Next to Patagonia, Medellin was my favorite place that I visited in South America. Medellin is a very modern city that has experienced immense change in the past few years. Not so long ago it was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world but today it is transforming into an amazing travel destination. I went on hands down the best two tours in South America here, the Free Walking City Tour of downtown Medellin and the Graffiti Tour of Communa 13.
I flew the budget airline VivaColombia from Bogota to Medellin ($47.27 USD). The ride from the main larger (MDE) airport is pretty long. Instead of taking a taxi the entire way, I took a shuttle bus into downtown Medellin (9,000 pesos) and then took an Uber (11,000 pesos) to my hotel in the neighborhood of El Poblado from there.
There are shuttles back to the airport from the same downtown destination but I splurged and took an Uber the entire way back to the airport when I left (67,000 pesos).
Taxi: Taxis are widely available throughout the city.
Uber: I recommend this as the easiest way to get around especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
Metro: If you’re close the Metro I recommend trying it. It is very clean and easy to get around. Just be aware of your belongings while riding. (There are also buses and a trolley system in the city but I didn’t try it out.)
Currency: Colombian Pesos ($1 USD = approx 3,000 Pesos)
ATMs: There are several banks with ATMs around the city.
Hotels: Accept Colombian Pesos and most accept credit cards.
Restaurants: Cash/credit depending on the restaurant.
Shops: Cash/credit depending on the shop.
EAT & DRINK
The water is safe to drink in Colombia so don’t worry about trying the street food.
Guarapo (1000 pesos): A sweet sugar and lime drink, very refreshing in the heat.
Cremas (700 pesos): My favorite snack. A flavored fruit popsicle-like snack dipped in salt.
Street Fruit (1500-2000 pesos): One of the best parts of being in a warm climate is the cheap street fruit everywhere!
Empanadas: In general I am not an empanada fan but if you are this is definitely a good place to get some.
Pandebonos, Buñuelos (500 pesos): A very light cheese/bread snack, definitely try one out!
Bandeja Paisa: A very typical Colombian meal that is extremely filling. There are more modern variations in many of the restaurants but try a classic one to start.
Free Walking Tour (A Must-Do!): I learned the most about the history of the city and country during this tour with our incredible local tour guide Pablo. Even though it’s free you have to register online ahead of time for a spot. Sign up here. If you are on a budget (or even if you are not) this is a great activity. At the end you are asked for a donation of whatever you can give. They also run a Free Walking Exotic Fruits Tour through the market.
Ride the Cable Cars: Although the cars were designed for the locals so they could commute more easily up and down the hills they have become a bit of a tourist attraction. It’s a good activity if you have some extra time in the city.
Paragliding: I didn’t do this but a friend recommended it and loved it. She went with Ruben at Paragliding Medellin.
I booked a lot of my tours with Toucan Cafe & Tours. They also host a Spanish School if you are looking for one in Colombia. I took three tours with them. If you have a group my friend also highly recommended Juan at Landventure Travel for some more outdoorsy activities.
Graffiti Tour with Casa Kolacho: Definitely do this tour. Many locals will tell you not to venture into Communa 13 but as a tourist you are very safe. You will learn about the history of the Communa, take a ride on the famous outdoor escalators and learn about the history of graffiti and it’s affect on the community.
Coffee Farm Tour: If you are serious about coffee I recommend taking an overnight trip farther into coffee country but if you are just looking for a glimpse this a perfect day trip.
Guatapé: I did a day tour to Guatapé that stopped in a few other places along the way. I would recommend doing an overnight nearby if you have the time. This is one of the most popular attractions and is often run with larger rushed bus tours. The most popular part of this tour is climbing the amazing Piedra del Peñol (definitely worth the 740 stair climb for the view) and then seeing the local town of Guatapé with it’s brighting colored and decorated houses. The area is a few hours outside the city is known as a beautiful vacation destination for city dwellers.
The area of El Poblado has lots of cute hotels and hostals and is where many tourists end up staying. It was definitely somewhere I could see myself living if I were to live in Medellin. The main area is filled with lots of cute restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores. Check out Via Primavera for my favorite shops.
Mundo Verde: My favorite restaurant, I ended up going back for lunch a couple of times.
Delirio Exquisito: Mexican food with amazing margaritas.
Cafe Velvet: A coffee shop with a great lunch if you’re looking for somewhere to sit and work awhile.
Juan Valdez: The Starbucks of Colombia, good for a coffee break.
Ocio: I didn’t end up going but if you are a big foodie this was highly recommended.