Are you looking for Colombia visa?

All the things to do in Medellín: discover Colombia!

by Catherine Carey | March 22, 2024
Things to do in Medellín Palace of Culture

Medellín, widely known as the "City of Eternal Spring," enchants its visitors with the vibrancy of its culture, its year-round good weather, and natural landscapes. Once known for its tumultuous past, Medellín has transformed into a lively and beloved tourist hotspot in the heart of the Colombian Andes.

Wonderful food, iconic neighborhoods, Colombian music, and rich cultural heritage are just some of the things that await you in Medellín. Unsure where to begin exploring? Here, we present some of the best things to do in Medellín. Get your Check Mig Colombia, fulfill all Colombia visa requirements and let’s dive into this city!

Best things to do in Medellín

Although there are numerous things to do in Medellín, which would be impossible to summarize in one article, we will outline some of the best activities in the city.

El Centro de Medellín (Medellín downtown)

Whether you decide to walk through the city by yourself or join one of the multiple tours offered, you cannot miss El Centro. There you will see major streets, parks and squares. In Medellín’s historic Old Quarter, you will be able to immerse yourself in history, especially in the Candelaria neighborhood. 

In El Centro, you must stroll through magnificent and surprising squares like Plaza Botero. This square, dedicated to Medellín-born artist Fernando Botero, is iconic for its several sculptures and museums around it. 

Botero donated 23 sculptures that are now exhibited in the plaza, which is 75,000 square feet. 

The Museum of Antioquia is in Plaza Botero. Founded in 1881, the Museo de Antioquia is a real treat for anyone who loves art. There, you will be able to see numerous pre-colombian and indigenous pieces and the biggest collection of the city's most beloved artists, Botero and painter-muralist Pedro Nel Gómez. You can visit this museum from Monday to Saturday for just 18,000 COP ($4.6). Additionally, there is a free guided tour every afternoon at 2pm.

Also in this plaza, there is the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture, which is world-wide known for its architecture with its black-and-white stonework and Gothic-style arches. The building is open to the public from Monday to saturday and holds the Institute of Culture and Heritage of Antioquia photo archive, a library, an art gallery and a cafe.

In Medellín’s center, you must also see the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria situated behind Parque Berrio. This church of neoclassical facade dates back to Colombia’s colonial era, which makes it the oldest church. It is also one of the most beautiful churches in Medellín. The church is very close to Plaza Botero and the Museum of Antioquia.

Things to do in Medellin: Plaza Botero

Comuna 13

Comuna 13, once a very dangerous place, is now an amazing hillside “barrio” (neighborhood) that gives you a true glimpse into Medellín’s history. Comuna 13 has become one of the things to do in Medellín thanks to its street art: graffiti, murals and dance performances fill the streets. It is the artsy part of the city.

We recommend walking through this open-air gallery because it is beautiful and rich in heritage. You will learn about events of the past like Medellín’s gang violence. You must reach the top of the Comuna by jumping on the escalator or taking the cable car. From there, you will have the best views of the city. 

Don’t worry about its tumultuous past, in recent decades, the neighborhoods that make up Comuna 13 have undergone immense transformation with housing investment and measures such as the escaleras electricas (outdoor escalators) that connect the area with the rest of the city. Since it is more accessible, residents can access more work opportunities, schools and other facilities, which has contributed to lessen criminality in the area. 

Visit Comuna 13 on your own or with a guide! Usually it is best to have a local guide that will explain all the intricacies of the barrio.

If you have any concerns about whether Colombia is safe or not, you can check out our guide "Is Colombia safe to visit?".

Comuna 13 Medellin Colombi

El Poblado

The district of El Poblado is one of the best things to do in Medellín because of the scenery. It is a district full of parks, rivers and industrial buildings covered in plants. 

El Poblado is one of the wealthiest parts of the city and a tourist favorite, so it is a safe area. It is one of the parts of Medellín with more shops, restaurants and nightclubs and high-rise buildings. A must-see is the Santa Fe Mall, one of the largest in the country.

The district is known for its nightlife so be sure to enjoy some drinks or go to a club there. Nevertheless, there is also a quieter area. The whole district can be explored in 30 minutes.

Guatape and the Rock

Guatape is a little village just 1.5 hours away from Medellín famous for its lakes, mountains and vibrancy. You can explore its square and the church and wander through the small streets filled with bright colorful houses and murals. A must-see in your trip to Guatape is seeing Piedra del Peñol (the Rock).

If you are an adventure junkie, you can practice a multitude of watersports there. For example, you can rent a boat or kayak, swim and fish. 

Piedra del Peñol is a 65 million-year-old, 10 million-ton rock that looms over the area. You must climb to the top (740 steps) to see the magnificent scenery of the valley, the islands and lakes. Piedra del Peñol is open from Monday to Sunday and it costs 20,000 COP ($5.50) per person to climb. 

The Rock is only 10 minutes from the village of Guatape and it is easy accessible by car.

Piedra del Peñol in Colombia

Parque Arví

Visiting Parque Arví in nearby Santa Elena is another of the things to do in Medellín. To get to Parque Arví is an adventure in itself: you must get in a cable car that takes you over the city.  

Once in Parque Arví, you will discover an ecological park with approximately 50 different hiking trails and a diverse array of animal and plant species. It is one of the largest green areas in Medellín, spanning 16,000 hectares, and serves as a reserve with small communities living inside.

There you will be able to see waterfalls, a farmer’s market (the Mercado Arví), coffee shops and different types of birds (hummingbirds, parrots, guans, etc.), butterflies (monarch butterflies, glasswing butterflies, etc.), mammals (armadillos, sloths, weasels, etc.), amphibians and reptiles (frogs, toads, lizards, etc.) and plants. You might also want to camp there and stay the night.

To enter the Parque Arví is free, but you will need to pay a 60,000 COP ($15) return trip for the cable car. You can pick a toured guide, which is the most recommended option  or set out alone on easy hikes. Having a tour guide is the best option for safety reasons and to learn about the plant and animal species. 

Fun things to do in Medellín

Medellín metrocable

Taking a ride in Medellín's metrocable is one of the main fun things to do in Medellín. The metrocable is a cable car system used by locals as a normal public transportation method. Taking the cable cars is the most convenient way of accessing the hillside barrios where streets are too steep for buses.

There are six lines that connect downtown Medellín with the neighborhoods in the hills.

Medellín Metrocable

Pueblito Paisa

One of the things to do in Medellín is visiting Pueblito Paisa, which is a replica of an Antioquian village, a traditional Colombian town on a hill. The town has a chapel, a hall, shops and restaurants. You must specifically go to one of their restaurants to try traditional Colombian food like arepas, tamales and bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa was originally a worker’s lunch born on the coffee plantations of Antioquia Department, but nowadays is like the national dish of Colombia. Although there are many ways of preparing it, Bandeja Paisa is a medley of beans, blood sausage, chorizo and chicharrón (deep-fried pork rind) with rice and an arepa. It is usually topped off with fresh avocado and a fried egg.

Pueblo paisa in Medellín Colombia

Jardín Botánico

Seeing the Jardín Botánico, the botanic gardens of Medellín, is one of the main things to do in Medellín in order to be in contact with nature. Any nature lover must go there and see the 4500 types of flowers and 139 different bird species.

If you have got the time, you should visit all sections of the gardens. Some of the most popular ones are: 

  • The rainforest
  • Orchid garden
  • Cactus garden
  • Butterfly garden
  • Climate-controlled greenhouse
  • Small lake

Its animal species and lush greenery will leave you speechless. In the Jardín Botánico you will have the main gardens, but also the butterfly garden. There you will see different species of butterflies and learn all about them. The gardens are open from Tuesday to Sunday and there isn’t an entrance fee.

One of the things to do in Medellín: Jardín Botánico

Casa de la Memoria

The Casa de la Memoria is a museum that commemorates Medellín's history, particularly its association with Pablo Escobar. Since 2012, through various exhibitions, it has been portraying the drug-infused past of the city. However, it's important to note that it's not a glorification of crime but rather a sober reflection on the events from the perspective of innocent citizens and victims of violence. The museum also delves into the influence and effects of paramilitary organizations such as the FARC and UAC.

Exploring the library, seeing multimedia displays and hearing recordings from testimonies will allow you to grasp the resilience that people had during those years to survive and move past this dark period of Medellín’s past. 

Castle Museum

One of the fun things to do in Medellín (and probably one you don’t expect) is seeing the Castle Museum. The castle was built in 1930 and it is of gothic-style. For just 18000 COP ( $4.5), you will be able to enter the Museum and be part of a guided tour. 

Besides the breathtaking landscape that surrounds the Castle Museum and its architecture, inside you can admire classic furniture, traditional paintings, glassware, artifacts, gardens, and water fountains.

Pro tip: go horseback riding 

Going on a horseback riding trip through Medellín is one of the most fun things to do in Medellín. There are several options to explore like visiting the foothills of the Andes with mountain trails or going around coffee plantations. If you choose to visit coffee plantations, you might get the added tour about the coffee-making process or even taste the coffee.