Medellín has brightly emerged from a massive transformation in past years. From drugs and violence to innovation and sustainability, it’s safe to say Medellín is now a tourism hotspot. And the Colombian city’s revamped image hasn’t come at the expense of its residents. Instead, the city’s forward-thinking changes have empowered the local population, making Medellín an even more intriguing city for visitors to enjoy alongside its thriving locals. Here are some of the best things to do and see when visiting the Latin American hub of Medellín.
Getting to Medellín
Fly nonstop to this Colombian city from various US hubs such as New York or Miami. The José María Córdova airport (MDE) is about a 30-minute ride from the city center of Medellín. Check for updates on flight deals here and some of the top hotels here.
Experience the Casa de la Memoria
Instead of burying its problematic history, Medellín has chosen instead to highlight its past in order to move the city forward. The Casa de la Memoria Museum provides a deep dive into the conflicts the country has faced in the past, adding a humanistic angle by sharing stories from locals affected by the turmoil.
Ride the Metrocable
Part of the city’s metro system, Medellín’s cable car is a symbol of its grand innovation. Connecting the hilly Comuna 13 to the city center, the cable cars provide a way for local residents to access employment opportunities and public facilities that they previously weren’t able to get to. For visitors, it’s the perfect way to explore the city.
Explore Comuna 13
Another part of the city’s innovation comes from the orange escalators placed throughout this mountaintop collection of neighborhoods. Wander the area using the outdoor escalators and plan to eat, shop and explore local galleries. If you’d like to benefit the local community, join a street art tour led by a local guide.
Relax in Arvi Park
This enormous green space sits on a hilltop high above the city. It’s also accessible by the city’s metrocable. With a number of hiking and biking trails, picnic spaces, a food market, wetland areas and beyond, you’ll discover that Medellín’s greenery is just as intriguing as its urban spaces.
Learn to Salsa
While Cali is known as the salsa hub of the world, Medellín has a pretty fantastic salsa scene too. Either hit the clubs, or take a class at one of the city’s top dance schools. An easy way to book a class would be to book one via Airbnb experiences. If you’d prefer to hit the town, head to a popular spot like Dancefree (they also offer classes). If you’re scared to join the dance floor, enjoy the live music over a cocktail instead.
Wander Plaza Botero
This sculpture park is full of Fernando Botero’s exaggerated and larger-than-life works of art — 23 bronze statues created in Botero’s famed aesthetic Boterismo. Wander the park and snap photos of all the artfully designed and inflated statues of animals, humans and more.
Peruse the Museum of Antioquia
Located just off the Plaza Botero, this museum features more than 5,000 works of art. The collection includes many famous works by Botero himself as well as paintings and sculptures by other artists. The recent addition of a special section ‘Museo 360’ aims to share the reality of Medellín’s past, present and future with the world.
Sip Latin American Wines
While Colombia is famous for coffee, it does indeed produce some wine. A small region called La Unión just north of Cali does grow grapes and produce wine. However, production is small, and it may be best to sample some Malbec from Argentina or a Chilean Cab instead when out and about in Medellín.
Try Italian Wines
Italian wines probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Colombia. But one winemaker discovered just the right climate for Italian grapes about an hour-and-a-half outside of Medellín. Viña Sicilia allows visitors a small taste of Italy in the heart of Antioquia. And, if you get a bit hot during tasting, there’s an onsite pool too. The winery is close enough for a day trip, but does have a hotel and spa attached to the property for longer stays.
Sample Colombian Treats
Colombia’s El Poblado district is one of the best places to find both international and Colombian food, but don’t forget to get your arepas from street vendors. Make sure to give the national Colombia dish, Bandeja Paisa a try. It’s basically a huge tray filled with beans, rice, fried plantains, fried pork rind, eggs, chorizo and more.