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.
If you’re visiting Medellin soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this vibrant city in Colombia.
Medellin is brimming with restaurants, bars, cafes and incredible nightlife. If you think it has a lot to offer in the day, wait until the night!
There are a ton of things in and around Medellin to keep you entertained — from museums, walking tours and football games to escaping into nature outside of the city.
Simply observing how the city is continuing to transform itself and change its reputation is a thing to do in itself.
For these reasons, and so many more, Medellin manages to steal the hearts of so many travellers. It’s no surprise that it’s become a digital nomad hotspot over the past few years.
Medellin has something magical about it that’s hard to describe!
How long should you spend in Medellin?
How long you should stay in Medellin is a difficult question to answer.
We recommend a minimum of three days, but really, we’d say at least a week. There are so many things to do in Medellin, plus it’s a nice city to simply live in for a while.
For this reason, lots of people end up renting an apartment and staying for months. Will you be one of these people that get stuck in Medellin?
Where to stay in Medellin
If you ask somebody where they stayed in Medellin, most people will tell you either El Poblado or Laureles. These are by far the two most popular places to stay in Medellin due to their safety, amenities and range of accommodation.
We’d also recommend staying in one of these two areas, but if you really want to escape the other tourists, we’ve added an alternative option below.
Here are our top 3 recommendations for where to stay in Medellin:
Location #1: El Poblado — restaurants, bars and nightlife
Best for: the vibe. El Poblado’s tree-lined streets, rows of restaurants and party places have made it a hotspot in Medellin.
Who is it for: those wanting a safe area to stay with tons of things to do.
Don’t miss:Parque Lleras, an area brimming with bars and nightclubs playing reggaeton, salsa, bachata, techno, house, pop — pretty much everything!
Biggest downside: El Poblado kind of feels like a bubble within Medellin. Here you’ll have most of the comforts that you’d have at home. Think hipster cafes, international restaurants, a huge supermarket and lots of shops. Some people love this, some people don’t!
Accommodation in El Poblado
El Poblado is the place to be. For this reason, you’ll find a lot of accommodation situated here — hotels, Airbnbs, and most of Medellin’s hostels.
Despite there being a lot of accommodation, places do get booked up pretty quickly. Everyone wants to stay in El Poblado!
Prices tend to be slightly more expensive here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find some steals. Private rooms start at around $18 per night.
Our favourite budget option has to be the beautifully decorated 574 Hotel. If you really want to treat yourself, check out Patio del Mundo. It has to be one of the best hotels in Medellin!
Location #2: Laureles — home to Medellin’s football stadiums, restaurants and bars
Best for: a more laidback atmosphere than El Poblado with more locals. Laureles is also known for its green spaces and parks, which can be nice in an urban city like Medellin. Who is it for: if you want a place to stay where you can feel safe.
Don’t miss: the restaurants, cafes, bars and football stadium.
Biggest downside:most things here are expensive by Colombian standards.
Accommodation in Laureles
Accommodation in Laureles can be slightly cheaper than El Poblado. There are still plenty of hotels, apartments, hostels and Airbnbs.
Again, accommodation does get booked up pretty far in advance for Laureles.
Private rooms can start from around $15 a night if you book in advance.
Location #3: El Centro — Medellin’s business district and commercial centre
Best for: seeing what life in Medellin is really like. El Centro is where locals actually live, unlike El Poblado and Laureles which are mainly full of tourists.
Who is it for: those looking for a more authentic experience in Medellin. The streets of El Centro are packed with people, street vendors and cars. It’s manic!
Don’t miss: Medellin’s main attractions, like Plaza Botero and local restaurants that are considerably cheaper than those found in El Poblado and Laureles.
Biggest downside: be prepared that this area is busy and not as safe as the other two. It’s not recommended to walk around at night in Centro.
Accommodation in El Centro
Not as many tourists choose to stay in El Centro, which makes accommodation cheaper. There might not be as much choice, but private rooms can start from around $10 per night.
Where to eat in Medellin
Medellin is a city that is constantly growing and continuing to thrive. With this come new and exciting restaurants.
Pretty much whatever cuisine you want, you can find it in Medellin, particularly El Poblado. Speaking of El Poblado, this place has truly burst onto the hipster and digital nomad scene, so there are plenty of cafes, brunch spots and quirky restaurants there.
With so many places to choose from, here are our 3 favourite spots in Medellin:
Restaurante Mondongo’s El Poblado — celebrates Colombian culture and tradition
Although we mentioned that El Poblado has become quite a ‘hipster’ hub, we had to begin the list with a long-time favourite, Restaurante Mondongo.
Mondongo is where you can find a lot of Colombia’s traditional dishes, done really well. It’s a great place to try Bandeja Paisa, Ajiaco or Mondongo soup. The fact that the restaurant will be filled with locals tells you that it’s THE place to eat. Also, the portions are huge!
Lavocadería Manila — healthy dishes, all with avocado
Next up, a very different restaurant. In case you hadn’t already worked it out from the name, the basis of the menu at Lavocaderia Manil are avocados. Every dish somehow incorporates avocado into it. Even the cocktails!
The dishes are adventurous and playful. You feel like you’re getting a high-class meal and service, without the price tag. All of the food is presented perfectly. Whilst the taste is delicious. Lavocadería is a nice escape from Colombia’s heavily fried food.
Lucho Arepas Poblado — creative and delicious arepas
A relatively new addition to the Poblado scene is Lucho Arepas. If you’re looking for a delicious lunch or a quick dinner for a couple of dollars, then head here.
Arepas are a staple food in Colombian culture, but Lucho Arepas has spiced them up a bit. They play with the flavours and introduce ingredients that you wouldn’t find in most arepas — pineapple, for example. They have a wide choice of tasty arepas to choose from, both with meat and vegetarian.
How to get around Medellin
Medellin is a big city that covers an area of 382 km². However, there are still areas that tourists aren’t recommended to visit. This means that the distances you’ll be covering aren’t that big.
Also great news, a lot of Medellin’s regeneration efforts have been invested in public transport. The Metro and cable cars, for example, played a big part in changing the city’s appearance and reputation.
Getting around Medellin is part of the adventure, and here are the best ways to do it:
Chances are you’re going to stay in El Poblado or Laureles. This is where most of the tourists stay as it’s safer, has lots of amenities and there are plenty of accommodation options.
These areas are very walkable, so the best way to get around is to simply walk. This way you get to explore the tree-lined streets properly and discover hidden cafes and restaurants.
Medellin is the only city in Colombia to have a Metro. It’s now an integral part of the city that makes getting around a lot easier.
There are only two metro lines: one running north to south, with 21 stations, and one running centre to west, with six stations. This makes using the Metro pretty simple, and hard to get lost.
The Metro in Medellin doesn’t just stick to the ground, though. There are seven Metrocable cable car lines that connect the neighbourhoods situated in the hills around Medellin, to the city. These have become a tourist attraction in themselves.
Top Tip: Google Maps does a really good job at telling you which lines you need to take and in which direction.
Buy a Civica Card
If you’re staying in Medellin for more than a couple of days, and plan to use the Metro, then you should buy a Civica card.
This is a rechargeable card that can be used on all parts of the Metro system, including the cable cars, tram and Metrobuses.
As well as being better for the environment, it works out slightly cheaper and you don’t have to buy a new ticket every time. Plus, you can recharge the card using the machines in the stations, so no queues.
The card costs 5,000 COP ($1.05) to buy (you can also share this between multiple people) and a single trip costs 2,930 COP ($0.60) no matter where you get on or off.
You’ll see plenty of yellow taxis roaming the streets of Medellin. However, hailing a taxi from the road isn’t always the safest option.
We’d recommend pre-booking a taxi through your hotel/hostel, or using an app like Uber.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you have to use a taxi from the street, make sure it’s a licensed taxi and the driver uses their metre.
Using Uber in Medellin
Uber is often cheaper than traditional taxis, much safer and easier to order.
The only problem is that Uber is actually illegal in Colombia. This doesn’t stop them from operating, though.
Instead, you might have to sit in the front seat, and may not be able to get in the Uber right outside the airport or bus terminal.
Medellin’s Metro system should get you to pretty much anywhere you need to go. If this isn’t the case, Medellin’s buses are relatively easy to use, once you know where to get the bus.
How to use Medellin’s buses
There aren’t any websites documenting where you need to get the bus from. Therefore, the best way to find this out is to ask a local or your accommodation.
Once you know this, the buses have big signs in their windscreens indicating where they are going and how much the ticket costs.
Simply hail them down and hop on board. You pay the driver directly, preferably in small change. If you give them a 50,000 COP ($10.50) note, they’re not going to like you too much!
When you want to get off the bus, press the red button on board or alert the driver.
Ticket prices vary depending on where you want to go, but they tend to range between 1,500 COP ($0.30)–2,500 COP ($0.50).
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!
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Medellin. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Medellin. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Medellin.
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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.