Nestled in the Aburra Valley of Colombia, surrounded by verdant mountains, lies Medellín, one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world! Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” for its near perfect, year-round weather, this metropolis is a fantastic place to explore.
Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia (behind Bogotá) with a population of more than 3.7 Million in its metropolitan area. Today it is a vibrant community whose economy is based around manufacturing, tourism and coffee. Juan Valdez, the legendary character with his “Pure Colombian Coffee” along his faithful donkey is a trademark owned by the coffee growers of Medellín. The city is also known as the “City of Flowers” that are cultivated in the rich soils of the valley. During the past two decades, Medellín has also been known for outstanding innovation in medical procedures – including stem cell therapies. The World Health Organization ranked Colombia’s health care system ahead of both Canada and the United States, and visitors take advantage of the most advanced and ground-breaking treatments available anywhere in the world.
Here’s a pro-tip: The altitude of the airport at Rionegro is more than 2,100 meters (over 7,000 feet) so low-landers might feel short of breath or a little ill from altitude sickness. Just hold on for the short ride into Medellín where the altitude is lower and you’ll feel much better.
Medellin has many interesting attractions for the visitor. These are my favourite things to do when I’m in the area:
- Parque Arvi – Take the metro-cable (cable car) up to Parque Arvi and enjoy the incredible views of the city and bracingly fresh air. This nature reserve is the perfect place for some peace and quiet amongst nature while being close to the city.
- Walking tour –Medellin has a very popular, well known, free walking tour called, ‘Real City Tours’. During the tour you will discover some of Medellín’s most beautiful parks, colourful streets and squares like Plaza Botero.
- Museo de Antioquia – This is the most visited museum and is centrally located in the “old quarter” of the city within Plaza Botero. In addition to pre-Colombian works, Colonial era artefacts and other exhibits, the museum houses a collection of works from Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist whose distinctive style is immediately recognisable for its whimsical and rotund human figures.
- Comuna 13 – known for street art murals, friendly residents, colourful houses and beautiful views, this is one of the most visited areas of the city for tourists. New infrastructure, like escalators, have made this area accessible for visitors.
- Casa de la Memoria – This professionally curated museum holds a collection of stories and artefacts about Medellin’s sobering past. It’s important to visit to understand the history of conflict and violence in the city and the country.
- Paragliding – Medellín is a centre for this extreme sport. The views, weather, mountains and cliffs make it the perfect destination for catching a thermal. Day trips can easily be arranged with professional companies who cater to experts and beginners.
- Football – Colombians love football and during the 1990s the country’s team was amongst the best in the world. Catching a game in Medellín is loud and exciting!
- Guatape – You can take a relaxing day or overnight trip to the lakeside town of Guatape,just 80 km (50 miles) from Medellín. This lake is beautifully sited at 1890 meters (6,200 feet) above sea level and is a great change from the city. You can take a tour of the area by boat and enjoy stunning views. The main attraction is El Peñol, a granite rock with over 700 stairs on its side. For a small fee, you can climb to the top to experience breathtaking 360-degree views.
The Colombian food scene is exploding with popularity world-wide, and Medellín is a go-to destination for foodies from around the globe. The popular neighbourhood of Poblado, for example, is full of fine dining establishments and chic cafes. You won’t want to miss these venues:
- Carmen – This is a wonderful place for a luxurious and flavoursome meal. My favourite is their famous plantain-crusted fish-of-the-day served over coconut risotto with a baby banana and rum puree. This restaurant is conveniently located within the glittering Poblado neighbourhood.
- Crepes & Waffles – I love this Colombian chain restaurant for many reasons and it has several locations in Medellín. The sweet and savoury dishes are fabulous and a great value. More importantly for me, however, this restaurant only hires single women and women in need. This is such a happy place and you’ll feel great for supporting this social project!
- Mondongo – My favourite spot for traditional Colombian dishes in a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t leave without trying the famous Colombian dish, bandeja paisa; a hearty combination of pork with beans, plantains, rice, a fried egg, and fresh avocado slices.
Here’s another pro-tip: Don’t miss the classic Colombian street food, Arepas. This flat, dough treat can be served with butter or stuffed with cheese.
The nightlife in Colombia is exciting and diverse. Here are my favourite places to relax in Medellín:
- El Social – Located in the scenic Poblado area, this spot is perfect for relaxed drinks. Listen to Salsa music in the background as you sit outside and enjoy the cool night-time atmosphere of Medellin.
- 20 Mission Cerveza – This trendy venue offers up craft beers and a gastropub experience. It includes popular tasting tours and hosts music events with popular DJ’s.
- Eslabon Prendido – For an authentic Colombian experience, visit this nightclub to dance the night away. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert to join in the fun. Just be enthusiastic and have a great time!
Medellin has a welcoming array of accommodation to suit all budgets, from trendy hostels to 5-star hotels. Here’s where I like to stay when I’m in the city:
- The Click-Clack Hotel Medellín – This beautiful boutique hotel in the Poblado area is so stylish and modern and has all the amenities you need. Their rooftop pool and bar are the perfect chillout spot.
- Sites Hotel – Also in the Poblado area, you’ll find this modern building with a stylish and cosy interior. This hotel offers up a rooftop terrace with a hot tub and barbecue facilities. Rooms are conveniently equipped with self-catering facilities like a microwave and fridge.
- The Somos Hotel – This adult only accommodation boasts a beautiful array of plants and flowers that literally take over the building. This boutique property, near all the trendiest restaurants and cafes in Poblado, features loft-style rooms and a chilled-out hipster café.
Like the local residents, Medellín dresses up at night!
With the city’s ideal climate, attractive and friendly residents, abundance of activities and top-class food spots you’ll love visiting Medellín. This beautiful flower of a city will refresh your soul!