You are currently viewing 11 must-see places and things to do in Medellín, Colombia

Located in the Aburrá Valley of the Andes Mountains, Medellín is a vibrant and colorful city that has changed a lot in the past years. Nowadays, it’s largely considered one of Colombia’s top destinations for travelers and digital nomads.

Last December, I traveled to Colombia with my boyfriend. We landed in the “City of Eternal Spring” for the first time, ready to discover its main attractions and vibrant nightlife.

We stayed in Medellín for less than a week before heading to Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park, but I was able to visit quite a bit. 

Here’s a quick overview of Medellín and 11 things to do and see, plus 1 bonus activity for you to enjoy nearby.

 

Overview of visiting Medellín

With a population of around 4 million people (just a bit less than Montreal), Medellín is the 2nd-largest city in Colombia after Bogotá and the capital of the department of Antioquia.

Location of Medellín (image credit: Google Maps)

 

For a long time, Medellín was believed to be one of the most violent cities in the world. Its bad reputation mainly comes from its association with drug cartels and the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.

This reputation hasn’t completely disappeared, but Medellín is nothing like it used to be. The city is now celebrated for its spirit of innovation and resilience! 

Overall, Medellín is now widely regarded as an affordable, beautiful city with a nice climate, attracting travelers and digital nomads from all over the world. 

Kevin, one of Flytrippers’ co-founders, also loved his month there back in 2017.

Medellín is also one of the many destinations in Colombia where you can get many free nights in nice hotels with the welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Best credit cards for
Marriott points
Marriott Bonvoy American Express® Card
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $477
Card fee: $120
Marriott points: 53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $630
Card fee: $150
Marriott points: 70,000 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k/month for 12 months
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $878
Card fee: $250
Marriott points: 86,400 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Cobalt® Card
American Express Cobalt Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $750/month for 12 months
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $648
Card fee: $156
Marriott points: 72,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Platinum Card® from American Express
Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $10k in 3 months
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $1264
Card fee: $799
Marriott points: 96,000 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Business Edge Card
American Express Business Edge Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
limited time
Rewards: ≈ $540
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Marriott points: 60,000 pts
(50,000 Amex pts)
after welcome bonus
American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
limited time
Rewards: ≈ $810
Card fee: $199
Marriott points: 90,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Business Platinum Card from American Express
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $15k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $1801
Card fee: $799
Marriott points: 118,500 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express® Green Card
American Express Green Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $119
Card fee: $0
Marriott points: 13,200 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
Marriott points
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Marriott
points
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $477
Card fee: $120
53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $630
Card fee: $150
70,000 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k/month for 12 months
Rewards: ≈ $878
Card fee: $250
86,400 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Cobalt Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $750/month for 12 months
Rewards: ≈ $648
Card fee: $156
72,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $10k in 3 months
Rewards: ≈ $1264
Card fee: $799
96,000 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Business Edge Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $540
Card fee: $99
60,000 pts
(50,000 Amex pts)
after welcome bonus
limited time
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $810
Card fee: $199
90,000 pts
after welcome bonus
limited time
Business Platinum Card from American Express
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $15k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1801
Card fee: $799
118,500 pts
after welcome bonus
American Express Green Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $119
Card fee: $0
13,200 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

My experience in Medellín

You should definitely add Medellín to your travel bucket list. I found the people friendly (almost no one speaks English), the metro is great (especially the cable cars), and the food is tasty. 

My boyfriend and I arrived late at night, so we could admire the city lights on our Uber ride to our accommodation. 

If you’re Canadian, there is a dedicated kiosk at the border when you arrive in Colombia, where you must pay a new special reciprocity tax of 190,000 COP (~ C$80). This is a direct response to the tax imposed by the Canadian government on Colombians visiting the country. This tax can be paid by credit card (or in Colombian Pesos).

According to the official travel rules and entry requirements, proof of onward travel may be required, so we booked one. If, like us, you don’t want to take any chances, you can book a plane ticket that can be canceled free of charge within 24 hours on most U.S. airlines, and then cancel it within the following 24 hours. That’s completely free and much better than paying a service that charges you for that.

Like in any country, you can get a cheap eSIM like airalo (Andrew, Flytrippers’ other co-founder used airalo in Colombia in 2023) or get a really cheap local SIM card (I recommend Claro). Both require having an unlocked phone but almost all new-ish phones are now.

In terms of safety, everyone was so afraid that I would get kidnapped in Colombia (literally), but, of course, nothing happened to me. The fact that I wasn’t solo traveling in this country really made me feel safer. 

That being said, a couple of travelers I met had their phone stolen at knife-point in the afternoon in Bogotá. So even if you feel safe, it is important to remain cautious and attentive in this country, more than in Canada obviously. 

Here are 11 things to do in Medellín.

 

1. El Poblado

El Poblado is the main upscale district in Medellín. It is pretty calm during the week, but can get wild on the weekends!

El Poblado, Colombia (photo credit: Juliana Morales Ramírez)

 

There are many restaurants, nightclubs, rooftop bars, and patios in all the streets around Parque Lleras.

In the area, you can also admire the colorful street art and visit the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM).

I went to many cafés in El Poblado. Plenty of them have good wi-fi for working, and the coffee is also excellent (as expected in Colombia). 

If you’re a coffee lover, El Poblado is a great place to join a coffee tour to visit local coffee farms and learn about the coffee-making process.

 

2. Laureles

Laureles is less frequented by visitors than El Poblado, yet it still has lots of cool places to go out and cafés to work from.

Jardín Botánico de Medellín, Colombia (photo credit: Oneil Williams)

 

It’s a nice neighborhood and easy to explore on foot. Before lunch, we started with a long walk in Parque de Laureles. 

You can also visit the stunning Jardín Botánico de Medellín and the Mercado de Laureles.

In this neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of dance classes to learn how to salsa, bachata, or tango

 

3. Plaza Botero

In the heart of La Candelaria, one of the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods lies Plaza Botero.

Plaza Botero, Colombia (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

This square is known for its large bronze sculptures made by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero, originally from Medellín. I find his style truly unique. 

His sculptures depict voluptuous figures and animals. It’s one of the city’s most popular attractions.

 

4. Museo de Antioquia

Only a short distance from Plaza Botero, there is the Museo de Antioquia, an art museum with an extensive collection including both local artists as well as international masterpieces.

Museo de Antioquia, Colombia (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

The most famous painting you’ll see there is Fernando Botero’s “The Death of Pablo Escobar” (La Muerte de Pablo Escobar). 

This painting depicts the dramatic, highly publicized killing of the Colombian drug lord in 1993.

 

5. Parque Arví

Parque Arví is perfect for nature lovers who enjoy hiking and picnics away from the city’s noise.

 

Another element that makes this ecological nature reserve so special is getting there. You can hop on the Metrocable, a cable car that takes you up into the mountains and gives you amazing views of the park’s surroundings (more about this Metrocable below).

 

6. Free walking tour

Real City Tours and Beyond Colombia offer free walking tours to learn more about this incredible city.

Medellín, Colombia (photo credit: César Gaviria)

 

Travelers from around the world come to Medellín hoping to do a Pablo Escobar tour, but, just so you know, this is quite controversial. Many locals disapprove of these tours because they tend to glorify criminal conduct.

 

7. Comuna 13

Comuna 13 used to be the most dangerous area in the city, but that was before! 

Residents have made significant efforts to transform it into a colorful and welcoming neighborhood, and it’s now one of the most visited districts in all of Medellín.

Comuna 13, Colombia (photo credit: Josseph Downs)

 

I highly recommend a tour with a local guide to learn more about the incredible story of this area. Learning more about the difficult yet hopeful history of this neighborhood was truly inspiring.

We explored art galleries, rode the iconic escalators (escaleras eléctricas), purchased souvenirs, admired unique views, and treated ourselves to delicious Colombian cuisine. 

I can honestly say that this was the highlight of my stay in Medellín. 

Don’t forget to try a Colombian Michelada! It’s a refreshing beer-based cocktail perfect for hot days, and many people sell it in Comuna 13.

 

8. Pub crawl

You want to party with other travelers like yourself? Join a pub crawl. There are lots of those in Medellín.

Powered by GetYourGuide

 

It’s a great and fun way to meet other travelers. 

The commune of El Poblado is, without a doubt, the place to be if you love to party.

 

9. Language exchange 

There are not many English-speaking Colombians, even in the more touristy places, so it is really a great city to learn Spanish. 

Language exchanges are great events to attend if you want to practice and learn.

Market, Medellin, Colombia (photo credit: Transly Translation Agency)

 

It also gives you a unique insight into the local culture that you wouldn’t get if you stuck to only the popular attractions.

 

10. Cable car

Except for the line that goes to Parque Arví (line L), Medellín’s cable cars weren’t designed for travelers. 

They were designed as part of a social transformation initiative to transport locals who live high up in the mountains, far from the city center.

Medellín, Colombia (photo credit: Alvaro Palacios)

 

Still, I suggest you hop on to see the beauty of this city from above. We took the J and H lines, and the views were just breathtaking.

 

11. Pool day

Like most travelers, sadly I didn’t really know about travel rewards before joining the Flytrippers team, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of a pool day at a free hotel to relax a bit after busy days exploring the city.

The Four Points by Sheraton Medellin Hotel is in a great location in El Poblado and costs just 10,200 points per night (51,000 points for 5 nights).

The current welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card gives you 53,000 points (or 106,000 points if your companion takes advantage of it too).

Price of the Four Points by Sheraton Medellin (image credit: Marriott)

 

In addition to the pool, the hotel has a jacuzzi, sauna, and Turkish hammam. 

If you want another option, the Fairfield by Marriott Medellin Sabaneta requires even fewer points and is just outside Medellín in a smaller city known for its vibrant weekend activities.

 

Bonus: Guatapé

Guatapé is located in the countryside, only 79 kilometers from Medellín, so it’s perfect for a weekend city escape. 

Guatapé, Colombia (photo credit: Jossie Díaz)

 

Its nickname is the “Town of Zócalos” because locals decorate the façades of their homes with colorful bas-relief details called zócalos.

The most iconic thing to do in Guatapé is, without a doubt, to climb the El Peñón de Guatapé. This huge granite rock formation, also called “El Peñol” or “La Piedra”, is 200 meters tall (656 feet).

I spent a weekend in Guatapé in January 2024. I will write a detailed article about my experience very soon!

 

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Summary

The city of Medellín is now a top destination for travelers. Super colorful and dynamic, this city is a must on your itinerary if you’re going to Colombia. I went there this winter and definitely recommend these places in the city.

 

What would you like to know about things to do in Medellin, Colombia? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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Featured image: Bogota, Colombia (photo credit: Random Institute)

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