The Ultimate Medellin Visitor Guide
We have written this exclusive Medellin guide for you so that you can make the most of your time in and around the beautiful city of Medellin. You’ll find out about the best neighbourhoods to stay in or visit, food, drink and nightlife options for all kinds of visitors, the best tourist sites, stunning day trips outside of the hustle and bustle of the city and some safety tips to make sure that your stay is as enjoyable as possible.
From all of us at Medellin Airport Transfer we wish you a very warm welcome to our wonderful city. Enjoy!
1. Neighbourhoods in Medellin
Deciding where to stay in Medellin can change your perception of the city so making the right decision is important. Here is a run-down of the most popular neighborhoods around Medellin. All these locations are safe parts of the city.
By far the most popular neighbourhood for visitors to Medellin is El Poblado. The reason for its popularity isn’t hard to see, it’s full of fantastic restaurants, buzzing bars, sparkling shopping malls, modern hotels and some incredible views over the city. In the day you’ll see business people in suits running from meeting to meeting past tourists enjoying a cup of famous Colombian coffee while watching the world go by. At night this area of the city transforms into a lively hotspot, attracting people from all over the city. The city’s best restaurants and most popular bars are located here so you’ll never be short of something to do! However, if you’re looking for a more relaxing stay, you might want to consider another neighborhood in the city.
The second most popular spot is the beautiful, relaxing neighborhood of Laureles. Here you’ll find a more tranquil vibe than that of El Poblado. The tree-lined streets are filled with cute cafes, good quality restaurants, independent shops and artistic hang-outs. You’ll also find one of the city’s largest Universities, which is home to a big student population. Although most of the city’s big hotels are located in El Poblado there are still many good options here and lots of choice on online platforms such as AirBnb. If you’re looking to spend your evenings in Medellin with a relaxing glass of wine and a nice dinner then Laureles is for you.
This neighbourhood isn’t strictly part of Medellin but its own municipality, but for all sense and purposes it’s part of the city and it’s becoming more and more popular for foreign visitors. This area is on higher ground so it’s fresh and green and popular for young families. If you’re looking to stay on a longer-term basis then this area could be perfect for you! Envigado is known amongst the locals for having a selection of really great restaurants. Even if you’re not interested in staying here, you should definitely check it out for an evening.
Not far from Laureles, these two neighboring areas are perfect for anyone looking to gain a more genuine Medellin experience. You’ll find the small shops called ‘tienditas’ where they serve rum and aguardiente in the evenings as well as beautiful and traditional houses that make up the majority of the housing in the area. By far the best thing about the area is the absolutely fantastic sporting facilities around the iconic soccer stadium. You’re free to use Olympic-size swimming pools, running tracks, football pitches, basketball courts, beach volleyball and much more.
We all like to enjoy ourselves when we’re on vacation! Medellin is a great place to go out for a nice dinner, a glass or two of wine or beer and maybe even head out for a late night on the town. In this section we’ll take a look at the best restaurants, bars and clubs in Medellin.
Do you want to experience some of Medellin’s local cuisine? Or would you rather stick to what you know? Whatever you fancy you’ll be able to find it here. In this section, we will give you some unbiased recommendations so you can make the most of all the amazing restaurants in Medellin.
Carmen (El Poblado) | $$$
Well known as one of the best restaurants in the city, Carmen will leave your taste buds buzzing! Expect to be served modern twists on some famous Colombian dishes and some incredible fish dishes. Go for the Chef’s Menu and you’ll not be disappointed. The atmosphere is one of fine dining and relaxation in a beautiful setting. Be sure to book ahead.
La Provincia (El Poblado) | $$
Do you like seafood? If you do then this is a must visit! Fine decor and wonderfully decorated tables will make you feel like you could be in a high-class restaurant in any city around the world. The food is absolutely top-notch and the menu covers local favorites as well as international dishes. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
El Cielo (Poblado) | $$$
Expect to be wowed! This restaurant is all about giving a modern gastronomic experience. Expect to taste some out-of-this-world combinations in a truly unique environment. Again, you’ll need to book ahead to ensure a table.
Mistura (Laureles) $$
Fantastic Peruvian food in a high-class atmosphere in Laureles this restaurant is very popular among the city’s middle class. Apart from some fantastic meat, fish, and rice dishes you can also order some really great cocktails. Very friendly staff and a fantastic feel.
Bariloche (Envigado) $$
If you like steaks then look no further. This Argentinian restaurant is getting a name for itself as the best steak place in the city. Huge cuts of quality meat and some fantastic side dishes make for a gut-busting meal. Make sure you go hungry!
Vegetarian restaurants in Medellin
There are so many options for vegetarians in Medellin that it would be impossible to name them all here! However here are three of our favorites:
Naturalia (Laureles) | $
While they also sell meat dishes, Cafe Naturalia has a well-known vegetarian lunch every day. Really fresh ingredients and an imaginative menu have made it a favorite among the local vegetarians. Oh, and they have some really great coffee as well.
Saludpan (Laureles) | $
A totally meat-free restaurant that is packed at every lunch time. Salud Pan was one of the first totally vegetarian places to open in the city and is a favorite hang-out spot. You’ll also find freshly made bread and other goodies on sale here as well.
Veg Station (Poblado) | $$
Another favorite, the Veg Station serves some really fantastic dishes for lunch and dinner. Located in the heart of Poblado you’ll find lots of travelers and tourists here.
3. Drinks & Nightlife
Most people know that Medellin is a party-mad city. There are so many options for everyone, no matter what you are looking for. However, we don’t want to spend too long talking about every popular bar and club in Medellin, so we have just selected a few spots where you are likely to meet some like minded people. If you are looking for a more detailed look at the city’s nightlife we recommend that you head over to Medellin Living’s very detailed blog on this subject.
3 Cordilleras brewery
The ever-popular 3 Cordilleras is a great after-work spot in Industriales (between Poblado and Centro). Thursday night is the busiest night, but on any evening you are likely to see a nice mix of locals and expats/tourists. Lots of people meet up here to take advantage of the fantastic beer at good prices. On Thursdays, there are often live bands.
Envy rooftop bar
This stylish, rooftop bar is set on the 18th story of the Charlee building in Parque Lleras. It’s a little bit pricey at around $3 a beer but the views across the city are some of the best you will see. On some nights they hold huge parties with international DJs, as well as pool parties and events. Make sure you’re wearing something nice (i.e. not shorts and flip flops) or you will not be allowed entry.
Bogota Beer Company
Another very popular brewer, Bogota Beer Company is a country-wide operation that is a very popular meet-up spot. Come for the amazing range of ales and lagers as well as good pub food. Inside is a clas- sic ‘English pub’ decor with a long wood- en bars, brass railings and comfortable chairs. There is often live music here on the weekends and it gets packed when there is a big football match happening. Very popular most evenings of the week.
El Tibiri Tabara
If you are in Medellin you have to go to an authentic salsa club! Set down in a basement on La 70, El Tibiri is a hot and sweaty place where people come to dance the night away to quality salsa. Make sure you come earlier on the weekends as this place fills up quickly! It is a great place to get some real Medellin vibes.
One street away from Calle 10 in Poblado this contemporary club plays some of the best electronic music in the city. If you are a fan of this music then this should be the place for you. DJs are coming from all around the world to play this venue as it picks up the reputation as Medellin’s hippest club. On the weekends there are long lines after midnight.
As you can see, we have only included a few of our favorite nightlife spots but there are many, many more. Check out the Medellin Living blog post or take a walk around the city’s most happening spots and you will find anything that you are looking for.
4. Getting around
Medellin is home to some really fantastic transport infrastructure that can surprise its visitors. Getting around the city is easy on it’s modern Metro system, taxis are also abundant. This section aims to give you all the information that you need to get around safely and securely.
Medellin Airport Transfer
Medellin’s JMC airport is over 45 minutes away from the city so arranging your transport before your arrival is really important. You can book and pay online securely using Medellin Airport Transfer to ensure that your personal driver will be waiting outside the arrivals gate on time. You will then be driven to the city in an official white plate taxi that is insured and certificated as an official tourist taxi. Your driver will already have your drop off details at hand and there is no need to pay any cash at all as our online booking system will have all of that taken care of. After arriving in a new city it’s great having the peace of mind to know that everything is taken care of.
Almost everywhere has great access to the modern, clean and efficient Metro system. A one-way ride costs approximately $75 cents and trains arrive every few minutes. The trains are always very clean and safe and can take you almost anywhere in the city. The metro lines even link up to cable cars that will take you soaring over the hills and into the tranquil forest outside of the city.
Another public transport option are buses. While the city’s buses are very affordable and safe, they are definitely not comfortable nor easy to understand. If you’re traveling at rush hour, or if it’s raining then forget it! However, buses can be a really cool way to get to know the city and meet its people.
If you prefer you can also find taxis extremely easily on any street. However, you should be careful when riding in taxis. Although it’s extremely unlikely that anything bad will happen to you, you should still exercise caution at all times. It’s better to book an official taxi, especially for longer trips to the airport or countryside.
If you’re in town for more than a few days it could be a great idea to invest in a bicycle. Many parts of the city are dead flat meaning that the old-fashioned bicycle is the quickest way to get around. However, if you’re located in Poblado or Envigado those hills will kill your legs!
It’s important to know that Uber is officially illegal in Colombia but it is still widely used in Medellin. Be sure to sit in the front passenger’s seat so that the police don’t suspect your driver of being an Uber taxi. Also, it’s better to not use Uber in places where there are lots of taxis (such as airports or busy bus stations) because other taxi drivers have been known to become angry at known Uber drivers. Lots of people use Uber in Medellin and it is widely considered to be safe and efficient.
5. Things to do in Medellin
There are a lot of interesting things to do in Medellin. In fact, there is so much that we couldn’t possibly cover them all here. In this part of the guide, we are going to run through some of the best and most popular attractions that you should check out.
Like Medellin’s Metro system, the Metrocable system is held up as a sign of the city’s improvements since the dark days of the 90’s. Initially (2004) the idea was to open one line (Line K), which links the city to the poorer neighborhoods on the mountainsides, which were inaccessible by metro or bus. This project was enormously successful as it brought the city’s poor into the economy of the city. Since then there has been two new lines (Line J and L) which have also proven to be a big hit. All the lines are connected to the city’s metro system and the price is included in the original metro ticket ($0.90). This is incredible value as all the lines offer absolutely amazing views across the whole city. Line L is seen as the ‘Tourist Line’ as it takes you right up over the mountain into the forests of the wonderful Parque Arvi.
This has to be the best and most comprehensive walking tour that we’ve been on. It is the perfect way to get to know the city of Medellin and its diverse history and culture. It is completely free of charge, you are only advised to pay the guides what you think their information was worth. There are a couple of different companies that offer a walking tour, we went with ‘Real Walking Tour’, so we can’t say about the quality of the others. They offer walks Monday to Friday at both 9am and 2pm. The tour mainly covers the downtown area of the city, which is where most of its history (both good and bad) evolved. The guides are young, friendly and extremely knowledgeable, if you have any questions about Medellin’s history, these are the guys to ask.
If you are interested in science this beautifully designed building near the center of the city holds some really fascinating exhibits. Amongst its most popular attractions are Latin America’s largest freshwater aquarium, which focuses mainly on the river life of the Amazon rain- forest, a huge planetarium and a large selection of South America’s strangest and most beautiful wildlife (including Amazonian frogs, pythons, and spiders). I spent an entire day here and wasn’t bored at all.
The final destination for Metro Cable Line L, Parque Arvi feels like a completely different world. All of a sudden you are out of the heat of Medellin and into the cool forest air. You can look around the small artisans’ fair, take some traditional Colombian food or walk around the park to explore its parks, fauna and wildlife. You can also stay in Parque Arvi Hotel but expect to pay around $50 per person. Personally, we believe that a day trip is enough to really get a feeling for this amazing destination before heading back to the busy city.
Museo de Antioquia
Home to many pieces of work by the world famous painter Botero. One of the city’s most famous sons, Botero is responsible for representing many of Medellin’s past events, including possibly his most famous painting of Pablo Escobar lying dead on a Medellin rooftop. Outside the museum, you will also find 20 of his famous statues which show his trademark bulbous bodies and out of the ordinary shape and design. However, this museum has so much more to it than just Botero! Amongst the permanent exhibitions is ‘The Colonial and Republican Room’, the ancient pottery exhibition ‘The Mud has a Voice’, ‘The Luis Caballero Room’, and a modern art room. You can see the temporary exhibitions on the museum’s website, which is linked above.
Sometimes Medellin can become a hot, busy and stressful place. It can be dif cult to get away from all the traffic and people. That’s why Pueblo Paisa can be a great escape. Set up on a hill in the middle of the city, this small town is designed to keep the city’s original culture. So here you will and the traditional, colourful shutters, pavements, statues and food. Everything is made to symbolise life here before the explosion of modernity. You will also nd one of the best views of the city from here. Amazing 360 views are sure to get your camera shutter snapping.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/colombia-airport-transfer/Blog+Images/Ultimate+Visitor+Guide/Things+to+do/paragliding-medellin.jpg If you want the best view of Medellin whilst also getting your adrenaline kicks, then you should go paragliding! The experienced instructors take you all over the mountain, which is, admittedly, a little bit scary.
6. Tours around Medellin
Medellin’s surrounding countryside is so beautiful that you would be mad to not get out and explore it. Rolling scenery and a welcome fresh air make it a favourite weekend activity for locals and tourists alike. Medellin Airport offers organised tours to all of the following places.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Colombia, Guatape is home to a stunning man-made reservoir that stretches out into the distance as far as the eye can see. Only a two hour ride from Medellin you’ll be there in no time. When you arrive it will be impossible to miss the huge, massive, rock with zigzagging stairs all the way to the top. Make sure you bring good shoes for walking, you’ll need them! After you can take a stroll around the town, have a traditional Colombian lunch and look out over the impressive reservoir.
The Four Towns tour
The perfect way to get a feeling of rural life around Medellin, this tour will take you through five idyllic towns; El Retiro, La Ceja, Rionegro, San Antonio de Pereira, and El Carmen de Vibral. You’ll see the famous colonial buildings and streets as well as the spectacular countryside that stretches out between the towns. There is no better way to get a feeling of the traditions and customs of Antioquia.
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Very popular with the locals Santa Fe de Antioquia was the original capital of the region before Medellin. You’ll find a beautifully preserved town with 5 star hotels and retreats, top-class restaurants and olde-worlde shops. On the weekends and over holiday periods the town can get very overcrowded and be home to lots of partying. On weekdays it’s beautiful and tranquil. The town is small so it’s a perfect day trip, only one hour from Medellin.
What’s more Colombian than coffee? Medellin Airport Transfer has teamed up with a working coffee farm just 1 hour from the city so that you can walk around the grounds, see how coffee is grown, harvested, dried and toasted. If you’re a coffee lover then look no further than this tour! A tour includes transport to and from the farm, lunch, and a personal tour around the farm.
Don’t make yourself an easy target – Be sure to keep all of your expensive items such as cell phones and laptops etc. hidden from view when you’re walking around town. If you’re walking along the street and you hear an alert from your cell phone, just resist the temptation to look at it immediately and wait until you’re in a place with other people around you. This may sound like an extreme measure but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Medellin has had a reputation as being an unsafe city for many years. Not so long ago this beautiful place was plagued with violence and tourist numbers dwindled to next to none. Fortunately, after numerous schemes and plans, such as the city’s Metro system and better policing, Medellin is once again a vibrant city bustling with tourists from all around the world. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t throw all care out of the window. Like any major city, crime still occurs and you should be vigilant at all times. Here are some tips to keep you out of trouble.
Choose your transport carefully
Try using official services such as Medellin Airport Transfer (for journeys to and from the airport or tours outside of the city) or Uber (around town) instead of random taxis in the street. Although 99% of taxis and safe and secure there has been instances of robbery and violence in taxi cabs. You can also download the application ‘Easy Taxi’ which allows you to order a yellow cab while being 100% sure that it’s official. Where possible you should also use the city’s Metro service.
Don’t trust someone you’ve just met
This advice is true anywhere in the world and Medellin is no exception. Don’t agree to go somewhere with someone that you have just met, it’s much better to politely decline and stay somewhere where you’re surrounded by other people. The population of Medellin is well-known for being incredibly kind-hearted so you’ll meets lots of people wanting to get to know you and all off these people will probably have good intentions. Just be careful not to trust someone too much too soon.
Ask for advice
Staff in your hotel or apartment will able to give you lots of information about Medellin. If you’re unsure about a neighbourhood you’re planning to visit just ask someone at reception if it’s a good idea. Likewise you could ask staff in your favourite cafe or restaurant. Just remember that there will always be locals around who will be more than happy to offer you advice.
Trust your instincts
Last but by no means least, trust your instincts. Whenever you sense danger or something ‘just doesn’t feel right’ get out of there and go somewhere with lots of people. In the unlikely case you are approached by a thief remember that your life is worth far more than any gadget or product.