Medellin is a city located in the Antioquia province in Colombia. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate weather, it offers travelers a wide variety of activities within the city and beyond. Medellin was the third stop of four on our trip to Colombia this past May. In this post, we share tips to help you plan your trip to Medellin or to decide if you want to visit.
1) When to visit:
After spending time in the heat and humidity of Cartagena, Medellin’s more temperate climate was a relief! When we visited, lows were around 18 Celsius, highs about 27 Celsius and humidity about 60%. In Medellín, the summers are warm, the winters are comfortable, and it is wet and overcast year round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 16 °C to 26 °C and is rarely below 15 °C or above 27 °C. The locals we spoke to said their favorite time of the year is December to February.
2) How long to stay:
We spent 3 nights and 2 full days and ran out of time to do everything on our list; we would have needed one more day. We did two tours (market fruit sampling and Comuna 13) and some independent exploring. Most people we met sent about 4 nights/4 days in Medellin as part of a stop on their Colombia trip itinerary. If you plan on visiting Guatapé, you need at least 1 full day for that!
3) Where to stay:
We decided to stay in Poblado for convenience and the availability of accommodations. El Poblado is a more affluent neighbourhood with trendy restaurants, cafes, clubs, and is home to lots of hotels and hostels. It is also known to be safe and near the subway, making it convenient to explore safely. El Poblado can be a little overwhelming with the club scene but you can get away from it. We decided to stay at a small boutique hotel called El Patio Del Mundo a short walk to things but far enough to not be part of the party. We really enjoyed our stay at El Patio Del Mundo and would stay again due to the location, how nice the rooms are, the warm and personalized service, the complimentary breakfast each morning, and getting to spend time with Luna, the resident cuddly golden retriever with a passion for croissants! We had also considered staying at the Marriott but the location was not as convenient, the reviews were average and it seemed to be a generic city hotel in a business district.
4) Medellin or Bogota:
In the initial planning stages of our trip to Colombia, we were going to spend all our time in Bogota; Medellin was not on our radar. From doing some research though, we found Medellin to be quite alluring and decided to spend the majority of our time there instead of Bogota. We spent one day and one night in Bogota and have no regrets about that after being in Medellin but ideally, we would have spent 2 nights and 2 days as many things were closed on the Sunday we were there. Bogota is very scenic and has a lot to offer but it is at a higher altitude and so the weather is cooler, it takes longer to get places, and it has a different vibe (all the barbwire and bars on things makes it seem much less safe). During our stay, we spent most of our time near our hotel, The Artisan D.C. located in Chapinero. We went for lunch at Mini Mal, a Colombian restaurant that offers modern twists on traditional food using as many local ingredients as possible, had a beer at Statua Rota, and had a casual dinner at El Mono Bandido Brewing (burgers and choripan). When deciding how to plan your itinerary, consider the things you want to do, i.e both Medellin and Bogota have art by Botero, both have fruit market tours, both have the opportunity to take a gondola to see views, both have interesting dining scenes but Medellin is the gateway to Guatapé and Bogota to Zipaquirá’s Salt Cathedral. When choosing how much time to spend in each city, consider the attractions outside the city you want to visit.
5) Comuna 13 Tour:
Once known as the world’s most dangerous neighbouhood in the 80s and 90s, Comuna 13 has transformed itself due to investments in community projects. Formerly isolated from the city below, metrocable lines and escalators now connect the comuna to Medellin. You can visit Comuna 13 on your own but we recommend doing a tour to learn more about the history, the murals, buy souvenirs and sample some treats. We aren’t usually tour people but we really Sergio’s tour (booked on Airbnb Experiences) because was casual, informal, and informative. After the tour, we decided to stay longer and explore on our own.
6) Exotic Fruit tour at the market:
Like many others, we booked an exotic fruits tour held at one of Medellin’s markets through Real City Tours. It was super fun and we highly recommend it because it would be impossible to do this on your own, even if you speak Spanish. The guide takes you through the market to sample fruits that are unique to Colombia and at the end, you get to try a juice and chat with the guide and other tour members. Tips: If you are doing this tour, bring water, hand sanitizing wipes, and some small change to pay to use the bathroom.
7) Eat at Alambique:
Alambique is a restaurant and bar in the Poblado area that specialized in fusion Colombian food. Similar to our meal at Celele in Cartagena, Alambique uses local food products as much as possible and prepares them in a unique way. The menu is a 30+ page book in Spanish that will make it hard to narrow down your choices. We ended up having a cocktail, an appetizer and one plate. The portions are huge and you’d need to visit with a large group to try many things. We had the mexicorea tacos as they said it would take 45-60 minutes for the ceviche de chicharron to be ready. The ceviche de chicharron was a play on a Colombian favorite, chicharron (pork belly) with the flavours of a ceviche. It was amazing but hard for us to finish! If we had more time, we would have gone back for another meal as we are still dreaming of the brisket!
8) Craft Beer:
Medellin has a good craft beer scene for those who aren’t into nightclubs and fancy bars! We were able to visit a few breweries in the Poblado area and appreciated each one for what it offered. Unlike here in North America, breweries open later in the day and some of the best food options are only available much later! For example, Bipolar Brewing fires up a grill to make choripan later in the evening. For just beers, we enjoyed Metropole Beer Lab the best. We also enjoyed grabbing some beers to go from Beer Travellers and buying a hat (they only had 2 beers on tap when we visited). We meant to go to 20 Missions Brewing but after our filling meal at Alambique, we decided to skip going but regret not getting to try their chicharron and beers. We also missed out on 3 Cordilleros which offers 5 glasses of beer, a glass (which you take home), and hours of awesome live music for around 50K COP/person ($12.50).
9) Rain in Medellin: Plan for a downpour everyday
We need to talk about the rain separate from the general weather information. Rain in Medellin is a part of daily life as you are in a jungle city high in the mountains. Each day, between 15:00 and 18:00 the skies open up and buckets of rain descend. Despite the rain, the city doesn’t stop but it is best to find a place to wait it out as an umbrella may not be able to handle the weight of that rain. Eventually, the rain dissipates and you can explore again while enjoying the freshness it brought to the city. If you ever get to experience rain in Medellin, consider yourself lucky because it is truly beautiful, even if it can be a little inconvenient at times.
10) Language: Start learning Spanish NOW!
We were surprised by how little English is spoken in Medellin despite how popular it is with digital nomads and tourists. We had to use our basic Spanish skills and Google Translate to get by often. We think it would be hard to get by with no knowledge of Spanish as we were challenged sometimes. This is a tip for travel to Colombia in general: learn as much Spanish as you can!
As for how to pronounce Medellin: some say “MEH – DEH – JIN” and others say “MEH – DEH – YIN“. Max says “MEH-DEH-YIN” and Jason says “MEH-DEN-JIN”: both are okay! This post shares more information about the two pronunciations.
11) Safety: Take precautions and don’t do dumb tourist shit
Overall, we feel that Medellin is safe destination to visit. We encourage everyone to practice common sense and take precautions you should take in many other destinations, i.e. don’t take cash out in crowded and busy areas, don’t wear flashy and expensive things, don’t wear lots of jewelry, don’t walk with your phone in your hand, don’t leave your possessions unattended and in easy reach for passersby, research where to walk in advance, use ATMs located inside (tip, the Bogota Airport has lots of ATMs with no fees so it’s a good place to take cash out!), don’t drink too much and wander late at night, and don’t buy drugs!
12) Cash or Credit Card: Both are accepted widely
We mostly paid with credit card in Medellin but always had cash on hand just in case. We had to pay cash for the exotic fruits tour and the taxi from the airport to the hotel (more on that later!).
13) Taxis and Uber: Uber is illegal but still operates
We used Uber often in Medellin despite their transit system being very safe and clean because of how cheap and easy it was. We had to catch a taxi from Medellin airport when we arrived at the airport and we took an Uber to get back to the airport. The rules around Uber and whether not it’s allowed or legal are very confusing. Uber is not an option from the airport from our understanding though. Like in Cartagena, we made sure to be picked up away from taxis and one of us had to sit in the front seat to make it look like we were being driven by a friend. We had no issues with Uber in Medellin or Cartagena.
14) Getting to your hotel from the airport: Finding a Taxi
When are arrived in Medellin airport, we walked to where the taxis are parked. There was no formal system and we agreed to go with the first person who approached us. After double-checking the rate, we headed off to Medellin for 90,000 COP ($26CAD). The ride took about 45 minutes and we got to take the tunnel that significantly cuts down the travel time and makes it safer. We were very lucky to have the taxi driver we had as he was super friendly and enthusiastic to tell us about Medellin, Antioquia, and ensure we got to see the views (he was so patient with us as he didn’t speak English and we spoke basic Spanish!). Unlike in Cartagena, this was a much more pleasant taxi experience.
15) Getting Here:
There are some international flights to MDE – José María Córdova International Airport, but it is very easy to fly to Medellin from elsewhere in Colombia. We flew from Cartagena to Medellin with Avianca and booked flexible refundable tickets as they were reasonably priced and also allowed for unlimited changes. Overall, we found Avianca to be decent.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Medellin and it exceeded our expectations! Medellin is a fascinating city that is worth visiting to enjoy the scenery, the food, the history, and its friendly people who are so happy to welcome you. We do regret not exploring other neighbourhoods like Envigado and Laureles, where some of the people we met stayed but that just means we will have to go back one day!