Planning Your Stay in Medellín
There's a reason they call Medellín "city of the eternal spring." Because it sits in the Andes at an elevation of 4,900 feet (1,495 meters), average highs are in the 80°F (27°C) range with lows around 62°F (17°C). So other than bringing an umbrella, there's no need to pack for cold weather. Regarding the people who call this city home, Medellín boasts 2.5 million occupants, known as Paisas. Like the Colombian culture as a whole, Paisas love great music, great company, and great parties.
For lodging, the city center is becoming increasingly popular with travelers as it's a cheaper option to the increasingly trendy El Poblado neighborhood in south Medellín. Make no mistake, though, the center is typically congested with traffic and swelling with pedestrians. The upside is that you'll be in the thick of that action, spending your time amid real locals, and there are great parks and street markets here, plus vendors selling everything from electronics to fresh exotic fruits.
Regardless of where you decide to hang your hat, or even if you're in town for just one day, we've got the quick tips you need to maximize your time in Antioquia's grand capital. And if you're looking for the ideal time of year to visit Colombia, you can check out a short primer here.
24 Hours in Medellín
It used to be a 45-minute headache to get from Medellín's José María Córdova International Airport into the city center, but no longer. Those planning a visit to Medellín can rejoice in the fact a new 15-mile (24-km) highway opened in 2019 that features Colombia's longest tunnel and gets people into town in a brisk 18 minutes. And trust us, if you're only in town for a day, you'll be happy to save time on airport transfers.
Upon arrival head straight to the city center to begin your tour, which is a breeze with Medellín's advanced metro system. In between the El Prado and San Antonio train stops, for instance, is Plaza Botero. Here you'll get a tactile impression of Medellín's artistic heritage in the form of the 23 bronze sculptures dotting the plaza. These were done by celebrated Paisa sculptor Fernando Botero in the figurative style and are notable by their curved and exaggerated shapes.
If you're only in town for the evening, you'll likely want to spend time in El Poblado, in the south of the city. This neighborhood and its El Poblado Park is actually the site of Medellín's founding in 1616. Across from the park is the neighborhood's oldest church, Iglesia San José, which was consecrated in 1876.
These days El Poblado is known mostly for its nightlife, particularly around Parque Lleras. Even if you aren't into the bar scene, this is where you'll find the highest concentration of international restaurants, which makes it the perfect spot for dining out.
2-3 Days in Medellín
To really understand the scope of Medellín, ride the metro train north from the center to the Acevedo stop and transfer to line K of the Metrocable (the teleferico, to locals). This will take you high into the hills to Santo Domingo, a working-class enclave with stunning panoramic views. You can also continue from here on line L up to Parque Arvi, a nature reserve with some good hiking. Speaking of which, for the ultimate outdoorsy vacation, combine a quick trip to Medellín with hiking in Antioquia.
On your way north to the Metrocable, you should stop just past the city center at the Joaquín Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden. This is the city's premier public green space, a 35-acre habitat that boasts 4,500 flowers and a recorded 139 bird species. It even has a one-of-a-kind Orchideorama. This 65-foot hexagonal mesh structure collects rainwater to nourish its orchid collection and attendant butterfly reserve. It's a great spot to visit if you're traveling with kids.
If you are in Medellín with the family, you could spend the next day taking advantage of the many kid-friendly activities in the city. Adjacent to each other in the city center, for example, is the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park) and the Museo del Agua (Museum of Water). The former features a sandpit and bamboo labyrinth while the latter offers interactive conservation exhibits and watersports.
The most fun you'll have, though, is at Parque Explora, located near the botanical garden, which features lifesize replicas of dinosaurs, a world-class aquarium, and a reptile enclosure. You could even pair this with a visit to the city zoo, the Parque Zoológico Santa Fe, located between El Poblado and the city center in the Santa Fe neighborhood. To wrap up your trip, spend your final day picking up souvenirs in one of Medellín's many, many modern shopping malls.
4-5 Days in Medellín
After a city tour on your first day in Medellín, you can head to the unspoiled Antioquian countryside on day two. The green slopes of the Andes in this area are the stuff of dreams, and there are few more colorful (literally) towns here than Guatapé. It's a colonial village located about two hours east of Medellín that sits on a man-made reservoir built in the 1960s. This reservoir is a facsimile of a beautiful country lake, and its location amid rolling green hills makes for a perfect day on the water.
However, that's not why Guatapé is famous. Just outside town is one of the most iconic landmarks in the country: El Peñol, a 656-foot (200-meter) granite monolith as sleek as a bullet. El Peñol is an awe-inspiring sight to view from afar, but the real fun is climbing the 740 steps to its summit lookout point. Here you can (and should) order a mango michelada and enjoy the 360° views of stunning Antioquia laid out below. Another option is to venture further into the Andes for a tour of coffee country.
Upon returning to Medellín, head to any of the aforementioned areas and attractions you might have missed, plus get to know some lesser-visited neighborhoods. Laureles, just west of the center, is worth your time for its great dining and nightlife scene. Then there's Envigado, which is located south of El Poblado and is earning a reputation as a fun alternative to its trendy northern neighbor—one that's also packed with great restaurants.
However you decide to spend your remaining day or two in Medellín, you're sure to find fun, action, and adventure no matter which neighborhood you end up.