Medellin is full of excitement with a fun and friendly culture, and an interesting history. There is always something to do or learn about this unique metropolis known as the City of Eternal Spring.
For several years it’s been a hot spot for digital nomads, and for the past year, it’s been making it’s way onto the top 10 must-travel lists in magazines. To see the best side of Medellin, we’ve put together a list of things to do. A fine mix of uniquely Medellin favorites as well as authentic, like-a-local experiences. Check them out!
Eat Traditional Colombian Food: Bandeja Paisa
A huge meal with all the fixings of Colombian staple foods on one plate: an arepa (eaten with practically every meal), minced meat, chicharron, black pudding, avocado, rice, a fried egg, red beans and chorizo. Gives you a food coma just thinking about it. The Bandeja Paisa, or Paisa Platter, is believed to be a modern version of Colombia’s peasant food. If you’re a separatist, indulge in the pure flavor from each item on the plate, but if you’re a bold foodie, mix in those beans and rice with the avocado, minced meat and fried egg to experience a kaleidoscopic flavor in one bite. This makes it one of the top things to do in Medellin for our list.
It’s hard to find a place in Medellin that doesn’t do this hearty meal right, but if you need a little direction, here are two recommendations:
Donde Dario in El Nogal, Laureles – Carrera 76 # 32 EE – 36
El Rancherito in Las Palmas, Poblado – Calle 18, # 35 – 50
Tip: When at Donde Dario, or other restaurants, and you can’t find Bandeja on the menu, ask for “Tipico Montañero”.
Dance Salsa Until Your Heart’s Content
No hables Español? No worries. When you dance, body language is the only fluency you need, and there’s no secret that Medellin has a legit salsa scene for you to “talk” all night. A lot of the clubs are small, and many are so packed even the walls drip with sweat! You can dance your heart out all week long at any number of salsa clubs Tuesday through Sunday, but here are a few of our favorites: Six SALSA bars we love.
And if you think you’re not ready for a night of salsa just yet, relax… You can brush up on your skills and head over to Dance Free in Poblado or Santo Baile in Envigado for lessons.
Take in Panoramic Views From a Metro Cable…
Or two or three! Medellin boasts three metro cables with the most spectacular views of the city’s mountain ranges, high rises and scattered terracotta rooftops. The three metro cables in Medellin offers different perspectives of the city, and each one can be accessed at multiple metro train stations. The first line was originally built for locals, but has been a popular activity for tourists, so now there are three with at least one or two more being built for 2018.
Uno – Line K, the north metro cable and the first built, was constructed to ease the uphill walk for residents on their commute to and from work, but it soon gain popularity among tourists.
Dos – Trips to or over comuna 13 are what the west line, or Line J, is most known for. Get on board at San Javier metro station, and get an amazing view of Medellin going up. The comuna, which many travelers compare to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, has a cool spectrum of professionally commissioned graffiti walls.
Some advise a view from the top within the safety of the cable car is good enough, but if you do venture out into comuna 13, bring friends and do it in the day time. Another safe option is to go on a tour. There are many to choose from, but we recommend Stairway Storytellers, given by local English students at the neighborhood’s community center. Take the outdoor escalators to the top, and see a hip hop show or another one of the community’s special events.
Tres – The third line, L (the east metro cable), starts at Santo Domingo metro station, and is more specifically for tourism. At the end of this nine-minute ride, you can transfer to another cable car that’s 15-minute ride to Parque Arvi. En route to this wildlife preservation area you can see the beautiful span of green trees that makes for a refreshing break from the busy city.
The Markets! With the Locals, By the Locals, Like a Local
The fruits, the prices, the experience are all reasons why you need to shop or just peruse a mercado (market) in Medellin. Get samples of Colombia’s exotic fruits only found in the country, and check out the friendly exchanges between vendors and the regulars to get a glimpse of true friendly Colombian nature. The most popular one – and a definite must visit – is Plaza del Mercado de las Americas. Endless shops and vendors offer a gigantic variety of comida tipica, artesanias as well as natural and unprocessed food.
Cheer at a Rival Game of Atltico Nacional v. Independiente
Photo by Libryia Jones
Behold… A futbol game among these two teams is unlike any other live sport you’ll experience. There’s colored smoke, thrashing live bands, confetti raining from the sky, and banners so gigantic it covers two levels of stands. You’ll be so enthralled with all the excitement, you might not realize the players have entered on the field.
Play Tejo! Colombia’s National Sport
Enough about futbol. For now, it can have a seat… a stadium full of them! Why? Because it comes second to Colombia’s national sport, Tejo. Lonely Planet described it as “lawn bowls on steroids, or badminton with hand grenades. So what is it exactly? How does one explain the combination of gunpowder, three pounds of steel, a mud/clay pit and a large consumption of cerveza (beer)! Maybe this video will say it best.
A Two-for-One at Parque Explora
An architectural testimony to Medellin’s forward-moving approach to the city, this science museum boasts 300 interactive activities, vivarium, planetarium, 3D auditorium, and the largest freshwater aquarium in South America. Take the metro to Universidad, and you can’t miss it. Plan ahead, and make it a full day of educational fun plus leisure when you stop by the Botanical Gardens right across the street!
Take the Free Walking Tour with Real City Tours
This tour is straight, no chaser. I gives you the good, bad, violent and triumphant of this unique Colombian city. In terms distance, it covers very little. Though the tour is about four hours from Alpujarra to San Antonio metro stations. You see where the government buildings are and the popular gathering spot for locals, El Centro, and other cool areas adjacent to it. The reason this tour comes so highly recommended by tourists and locals alike is that it gives you an accurate and entertaining snapshot of Medellin from start to finish. It even addresses the infamous misconceptions that a Netflix show, which shall remain nameless, has created. Check out an interview with the founder of Real City Tours here.
We won’t give too much away, except to say – take the tour! You won’t regret it! Also: feel free to check out our “field trips” at Colombia Immersion that gives you an up-close and personal experience with locals and some of Medellin’s best kept secrets with a local and knowledgeable guide.
Taste the Rainbow of Real Fruit Flavors
They are tropical, exotic and delicious! Whether you take an official fruit tour, or conduct your own taste test while shopping at a market, you will be amazed at all 22 exotic fruits found in Colombia.
Visit Pueblito Paisa
Pueblito Paisa is a area on the top of a hill dedicated to the old towns of Colombia. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset behind the mountains as the city begins to twinkle at dusk, or catch a lively festival. No matter the weather, it’s a great way to spend a few hours experiencing how people lived in the good ol’ days of yesteryear. Treat yourself to some Colombian coffee at a cafe on the hill, and enjoy the view.
Whether you have time to do all 10 or just one, you can’t go wrong with these must-do activities in Medellin.
Colombia Immersion is more than just a Spanish school. We enjoy giving our students a full Colombian experience. You want to get a feeling for our school? Stop by one Friday during our language exchange event to meet other language learners of Spanish and English alike. Maybe you’ll meet a new friend. For more information on things to do, click here!
…about Colombia Immersion
… about Medellín