The Top 12 Things to Do in Medellin, Colombia

Complementary mass transportation system of the city of Medellin called Metroclable B
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Medellin, the City of the Eternal Spring, knows how to reinvent itself. The former base of Pablo Escobar and current haven of digital nomads, there's much more to do here than visit the sights made famous by Netflix's "Narcos." Learn the holistic history of the city by visiting its museums, like the Museo Casa de la Memoria and the Museo Antioquia. See firsthand where formerly dangerous areas have shifted due to innovation and community pluck by touring the graffiti walls of Comuna 13 or riding the Metrocable. Walk its beautiful gardens and attend its flower parade. Stay out all night dancing salsa or clubbing in Poblado. Ground yourself in Barefoot Park, and paraglide high above the streets filled with tropical fruit vendors. To truly appreciate it, allow yourself to see this city not just for what it was or what it is, but also for what it's becoming.

01 of 12

Ride the Metrocable to Parque Arví

Previews - FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016
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Via a Piedras Blancas, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Phone +57 604 4442979

Take Linea L on the Metrocable from the Santo Domingo interchange to Parque Arví, a vast forested nature reserve and a pre-Hispanic archeological site. Entry to the park is free, though certain activities such as bicycle tours, boating excursions, and the butterfly farm charge a fee. Hike the 13 trails, go birding, and browse the small market of food and craft stands. The ride to and from the park over the hills of Medellin provides stunning aerial views of the city’s comunas (districts) and the Medellin River. An attraction in its own right, the Metrocable is part of the Medellin Metro, Colombia’s only metro system.

02 of 12

Bless Yourself at Plaza Botero

Plaza Botero, Medellin, Colombia.
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Avenida Carabobo, La Candelaria, Medellín, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, 050010, Colombia

The 23 plump bronze statues of Fernando Botero's spread throughout Botero Plaza are said to bring luck and love to all who rub them, known as the "Botero legend." Botero, a famous painter and sculpture from Medellin, developed Boterismo, a style of art combining neo-renaissance, figurative, and contemporary elements, resulting in bulbous people and animals. Botero sculpted and donated all of the plaza's statues, ranging from a plump horse to a voluptuous lounging woman. Located downtown in Medellin's Old Quarter, find it sandwiched between the Museum of Antioquia and the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture. It's free to enter, photograph, and rub the statues in the plaza.

03 of 12

Dance Salsa

General Views Of Colombia
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Dance salsa every night in Medellin with every level of dancer, from beginner to pro. Venues range from salsa nights in bars like Son Havana and El Eslabon Prendido (some even with live bands) to formal dance schools like DanceFree in Poblado. You can also find lots of informal dance meetups in city parks. If your budget’s tight, attend the free classes or pay a small entry fee at one of the salsa bars, but if you have the money and the time, pay for a few classes at DanceFree, as you’ll progress much quicker during your stay.

04 of 12

Learn Colombian History at the Museo Casa de la Memoria

Mural at El Museo Casa de La Memoria

Courtesy of El Museo Casa de La Memoria

Parque Bicentenario, Cl. 51 #36-66, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, 050013, Colombia
Phone +57 604 5202020

A solemn, educational memorial on the wars, armed conflicts, and other violence in Colombia, the Museo Casa de la Memoria serves to document the stories of victims while educating visitors on the past and ongoing violence in the country. A touchscreen timeline allows visitors to read in-depth about the narco cartels, the paramilitarios, the former dictatorship, and the present-day reforms in the country. Other exhibits contain stories and photos of victims, as well as messages from their families. Concerts, workshops, and other events help visitors understand present-day Colombia through the context of its past. Free to visit, find it in Parque Bicentenario.

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05 of 12

Geek Out at Parque Explora

People Visit Parque Explora Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic
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Carrera 52 #73-75, Aranjuez, Medellín, Aranjuez, Medellín, Antioquia, 050010, Colombia
Phone +57 604 5168300

See over 300 species of fish at South America’s largest freshwater aquarium, and check out the over 300 interactive exhibits in the attached science museum. A series of four red cube buildings with outdoor display spaces, a vivarium, a planetarium, and a small television studio, the Parque Explora complex offers activities for kids of all ages. Record your own podcast episode, learn about the history of radio in Colombia, and make life-size pin art. Walk through the dinosaur exhibit, create graffiti, and see massive snakes and reptiles in the vivarium. General admission costs the equivalent of about $5. Reach it by taking the Metro to the Universidad station in Zona Norte.

06 of 12

See Art at the Antioquia Museum

Museum of Antioquia and the Botero Plaza
Mabelin Santos / Getty Images
Calle 52 #52-43, La Candelaria, Medellín, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, 050010, Colombia
Phone +57 604 2513636

The Museo de Antioquia displays Pre-Colombian, colonial, and modern art and creates art by collaborating with resident artists. The permanent collection includes many clay pieces from the region, as well as works by Fernando Botero, the local artist turned international superstar for his curvy Boterismo figures. Colombian artist Pedro Nel Gomez, a pioneer of the Colombian Muralist Movement, also features prominently. Though known for its collection, the museum’s work in the community has given it fresh relevance, demonstrated by its award-winning cabaret of sex workers entitled “No One Knows Who I Am,” with performance artist Nadia Granados. Entry to the museum cost the equivalent of about $5. Take the Metro to Parque Berrío to reach it.

07 of 12

Walk Amongst the Flowers

Saddle decorated with flowers on the street in the parade.
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Bountiful in blooms, the reason behind Medellin’s nickname as “the City of the Eternal Spring” can be seen in full display during the Feria de las Flores when a parade of 500 flower vendors march the streets with overflowing bouquets and massive flower arrangements overtake the city’s balconies, billboards, and malls. If you can’t make the festival in early August, experience the flower abundance by going to the flower market at Placita de Flórez, the biggest plant market in the city. Alternatively, picnic in the Joaquín Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden, where 4,500 flowers grow in rows of yellows, pinks, and reds. Free to enter, the garden also contains a natural rainwater collection system, the Orquideorama, doubling as a protective shield for the butterfly and orchid gardens.

08 of 12

Eat Tropical Street Food

Atmosphere photo in Medellin
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An incredibly bio-diverse country with a fantastic array of fruits, Colombia is one of the best places in the world to eat healthy street food. Sip on a sweet, frothy guanábana (soursop) shake or limonada de coco (coconut milk mixed with lime). Sample sour yet sweet borojó (thought to be an aphrodisiac) or snack on guava, star fruit, or yellow dragon fruit. Street vendors throughout Medellin cut up fruit salads, like green mango with salt, for a hydrating, light lunch, or as a palate cleanser for those who’ve opted for the heavier street fare like arepas and buñuelos.

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09 of 12

Go Clubbing in Poblado

Eclectic Bar
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The most famous district for nightlife, Poblado contains the greatest number of the city’s dance clubs, Parque Lleras, and the bar street Via Provenza. With a beer in hand, take in the incredible views of the city from Envy rooftop at The Charlee Hotel, or head to Vintrash to dance to reggaeton. For those that want a chill club with good DJs and no dress code, Calle 9+1 is the place to go, while The Blue Bar serves reasonably priced drinks and the speakers blast rock and electronic music. If you’re unsure where to start, buy an Aguila from a convenience store near Parque Lleras, then chill on at the park to see where people are heading from there.

10 of 12

Relax in Barefoot Park

Fountain of the barefoot park Medellin Colombia
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Carrera 58 #42-125, La Candelaria, Medellín, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, 050015, Colombia
Phone +57 604 3808080

Parque de Los Pies Descalzos invites visitors to take their shoes off and experience nature more intentionally through bare feet. Free to enter and explore, the park offers guides to lead patrons through installations and activities centered around the elements of water, air, and land. Stick your feet in the Well of Sounds for water jets to massage your feet, or walk on the Zen Garden’s stones to stress your foot fascia. Work your balance by walking on the beams of the Level Towers, or go through the Maze with eyes closed, using your other senses to guide you. Open every day but Monday, reach it by taking the Metro to the La Alpujarra station.

11 of 12

Slide Through Comuna 13's Graffiti Murals

American tourist sliding down a slide in the Comuna 13 in Medellin
Juan Alberto Casado / Getty Images
#34cc-2 a 34cc-58, Carrera 110, La Independencia, Medellín, San Javier, Medellín, Antioquia, 050028, Colombia
Phone +57 301 3387080

Previously one of the city's most dangerous areas due to violence committed by guerillas of urban militia groups, Comuna 13 has transformed into a bastion of graffiti art and a testament to the city's innovation and rebirth, complete with a giant slide and famous series of escalators. Wall-sized colorful murals cover the streets next to the escalators, installed to aid in transportation and access to job opportunities for residents. Tours by resident guides happen daily, explaining the significance behind each mural and speaking about Comuna 13's past conflicts. To visit, take a tour or take the Metro to the San Javier station, then bus 221i or 225i. Despite recent changes, it is not advised to visit this area at night.

12 of 12

Paraglide Over the City

Paragliding with Medellin Paragliding

Courtesy of Medellin Paragliding

Take off from the hills of San Felix to paraglide over the lush Aburrá Valley and the red-roofed houses of Medellin. Located about 40 minutes from Medellin proper, Medellin Paraglide offers tandem 15-minute day flights, as well as certification courses for those wanting to learn how to fly on their own (a commitment of 40-plus hours and multiple flights). Started by the father of paragliding in Colombia, Ruben Dario Montoya Vargas or "Ruben Fly," the school has internationally certified instructors, all bilingual in English and Spanish. Take your own transportation via taxi from Medellin or the Metrocable to La Aurora, or book directly with the school for door-to-door pick-up service.

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The Top 12 Things to Do in Medellin, Colombia