Top 5 things to do in Medellin, Colombia
I’ve been to Colombia twice this year and both times I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Medellin. Both times I was only there briefly, but I managed to get out and explore some of this beautiful city during my short time visiting. Medellin has a population of over 2 million, making it the second largest city in Colombia and is nestled in the hills at an altitude of 1,495 metres. The climate is tropical all year round so it’s fairly warm and humid most of the time. It used to have a very bad reputation for being at the heart of Colombian drug-trafficking (probably not helped by the recent Netflix series, Narcos), but it’s now become one of the safest cities in Latin America. Here are my top 5 things to do in Medellin:
- Ride the metro – To be honest, my friends and I were pretty sceptical about this when we first arrived in Medellin. We wanted to take a taxi into town but no-one would let us; they said we should take the metro. We gave in, somewhat apprehensively, and were then very pleasantly surprised when we actually got to the metro. It was very recently opened in 1995 and the local people of Medellin are extremely proud of their transit system. It’s one of the nicest metros I’ve ever been on (quite possibly the nicest in the world) as it’s elevated rather than underground, with fabulous views of the city when you ride it. Tickets are extremely cheap too, so I would highly recommend this as your main way to get around the city – you get great views and avoid the traffic!
- Medellin Botanic Gardens – These are absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit if you’re in Medellin. It’s a tropical sanctuary located right in the heart of the city and just a short walk away from the metro. You can spend a good couple of hours wandering around the gardens and looking at the tropical trees and plants, as well as spotting some interesting local wildlife by the lake, specifically iguanas that roam around freely. Just make sure you wear bug spray!
- Visit Plaza Botero – Located in the heart of Medellin right next to the stunning cathedral is Plaza Botero, which is so named due to the 23 sculptures by Colombian artist Fernando Botero that are displayed here. The statues are made from bronze and are somewhat grotesque as they are made to look ‘fat’, and include both human and animal subjects. It’s absolutely fascinating artwork and is an example of authentic Medellin artistry, as the city is Botero’s hometown.
- Take the cable car – Something I didn’t realise until I went to Medellin was that the cable car is actually an extension of the metro and is a key part of Medellin’s transport infrastructure that allows people living on the edge of the city to access their houses located up the mountains. Usually you can take the cable car all the way to the top of the mountain for stunning views of Medellin, but unfortunately the last cable car was closed whilst I was there. It’s still fascinating to go up as far as possible and view some of the local settlements on the hillside, and as an added bonus, this can all be done on a day ticket for the metro.
- Buy Colombian coffee – Colombian coffee is consistently rated some of the best in the world, so when you’re in Colombia is the perfect time to get hold of some genuine Colombian coffee beans (they also make a perfect gift for any coffee-lovers in your life). I personally am not a huge fan of coffee, but I’d really recommend trying some anyway as it definitely is the good stuff. My favourite place for coffee in Medellin is Cafe Pergamino; you can check out my review here.