The city now has more than 3.5 million inhabitants making it one of the top 100 most populous metropolitan areas in the world. But far from being simply another urban sprawl, Medellin is known for its green spaces, magnificent setting, and outdoor lifestyle. Take its nicknames – “City of Eternal Spring”, thanks to its average annual temperatures of 73F, and “Mountain Capital”, which draws on its setting across verdant highland terrain.
There are its vibrant eco parks such as the Parque Arvi, lakes such as Guatape at scenic El Penol and also innovative science museums like the Parque Explora with its 70,000 square feet of indoor space and 50,000 feet of outdoor activities. Slightly quirkier is the Barefoot Park where visitors are urged to take off their shoes and wade through a series of shallow water pools designed to carry your minds away from the city’s buzz to the cool streams of the countryside.
Of course, its sordid past is now written into the city’s history, and it’s pretty interesting stuff. Find out more by taking a Pablo Escobar walking tour to learn about Colombia’s most notorious criminal. Or head to the Museo de Antioquia for a look at the works of another famous Colombian, Fernando Botero, set within the grand surroundings of the art deco Palacio Municipal and in the outdoor Plaza Botero.
Historic sights can be found throughout the city in buildings such as El Castillo Museum and Gardens and areas of downtown. But for a real dose of colonial history head an hour down the road from Medellin to Santa Fe de Antioquia, which has hardly changed since the 18th century, complete with whitewashed courtyards and elaborate wood carvings.
Then there are the waterfalls of the Rio Claro Valley, about three and a half hours out of town. For those with a nose for beans, Medellin is the gateway to the coffee region of Eje Cafetero, made up of the states of Caldas, Quindio and Risaralda which are said to produce some of the finest coffee beans in the world, although this isn’t generally considered a day trip.
Places to Visit in Medellin
- Downtown Medellin
- Parque Arvi
- El Penol
- Santa Fe de Antioquia
Unique Things to See and Do in Medellin
- Take a ride on the Medellin Metrocable and enjoy the views
- Head out on the waters of the Laguna de Guatape at El Penol
- Trace the bloody history of Pablo Escobar, one of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords
- Enjoy the artworks of Fernando Botero at various venues around town
- Head out of town to enjoy the waterfalls of the Rio Claro Valley
Walk around the streets of Medellin, and you’ll be struck by how modern the city is in contrast to many of its South American counterparts.
While there are indeed historic buildings to be found, the city’s identity is more defined by newer buildings such as the Medellin Planetarium, the Plaza Mayor and the Parque Explora. Many of these buildings have culture at their heart giving the city a feeling of renaissance with their clean lines and stone facades.
In a wave of redevelopment spearheaded by Sergio Fajardo, who held the position of mayor from 2004 to 2007, schools and libraries have been built across the city, with a commitment to delivering them to poorer neighbourhoods as well as the more affluent, such as El Poblado, to ease social inequality. The movement became known as “urban acupuncture”.
The Metrocable was another part of the plan. With many of the city’s poorest communities located higher up the mountainside in hard to access neighbourhoods, the new cable car helped to connect them to the opportunities offered by the city, giving people a possible alternative to a life of unemployment or crime.
All these new developments are a sign of the burning desire to shake off the negative associations of the past, those tinged with cocaine and blood, in order to put it on the world map among the most vibrant and financially dynamic cities of the world.
Getting Around Medellin
The yellow taxis that flit amongst the streets of Medellin are probably the easiest way to get around town and are actually quite reasonably priced and charged according to the metre.
The metro is another option for getting from a to b, with regular trains and clean stations, although the network is not very big. There is also a bus network which occasionally merges with the green metro buses that will take you onward to additional destinations.
Did you know…?
Colombians refer to the residents of Medellin as Paisas. The word comes from the term “paisano” meaning countryman.
Did you ALSO know…?
Medellin is the only city in Colombia that has a metro system.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Medellin
Located in the Aburra Valley on the western range of the Northern Andes Mountains. Medellin is around 1500 metres above sea level with a cool wet tropical climate.
Temperatures can hit highs of around 80F during the day, dropping to lows in the high 50s at night, but the overall average is 72F which is pretty consistent throughout the year, hence its title of “City of Eternal Spring”.
The city does sit in a valley, however, so many of the neighbourhoods situated on the mountainsides can experience slightly cooler temperatures.
Ready to plan your visit to Medellin? Check out these popular guides and trips.