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Medellin is Colombia’s second largest city, after capital Bogota. The city is huge and lies between the hills in the Antioquia region. Equipped with a modern and luxurious metro system, every part of town is perfectly and easily accessible. Medellin also offers a lot of entertaining activities, hundreds of bars and restaurants and the best street food ever. For party animals, El Poblado is the perfect location to go wild. Some people seem to stay forever in cities like these, just like we did. We planned to stay for a few days and ended up staying almost a month. You can find some great hostels and hotels in Medellin.
Getting there and away
If you’re traveling to a nearby town, it’s probably best to get a bus or a collectivo. Buses arrive to and leave from 2 bus terminals, one in the north and one in the south. Depending on your destination, one of these terminals apply. Mostly, northbound buses leave from the northern terminal and southbound buses from the southern terminal. You can also get into a minivan, called collectivo. Those are a wonderful form of transportation, even though they usually take too many passengers. Collectivos are more difficult to find, but if you’re staying in a hostel, you can usually ask for advice. Collectivos to the airport leave at Parque Berrio, next to the Nutibara Hotel.
Medellin is a big town, which doesn’t mean you can’t just walk around. But you’ll soon notice the metro comes in handy. It’s also possible to get a taxi, but we loved the metro system so much, that we never even thought about a taxi. Generally, we got around by walking and the metro system. Though it’s so easy to travel quickly through the city, Medellin is also a great place to just walk around and discover. The entire city center is well maintained and has a lot to offer for city trippers as well as park dwellers.
The metro system
The Medellin metro system has been called one of the top transport systems in the world. Each year, more than 160 million people use this system. It’s been around for a long time and you can use older metro lines as well as modern lines. Medellin has 5 lines and dozens of stations all around the city. The L line runs all the way to the top of the hill where you can visit the library. From there you can board a cable car system that takes you to Parque Arvi (see below). The metro is operational from 4.30 AM until 11 PM. Check their website to see schedules and maps. Here’s a map of the entire system.
Tips on using the metro
You can get a rechargeable card if you plan on staying a few days. The card itself is free and you can check your balance or top it up when needed.The price per trip is very cheap with a rechargeable card. Buying a single journey ticket each time you board a metro, will be up to 15% more expensive. You’ll also lose precious time waiting in line to buy a ticket. With the prepaid c, rd you can walk almost straight to the platform. The card is called “Targeta Civica” and we used one card for the both of us.
The Medellin metro can be extremely busy on peak hours. We have this system to step into the metro at the exact same time so we never loose sight of each other. It can always happen that we don’t succeed in this when it’s too crowded. If one of us stays behind on the platform while the other is on board, we agreed to meet each other in the next station.
Things to do
There’s a lot more to see than we can ever add to this list. This is a list of some of the popular things to do in Medellin and especially the ones we enjoyed a lot. Medellin Living is an interesting website by an American expat in Medellin. His website has a lot of information about things to do, places to go and current affairs going on in the city.
Parque Explora is one of our favorites. It might be designed for kids to explore science, but we loved it nevertheless. Parque Explora is a very big science discovery center and it can get seriously busy some times. It’s a great place to try hundreds of science experiments, visit the aquarium or reptile center. The park is close to the ‘Universidad’ metro station and the entrance fee is around 10€. You could easily spend an afternoon there. You can find the Parque Explora website right here.
Parque de Los Deseos and the Planetarium
The park of dreams and the Planetarium are located right next to Parque Explora. We visited the planetarium to watch the show. This show is an educational video about the universe, displayed onto the sphere ceiling of a large round auditorium. Meanwhile, you can lay back and try not to start dreaming. The surrounding park is popular with locals and students. Read the time on a giant solar clock or try to talk to each other with the help of two giant half moons and a little science. Parque de Los Deseos is a free park, but the planetarium sets you back around 6€.
Museo de Antioquia and Plaza Botero
We’re not big fans of musea, but we visited the museum anyway. I guess if you’re not that much into museums, like us, this one could be skipped. The museum is partly about Botero, an artist born in Medellin. The other part offers other art: sculptures, paintings, photography, … To understand what Botero art is all about, you could just as well visit the Plaza Botero for free. The park is filled with massive statues and a lot of people. It’s a great pastime just sitting in the park and watch life unfold before you. The entrance fee for the Antioquia museum is around 6€.
Parque Berrio is not really a park. It’s more of an urban area, close to the metro station ‘Berrio’. The park is usually full of life. A lot of people hang or sit around, watching the world walk by and meeting up friends. It’s really the center of all things in Medellin, geographically and life wise. If you get off the metro at the Berrio station, you can easily start walking around this area. Most sights and activities are within walking distance from Berrio.
The Jardin Botanico really is a park! This garden has thousands of different flowers and plants to admire. It’s a great place to escape the city for a few hours. Located in the city center, the park is accessible via the metro station “Universidad” and it’s close to Parque Explora and Parque de Los Deseos. Jardin Botanico opens at 9 AM and shuts its doors at 4.30 PM. You can enter the park for free.
Pablo Escobar City Tour
The Pablo Escobar City Tour is a quite controversial tour that is for sale in Medellin. Some love it, others hate it. We decided not to go on this tour because we thought it was too expensive and we had some doubts about where our money would go to. Multiple operators offer the tour. Depending on which tour you book, prices vary from 20€ to 50€ per person. Other people in our hostel went on this tour and they were only moderately excited about it.
Medellin has a lot of great street food. We loved the empanadas best. They’re slightly different in each city. We found a great empanada stall next to the Exito supermarket and just couldn’t stay away. There’s a lot of other typical street food in Colombia and Medellin. We’re careful with food because of my allergies. That’s why we better redirect you to a real foodie in Colombia who wrote about Colombian Street food.
El Poblado is the place to be for partying. Most of the Medellin hostels are located in this area, so there will definitely be a backpacker vibe. We chose a hostel outside this area since we’re not into a party every day. El Poblado is full of life, day and night. We went to Poblado once, with 10 other people staying in our hostel and we had a wonderful time. Going out is always better when you’re with some new international friends!
Parque Arvi is another great place to escape the city for a few hours. There are a lot of activities to be done like zip lining, horseback riding, hiking or simply enjoying the forest. The park is located just outside Medellin and you can get there with the metro and metro cable. The metro cable first takes you up on the hill, where you have to switch lines. The last part of the metro cable hovers you for twenty minutes over kilometers of forest before you reach the station to enter the park.
Guatape and the rock can be visited in a day trip. If you have a little time to spare, we recommend staying a few days. Guatape is a charming and colorful little town with a square where children play and adults meet up. There are a lot of great accommodation options too! The Guatape region was flooded in the sixties after building a hydroelectric dam. If you climb over 700 steps to reach the top of the Penol de Guatape, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the area. Entrance fee to climb the Penol de Guatape is approximately 5€ per person. Take some extra money for ice cream on the way up. Read more about Guatape here!