Medellín packs the punch of a city twice its size. Situated in a narrow valley, its skyline reaches for the heavens, setting high-rise apartment and office buildings against a backdrop of jagged peaks in every direction. Its pleasant climate gives it its nickname – the City of Eternal Spring – and the moderate temperatures put a spring in the locals’ steps, at work and at play. It’s a bustling place of industry and commerce, especially textile manufacturing and exported cut flowers. On weekends Medellín lets its hair down, its many discos attracting the beautiful people.
Flowers on balconies and terraces, in gardens and parks, on sidewalk café tables…Medellín blooms all year. That might be because the weather’s typically a perfect 70-75 °F (22-23 °C) no matter the season. Those north-south breezes that flow down from the surrounding mountains help keep city strolls pleasant, too.
Spread across the Aburrá Valley in the Andes, Medellín has an incredible skyline dotted with skyscrapers, grand colonial buildings, and colorful homes. And it looks extra good when you’re zipping over the scene in a cable car.
Unlike expensive, touristy tramways in other cities, the Metrocable is a regular part of the city’s public transport system. So while you’re cruising up high, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals heading home after work, from the shops and restaurants…or — if it’s the L line — on their way to beautiful Arví Park to hang out around Lake Guarne.
No wonder Lonely Planet described taking Medellín’s cable car system as “possibly the least expensive but most comprehensive and photogenic city tour in the world.”
Following a popular vote in 2013, the Urban Land Institute awarded Medellín the Innovative City of the Year award. Those famous tramways and outdoor escalators were deservedly praised, as were the city’s world-class art galleries, libraries, and public spaces. Later, in 2016, Medellín won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, a sort of “urbanism nobel prize” granted because of Medellín’s transformation into an outstanding liveable city.
Top sights in Medellín
Medellín Museum of Modern Art
Set around a refurbished industrial building in Ciudad del Río, ‘El MAMM’ showcases changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The large new wing houses pieces from the permanent collection, which includes many works by local painter Débora Arango. It also has a cinema showing independent films.
This public space in front of the Museo de Antioquia is home to 23 large curvaceous bronze sculptures by renowned local artist Fernando Botero, including some of his most iconic works.
On top of this 80m-tall hill, 2km southwest of the city center, sits the kitschy Pueblito Paisa, a miniature version of a typical Antioquian township. Views across the city from the adjacent platform are stunning. Next to the lookout you’ll find the Museo de la Ciudad, a small museum dedicated to the history of Medellín, which often showcases old photographs of the city.
Take a taxi to the top and walk back down to check out the Botero Plaza, which contains a handful of modern abstract sculptures by South American artists.
In Nutibara Hill, at its summit is the Pueblito Paisa, a reproduction of the municipalities of the Paisa region built in 1977.
Botanical Garden of Medellín
One of Medellín’s nicest green spaces, the botanic gardens cover 14 hectares, showcase 600 species of trees and plants, and include a lake, a herbarium and a butterfly enclosure. A couple of hours here offers a fine respite from the bustle of the city. The gardens are easily accessed from the nearby metro stop Universidad.
Guatape / El peñol
Guatapé is a town and municipality in Antioquia. This quaint town is the gathering place for “Las Vegas”, or the small farms of the area. It is also a growing area of recreation for citizens of Medellín, and aims to be a tourist destination for foreign travellers.
New resorts, several restaurants, and rental homes along the lake are available for visitors. Each building has tiles along the facade’s lower walls in bright colors and dimensioned images. Many of the tiles are tied to the products sold by the shops, or the beliefs of the residents. Others are cultural images of the farming heritage of the community.
The “Peñol Rock” (La piedra del Peñol) that borders the lake is a rock formation, that formed along the Antioquia Rock Base (batolito de antioquia), 70 million years ago. With 2/3 of its height below ground, the exposed vertical face is over 200 meters high and visible from throughout the surrounding countryside. Visitors can scale the rock via a staircase built into one side, a path that includes more than 649 steps to the top. On the flat top of the rock, food vendors offer outdoor tables overlooking vistas that stretch to the horizon in every direction. Above the food vendors are two gift shops, and an open-air viewing area to see the spectacular scenery.
Also you can visit two monasteries, that belong to the “Benedictinos” Communities. The monks are devoted to receive and share with visitors.
There are many Ferries available, to take tours around the dam, and to visit islands known as “The Fantasy Island Hotel”, located at 3 NM, north of Guatapé shore. There are also many extreme and traditional water sports available.
Currently there is a project of constructing an ultralight airport.
What to eat in Medellín?
Arepas are perhaps the most commonly served food in Colombia. It is the most standard of accompaniments and is also eaten on its own.
Arepa is basically a kind of bread made from cornmeal which is often served with butter or corn.
Anyone who books a holiday to Colombia will quickly become very familiar with arepa when they arrive as it is widely served all over the country.
Colombia’s national dish is considered to be bandeja paisa. This is a real feast and not for the faint hearted.
It is a platter filled with steak, pork crackling and chorizo sausages served on a bed of rice and red beans. To top it off, there is usually a fried egg and it is often served with slices of avocado and sweet banana chips.
The designation of bandeja paisa as a national dish has been subject to much dispute and there are many disagreements about what should be included. You can find a version of it everywhere in the country.