12 Best Things To Do in Medellín, Colombia – Goats On The Road
In this article, you’ll learn the top things to do in Medellín, including the best places to visit and the top attractions.
Watch a football match, go hiking in a nearby park, visit the local communities, party all night, or even put down some temporary roots here as many digital nomads have done recently. Nature, food, culture, history, sports, there’s something for everyone in Medellín!
After spending a week in Medellin, it’s safe to say that it’s a city we’d love to return to again. We really enjoyed the overall vibe, the food was fantastic, and the people were welcoming.
Our Experience in Medellín
The city of Medellín has shed its rough skin as one of the most notoriously dangerous cities on earth, but today many parts of the city are safe, and travellers who have their wits about them need not worry too much about crime or violence.
There are still areas in Medellín where you simply don’t go, but these places are quite easy to avoid.
We felt safe the entire week that we spent in the city and this feeling of security was just one of the many ways that we were surprised by the “City of Eternal Spring”. Not to mention, the fact that there are so many fun things to do in Medellín!
Travellers and digital nomads alike had told us how fantastic the city of Medellín is and while we did enjoy our time there, we didn’t feel that it had the immediate charm that we have felt in some other places (particularly other cities and towns around Colombia).
The only “central” area for tourists is El Poblado.
Sure, it’s packed with cafes, vegetarian restaurants, yoga studios and other amenities which are great for the weary traveller, but it’s also packed with gringos, backpackers and all-night partiers.
If you’re into that, great! If you want a more authentic Medellín experience, most locals and expats would tell you to venture elsewhere, or at least find the cool bars in Poblado (like Social Bar) that are frequented by Paisas (people from the Antioquia region of Colombia).
Still, the city does have a particular vibe and it’s inhabited by some of the friendliest people anywhere. There are wonderful day trips from the city and there are some charming barrios (neighbourhoods) to explore.
Just don’t go to Medellín with the vision of wide leafy boulevards, Spanish colonial architecture and quiet green plazas.
This is a congested place and while you can find some respite in the Botanical Gardens and up at Parque Arvi, for the most part, Medellín is a bustling, noisy, chaotic (but, fun!) South American city.
There is definitely enough to keep you busy here for 5 – 10 days.
We’ve created this list of things to do in Medellín for travellers, but if you plan to live in the city, you will find countless events, concerts and festivals that you can take part in nearly every day.
So, here it goes, our list of the best things to see and do in Medellín, Colombia.
1. Visit Comuna 13 and See the Street Art
This is one of the few comunas (districts) in the city which has undergone a famously successful transformation. This is one of the more interesting places to see in Medellín for sure.
After the construction of escalators and a series of street art paintings around the neighbourhood, crime levels in Comuna 13 dropped and it is now a safe(ish) and interesting part of the city to explore.
Some crime still happens here, so while you’re probably ok to head to Comuna 13 independently and ride the escalators yourself, it’s still recommended to go on a tour with a local, and avoid nighttime visits.
One such tour is the highly-rated Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour which doesn’t just explain all of the best street art, but also about the history of the neighbourhood and how the transformation was so successful. Click here for details about that tour.
If you want to do the tour, check out Comuna13Tours on Get Your Guide, otherwise, you can take the metro. Hop on at Poblado Station and ride the A-Line north. Then change at San Antonio station and head west on the ‘B’ line getting off at the final station called San Javier.
From San Javier you can walk to the escalators in about a half-hour, or hop on one of the public buses that say “Escalas Electricas” in the window. Click here to find Comuna 13 on the map.
2. Check Out Parque Arvi
If you’re wondering what to do in Medellín to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Parque Arvi is your answer.
This was probably the highlight of our entire stay and is one of the best things to do in Medellin. Perhaps it was the fact that we were so used to living in the Caribbean that we simply weren’t prepared for the chaos of city life, but this quiet, lush park was a nice respite from the city.
This greenspace is 39,500 acres (16,000 hectares), and offers 54 kilometers (33 miles) of walking trails!
Ride the metrocable to the park and once there, you can enjoy a quaint little farmer’s market just as you step off at the last station. From there, you can go for a hike in the cloud forest.
There are a couple of well-marked trails that loop back to the starting point, where you can end your visit at a cafe.
For the hike, get off at Parque Arvi and follow the only road you see up and around a rocky bend to the right. In about 5 minutes you’ll meet the main road where you’ll find a group of restaurants (including Cable a Tierra Vegetarian).
Turn right up the hill following the main road. Once you get to the police station you’ll see a sign for the Flora Trail on the left. This path is very well signed and eventually loops back to the main road where you can get back to the restaurants and metrocable station.
Getting to Parque Arvi:
Get on at Poblado Metro Station and ride the A-Line all the way to Acevedo station. From there you can hop on the K-Line metrocable on the same ticket, go to the Santo Domingo station and change to the L-Line metrocable.
Here you’ll have to pay again. Take the ‘L’ all the way to the end at Parque Arvi and get off. Click here to find Parque Arvi on the map. Current fares for the metro and metrocable can be found here.
3. Ride The Metrocable
It may sound strange, but one of the top Medellín attractions is the metrocable.
These gondolas climb the mountains on the northern and western ends of Medellín and they not only help residents cut their commute time in half, but they’ve also successfully connected some of the poorer barrios with Medellín’s economic core.
This means that more of the money from the middle class of downtown has been able to funnel up towards the hillside neighbourhoods and this has helped with jobs and with the distribution of wealth in the city.
The people are very proud of the entire metro system and so they should be.
For travellers, riding the metrocable is a cheap and fun way to see more of the outlying areas of Medellín. Both the K-Line (Arvi) and the J-Line (San Javier) climb over some lively and fascinating barrios.
While you’re cruising above the neighbourhoods you’ll hear live music and see people going about their day-to-day lives. These gondolas are fantastic. The ride to Parque Arvi is the most beautiful one you can do.
4. Check Out El Poblado
This is most likely where you’ll stay and while it’s commonly referred to as “Gringolandia” it’s not a bad place to hang out! We were actually pleasantly surprised by El Poblado.
For one, it’s safe to walk around here day and night. Another thing that really surprised us was that while most of the vegetarian restaurants and hostel bars were packed with backpackers, some of the funkier local joints were frequented by mostly Paisa people.
This made it easy to meet local friends over a couple of cold beers.
Social Bar was our favourite place for sure, but also 37 Park was a funky bar with lots of local people and tourists all drinking and having a good time together.
Just walking around El Poblado was a lot of fun. There are some parks where people meet for pre-drinking (although legally you can’t actually sit down and drink in a park and you may get kicked out by police).
There were also free outdoor gyms, one of which was aptly named “The Prison” because it looked like a jailhouse gym with cement barbels and a few rougher-looking characters hoisting them.
For coffee, there are numerous boutique cafes in the area, check out Pergamino or Cafe Velvet.
You’re probably going to stay in Poblado, so you will really be “getting back there” after exploring other parts of the city, rather than “getting there”.
But taxis are cheap in Medellín so you can always get back to central Poblado for very little (under $7), otherwise, get off at the metro station “Poblado” and walk 15 minutes up the hill the central El Poblado.
5. Join a Free Walking Tour (what to do in Medellín when you first arrive)
In my opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Medellín.
Everyone who visits the city should definitely take part in this tour and preferably on the first day or two of arriving. The tour gives travellers a much better understanding of not just Medellín and Paisa people, but of Colombia as a whole.
For more information on the tour, check out my recent post: Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Medellín Walking Tour. The meeting place is on the pedestrian bridge at Alpujarra Station.
While the cost of the tour is free, it’s tip-based, so you should expect to leave a few dollars at the end.
6. Explore Parque Botero
This park is a cool place to hang out and spend a couple of hours in the afternoon. There are dozens of sculptures by Fernando Botero, as well as the Museo de Antioquia and a really nice cafe that serves delicious cold brew coffee.
The park is also very close to one of the dodgier parts of Medellín, but it is well-policed. The combination of armed officers and shady characters makes for a safe, but a fun place to people-watch. This area is one of the more popular places to visit in Medellín, for both locals and tourists.
Ride the A-Line north from Poblado Station and get off at Parque Berrio. Parque Botero is just around the corner of the unmissable, checkered Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe. Click here to find it on the map.
7. Visit Parque Berrio
Not to be confused with Parque Botero, Parque Berrio is the first park you’ll see when you get off the metro at Parque Berrio Station. The cool thing about this park is that in the afternoon, groups of people congregate here to play games and music.
Nobody is really looking for money. In the late afternoon, there will be a few musicians that just randomly start playing and they always form crowds around them. People buy beers from the local tiendas (shops) and before you know it, there are a few mini-concerts going on in the park.
The locals here are friendly and having a good time so it’s the perfect place to meet some new friends and have a couple of beers.
While you’re not technically supposed to stop and drink in Medellín parks, no police officers seem to mind here and they’ll often be enjoying the music with the groups.
You’ll also find some street performers and people playing chess and dominos here on some nights.
Hop on the A Line metro at Poblado station and ride it north, getting off at Parque Berrio Station. Walk down the stairs and you’re in Parque Berrio. There’s a nice landmark church on the far end that you can check out as well. Click here to find Parque Berrio on the map.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Medellín for a football match, don’t miss it! Watching a game is one of the top things to do in Colombia as a whole.
The energy in the stands is incredible. You should head to the stadium a day or two before to pick up tickets, which are pretty cheap by tourist standards. A good seat in a safe area of the stadium will cost you around $15. This is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Medellín!
Most locals will recommend that you don’t stay in the south area (Popular Sur) as that is where the crazy fans are and it can get a bit wild.
We had seats in the Oriental Alta section and it was close to the loud fans, but far enough away that we could still enjoy the game without getting stomped by loco locals.
Read More: Canadians in Colombia – Experiencing our First Football Match
When you enter the stadium, you’ll get searched. This slows down the lines considerably (especially for women) so it’s best to arrive at the stadium an hour or two early.
There is no alcohol served in the stadium, but after the game, you can stay for a beer at one of the surrounding bars.
If the home team loses, it may be a better idea to leave as there have been fights, riots and even stabbings after competitive matches.
If all of this sounds a bit too crazy for you to fathom doing on your own, or if you’d like to have a local there with you who can tell you about the teams and what’s going on, then I recommend checking out this tour. It’s affordable, fun, and includes game tickets, guide, a pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation, a drink and more. Get more details here.
Hop on the metro at Poblado Station and take the A-Line north to San Antonio. Switch to the B-Line heading west towards San Javier. Get off at Estadio Station and walk with the crowd to the stadium. Alternatively, a taxi from Poblado area won’t cost you more than 20,000 COP ($6.66).
9. Learn Salsa
There are countless places to Learn Salsa in Medellín, but one of the most popular is DanceFree in El Poblado. Here you can enjoy private or group classes weekly. On the weekends, this turns into a bit of a bar with awesome dancing.
If you want to simply go out and watch, or try to practice what you’ve learned, Laureles, Estadio and Suramericana are modern, middle-class neighbourhoods where you’ll find some of the best salsa dancing bars in the city.
10. Take a Spanish Class
Medellín is home to one of the most highly recommended Spanish schools in Latin America called Toucan Spanish School. Taking a Spanish class (or two) is one of the recommended things to do in Medellin when you first arrive.
Knowing some Spanish is essential for getting by in Colombia (and most parts of South America). Check out Toucan’s “Quick & Dirty” class which helps you learn the essentials fast, without having to focus too much on confusing grammar.
11. Day Trip To Guatape
The beautiful colonial town of Guatape and the towering granite rock shouldn’t be missed.
I recommend climbing up the 700 or so stairs to reach the top of the Piedra del Peñol (Rock of Guatape). Once you reach the top of the granite monolith, enjoy the fantastic view over the surrounding manmade lake country before descending back down into the valley.
After conquering the rock, make sure to head into Guatape. This tiny town is super colorful and is worth a couple of hours lazily walking around before heading back to Medellín.
Guatape is a pretty easy day trip from Medellín — especially if you join this small-group tour. The tour includes all transportation, two meals, a boat trip, numerous sites, a knowledgeable guide, and your own free time to explore.
With the affordable price and what’s included with the day trip, joining the tour is a no-brainer. Click here for details.
For a more in-depth guide to day-tripping to Guatape, click here.
Check out our video of Guatape here:
12. Learn About Coffee
Colombian coffee is famous worldwide, so it’s no surprise that one of the top things to do in Medellín is to visit a coffee plantation and learn about coffee production.
Take a day trip out to San Sebastián de Palmitas, which is about 45 minutes from the city. Visit a coffee-making farm and learn a brief history of the origin of coffee (including how it was brought to Colombia), and see the process that the coffee bean goes through before it reaches your cup.
Of course, you’ll sample coffee, and you’ll also receive food on this trip. Check out this highly-rated, affordable tour which includes return transport, guide, food, coffee tastings and coffee for you to take home with you. Alternatively, click the image below for details.
If you’re heading to Salento after Medellín, don’t miss the coffee farms there.
Now You Know What To Do in Medellín
While there are quite a few things to see and places to visit, Medellín isn’t really a place for sightseeing, it’s more about exploring, feeling and simply enjoying the vibe. Travellers and expats love the amenities, friendly locals and the glorious year-round springtime climate.
The city might not immediately seduce you with romantic plazas, colourful balconies and colonial architecture, but Medellín has a vibe that is undeniable.
The city is alive, bustling and in the middle of a miraculous transformation. Come and see for yourself. With so many things to do in Medellín, you may never want to leave…
Check out our video of our time spent in Medellín!
Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock — a website for sourcing royalty-free images and videos.
Read more about Medellín:
Backpacking Medellín Colombia, a Beginner’s Guide
Travelling to Medellín Colombia: Our First Impressions and Experiences
Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Medellín Walking Tour
Canadians in Colombia: Experiencing our First Football Game in Medellín
Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Medellin