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Medellín Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Do, and More

Looking for travel adventure, eats, and endless experience in a perfect urban mountain metropolis? Medellín, Colombia should be high on your list. Medellín is almost always between 63 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit. In Colombia, the weather is dictated by elevation rather than location. With its borders both above and below the equator, the country remains hot n’ steamy at sea-level Cartagena, cool on Bogotá’s plateau high in the Andes Mountains, and, not unlike the best of Goldilocks’ burglary, Medellín is juuust right, tucked into the Aburrá Valley under mountains that keep the warm air in and the rain out.

There are almost endless places to visit, view, and eat under the Medellín sun. Colorful homes line up next to colonial hotels, modern museums, and swanky hotels. Music adds spice to the air, as do grilling meats and the lights that splash across the evening. After you’re done with consumption, the city offers an abundance of urban retreats. Swim, hike, fly across the sky via this Manual guide.

Panorama of Medellín sitting under the Andes.
Wikimedia Commons

(*Speaking of flying, a State Department Advisory warns that there is still a pandemic and it hasn’t missed Colombia. Like many places, however, new cases have dropped precipitously since the third wave of the pandemic has ebbed. Proof of COVID-19 is required for travel to the country.)

Where to Stay

There are a number of wonderful neighborhoods to explore in Medellín. To find the best place to stay in is to choose between the various barrios, likely between the La Laureles and Poblado larger districts.

With over 300 neighborhoods to choose from, visitors should start with the handful where most expats and visitors begin. These include, but are not limited to Central Laureles, Northeastern Laureles, Central Poblado, Lower Poblado, and La Florida, Poblado.

Marquee Medellín

The inside bar and plush lobby at the Marquee Medellín.
Marquee Medellín

Here’s all the Marquee has to offer: Panoramic views of the city, soothing dark brown walls under a warm light color scheme that brings out a stunning collision of modern chic and Old World charm in a snappy downstairs bar. On the rooftop is the requisite sleek outdoor swimming pool and view out over Medellín. And when you’re ready to feast, head to the Marquee Restaurant for a solid selection of Colombian chef-designed meals.

The Marquee is situated in the heart of Parque Lleras and the crowded, popular El Poblado neighborhood. International flights to Medellín land at José María Córdova International Airport (MDE), which is situated in the city of Rionegro, approximately 13.5 miles east of the Marquee Medellín.

Terra Biohotel

Terra Biohotel.

How about contributing a positive impact to your environmental stamp on Medellín in a hotel designed for comfort and sustainability? The Terra Biohotel instituted an intelligent use of resources to create a pleasant environment where you and the planet can breathe more comfortably.

From lush vertical gardens to solar-powered heating, you won’t find a more eco-friendly hotel in Medellín. Ask for one of the upper-floor rooms, and you can look down from your balcony to the city’s spectacular spread. And head out from Terra to the tree-lined Conquistadores neighborhood, one of the Medellín city center’s greener spots, with iconic Nutibara Hill just a couple of blocks away. Terra Biohotel sits 15 miles east of the José María Córdova International Airport.

What to Eat

There are plenty of fruit and veggies, Paisa, food from the Antioquia region (of which Medellín is the capital), is heavy and laden with meats, sausage, beans, eggs, and rice. It’s not nearly as spicy as you’ll find food in Mexico to be and there’s also plenty of sweet to go along with the savory, combining to create a pleasant combo.

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Carmen

The bar at Carmen Medellín.
Carmen Medellín.

At Carmen, you’ll get to try innovative Colombian cuisine in a lush setting lined with plants & trees. Accolade after accolade assures that gastronomes need to find their way to Carmen.

Run by an American-Colombian couple (both Cordon Bleu chefs), Carmen’s menu melds Colombian flavors with a strong Californian influence. Revel in innovative meat and flavor combos like tamarind pork belly or in fresh fish swimming in sweet sauce.

At Carmen, diners have various eating areas to choose from. An elegant, naturally lit dining room overlooks an open kitchen and greenery outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. Step outside of this 1950s retro ambiance into the verdant garden to dine in the conservatory.

Best for lunch and dinner; $$$.

Browse the Menu

Ocio

Interior of Ocio in Medellin.

For a more Continental take on typical Colombian food in El Poblado, you can’t miss Ocio. Modern European influences give old school Colombian dishes new life. influences such as the amazing Chicharron.

Parisian trained chef Laura Londoño partners with her husband Santiago Arango to bring fresh-picked, slow-cooked delights like pork belly salad, beef braised for 12 hours, and irresistible ‘Tres Leches’ for dessert.

The cherry on top? There are 1980s tunes always overhead and a select wine and cocktail list in front to enjoy a meal with no pretense.

Best for dinner; $$.

Browse the Menu

What to Do

The city abounds with parks, public spaces, cafes, libraries, museums, and walking the vibrant streets, much of it accessible by outdoor escalators and public cable cars. In the City of Eternal Spring, flowers have their own fairs, colors and art abound amidst a green space that leads up to forests dotted by small village life and surrounding nature reserves.

Enjoy the Café Culture

A cup of coffee at Café Aroma de Barrio in Medellín.
Café Aroma de Barrio/Facebook

Though Colombia is the best place in the world to grow coffee, it was difficult to find a cup of Colombian coffee in Medellín a decade ago. Most of the country’s best coffee has been exported, so until a few years ago, most Colombians didn’t actually drink their own homegrown brew. This, however, is now changing for the better and you can find some fantastic local coffee in the city.

This couldn’t be more true than the endearing Café Aroma del Barrio. The heart of the infamous Comuna 13 neighborhood was once a no-go zone but now has turned into an artistic and entrepreneurial hub. Here at the Aroma del Barrio, the baristas here know how to whip up some of the best cappuccinos, limonada de coco (coconut limeade), and other quality coffee drinks Medellín has to offer. The tiny places numerous local and international visitors, a list which includes former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Browse the Menu

Explore Parque Arvi

Cable car to Parque Arvi in Medellín.
Pixabay.

Looking to fly in Medellín (or at least be carted up a steep green mountain flank)?

Parque Arvi is worth a visit to get the flavor of the outdoors surrounding the springtime city. Take the gondola right from the subway to the park’s entrance and get a wonderful vista of the city’s hills, descending valleys, and cityscape.

Parque Arvi spans 16,000 hectares and includes over 1,500-year-old trails. At the park entrance, you can stop in for supplies at a small market and use the place as a launching place for a self-guided or tour-guided walk. It costs 5,000 to 7,000 Colombian pesos ($1.50-$2.25) depending on the trail (most trails are 2-4km long).

Visit dozens of different bird and butterfly species along the way.

View the Park

How to Save Money on Your Trip

First, a word: You do need to take care in Colombia as it is the gateway between two continents. This means opportunity for crime as people and goods flow through maybe the most biodiverse nation in the world. Medellín is like most other places: Be mindful of where you go, what you do, and where you stay.

That being said, saving money in Medellín is as easy as traveling there. The American dollar goes very far compared to Colombian pesos. Be mindful of that when deciding on where to spend your money. If you can have an incredible time and contribute to the local economy, all the better.

Experiences

Medellín is large, so you’ll find the need for transportation to many places. Taxis and semi-legal Uber rides will cost you, but when you get to your destination, there’s often plenty to be experienced around you. Save money by taking a walking tour of any of the neighborhoods. There’s no shortage of free or cheap tours.

Real City Walking Tours, for example, offers an excellent free tour and an informative introduction to the city. You’ll get a lot of good tips, and the guides are great people. Be sure to tip when the tour wraps up!

Hotels

Selina Medellin sits in the heart of the hip Provenza neighborhood and is surrounded by culinary hotspots, buzzing bars, and authentic coffee shops. Selina Hostel is not the cheapest, but it is the perfect location from which to launch your Medellín adventure. There’s a range of accommodations options to suit every travel budget. Included are coworking space, a nice bar and cafe, a wellness area to practice yoga, and even a rooftop music studio.

This curated programming stretches into art, photography, and cooking alongside a melting pot of people from around the world. You can even dance away long evenings with local DJs spinning electronic music late into the night.

Vehicle Rentals

Localiza has some of the best deals as the most reputable local agency, renting cars for about $30/day. Others like Alamo and Enterprise are also available.

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