishing turnaround has led to the rise in tourism in the City of Eternal Spring. The lovely city is now full of hardworking, law-abiding folk known as “Paisa.” Medellin has many beautiful sights, delicious food, and unforgettable memories waiting to be made. So, here are ten things that should be on your itinerary.
Visit the Jardín Botánico de Medellin.
If you’re as much of a nature-lover as I am, you’ll surely enjoy a visit to Jardín’s Botanical Gardens. Stretched across 14 hectares of land is a natural escape within the bustling city of Medellin. Aside from taking a breath of fresh air, you can learn a thing or two here about Colombia’s biodiversity, as this is home to over 1,000 species of plants.
Your next thought is probably how much the entry cost is. The good news for you is that it’s totally free! There are many activities you can enjoy here, like having a picnic and checking out the Orquideorama. The Orquideorama is a towering bronze archway. Each pillar is connected to hexagons, which are supposed to be its petals, making them look like a bunch of bouquets.
To get here, you can take the metro or a taxi. To use the metro, take Line A and get down at Universidad. You’ll then need to take a quick two-minute walk before arriving at the gardens’ entrance.
Take part in a walking tour of Comuna 13.
Before Comuna 13 became a hot tourist attraction for its dazzlings murals and street art, it was the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellin. Once infamous for gang violence and illegal trafficking, it is now a part of many walking tours. Along with street art, you’ll regularly see street performers celebrating a new culture of artistry and music in this area.
One of the known features in Comuna 13 is the outdoor escalators. The government introduced these back in 2011. These escalators allowed this neighborhood better access to the streets, which helped reduce stigma against it and its people. The people are much less afraid to leave their homes and quality of life has improved significantly.
A walking tour here isn’t to focus on the violence of the past. Rather, it is meant to celebrate hope and progress.
Take a cable car to Parque Arvi.
This isn’t your typical commute. While the railway is safe and efficient, it isn’t quite as scenic as taking a cable car. Even if you don’t plan on staying at the park, the trip going there is equally special. Parque Arvi is a massive nature reserve and one of the most famous tourist attractions just a little outside Medellin.
When I say massive, I mean it has 39,500 acres of forest and ecosystem. This translates to 33 miles of walkable trails. One of the more well-known trails among these leads to the Lagune de Guarne, a beautiful lake. Some of the popular activities you can enjoy here are biking, horseback riding, camping, and picnicking. Just be sure to bring some sunscreen and be prepared for a good time.
Visit Museo Casa de la Memoria
If you’re up for the violent history behind Medellin, you might want to drop by here. The Museo Casa de la Memoria in Medellin is a multimedia museum depicting the crime that plagued the city in the past. This museum sheds light on the armed conflict while paying tribute and respect to the victims of such an event.
The museum serves as a reminder for future generations of the turmoil that they’ve had to overcome. It’s there to help them face the dark past that they may ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. You can read the different testimonies of those who’ve been affected by these events.
Visit Museo de Antioquia
Likely the most famous museum in Medellin is the Museo de Antioquia. It houses roughly 100 artworks by the world-renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Botero is known for his artwork that depicts people of overly-exaggerated volume.
Museum staff recommends you start on the third floor of the museum, which holds the bulk of Botero’s work. For us foreigners, the entrance cost is 18,000 pesos (roughly $5).
Stroll through Plaza Botero
In addition to paintings, Fernando Botero spent a lot of his time sculpting too. Walking through the plaza is a whimsical experience, seeing voluptuous ladies and chunky men riding even chunkier horses. He gave these creations life in a design studio in Pietra Santa, Italy. If you plan on taking pictures with the sculptures, you’ll want to come early to avoid crowds.
The plaza features more than twenty of Botero’s works, and I’m sure it will bring a smile to even the grumpiest man’s face.
Visit the most colorful town in Colombia: Guatapé.
A short bus ride away from Medellin, Guatapé is a must-visit for any influencer or somebody who just wants something to post on their Instagram. There’s an entrance fee, which is 18,000 Colombian Pesos (about $5), which is relatively cheap for quite the attraction. Walk around with your camera and snap a few or many pictures of the sights.
They also offer some street food here, which you should definitely give a try. And once you’re done with that, you can people-watch while enjoying a coffee, for which Colombia is world-famous.
While the salsa dancing capital of Colombia is Cali, Medellin is no slacker in that category. Salsa dancing is a great way to blow off steam and meet the locals. And let me tell you, it’s true what they say, the women in Medellin are incredibly gorgeous.
Bar-hopping at Parque Lleras
If the nightlife is right up your alley, make a trip to Plaza Lleras. Hit the streets and go bar-hopping. With the sheer number of bars lined up, you’ll surely be able to find one that suits your tastes. It’s generally safe to walk around here at night, but you can never be too careful. Just make sure you and your company don’t get too wasted that you won’t be able to return to your hotel.
Pig out on some Bandeja Paisa.
If you could have a dish that fully embodies the Paisa culture, it would be Bandeja Paisa. This dish is one of the most traditional Colombian ones, featuring a boatload of food on one plate. Because of its sheer size, it’s often referred to as “a festival of meat on a Frisbee-sized plate.” If that’s not enough to convince you of its size, the word bandeja actually means platter in Spanish.
So what’s in this dish? Here is the food you can expect to find on this dish:
- Two types of Colombian sausage
- Ground beef
- A slice of avocado
- Red Beans
- Chicharrón (a crispy fried pork rind)
- A plantain
- An arepa (a bit like cornbread)
- A fried egg
And yes. That’s all in one dish. You’ll find this incredible plate of wonders practically anywhere in Medellin.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.