[updated August 2019]
Did you know that today more people are traveling to Colombia than ever before? And Medellin is one of the most popular cities to visit in Colombia. And for good reason.
With such a vibrant culture and so many things to do in Medellin, you will wonder why you didn’t visit earlier. No matter where you find yourself in Colombia, you can’t leave without experiencing the second most important city the country after Bogota.
Top Things to do in Medellin
In this guide, we are going to look at some of the top things to do in Medellin which will allow you to get to know this vibrant city and what it has in store for its visitors.
Imagine, you only have a couple of days to get to know the city and want to know what to do in Medellin? Let this guide give you some recommendations so you can make the most of the city in a short space of time. Firstly though, you need to get yourself acquainted with El Poblado.
1. Experience Life in El Poblado
El Poblado is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Medellin. Not as much with locals but more with most incoming tourists, making much of its restaurants nice, but a bit overpriced. By day, it is a beautiful place for walking around, shopping, eating and meeting with friends.
In El Poblado, you’ll encounter the famous Parque Lleras. Alongside Parque Lleras, you’ll find various art and craft stalls that offer their works to passers-by. If you walk further afield, you see that there are some nice green spaces to be able to relax and enjoy the hilltop views.
By night, the area surrounding Parque Lleras turns into a bustling party scene. It’s also none here as a Zona Rosa — a concentrated zone of nightlife and restaurants. If you are in Medellin for any length of time, you will no doubt find yourself returning back here regularly.
2. A Day at Parque Explora
Parque Explora is one of the many things to do in Medellin for people who like to discover new ideas and enjoy learning from science. This interactive science museum is packed with things to see. You’ll find an eye-catching aquarium as well as many different exhibitions created especially for kids.
The exhibitions include but are not limited to; dinosaurs, science, and even neuroscience. There’s a souvenir shop on site that has lots of interesting bits as well as a place to have a spot of lunch.
Overall, the people inside are very helpful and you’ll definitely need half a day there to examine all the exhibitions and take in all the information on display. It’s located in Zona Norte, the northern area of Medellin.
Video of Medellin
Enjoy the sights and natural sounds in this virtual video tour of Medellín:
Take a guided tour in Medellin — from a grafitti tour to Pablo Escobar to day trips out of town!
3. Ride The Metrocable
When thinking of what to do in Medellin and all the place you need to get to; one can not miss the opportunity to take advantage of its super pristine Metro system.
Catching the Metro is one of the most efficient ways to transport yourself around the city. However, you can take your adventure one step further and have a ride on the Metrocable.
The Metrocable is designed to reach parts of the city that the regular Metro cannot reach. As a visitor to the city, you will quickly learn that, with so many hills, the most spectacular views are from seen from above.
Taking the Metrocable, you can also arrive at Parque Arvi. There you could spend the whole day, if you want, walking around discovering the numerous outdoor trails there.
4. Sip on Guarapo
Guarapo is a widely popular drink in Colombia. Basically, it is sugarcane juice obtained by squeezing peeled sugar cane through a mechanical press.
When looking out for the top things to do in Medellin, no matter where you go, you’ll always be close to a refreshing cup of Guarapo. For that reason, it is a must-try product in Colombia.
You’ll find that Guarapo is served with most meals throughout Medellin, especially when opting for the menu of the day during lunch hour. This is the taste of South America in a cup, so it will be difficult for you as a visitor to leave the continent without trying it. Enjoy!
5. Explore Botero Plaza
Fernando Botero is perhaps Medellin’s most famous son (well, besides that dead Pablo guy). Most known for his paintings and sculptures of rotund people and animals, he has achieved international recognition and has exhibitions across the world.
Artist Fernando Botero left a wonderful free gallery of his work right in the centre of Medellin for everyone to see. Plaza Botero is full of his gorditas.
Many people will say to visit this place with caution, and yes, this area of the city is quite chaotic. However, don’t let that put you off, the square itself is safe to visit and feel free to take pictures of his rotund statues.
Visiting the Botero Plaza is a really one of the best things to do in Medellin. It’s a neat site to see the park filled with these whimsical sculptures and you’ll find that Botero’s sculptures are surrounded by sightseers from all over the world.
There’s also the The Museo de Antioquia situated a few footsteps away from this outdoor gallery. If you haven’t considered it already, this is a great opportunity to mingle amongst the locals of Medellin and the perfect place to do a spot of people watching.
Check out my other Colombia posts!
6. Take a stroll in the Jardín Botánico Medellín
The Botanical Gardens are possibly one of the most peaceful places in Medellin, located right next to the University of Antioquia. One of the great things is that it’s free to enter. Plus, you can casually spend a whole morning or afternoon there without interruptions. Just take the Metro from anywhere in the city to the station ‘Universidad’ to get dropped off right outside this delightful attraction.
On entry, you’ll be greeted by some useful information about the gardens and a cute souvenir shop. A few steps later and you are amongst the towering trees and exquisite plants that seem to grow like there is no tomorrow.
The Botanical Gardens are the perfect harmony for all the butterflies, birds and wildlife that can roam around freely. It has 4,500 flowers and 139 recorded bird speciesDefinitely one of the best things to do in Medellin if you like to see wildlife in its natural habitat.
7. See the Parque de Los Luces
The Park of Lights is a stunning place to hang out for an hour or so on a hot day and take in some sun. Like most places to visit in Colombia, you’ll find street vendors operating in the area so be sure to order yourself a ‘tinto’, the word for black coffee in Colombia.
This is an area designed for visitors to enjoy. It’s a very symbolic square that is made up of long concrete columns with lights that tower the area and shine light into the sky. Looking for the perfect Instagram opportunity? This is it! To lower the risk of unwanted attention, avoid this area at night, especially if you are traveling with expensive equipment.
It is advisable to visit this attraction during the day and it can be reached within a short 10-minute walk from Botero Plaza.
Go here for a great guide on more of what to do in Medellin.
Where to stay in Medellin
Other than knowing what things to do in Medellin, it is crucial that you have a decent place to stay. The good news is that there are a plethora of options. From posh hotels to backpacker hostels, and of course, Airbnb, which is also a great option for travelers to the city.
➙ Need a place to stay? Use my Airbnb link for $15-25 off your first stay!
➙ Need an easy way to get around Medellin? Sign up for Uber and get a free ride on me!
➙ Take a local tour in Medellin with Viator, offering unique city tours all over the world.
Despite the long list of neighbourhoods, without knowing where to stay in Medellin you may find yourself in an undesirable location. If you want to stay close to the center, check out the affordable and modern, Prado61 Guesthouse located in an old residential neighborhood for the city’s old-school elite.
One place you could potentially rest your head for a couple of nights, though, which is recommended that travelers go to, is the El Poblado. Some of the most sophisticated and best boutique hotels in Medellin are located here. Also, if on a tight budget, there are even more hostels that you can choose from.
Wherever you stay within the El Poblado neighbourhood, you won’t be disappointed by what it has to offer.
So, now you know where to go in Colombia and since you have these seven amazing things to do in Medellin, where will you start?
Remember, the Metro is a good starting point and a great way to get to know all the landmarks mentioned above. This guide should point you in the right direction and you should now be able to start exploring this marvelous city by yourself.
Daniel James from Layer Culture is a cultural traveller from the United Kingdom. Daniel dedicates his time to exploring and learning about life in Latin America. Pick up your backpack and join him on his lifelong mission to uncover Latin America’s hidden gems – you may even become fluent in Spanish along the way.