Medellin, Colombia is a vibrant city bursting with sky scrapers, parks, museums, must eat restaurants and a happening nightlife. In other words, Medellin has swag.
There are so many things to do in Medellin that you can quickly see why it is such a trending travel destination. I didn’t even mention yet how technologically advance the city is, which is why it’s becoming a popular hub for digital nomads.
I personal spent a little over 2 weeks in Medellin and marked it on my list of best places to be a digital nomad. I have a feeling I’ll be back sooner than later.
Now let’s get into the juicy details, these are 20 of the best Medellin things to do and experience while exploring this hip city.
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Below is a quick list of 21 awesome Medellin attractions. If you’re in a hurry, screen shot the list below or if you want more information just click on the blue links.
Medellin Travel Vlogs
Although, we spent most of our time in Medellin on a ‘work-cation’ …you know sorta like a vacation but we’re working – one of the many perks of being a digital nomad. We did manage to film a vlog or 2 during our time in Medellin.
Best Things to do in Medellin
Attend a Futbol Match
Medellin has not one but two soccer teams – Atletico Nacional (AN) and Independiente Medellín (DIM). If you happen to be in Medellin during a game, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try to attend a futbol match.
Attending a Medellin futbol match is an unforgettable experience and one of the most fun things to do in Medellin. The atmosphere is electric and filled with colors of the local team. Imagine the crowd chanting, singing and waving flags in support of their favorite team.
Joe and I unfortunately dropped the ball when we were in Medellin as we realized a home game was being played too late so we weren’t able to attend. Fortunately for us, we did go out that night to enjoy and partake in the celebration of the home teams victory. It was a wild and fun night.
Parque Arvi (Arvi Park) is a huge park full of forest, foliage and hiking trails. Parque Arvi is by far one of the most popular things to do in Medellin, Colombia. This large nature reserve located just outside the city spans over 6,000 hectares.
The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna including over 200 species of bird and over 40 mammal species. The park also has a number of restaurants, camp sites and picnic areas.
There are a number of hiking trails to enjoy inside Parque Arvi but you can only enjoy these trails if you have a guide which you can hire when you get to the park. Even if you choose not to hire a guide, the hour ride up the suspended cable car is worth a trip on its own.
What to do in Parque Arvi:
- Explore the Park
- Shop at the Local Market
- Night Hiking
- Bird Watching
Museo de Antioquia
The Museo de Antioquia is one of the best museums to check out when you’re exploring Medellin. Located in the heart of downtown area of El Centro that overlooks the busy Plaza Botero.
This art museum is home to a vast collection of artwork from world-renowned Medellin artist, Fernando Botero and Pedro Nel Gómez. Walking through the galleries of this grand building, you can admire the artist’s renowned pieces including his iconic sculptures, paintings and drawings.
The Museo de Antioquia also houses a wide variety of other artwork from local and international artists showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of Medellin’s culture. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10am – 5:30pm and costs 18 COP to enter.
If you love science, then make sure you pay a visit to Parque Explore in Medellin. Founded in 2007, Parque Explore is an interactive science park and is one of the largest science parks in Latin America.
You can explore the science park and learn about science and nature through interactive exhibits, 3D films and workshops along the way. I’m talking nature, space, oceans, animals and even dinosaurs. It’s truly an impressive park.
In addition to its scientific offerings, Parque Explore also includes a stunning tropical garden, the largest freshwater aquarium in South America and a planetarium. This is one of the best things to do in Medellin for the whole family as its a museum for people of all ages.
Parque Explora is open on the weekends from 10am – 5pm, Tuesday through Friday 830am – 4pm and is closed on Mondays. Price to enter starts at 32,000 COP which is roughly $10 USDs.
Free Walking Tour
The best way to get to know a city and your bearings is by going on a free walking tour. It’s even better when you can do so with a local guide and a group of like-minded travellers. Plus it’s pretty cheap!
A walking tour is a great introduction to a new area and in my opinion one of the best free things to do in Medellin. You can normally book a tour with your hostel if that’s where you happen to be staying. Tours usually last around 2 hours and a local guide will be able to answer any questions that you have.
If you’ve asked around about things to do in Medellin, chances are Parque Lleras has been mentioned a few times. This popular park in Medellin is a focal point in the Poblado district.
The park itself is more of a concrete jungle filled with benches for relaxing and during the day local vendors sell artwork, jewelry and other small craft works. The real attraction is the plethora bars, restaurants and hotels that surround the park.
At night the area comes alive with music and dancing. A lot of the bars and restaurants open their doors enticing you to enter with live music and DJ’s. If you choose to stay in the Poblado district, you won’t be able to miss Parque Lleras.
You can’t talk about exploring Medellin without mentioning the Poblado area of the city. The Poblado district is a popular neighborhood in Medellin with tourists as its safe, full of lots of shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Joe and I spent two weeks in this bustling city. Our second week in the city we stayed in the heart of the Poblado district in an Airbnb on the main drag. It was loud and noisy at all hours of the night but you couldn’t beat the location as it was walking distance to anything we needed.
Home to a variety of upscale bars, restaurants and hotels, Polblado has something for everyone. With its well-maintained parks, lively streets and beautiful architecture, Poblado is a good area to base yourself out of as you. explore the city.
Plus it boasts some of the best nightlife in the city. We’re talking clubs, bars and music venues. This is where you want to party and its a fun night out when the home team wins the futbol match!
Take a Salsa Dancing Lesson
If you want to really experience the culture of Medellin, partake in a Salsa Dancing Lesson. Medellin is known for its high energy and passionate atmosphere and salsa dancing classes embrace this spirit.
During the lessons, experienced instructors teach the basics of salsa like footwork, rhythm and style. Not only do the lessons offer a great way to learn and practice salsa, but they also provide a great way to meet new people while you are traveling.
Plaza Botero is a beautiful city square located in the Old Quarter of the city. Plaza Botero is named after the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero who donated 23 of his bronze sculptures to the city.
The sculptures depict people and animals of various shapes and sizes and are the highlight of the plaza. Some people even say the sculptures are ‘chubby’ and once you see them for yourself, it will make a little more sense.
The plaza is surrounded by trees and flower beds, making it a great place to relax and admire the beauty of the city. On the weekends, the plaza is filled with vendors selling local food and crafts, making it a popular spot to visit. Have some patience to wait out the crowds if you want a clear shot of the sculptures.
Eat a Traditional Colombian Meal
Medellin does not have a shortage of restaurants that serves típica Colombian fare. Trying local dishes is one of the best ways to start to get to know a foreign culture. Traditional Colombian dishes include:
- Mondongo – Pork, tripe and chorizo soup,
- Arepas – a cross between a tortilla and a pancake can be filled with cheese, meat and even made as a desert.
- Arepa de Huevo – Same as above but this is a deep fried egg.
- Ajiaco – Potato and chicken soup (my favorite).
- Bandeja Paisa – A HUGE dish that consists of rice, minced meat, red beans, chorizo, arepa, a fried egg, chicharron (fried pork skin), sweet plantain, and a half of avocado.
- Patacones – Plantains that have been flattened and deep fried served with a sauce of your choice.
- Obleas – Thin wafer sandwiches filled with a variety of ingredients such as blackberry jam, milk cream, condensed milk, peanuts, coconut, fruit syrups, chocolate sprinkles, and even cheese.
- Sancocho – Chicken, Beef rib or Fish soup that contains potato, yuca, plantain.
- Empanadas – Deep fried pockets filled with meat, potatoes, chicken, and rice.
- Fiambre – Rice, sausage, fried pork, ground meat, boiled or fried egg, a slice of ripe banana and arepa wrapped in banana leaves.
Joe and I ate at Mondongo for our traditional Colombian meal, which was located in the heart of the Poblado district a few blocks away from our Airbnb. Atmosphere is relaxed, prices are fair and it gets pretty busy especially on the weekends.
If you travel to Medellin, one of the best and well known tours to take is of Commune 13. This unique barrio in Medellin has gone through a remarkable transformation in the last decade.
It was once one of the most dangerous and poverty-stricken areas in the city but it has since become a model of urban renewal and development. Today, Commune 13 is a vibrant, multicultural community that is known for its graffiti art.
The best way to experience this area is on a Commune 13 Tour. This area still suffers with poverty and it’s best to get informed and aware of the area from a local guide.
Another one of the best free things to do in Medellin is to check out the Botanical Garden of Medellin. This is an oasis in the middle of a thriving concrete city. Come here to relax, soak in nature, have a picnic or learn about Colombia’s biodiversity.
The Botanical Garden is a popular destination for locals and tourists who come to marvel at the wealth of plants and trees from around the world. If you want to avoid the crowds, stick to visiting on a weekday. This Medellin activity is open everyday from 9am – 4:30pm and is free to enter.
Go on a Food Tour
One of my absolute favorite things to do when I come to a new city is to go on a Food Tour. Explore neighborhoods such as Laureles, Conquistadores and Belén sampling local dishes and drinks along the way.
From traditional Colombian cuisine like arepas and Bandeja Paisa to modern fusion dishes, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a variety of flavors and textures. A food tour is a great way to get a true taste of Medellin and its unique culinary offerings.
Here are some top rated food tours in Medellin to check out:
If you are looking for more of an adventure when you visit Medellin, Colombia – go paragliding! This is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Medellin.
The mountainous terrain of the city offers a beautiful backdrop for a paragliding adventure. On a clear day, you can soar over the lush green hills and take in the stunning views of the city.
The experienced instructors will provide you with all the necessary equipment and safety instructions before you take off. With the right wind and weather conditions, you can reach new heights.
I touched on this when I talked about the Poblado area in Medellin, but Medellin knows how to party. From vibrant night clubs to intimate bars, the Medellin nightlife has something for all types of party-goers. With its cheap drinks and lively atmosphere, Medellin is the perfect place to party and have a great time doing it.
Just remember to always party responsibly, that means using the buddy system, don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended and trusting your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
Colombia is well known to be bicycle friendly country so why not opt for a Bicycling Tour of Medellin. Better yet, try an E-Bike Tour. Known as the “city of eternal spring”, which means Medellin has bicycling weather all year round. Explore Medellin’s main attractions and learn about the city’s history and culture with the help of a local guide.
Medellin Day Trips
I couldn’t make a best things to do in Medellin post without including some of the best day trips from Medellin. All of these day trips can be visited independently but if you are short on time and would rather have someone plan all the logistics for you, you can visit these destinations on guided tours.
El Penol also referred to as “the rock” is a stunning natural wonder located just outside of the town of Guatape about two hours east of Medellin. Standing at 200 meters tall, the monolithic quartzite rock formation is the main attraction of the town of Guatape (which I will discuss in more detail in the next section.)
The rock formation is part of a larger mountain range which some think it landed there due to a volcanic explosion. You can climb the 740 steps to get to the top of the rock which offers a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding area and lake.
Guatape is a colorful Colombian town and one of my favorite places I had the honor to visit during my month long travels through Colombia. Located 2 hours east of Medellin, Guatape is the most popular day trip from Medellin.
The town is known for its colorful buildings, a massive lake, the iconic Rock of Guatape that I touched on earlier and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. A better way to experience Guatape is spending a few days here versus a day trip. Once you visit this adorable town, you’ll be glad that you did.
Cañón Del Río Claro Reserva Natural
Another awesome day trip from Medellin is the Cañón Del Río Claro Reserva Natural. This spectacular natural wonder spans over 10 kilometers and is located within the lush green Eastern Andes Mountain range.
The natural reserve provides visitors with a variety of activities including hiking, swimming and birdwatching. The canyon is also home to numerous species of animals and plants which makes it a popular destination for photographers and nature lovers.
It is no secret that Colombia is known for its coffee and you can’t travel to Colombia without going on a Coffee Plantation Tour. There are a few coffee farms located a days trip away from Medellin. The sun is always shining, providing an ideal climate for the coffee plants to thrive.
On a coffee tour, you’ll learn everything about the coffee making process. From planting the coffee seed to picking, cleaning, roasting, grinding, brewing and finally tasting the perfect cup of coffee.
Go Zip Lining
Medellin Travel Tips
- Don’t take a Pablo Escobar Tour.
- Uber is illegal but still used. Jump in the front seat.
- The metro in Medellin is clean, efficient, user friendly and safe.
- The airport is about 45 minutes outside of the city. Expect to pay a hefty penny for a cab.
- Try to speak Spanish, attempting to speak the local language goes a long way.
How to Get Around Medellin
Medellin’s public transportation is the best you’ll find in Colombia. It’s clean, safe, efficient, on time, extensive and very easy to use. With the Metro de Medellin, the city has a reliable subway system that covers most of the city and its suburbs.
In addition, there area a number of buses including the Metropolis Bus Rapid Transit System, which offers express service on certain routes. The public transport system also includes the Metrocable which you will take when you head up to Parque Arvi.
Uber is illegal in Colombia although, I used it a few times when I was traveling around the country. I just hopped in the front seat, which made the uber ride much less noticeable. Either way, traveling around Medellin is affordable and convenient.
Where to Stay in Medellin
There are tons of places to stay in Medellin that can accommodate any type of budget. The main two areas that tourists stay are Poblado and Laureles. These are the top picks of where to stay in Medellin, Colombia.
Safety in Medellin
As I’ve discussed throughout this post, Medellin is a beautiful city that attracts visitors from all over the world, however, as with any city, there are risks associated with travel.
It is important to be aware of safety concerns and take necessary precautions when visiting Medellin. Travelers should stay in well lit areas, avoid carrying valuables and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
There is a saying here in Colombia, no dar papaya which loosely means don’t give people a reason or don’t make yourself a target. Meaning, don’t being flashy with valuables, keep your phones in a pocket and out of site, don’t wear your expensive watch, etc. I never felt unsafe when I explored Medellin but I always have my guard up, something I’ve learned and perfected over the years of travel.
Colombia Travel Tips
📍Plan your Trip: The Ultimate Guide to Colombia
🗺 How long to travel Colombia? 2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary
☔️ Best Time to Visit: Generally, the best time to go to Colombia is December through March which is considered dry season.
💰 Average Daily Budget: Colombia Budget Guide
⛺️ Colombia accommodation Guides
- Trekking to the Lost City
- The Beautiful Colonial City of Cartagena
- Discovering Medellin
- Wax Palms of Salento
- Guatapé Town
- The Sprawling Capitol of Bogota
🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Colombia
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Do you have any favorite things to do in Medellin? Let me know in the comments below.
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Plan on traveling to Colombia? Check out these guides for more tips & inspiration.