1. Free Walking Tour of Downtown Medellin
Taking the free walking tour of Downtown Medellin is a great place to start when visiting Medellin because it gives you a great introduction to some of the historic sites as well as the history of the city. Our guide for the tour was excellent, his name was German and he actually memorized every single person’s name in the group and where they were from, it was pretty exceptional!
You can book the tour online for free and then you just give a tip to the guide based on how good the tour was. In our experience, the guides at free walking tours are usually way better than paid tour guides because they have to put in a lot of effort to make tips. If for some reason the tour guide is not very great, you’re not paying a hand and a foot for the tour; just pay on the lower end for the tip.
2. Walk Through Parque Arví
Parque Arví is a must when traveling to Medellin. Connected by the MetroCable public transit system, this park is a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of city life in Medellin. Taking a ride on the MetroCable is worth it alone; the park is a bonus!
When heading to Parque Arví, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the park. While the ride on the MetroCable is really cool, if you have to take the Metro to the MetroCable the trip to Parque Arví it can easily take over an hour and a half. We didn’t realize it would take this long and arrived at the park right before it closed, however we were able to fit in a quick hike a waterfall (yes, we got a little lost).
If you’re interested in traveling to Parque Arví, check out our video below!
3. Comuna 13
Comuna 13 used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin in the 80’s and 90’s which has now been revived through art. The neighborhood is located on a steep hillside and in an effort to revitalize the area, escalators were built to connect the neighborhood on the hillside. Murals were painted on the walls and slowly but surely the area became a tourist attraction.
Visiting Comuna 13 can be a bit overwhelming. There are large crowds in a small area, and if you’re doing it by yourself you won’t necessarily have the historical context that makes the place magical. We did it by ourselves and after visiting we would definitely recommend taking a tour to go see Comuna 13 to get the full package.
4. Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero is named after Fernando Botero, a famous artist and sculpture in Colombia because 23 of his famous sculptures are on display in the plaza. This plaza is in downtown Medellin and could possibly be on the Free Walking tour – if you don’t do the tour, visiting the plaza is easy via the Metro. Botero donated these sculptures to the city of Medellin so that his art could be accessible to the masses.
5. Museo de Antioquia
If you visit Plaza Botero, you have to drop in to Museo de Antioquia because it’s located on the plaza. This museum is known to be one of the best in Medellin and it’s definitely worth a 1-2 hour visit. The displays range from modern to classical art; a little something for everyone!
If you enjoyed the Fernando Botero sculptures in Plaza Botero you’ll find an extensive exhibit of Botero’s work including some paintings and drawings within the museum. The strange proportions he uses for humans and animals are so unique and has made him one of my favorite artists.
6. Ride the Metro and MetroCable
If you are heading to Parque Arví, you will most likely be forced to ride the metro. If not, you should definitely ride the metro because it’s inexpensive, a great way to get around Medellin, and it’s really nice and well taken care of. The people of Medellin are very proud of their Metro and therefore they take very good care of it – definitely a strange concept for us New Yorkers to understand.
Do not miss taking a ride on the MetroCable. This innovative public transit system conquers mountains like it’s nothing and connects lower income communities to the center city. Taking a ride on any of the MetroCable gives you beautiful views and is well worth it even if you jump on and ride it until it gets all the way back to the station you started at.
7. Eat at Mercado del Rio
Mercado del Rio, a market modeled partially after Chelsea Market in New York, is a great place to grab a meal with friends because there are so many different options to choose from. This market is full of food and alcohol vendors and it looks like a perfect place to grab a beer with coworkers during happy hour. For us travelers, it’s a great place to try a lot of food and enjoy a beer while people watching. It’s a trendy spot and we really enjoyed our time there.
For more suggestions on where to eat in Medellin, check out our guide to vegetarian food in Medellin; even if you are not a vegetarian this list has options for everyone!
8. Drink Craft Beer at Tres Cordilleras
Tres Cordilleras is the best brewery we found in Medellin and we visited on two separate occasions. It has exceptional beer and the brewery is a really cool space. When you visit at night, you pay an entrance fee which includes 5 drink tickets and a glass that you can keep or return and get a refund.
Check the schedule on Facebook – on some Saturdays they have salsa nights and it’s so much fun! Find a friend and go check out Tres Cordilleras for a nice night out.
9. Take Salsa Dancing Lessons
After heading to a salsa night at Tres Cordilleras, you might feel like you need to work on your skills a bit more before you feel confident hitting the dance floor. There is no better place to take salsa lessons than in Medellin.
We took lessons at a studio called EUPHORIA Dance Studio and we would highly recommend them! Private classes were affordable and the instructors we had were very knowledgeable.
10. Take a Colombian Cooking Class
One of our favorite parts of traveling is trying the local food in each location we go to. However, we like to take it a step further and actually learn how to cook the food we are enjoying so much. The best way to do this is to organize a cooking class.
In Colombia, we took an incredible cooking class through Airbnb Experiences. We highly recommend Nataly – we ended up making all the recipes she taught us on our own and they were really good!
11. Drink Aguardiente
You can’t come to Colombia and not try Colombia’s national spirit, Aguardiente. It’s usually consumed in the form of a shot. It’s not incredibly high alcohol percentage but still be cautious with this stuff; the English translation of Aguardiente is literally “firewater”!
12. Take a Day trip to Guatapé
While it’s not in Medellin, a trip to Medellin without visiting Guatapé would be a mistake. Accessible by bus or by booking a day trip through a tour company, it’s only about a 2 hour ride each way. We ended up booking a tour through Viator that was inexpensive and even stopped in a couple small towns along the way. The Rock of Guatapé has an otherworldly appearance that is in direct contrast to the relatively flat land surrounding the rock, making it stunning and very odd to look at.
The Rock of Guatapé is actually privately owned, so you have to pay an entrance fee to climb the 600+ stairs to the top of the rock. It’s definitely worth the cost of admission because the views from the top of the surrounding landscape are absolutely breathtaking.
We would have visited all of our honorable mentions in one day, however, we tried to go on a Monday and they were all closed. Word to the wise – don’t do anything in Medellin on a Monday!
1. Explora Park
This museum looks really cool and I wish we could have checked it out – it seems very interactive and modernized. Definitely worth a visit if you have time in Medellin! (Again, not on Monday)
2. Jardín Botánico
Jardín Botánico looked like a beautiful complex from the outside, but it was actually closed for maintenance when we tried to visit. However, it’s supposedly very lovely to take a stroll around the park.
3. Planetario de Medellin
The planetarium seems to be very modern and well put together – after the research I did I was very excited to check it out! Might be a good rainy day activity.