Once home to one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world, Medellin is now a city that symbolises innovation, resilience and growth.
Medellin is a sprawling and vibrant city that’s surrounded on all sides by the Andes, giving you stunning views no matter where you are. It’s also the ‘city of eternal spring’, offering near-perfect weather all year round.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Medellin, including free activities and off-the-beaten-path locations.
Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Medellin — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
#1 Discover Medellin’s innovation and social resilience in Comuna 13
Just a few years ago, Comuna 13 was considered the most dangerous area in Medellin, and one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world.
However, the locals in Comuna 13 decided that they had had enough of the violence, crime and drugs. With the government’s attempts at change failing, members of the community banded together and started to make a change.
What is Comuna 13 like today?
After years of hard work, Comuna 13 is a symbol of innovation, resilience and transformation.
It’s now one of the most popular spots to visit in Medellin, with millions of people visiting it every year.
Visitors from all across the world are attracted by Comuna 13’s colourful walls that are covered in murals, the street performers and the underlying buzz that ripples through the neighbourhood.
How to visit Comuna 13
Comuna 13 has a story to tell. The best way to learn about it is by joining a tour and discovering the journey that the community has been on.
The majority of tour guides were born in Comuna 13, so they can give you a first-hand experience of what it was like growing up here and witnessing the transformation.
Zippy Tour offers an informative and thought-provoking free walking tour of Comuna 13 every day at 10am and 2pm.
The only downside to this tour is that it is very popular, making the tour a little less intimate. For this reason, you might consider booking a paid tour of Comuna 13, or even a private tour so that you can ask as many questions as you’d like!
Medellin’s cable cars were a vital implementation for the city. Before they existed, it was very difficult for the residents living in the hillside neighbourhoods to reach the city centre, leading to social exclusion.
In 2004, the first Metrocable cable car was built in Medellin, connecting 230,000 inhabitants to the city. Now there are six lines that are integrated into the Metro system.
As well as being an integral form of transport for the locals, the cable cars have now become a fun activity to do in Medellin.
Each of the cable cars lines has something different to offer, but all of them boast incredible views of the city and neighbourhoods below.
How to use Medellin’s cable cars
Using the Metrocable is no different from using the Metro as it’s all one transport system!
Find out how to use the Metro and Metrocables in our guide to visiting Medellin.
Visiting Parque Arvi ticks two things off the list — using the cable car and visiting the park.
It’s hard to believe that somewhere like Parque Arvi is accessible from Medellin in less than an hour! One minute you’re in the crazy urban jungle that is Medellin, and the next you’re in the actual jungle.
What is Parque Arvi?
Parque Arvi is a large ecological nature reserve on the outskirts of Medellin that covers 39,500 acres.
With 33 miles (54km) of walking trails and activities such as hiking, cycling and horse riding, it’s a great place to spend the day. There are over 70 species of birds, 72 species of butterflies and 19 species of mammals all to be found in Parque Arvi.
On the weekends, Mercado Arvi has around 40 stalls selling local produce, cakes, coffee, jewellery and much more.
Plus, the journey up to Parque Arvi should be enough to convince you to go!
How to get to Parque Arvi
The best way to get to Parque Arvi is via the Metro. You’ll first need to take the Metro to Acevedo Metro Station.
From here, transfer to the Metrocable Line K to Santo Domingo. Once you reach Santo Domingo, transfer to Line L to Parque Arvi.
Spoiler alert: the last cable car ride is incredible!
The cable car to Parque Arvi costs an additional 11,150 COP ($2.35) each way.
#4 Join a free walking tour
One of the best ways to get to know a city is by joining a walking tour.
Within 2-3 hours, you get to know about the history and culture of a place, explore an area and get some recommendations from the local guide.
We recommend joining a free walking tour. The concept is great! At the end of the tour, you pay what you think the value of the tour was.
Which is the best free walking tour in Medellin?
BeyondColombia is a tour company that operates in a number of cities across Colombia.
We recommend joining either the Cultural Downtown or El Pablado walking tour, or both!
Cultural Downtown Walking Tour
The Cultural Downtown Walking Tour takes you around Medellin’s historic centre. Here you really get to understand Medellin’s people, history, development, conflict and social commitment.
The tour takes you on a journey from the city’s dark and violent past to the collective, resilient mentality today.
You’ll get to see unmissable places such as Plaza de Botero, La Libertad, Parque de las Luces and more.
The tour runs Monday-Saturday at 9:30am.
El Poblado Walking Tour
During the El Poblado tour, you’ll learn why this neighbourhood became one of the most exclusive and sought after in Medellin. Your guide will point out all of the smaller details often missed in El Poblado.
As an added bonus, you can learn to dance a little reggaeton or salsa with a free shot!
The tour runs Monday to Saturday at 4pm.
#5 Take a day trip to Guatape to climb Piedra del Peñol
A very popular day trip from Medellin is to visit Guatape.
Guatape is a small town to the east of Medellin, with a lot to offer. It’s home to colourful colonial houses, a giant reservoir and the famous Piedra del Peñol — a giant granite stone with 649 steps to the top.
Lots of people opt to take a boat ride on the reservoir as it gives you views of Pablo Escobar’s old houses, and now homes of famous people in Colombia.
How to visit Piedra del Peñol
Standing 220m high, Piedra del Peñol is the star of Guatape. It’s the main reason why most people visit the town. It offers panoramic views of the reservoir and doubles as an intense workout. Did we mention there are 649 steps?
To reach Piedra del Peñol from the centre of Guatape, you can either walk 30 minutes along the road or hop in a tuk-tuk for around 10,000 COP ($2.10). Do haggle on the price.
Heading back to town, there are usually pick-up trucks waiting a few metres down the road from the rock. These should be around the same price.
Tickets to climb Piedra del Peñol cost 20,000 COP ($4.25).
Alternatively, for $35 you could join a tour that organises the whole day for you!
This all day tour covers everything you’ll want to see in Guatape — Piedra del Peñol, a boat ride on the reservoir, a visit to the colourful streets — plus breakfast, lunch and transportation.
#6 Join fanatic fans at a football match in Medellin
Seeing a football match in Latin America should be on everyone’s list, whether you like football or not.
Latin Americans LOVE football, and this comes across during their matches. You’ll probably never experience an atmosphere like it anywhere else in the world.
They go crazy for football! Fans organise their own live bands who play that football team’s chants throughout the whole game. At no point do the fans stop singing and chanting except to celebrate a win.
The vibe in the stadium really is electric!
How to attend a football match in Medellin
Medellin has two professional teams, Atletico National and Independiente Medellin. Both play in Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Laureles.
As long as it’s not a really important game, getting tickets for a match should be relatively easy. You can buy them from the entrance of the stadium a few hours before kick-off.
Tickets can start from around 20,000 COP ($4.25) depending on your seat, but the average tends to be between 50,000 COP ($10.50)–100,000 COP ($21).
Top Tip: Make sure to do your research beforehand on where you want to sit. Which team do you want to support? How rowdy do you want your area to be?
#7 Get a birds-eye view of Medellin by paragliding
Paragliding is something that most of us want to tick off our bucket list. What better place to do that than Medellin?
Medellin is an incredible city from the ground, but it might arguably be better from above. You can decide!
Paragliding over the city will give you an amazing perspective of how dense, colourful and manic it is.
You can choose the length of your paragliding flight, starting with 15 minutes and up to 30. Prices for this experience start at $48.
Plaza Botero is one of the most iconic sites in Medellin, celebrating Colombia’s beloved artist — Fernando Botero.
Once you know Botero’s work, it’s hard to forget it. His voluptuous sculptures and humorous paintings are recognisable across the world.
Donated by Botero in 2002, Plaza Botero is now home to 23 bronze sculptures, each one special and unique.
In one direction, you’ll see giant animals. In another, a rather stout man riding an equally stout horse. The plaza is a wonderful place to walk around, admiring the pieces and taking some great photos!
#9 Visit the Museum of Antioquia
Right by Plaza Botero is the Museum of Antioquia. The fun of Botero’s work continues on inside the museum, with around 100 donated pieces of artwork by Botero.
That’s not all there is inside. The Museum of Antioquia is home to a range of exhibitions showcasing pieces from pre-Columbian, colonial and modern art collections.
The museum is open every day and entrance costs 18,000 COP ($3.80).
#10 Immerse yourself in the Planetarium of Medellin
You may not have originally come to Medellin to learn about space, but the Planetarium of Medellin is an activity not to be missed.
It’s one of the most modern planetariums in the world, with exhibits educating visitors about Earth, space, the galaxy and any extraterrestrial beings that might be out there.
Almost every part of the museum is interactive, making it a fun experience for everyone. All of the information is in both Spanish and English.
Visit the immersive digital dome
Potentially the best part about the planetarium is the digital dome that provides a high-quality immersion experience.
With your ticket, costing 20,000 COP ($4.25), you get to see a show in the dome. These shows cover topics about aliens, the Sun, who we are and much more!
#11 Step into a new world in Parque Explora science museum
Another great museum to visit in Medellin is Parque Explora — an interactive science museum.
The structure outside alone is a spectacle to see. The museum is made up of four giant, red cuboid buildings.
Inside, Parque Explora is so much more than just a museum. It contains over 300 interactive exhibits, an aquarium, a terrarium, 3D movie theatre, restaurants and its own television studio.
Explora is home to South America’s largest freshwater aquarium with 4,000 aquatic animals in 25 tanks over three floors. Many of them can only be found in the Amazon.
Entrance to Explora Parque costs 27,000 COP ($5.50), or you can combine it with the Planetarium for 40,000 COP ($8.50).
#12 Relax in Medellin’s botanical gardens
Just across the road from the Planetarium of Medellin and Parque Explora are Medellin’s botanical gardens.
It can be a good place to reflect after visiting some of the museums, or somewhere to escape into nature.
Covering 34 acres, the gardens almost make you forget that you’re actually sitting in a busy city.
What is there to see inside the botanical gardens?
With over 1,000 different species of plants, the botanical gardens are thriving with life and greenery.
You can either wander along the trails or find a relaxing spot in one of the open areas. Visitors can also enjoy a butterfly farm, tropical gardens, lagoon and a cactus garden.
Keep an eye out for the large iguanas that roam freely throughout the gardens or the turtles sunbathing on the rocks in the lagoon.
The Orquideorama (you’ll know when you see it) at the centre of the botanical gardens is a site to see.
Entrance to the botanical gardens is free.
#13 Spend the day exploring El Poblado
If you’re not already staying in El Poblado, then we highly recommend visiting this area of Medellin.
It’s one of the most popular areas in the whole city, brimming with restaurants, bars and cafes. Its tree-lined streets created an exclusive air about the area, very different to other places in Medellin.
El Poblado is also the place to go for nightlife. Head to Parque Lleras and you’ll instantly know you’re in the right place as the music starts pouring out to the streets.
#14 Explore the neighbourhood of Laureles
Another popular area in Medellin is Laureles. Hop on the Metro and spend your afternoon wandering through its streets, visiting the stadium and grabbing something to eat in a restaurant.
Laureles has a similar vibe to El Poblado. It’s home to some of Medellin’s wealthier residents and is a very safe place to walk around.
Haven’t decided where to stay? Check out our guide to Medellin where we cover the best options: Laureles, El Poblado and Centro.
#15 Hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces
Every Latin American city seems to have a viewpoint which you can hike up to, and Medellin is no different.
Cerro de la Tres Cruces, which translates to the hill of three crosses, is a popular hike that offers panoramic views of Medellin. The contrast of the dense city against the lush mountains is quite breathtaking.
How to hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces
The hill is located in the southeast of Medellin, with the trail starting here.
The hike is fairly quick but steep. You gain 320 metres of elevation. It’s a 3.8km return, so the whole thing should take you around 2 hours.
As well as the incredible views from the top, there’s also an outdoor workout area, in case the hike up wasn’t enough exercise for you.
#16 Visit Pueblito Paisa for views of Medellin
If you don’t have time to visit the quaint little towns dotted throughout the Antioquian region, then you can visit Pueblito Paisa.
Located on the top of Cerro Nutibara in Medellin, Pueblito Paisa is a replica of a traditional Antioquia town — just a bit smaller. It consists of a small town square, fountain, church, townhall, barber shop and a one-room school.
Being situated on top of a hill, a trip to Pueblito Paisa will also provide you with some amazing views of Medellin below.
This place is pretty touristy, so expect it to be quite busy. If you’re looking for an authentic town experience, consider visiting Jardin for the day (#25).
#17 Try Bandeja Paisa, Antioquia’s famous dish
You simply can’t come to Medellin and not try Bandeja Paisa (unless you’re vegetarian, then we’ll let you off as it’s a very meat-heavy dish).
Bandeja Paisa originated from the Antioquia region, of which Medellin is the capital, so it’s super popular there. You won’t struggle to find somewhere to try it!
What is Bandeja Paisa?
Bandeja in English means platter, and we’re not exaggerating when we say that you get a whole platter of food. The dish is huge!
All on one plate you’ll receive two types of Colombian sausage, ground beef, chicharron (fried pork belly), rice, beans, arepa, plantain, avocado and a fried egg on top. And it’s delicious!
Food from Colombia may not be world-renowned, but it does have some gems.
A food tour is a great way to get to try a range of these foods. Even better, why not pair a food tour with a bike tour. That way you get to learn about the city, do some exercise and eat some food along the way.
Over 3-4 hours, this bike city tour will take you to lush parks and off-the-beaten-path locations.
You’ll conclude the tour with a visit to Pueblito Paisa, the best viewpoint in Medellin, where you can enjoy a local beer and get some great pictures all for $23.
#19 Take part (or party) in Gringo Tuesday
If you’ve already been to Bogota then you might already know what Gringo Tuesday is.
If not, as the name suggests, every Tuesday a language exchange is held. It’s a great opportunity for travellers and locals to come together to practise a new language — English, Spanish, French, German.
Then the party begins…
At around 8pm, the music gets louder, the dancing begins and the beer pong comes out. It’s guaranteed to be an amazing night filled with great music and new friends!
Gringo Tuesday is held every week in Vintrash Bar. Entrance is free for those there before 8pm or amongst the first 300 people. Afterwards there is a cover charge of 20,000 COP ($4.25).
It’s a modern market that has become a hub for international cuisines. All of which sits inside an old soap warehouse from the late nineteenth century. A large proportion of the warehouse has been repurposed to create a vintage and hip feel.
Aside from the awesome ambience and interior, Mercado del Rio is home to 22 different cuisines: Colombian, Peruvian, Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern. The list continues!
It’s a nice spot to grab lunch, try some great food and hang out with friends, making it a fantastic Medellin activity if you want to slow it down.
#21 Find some gems at the San Alejo Handicraft Market
If you’re lucky, your trip to Medellin will align with the San Alejo Handicraft Market which runs every first Saturday of the month.
The market is a wonderful way to spend a few hours, discovering the talents and gems of the locals. Pretty much everything in the market is handmade, using materials you wouldn’t even believe are possible to make something.
San Alejo is the perfect place to buy some original souvenirs, like jewellery, paintings, sculptures and more.
The market is held in Parque de Bolivar from 8am-6pm every first Saturday of the month.
#22 Join Ciclovia on a Sunday morning
Every Sunday something magical happens across Colombia. In all of the major cities, a large area of streets is closed to cars and overrun by pedestrians.
Locals then flood to these streets to go running, cycling, even rollerblading.
The program was introduced to promote active living in urban areas. This definitely seems to have worked as you see thousands of people passing through the streets.
Stalls selling food and drink set up along the street, making the day a real event
Ciclovia starts at 7am until 1pm. The road that’s shut is called Avenida Poblado. It runs from the south in Envigado until El Centro in the north is shut.
#23 Enjoy a caffeine boost learning about coffee
For those visiting Salento (you definitely should), we would save a coffee tour for there. It’s within Colombia’s famous coffee region, and one of the best places to visit a coffee farm.
But if you don’t have time to visit Salento, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on all the Colombian coffee fun! A coffee tour is a great thing to do just outside Medellin.
Join a coffee tour
Only 45 minutes from Medellin, you can find glorious coffee farms. Who would believe it?
On this immersive and informative coffee tour, you’ll get to learn about the history of coffee in Colombia, discover the process of how it’s made, give it a go yourself and, of course, try some freshly brewed coffee!
To make sure you don’t get hungry, you can also try a typical dish from the region made of banana with honey and cheese. Enjoy this alongside your drink of mucilago (coffee juice).
Later, there’s even more to try! You’ll also get to try bandeja paisa.
After this coffee tour, your idea of coffee and understanding of it will be completely different. Amazingly, you get all of this for only $47.
#24 Get muddy in the mountains on an ATV tour
Want to see what’s outside of Medellin? An ATV tour can be a great way to do this!
Over five hours, you’ll really get to explore the mountains surrounding Medellin. Along the way, you’ll pass through small farms and open fields, boasting some awesome off-road trails.
Inevitably, you’ll have worked up an appetite. That’s good as you’ll enjoy a typical lunch at a local trout farm.
An added bonus is that this ATV tour for $164 is private. You can go at your own pace and stop wherever you want.
#25 Visit the town of Jardin — a hidden gem
While most people head to Guatape, you might want to think about visiting Jardin — a colourful colonial town that hasn’t been fully discovered by tourists yet.
And that’s what makes it so special! You really get a glimpse at what local Colombian life is like in a colonial town.
We recommend staying a few days in Jardin so that you can slip into life alongside the locals and enjoy the vibe.
Your fun-packed day begins with a visit to one of the thriving coffee plantations near Jardin. Here, you’ll learn about Jardin’s unique climate for coffee growing, how they produce coffee beans and different roasting techniques.
Your mind will be blown during the coffee tasting at just how much we miss when we’re gulping down our morning coffee.
After you’ve gained your little coffee buzz, you get to enjoy a cable car ride through the mountains, overlooking Jardin and the surrounding area.
Your day ends with some time to explore the town of Jardin. Wander its vibrant streets and enjoy a rest in a cafe.
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Medellin, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Medellin, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Our favourite places to stay in Medellin
Medellin has transformed from one of the most dangerous cities in the world to a destination that people are dying to visit. Through innovation and resilience, Medellin is now a modern and stylish city with some amazing and inexpensive accommodation.
El Poblado, one of the richest and safest areas to stay in Medellin, is a hotspot for visitors — if you want to stay here, make sure to book in advance.
Here are our favourite places to stay in Medellin:
Patio del Mundo — Treat Yourself
As soon as you step foot into Patio del Mundo, you can see that every detail has been carefully thought out. Every room is uniquely designed and decorated with local artcraft.
The hotel feels like a retreat within the city. You can enjoy massages, yoga and reiki in the big private garden. Alternatively, you can relax in the onsite bar or indulge in the premium coffee, teas and water that are included in your stay.
14 Urban Hotel is an ultra-stylish hotel, boasting an interesting urban design (as the name suggests). All of the rooms are large and luxurious, with some of them offering jacuzzi-style baths.
The rooftop terrace is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the incredible views over Medellin. You can’t really get a better location than this too. You’re only moments from El Poblado’s best restaurants and bars.
Rango Hostel Boutique has achieved the perfect balance between luxury and social. This place feels more like a hotel than a hostel, but its friendly atmosphere makes it a great place to meet other travellers.
It’s tempting to spend all your time in the hostel with the rooftop pool, terrace, bar, restaurant, chill out spots and game facilities. There’s a lot to keep you entertained!
Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.