Medellín is a thriving city of over 2.5 million people located in the North-Central region of Colombia. It is full of rich culture and history, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and with all it has to offer it is slowly becoming a hotspot for digital nomads and travelers alike – who each appreciate the many things to do in Medellín. Whether you want to hike, party, or immerse yourself in the rich history of the nation, there is something here for everyone.
Curious to find out more? Great! Before discovering the best things to do in Medellín, let me start by highlighting a few things you need to know before you visit.
Make sure to also read my post 29 Best Places To Visit In Colombia.
What To Know Before You Visit Medellín, Colombia
The best time to visit Medellin
Medellín is known as the land of “eternal spring” (primavera eterna, in Spanish)- that’s because it has beautiful, cool weather practically year-round. It has earned the nickname “land of the eternal spring” because of the moderate temperatures.
You can expect a high of 30 degrees Celsius during the day (85 degrees Fahrenheit) and a low of 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) in the evenings, regardless of the time of year – which is actually quite pleasant compared to the sweltering heat of the Caribbean coast, and to the colder temperatures of the capital Bogotà.
Spring generally brings a lot of rain, which is fairly common in Medellín. It does rain year-long. However, the rain generally doesn’t last for long. Just be sure to bring an umbrella out with you.
With this information in mind, the best time to visit Medellin is the Colombian summer, between December and March, which is a bit drier than usual. August is when the Festival of Flowers takes place and the city gets really busy.
Is Medellin safe?
Crime in Medellín has been a hot topic as of late, but it isn’t much different than in other major South American cities. There certainly is crime in Medellín – but with street smarts, you should be fine.
Follow all the typical safety recommendations, which are:
- don’t wear expensive jewelry.
- don’t wave your phone or money around in public and by all means don’t keep your wallet or your phone in your back pocket.
- keep your arm or leg around your bag whenever you sit down at a table.
- don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- don’t walk alone in dark streets or areas.
- use ride-share applications over taxis when possible.
- avoid unsafe areas – touristy areas have more police around so are usually safer.
- simply follow your gut instincts – if something doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t.
Following them, you hopefully won’t have any problems.
We stayed in the historic center of Medellín (where crime is higher than in other neighborhoods) for five weeks and had zero negative experiences, but we were careful for sure.
You should also read my post Is Medellin Safe?
How to get around Medellín
Medellín is extremely easy to get around. Staying within a neighborhood, you can easily walk to everything you need. If you venture out to other neighborhoods, taxis and ride-share applications are affordable (we never paid more than $10 USD for 45+ minute drives).
The Medellín metro is also incredibly easy to navigate and can take you almost anywhere you want to go. If you use Google Maps, they have accurate and updated metro instructions for your destination.
Finally, let’s look into the best things to do in Medellin!
The Best Things To Do In Medellin, Colombia
Visit the historic center, Centro Medellín
While Poblado and Laureles may be the hotspot for tourists and foreigners, the historic center of Medellín is a site to see. It can be easily accessed by public transportation, ride-share applications, or taxis.
Once you get to Centro Medellín, you can witness the more authentic side of the city while visiting some culturally significant memorials of the city such as the Palace of Culture, the Museum of Antioquia, and the Plaza Botero, where you can see 23 bronze sculptures of the iconic Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Just remember that the center of Medellín has a reputation for being slightly more dangerous than other areas of town, so watch your bags and belongings closely. A general rule of thumb we followed was if you saw locals with their backpacks in front of their bodies, then you should have your backpack in the front.
Tour the Comuna 13
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Medellín! Once thought to be the most dangerous area of Medellín, a place of drug dealing, street violence, guerrillas, gangs and guns, Comuna 13 couldn’t be more different now. But it took a lot of hard work by the local community for that, and many sad events.
Things started to change in 2002, when the then President Uribe launched Operation Orion in an effort to take back control of the district from the drug cartels. Helicopters were used to bomb any place thought to be a stronghold of guerrillas, raids took places, and many innocent civilians were the unfortunate victims with of the war against crime, with lots of arbitrary detentions, disappearances, deaths and disruption. The operation was eventually successful – despite the many losses.
The construction of a cable car system in 2008, and of a series of escalators in 2011 that finally connected Comuna 13 to the rest of the city below further improved things, giving local residents the chance of more easily commuting.
Today, Comuna 13 is a colorful, artsy neighborhood of Medellin, with lots of interesting street art, galleries, independent cafés and some of the nicest views of the city. The best way to appreciate this part of town is on a guided tour that will highlight its history and main places of interest.
Free walking tours of Comuna 13 are run by Zippy Tours, but as with all free tours you are expected tip the guide at the end, and the group may be quite large. You can instead opt to join a smaller paid group tour. These are some good options:
Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour with Local Guide – the most highly rated tour of Comuna 13, it includes a ride on the famous cable car that changed the destiny of the area.
Comuna 13 History & Graffiti Tour with Cable Car – another great tour, that is slightly more budget friendly.
Enjoy the rich cuisine
Medellín is known for having excellent international and local foods to try. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there is something for you.
If you are looking for international food, Poblado and Laureles will have anything you’re craving.
El Cielo in Poblado is a highly-rated restaurant with a Michelin-star-rated chef for fine dining. Carmen is another local favourite in Poblado for a Colombian fusion meal with a fancy ambience. For Vegan food, Smash Avocaderia in Laureles is one of the most popular options.
Of course, there are local foods to try all around Medellín, regardless of the neighborhood. Arepa paisa is a must-have for your trip to Medellín. While you’ll find arepa’s all over Colombia, an Arepa paisa is a corn flour arepa filled with butter and cheese for a meltiness that leaves you wanting more.
To try all the local specialties, you may want to join a street food tour. I recommend this one that also goes to Poblado.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Colombian Food To Try.
Plan some day hikes
Beautiful mountains and stunning hiking trails surround Medellín. That makes it the perfect city destination for those that like to get outdoors and explore from above.
Cerro de las Tres Cruces is one of the most popular short hikes because it is fairly easy to get there and do it without a guide. You’ll find a lot of sports-minded people out on the 45-minute trail up and a complete gym on top with a great view of the city.
For something a little more challenging, Pan de Azucar Hill is a 4.5 km (2.8 miles) loop that gives you gorgeous views of Medellín down below.
Dozens of other popular trails around Medellín feature more city views, waterfalls, and even some small caves.
Keep in mind that when going on a trail in Colombia, it is generally recommended to go with a guide to avoid getting lost or other unfortunate events. The prices of guided hikes are actually great for a full-day hike.
For a guided hike from Medellin that you can book online, click here.
Go on a coffee tour
Colombia is well-known for its rich taste and abundance of gourmet coffee. And considering the coffee region is located all around Medellín, it should be no surprise that Medellín offers some wonderful coffee experiences. A coffee tour is definitely one of the unmissable things to do in Medelling for all coffee lovers out there.
While you can find great coffee all over the city, experiencing a coffee tour gives you a unique perspective on the trade and makes for a perfect half-day trip.
I recommend this high-scale coffee tour, complete with coffee tastings and a unique history lesson on the coffee culture in Colombia.
Alternatively, you can join this popular coffee tour with plenty of coffee tastings and local snacks around the history of Colombian coffee culture.
Ride on the Medellín Metrocable
If you have spent time in South America, you may have noticed that metro cable car are a popular form of transportation up to the hills surrounding the city.
The Medellín Metrocable is a gondola lift with three main stops used by both locals and tourists alike to get around. It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon and enjoy the 360-degree view of the city.
It is recommended to go between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm so you can ride to the top and enjoy the relaxing gardens once there.
Visit the Botanical Gardens of Medellín
Visiting the Botanical Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Medellin. They make for the perfect relaxing afternoon. For nature lovers, this is an easy way to get a first-hand glimpse at some of the vast biodiversity of Medellín.
The Botanical Gardens are located in the heart of Medellín, just a short walk from two major metro stations (University and Hospital). Despite its central location, the gardens provide a tranquil reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you are a fan of botanics and plants, you may want to join a guided tour of the gardens. You can book it here.
Take a tour through the Museo El Castillo (The Castle Museum)
Museo El Castillo is a lesser-known about attraction in Medellín and is perfect for castle lovers. While the castle may not be as extravagant as others around South America or Europe, it’s a unique experience with the chance to walk around the beautiful garden on the castle grounds.
Once the residence of a wealthy Colombian, El Castillo was built in 1930 and is a treasure chest of art and original furniture. If you go alone, the guides generally only speak Spanish, so be prepared to practice your Spanish or not have the best idea of what is being explained.
They are also strict about a no-picture policy inside the castle. But you can still sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty around you.
Visit some of the many other famous Medellín museums
In addition to Museo El Castillo, you’ll find many other popular museums throughout the city. Here are a few of the most famous museums to consider for your trip.
Museo De Antioquia
Museo de Antioquia is located near Centro Medellín and is easy to get to by metro or taxi. This museum covers the entire history of Colombia and is full of exciting pieces of information. The Museo De Antioquia is a multi-story museum focusing largely on history but has some beautiful collections of well-known Colombian art. You can easily spend 3-4 hours wandering around.
Pablo Escobar Museum
If you know anything about Colombia, you probably know about Pablo Escobar and the brutal Colombian history he is linked beside. The Pablo Escobar Museum is located in Poblado, Medellín and offers several different tours in English and Spanish.
You can take the full tour, which shows you around the Pablo Escobar stash house, Pablo Escobar’s grave, and several other points of interest around the city. The whole tour takes about 3-4 hours, while the tour of the Pablo Escobar house only requires about 1-2 hours.
Keep in mind that Pablo Escobar is a sore spot for many Colombians, justifiably. Many locals may discourage you from visiting and paying money on behalf of Pablo Escobar and the connected history.
Museo Del Agua
Museo Del Agua is a unique take on your classic science museum. The museum follows the development of water. But it does so in an enjoyable and interactive way for all ages.
You only need one or two hours for Museo Del Agua, so it is a fun short-day activity for those looking to fill in some space in their schedule.
Hop on a city tour
If you’re short on time or want to see as much as possible in one day, one of the best things to do in Medellin is to actually join a full-day city tour. Many of these tours include the most popular spots and destinations, like the Museo de Antioquia and the city gardens.
Going on a city tour means you will have an English and Spanish-speaking guide that can share all the essential information, culture, and history of Medellín that you may otherwise never learn about.
A city tour is recommended if you have little time in Medellín. If you are staying for a more extended trip, consider a city tour on your first day in Medellín to learn your way around while expanding your knowledge of the city’s history.
I recommend this 6-hour city tour of Medellín, which includes entrance and a tour around the Museo de Antioquia and other hot spots.
This Private City Tour with Metrocable and Comuna 13 is a great alternative, as it really goes to the main spots you should visit.
If you prefer, you can actually explore the city by bike. I recommend this bike city tour that also includes food tastings.
Finally, you could consider this 4-hour city tour with Pueblito Paisa, Plaza Botero, and other key spots.
Enjoy the bustling nightlife
Medellín is known for having great nightlife, and it does not disappoint. From exciting salsa spots to crazy crowds on the street to bars bumping electro music, Medellín has it all.
Poblado is the place for a balanced blend of foreigners and locals. The Zona Rosa de Medellín (or the “party district”) is where most things are happening in Poblado. Lleras Park is a well-known, established square filled with various clubs and bars.
Laureles is the place to be if you want a more authentic Medellín nightlife mixed with more locals than foreigners. The most famous street is La Setenta – 70, a long stretch of road filled with bars and clubs. The drinks are more affordable, and the experience is more raw compared to the clubs in Poblado.
You can also find great live music, concerts, and “underground” salsa events stretching all across Medellín. Facebook events and Medellín Facebook groups may be a great way to find out about these if you don’t know a local to keep you in the loop.
Regardless of where you go, make sure to practice normal precautions. Take a ride-share taxi directly to the bar, club, or venue you want to go to minimize walking around the streets late at night.
Plan a day (or weekend) trip out of town
Many little towns and villages are within a few hours’ drive from Medellín. If you stay longer and want to escape the city for a few days, there is no shortage of options.
Guatape is one of the most popular day trips or weekend trips from Medellín. It’s a beautiful lake located about 2 hours east of Medellín. There is a lot to do in Guatape, from small hikes to enjoying the lake and the surrounding area. The town itself is lovely and colorful, and pleasant to explore.
The most popular attraction in Guatape, however, is definitely the “Piedra de Penol”, a 65-million-year-old rock that looks more like a mountain and is surrounded by lakes. You can climb all the way to the top for stunning views.
If you want to visit Guatape on a day trip, perhaps it’s better that you join a guided tour. I recommend this Guatape El Peñol with Boat, Breakfast & Lunch tour from Medellin – it’s highly rated and lasts more than 10 hours.
You should also read my post 8 Best Things To Do In Guatape.
A bit further past Guatape is San Rafael, a small Colombian town on the Guatape lake. You can find even more swimming spots, rivers, and waterfalls to cool off here.
Final Considerations On The Things To Do In Medellin
Whatever you do in Medellin, have fun! This Colombian city has something for everyone, so it’s hard not to enjoy yourself here. And the low local prices make it that much more enjoyable. Whether you’re into hiking, history, or partying, you will surely enjoy your stay in the land of eternal spring.
If you are planning a trip to Colombia, these other posts will be useful:
- A Great 2 Weeks In Colombia Itinerary
- A Concise Guide To Salento, Colombia
- A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia
- An Excellent Guide To San Gil, Colombia
- A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia
- 15 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Cartagena
- 22 Incredible Things To Do In Cartagena
- The Best Day Trips From Cartagena
- A Guide To The Ciudad Perdida Trek: 18 Best Things To Know
- 19 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota
- 7 Great Day Trips From Bogota
- Where To Stay In Medellin