Discover the best things to do in Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city and popular travel destination. From the best museums in the city to the best outdoor spaces, we’ve got you covered.
Medellin Colombia has recently become one of the most popular cities in Colombia and for good reason. It’s a melting pot of cultural activity, history and a tremendous restaurant, cafe and nightlife scene. Exploring Medellin’s leafy, jungle-like neighbourhoods, visiting museums and coffee farms, taking cultural tours and trying its amazing food and bar scene are all musts in this hilly, verdant city.
In the last few years, it’s also become a digital nomad hotspot due to its amazing tech and internet infrastructure, affordability and a variety of amazing cafes and places from which to work. If you’re planning to visit and spend time in one of Colombia’s major urban areas, make sure it’s Medellin.
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THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MEDELLIN
Medellin is famous for being the city of eternal spring with comfortable temperatures all year round, making it a warm destination to visit during any month of the year.
Temperatures are stable all year round with highs of 22°C/71°F and lows of 13°C/ 55°F so you’ll need to make sure to pack some light clothes as well as long pants and a jacket for the chiller evening.
When it comes to rainfall things vary quite a bit more. Medellin in general is quite a cloudy and rainy city with the most rain falling in April and May and also October and November, so if you’re not one for the rain then avoid these months. The months that see the least amount of rain are December, January and February- the high season for travelling in Colombia.
WHERE TO STAY
One of the newest additions to the Medellin skyline, the Landmark is a space made with the modern traveller in mind. Located in the Manila neighbourhood a lovely chilled area right next to El Poblado, this property features a bright, airy and beautifully designed lobby, cosy, swoon-worthy rooms and a heated rooftop pool, jacuzzi and terrace with glorious views of the city. It has everything you need to relax after a day of exploring Medellin.
Each design-focused room has brand-new modern facilities, a small balcony, a work area, fast wifi and some of the most comfortable beds we slept in in Colombia. Landmark is easily my favourite place to stay in Medellin.
The Somos Hotel
Another great option for travellers wishing to stay in El Poblado, The Somos is a super hip space that allows travellers to rest, work and relax.
With a real trendy industrial feel, rooms still feel cosy and comfortable and have everything you need for a great stay. There’s also a beautiful rooftop bar and a downstairs cafe giving guests a variety of places to relax outside their rooms.
The Click Clack Hotel
Cutting-edge architecture, exceptional service and design-focused spaces are just some of the things you can expect from the Click-click hotel, one of Medellin’s trendiest hotels. Located in the heart of El Poblado, this hotel has everything you need for a beyond-comfortable stay from large, luxury beds to an excellent breakfast.
Even if you’re not staying here I highly recommend coming into the cafe for a drink when wandering around El Poblado as it’s one of the most instagrammable places in Medellin, especially for the design-obsessed.
WHERE TO EAT
There’s no doubt that Medellin has some of the best restaurants in Colombia, especially when thinking about healthy and plant-based food. For some of the best eats in the city, you’ll want to base yourself in El Poblado, where most of the most amazing cafes, restaurants and bars are.
For the best breakfast and brunch in town, head to Azai Natura, a simple cafe in the Manila neighbourhood. If you’re staying at the Landmark, then you’re in luck because this amazing place is just opposite- making it the perfect choice for breakfast each day.
Their menu is full of acai bowls, avocado toast, syrupy pancakes, decadent waffles, banana bread french toast as well as coffee, juices, adaptogen lattes and smoothies and kombucha. They also have a range of egg dishes and while it’s not 100% plant-based everything on the menu can be made vegan- just ask for the vegan version of the pancakes and waffles.
Restaurante Kai or Kaime as they are sometimes known are leaders in the plant-based, conscious cuisine scene in Medellin. Their food and concept are conscious, sustainable, creative and beautifully presented to make you feel elevated and high on life.
Their menu of modern fusion cuisine is full of amazing entrees to share with friends, healthy and nutritious bowls as well as a wide range of burgers if you feel like something a little more filling. Everything is 100% plant-based and super creative. The restaurant itself is modern and beautifully decorated. This was one of my favourite restaurants in Medellin.
To get your Italian and pizza fix when in Medellin, head straight to Cafe Zorba for a romantic candle-lit dinner. This place is always super popular and packed but it does have some of the best pizza in town.
Their menu is short and sweet with only ten pizzas (three of which are plant-based), three entrees and a long drinks menu. You’ll want to order the hummus to start -they are famous for it- followed by a pizza of your choice. I got the Espinaca (spinach) pizza and it was amazing.
Helecho Vegan Sushi
A small Japanese eatery specialising in plant-based Japanese classics and sushi, Helecho is definitely worth visiting while in Medellin. Located just one block off Parque de El Poblado their simple menu features the most amazing vegan gyoza, creative sushi rolls, a variety of different soups and other entrees including teriyaki tofu and sweet and sour cauliflower.
A super popular multi-tiered restaurant, Alambique brings slow food back to El Poblado. Set in a gorgeous, jungle filled, creative space with one of the best rooftop bars in Medellin, this is a place to come with friends and family and share an evening together along with some great food and drinks.
On the menu, you’ll find entrees like stuffed avocados and tacos as well as mains that feature highly in meats and seafood. It’s not too veggie-friendly but it does have some vegan options on the menu.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MEDELLIN
Explore El Poblado
I’m pretty sure there is no neighbourhood in the world quite like El Poblado and one of the best things to do in Medellin is just to walk around and explore, both day and night.
El Poblado feels like a city that suddenly grew out of the surrounding jungle. It’s one of the greenest neighbourhoods in the world with giant trees and leafy plants growing on the sidewalks and there’s even an actual river running through the neighbourhood too.
The area is full of cafes, restaurants and bars as well as classy hotels, boutiques and local markets and one of the best things to do in Medellin is just to walk around and peek into everything. You’ll find all you need here and there really is little reason to go anywhere else in the city.
Some of my favourite businesses in El Poblado which I highly recommend seeking out are Pergamino Coffee, a great place for coffee and a spot of laptop time and the Click Clack Hotel for a drink at their cafe and to admire their design.
Visit Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero is Medellin’s most picturesque and famous square. Located in the commercial center of the city, Plaza Botero and the area around it is a bustling hub of commerce and activity.
In Plaza Botero itself, you’ll find several sculptures by Colombia artist Fernando Botero who is famous for his round, overly plump forms. You’ll be able to find sculptures scattered all over the square from human figures to animals.
On the plaza, you’ll also see the Antioquia museum and the rather prominent Palace of Culture Rafael Uribe Uribe, known for its distinct gothic-revival style. The building serves as a cultural center and I highly recommend going inside not just to see the building itself but to also check out the museum, art gallery and cafe.
Safety tip: While Botero Square itself is safe for travellers, the area directly north of Plaza Botero isn’t very safe so avoid strolling around. The square itself has a lot of police presence. Walking from the metro station to the Plaza is also fine but try to avoid this area at night.
Visit the Jardin Botanico
Medellin is known for its spring-like climate and its outdoor spaces and if you’re going to visit just one- make sure it’s Medellin’s Botanical Gardens. Medellin itself is so green and jungle-like but this might just be one of the best city parks we’ve visited.
Filled with a range of flora and fauna as well as benches, spaces to relax and cafes, you could spend a good few hours walking or even going for a jog around the winding paths. Head straight to the Botanical Garden’s pond where you can admire the ducks, terrapins and several iguanas that all live around here.
Also, don’t miss the park’s centrepiece, a giant bronze structure that provides shade yet complements the atmosphere beautifully. They’ve made a metallic and man-made structure look so organic and natural. Arrive first thing in the morning and you can take some great photos here and even possibly, join a yoga class or two.
Entrance to the Botanical Garden is free but make sure to bring a form of photo ID or a picture of it on your phone. At the time of writing staff were also asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter.
Go on a Tour of Comuna 13
Another must-do when in Medellin, Comuna 13 is infamous for once being the most dangerous and impoverished area of not just Medellin but Colombia. Before the turn of the century, Comuna 13 was rife with drug-related and organised crime but in the mid-2000s the government stepped in (after a government organised raid to remove insurgent groups that killed hundreds of civilians) and since then things have been looking up.
Families received new housing and benefits and six sets of escalators were installed to seriously improve the lives of the residents here as well, walking around such a steep, hillside neighbourhood is not an easy task.
Visiting Comuna 13 allows you to get out of the more affluent areas of the city and see how most Colombians actually live, how a real Colombian neighbourhood works and learn more about Colombia and Medellin’s past and future. You’ll also get to learn and see quite a bit of street art too.
Street art in Comuna 13 has been a way for local artists to express themselves and to paint their past and the future and you’ll see a lot of it around. As all the artwork has a story to tell, I highly recommend coming to Comuna 13 with a local guide-someone who can explain and tell you about the significance of the work you’re seeing.
Otherwise, to get to Comuna 13 take the metro to San Javier. From there, jump on bus 225i from just around the corner of the metro. Get off at the bus’s last stop and begin walking uphill to get to the heart of the neighbourhood. Alternatively, you can also take an Uber.
Spend some Time in the Parks
You’ll soon realise that Medellin is a city littered with parks and green spaces and some of the best things to do in Medellin revolve around taking advantage of this. Due to the sheer abundance of green space, you’re never far away from a potential picnic or space to be in nature.
Some of the best parks to visit are Parque Lleras, a small park and jungle-like green space right in the center of El Poblado, the Jardin Botanico and the local’s favourite Parque Arvi. While the first two are pretty simple to get to, Parque Arvi requires a bit more effort but it’s totally worth it.
Take a Cable Car to Parque Arvi for great views of the city
That brings me on to the next best thing to do in Medellin. If you’re looking for an escape to nature without going too far from the center of the city, Parque Arvi is it. Located on the high hill tops of eastern Medellin, this park is absolutely huge, full of amazing local flora and fauna and is the perfect place for outdoor activities such as running, cycling or mountain biking.
To get there you’ll need to take a ride in Medellin’s cable car system which is a great way of combining two of these best things to do in Medellin. The cable cars are part of the whole city’s transportation system and most of them are included in the cost of a single ticket.
From El Poblado, take the blue line A north to Acevedo where you need to change for cable car line K to Santo Domingo and then cable car line L all the way to Arvi. It’s a great way to see the city from above, especially on a clear day and get to know a different part of the city.
Try a Bandeja Paisa
This might sound a little strange but if you haven’t yet encountered it, a bandeja paisa is a well known Colombian dish. Bandeja means ‘tray’ in Spanish and that’s a pretty good description of what it is. It’s a GIANT plate full of rice, beans, fried plantain, fried egg, beef and pork crackling. It’s really heavy and filling but it’s something extremely Colombian that you simply must try.
If you’re vegetarian, vegan or looking for a healthier option, simply ask for a bandeja paisa without the meat and/or egg. Alternatively, there are a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Colombia that do a healthier, veggie-friendly bandeja paisa however we didn’t manage to find any in Medellin. If you do see it on a menu while exploring and you’re in the mood for something larger and more filling I highly suggest trying it at least once.
Idyl around Museo de Antioquia on Plaza Botero
When visiting Plaza Botero, you’ll no doubt see the Antioquia Museum occupying a whole block of the plaza. This is one of Medellin’s best museums and is highly worth visiting to learn more about the history and art of Medellin and its province (or department as they are called in Colombia), Antioquia.
The museum has a large collection of works by Medellin-born Fernando Botero and Pedro Nel Gomez as well as a lot of other modern and contemporary artworks from Colombian artists and international artists.
The museum also hosts a lot of rotating exhibitions and temporary collections which you are welcome to check out during your visit. This museum is one of the best in Colombia for art and one of the best things to do in Medellin’s center.
Visit a Market
Medellin has some pretty amazing markets that sell everything from crafts to fresh Colombian fruit. One of the best things to do in Medellin one afternoon is to go from market to market, exploring, chatting with friendly vendors and enjoying the amazing variety of food, fresh fruit and unique crafts on offer. Some of the best markets in Medellin are:
Mercado del Rio– a new, gastronomic market full of small restaurants, food stalls and bars. There’s not just Colombian food on offer but food from all around the world. If you’re a foodie this is the place for you.
Envigado Flea Market– the perfect place to come for souvenirs and crafts to take home in the Envigado neighbourhood. Sadly this market is only on once a month.
Mayorista Central Market– Medellin’s largest food market, come here to learn about the local food culture and to learn about produce. Colombia has some of the best fruit in the world so I highly recommend coming here to learn about and try some new fruit.
Go on a food tour
A food tour is one of the best ways to get to know a new country’s food culture, people and culture in general. Going on a food tour in Medellin will allow you to learn more about Colombian cuisine and the knowledgeable guide will take you to some of the best places in the city that you probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.
You can generally choose which meal you’d like to eat out for on your tour and you’ll be able to try some Colombian classics that include pan de yucca, arepas, ajiaco, and mondongo as well as deserts like merengon and buñuelos. Bandeja paisas are also available to try too.
Unfortunately, most general tours aren’t very veggie or plant-based friendly because, well, neither is traditional Colombian food. During my stay, I didn’t find any vegan or vegetarian food tours but fruit tours and coffee tours would be a great alternative.
Just two hours from Medellin lies the lakeside town of Guatape. This is one of the best day trips from Medellin but I highly recommend staying the night.
Guatape is one of Colombia’s heritage towns- towns with exceptionally rich culture and history. There is quite a bit to do in Guatape from walking around and exploring the colourful streets, boutique shopping for crafts and jewellery and of course getting out on the lake.
Guatape is set among a man-made reservoir and as the landscape here is so hilly, the result is lots of inlets and small islands strewn as far as the eye can see. One of the best things to do is to take a boat tour to visit many of the different islands where you can also peak at some pretty impressive properties- Colombian football star James Rodriguez, for example, has a house here.
Last but not least, a visit to Guatape isn’t complete without summiting the Piedra El Peñol, a giant granite rock. Heading up the 800+ stairs all the way to the top (no, there is no elevator) will allow you to get the best panoramic views of Guatape and its extraordinary islands and landscape.
Take a Free Medellin Walking tour
A free walking tour is another amazing way to learn about a city and its people, culture and history and the walking tours in Medellin are really good too.
Join one of the free walking tours in the city and a knowledgeable guide will take you around and show you all the main sights as well as tell you a little more about Medellin’s turbulent past and it’s more promising present and future.
The Free Walking Tours are generally held in El Centro, where you’ll walk around with a guide and discover the traditional squares, parks and streets.
One of the best free walking tours is with Real City Tours which you can book here. Just remember to give a generous tip at the end.
Museo Casa de la Memoria
A rather solemn multimedia museum dedicated to the history of Colombia and Medellin all the way from the former dictatorship to the narco cartels. In this museum, you’ll learn and read accounts from the residents of Medellin that share their memories from what once was one of the most violent cities in the world.
Museo Casa de la Memoria serves as a place of reflection and remembrance, a place of education and a stark reminder to current and future generations that violent strategies of the past should never repeat themselves. If you’re interested in Medellin and Colombia’s more recent past then I highly suggest visiting this little museum.
If you’re in need of some adventure and adrenaline, paragliding is one of the best extreme sports you can do here. Due to the hilly geography of the city, you can spend the morning paragliding in the hills above Medellin with spectacular views of the red-brick city below.
Tandem jumps generally offered in Medellin last about 15-20 minutes. If you’re really up for paragliding make sure to book it for the beginning of your stay in Medellin. The weather in Medellin is very unpredictable so if your booking gets cancelled due to weather you’ll still have time to reschedule it for another day.
If you’re up for it click here for the best tandem jump with includes transportation to the launch site and extra insurance.
Sample the Amazing Coffee
Some of Colombia’s best coffee regions include Antioquia, where Medellin is located and the provinces around so if you like coffee and want to find out more about Colombian coffee then this is the place.
Traditionally Colombia’s best beans were all exported, leaving the locals and businesses in Colombia with nothing remarkable, however, this has changed in recent years. Now, a number of coffee shops and businesses have grown to cater to travellers and locals who want to be able to drink the best Colombian brews in the country.
In Medellin, there’s no shortage of amazingly cool, hip cafes and coffee shops with amazing coffee to try. Pergamino Cafe, Cafe Velvet and Hija Mia Coffee Roasters are just some cafes coffee lovers must visit. In all of these, you can buy bags of exquisite beans to take home.
If you want to know even more then I’d highly recommend a coffee tour or a coffee workshop, where you can learn about how coffee is grown, picked and processed, visit a Finca or coffee farm or even learn how to make the best coffee you can using your preferred brewing method.
This tour, Avoeden Café Coffee Brewing Workshop is amazing for those that want to learn more about coffee and coffee making as well as improve their coffee-making skills.
If you prefer to visit a coffee farm, sign up for this highly-rated tour for half a day where you’ll visit an organic Finca, learn about the coffee production process and sample a few cups yourself.
Top Tips for Visiting Medellin
↠ Safety- I generally get a lot of questions over on my Instagram about safety in Colombia. In general, Colombia is a safe place to travel, more so in recent years, providing you stay on the tourist trail. Medellin is a city like any other where petty crime and robbery do happen occasionally just like it might in New York or LA. In general, Medellin is no longer a dangerous city.
Just like any other big city you visit you’ll need to exercise caution and use common sense but generally violent crime toward tourists is not common. Make sure to also leave your valuables in your hotel, don’t walk around with large amounts of cash on you (you don’t need to do this as most places in Medellin accept cards) and don’t walk around with your phone in your hand.
Also, you’ll want to be careful of passing motorbikes- they are the general culprits for snatching phones and bags out of your hand as they drive by. A good tip is to make sure to use the pavement as far away from the road as possible and ladies, wear your handbag on the opposite shoulder that’s facing the road. For this reason, a crossbody bag is the best option for Colombia.
↠ It’s common to get asked to show ID when entering museums, public places and tourist attractions in Colombia. You don’t need to carry your passport with you though as they accept copies so just have a photo of your ID saved on your phone.
↠ Don’t do the Pablo Escobar tour. While Escobar was a famous figure in Medellin’s and Colombia’s past, the man was a narco and a bringer of violence and destruction. Though mostly indirectly, he destroyed thousands of people’s lives and tore apart families.
In general Medellin’s citizens are ashamed of Escobar and many won’t even say his name. It’s important to not glorify this part of Medellin’s past and contribute toward Escobar related tourism because Medellin is so much more than that. If you want to know more about Pablo Escobar and Medellin’s drug cartels’ past it’s better to just Google it instead.
↠ Medellin’s public transport is excellent and the city’s citizens are very proud of it. I highly recommend using the metro for getting around. It’s safe, affordable, easy to work out and most importantly it avoids all the city’s traffic. El Poblado station is just a short walk away from the heart of El Poblado.
Check below for some more excellent organised tours in the area:
Which best things to do in Medellin are you excited about? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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