Medellin – COLOMBIA – has always been on our list, despite the success around Netflix hit, Narcos. When Los Cafeteros won against Poland in the World Cup, we decided it was finally time to book tickets….thanks to a large intake of aguardiente and our friend’s endorsement for the “City of Eternal Spring”.
Our Stay: 6 days / 5 nights
If you use Uber, note that this service is not regulated and technically “illegal”…but everyone still uses it. It’s created some backlash with the taxis so if you’re like us and Uber internationally, three things to remember:
- Limit screen time by not staring at the phone to recognize driver
- Sit in the front seat
- Your Uber driver is your “amigo/a” if anyone asks
El Poblado is an affluent, posh neighborhood located south of the city center. You’ll find excellent restaurants, cocktail bars, and vibrant nightlife. We booked a room via Airbnb in the Soy Local hotel for under $100/night. It’s a close walk to Parque Lleras, but far enough for some peace and quiet.
If you’ve ever read of my travel guides you’ll know we always starting with a walking tour of the city.
Real Walking Tours – Reservations open 1.5 days in advance. The guides do an excellent job of explaining Colombia’s history without saying “the famous terrorist’s name” out loud. This is important because first, not many Colombian’s speak English so they won’t understand the context of your conversation. And second, to show respect for the people of Medellin. The drug war killed over 38,000 people, so those who survived suffered through the horrifying events. To give a comparison for Americans, a visit to Pablo’s grave would be like a someone visiting Osama Bin Laden’s burial place.
Did You Know: History classes were removed from Colombia’s curriculum for the last 23 years (hush hush), but were restored in 2018.
Comuna 13 – one of Colombia’s most dangerous neighborhoods transformed and now embraces colorful graffiti of self expression. The tour takes you on the metro-cable cars in San Javier, before hiking up the steep hillside. Outdoor electric escalators stop at the top of Comuna 13 which provides access to the neighborhood and panoramic views of the city. $70,000 COP or $22 USD.
Bonus: you’ll stop for arepas de choclo con quesito (corn cakes with fresh cheese) and a lulo juice (the perfect hangover cure) at Las Panochas (for all my Mexican friends, try not to giggle). Don’t miss Cremas Dona Alba or Cremas Consuelo for mango popsicles by the escaleras electricas.
Plaza Botero – holds 23 voluptuous sculptures donated Colombian artist, Fernando Botero. His unique style displays exaggerated proportions and it’s been suggested that rubbing the statues brings love and good fortune.
El Hueco – Think one massive flea market. It means the “hollow space” and it’s the cheapest shopping area in Medellin. Come here to get a taste of the city’s hustle and bustle, street food, and counterfeit merchandise. Bargaining is expected, so speak to the vendor as an “amig@” and start with some small talk.
Guatape Day Trip – Climbing to the top of La Piedra del Penol (also known as El Peñón) should definitely be on your list. After 740 steps, fresh mango micheladas await you as your reward for reaching the summit.
We booked a full Guatape day tour on Viator ($30 USD per person) for ease, but if I could redo this trip, I would skip out on actual town of Guatape…gasp! The colorful town provides a nice view, but it’s 100% based on tourism. Homeowners are required to vibrantly paint their homes and include a “zocalo,” a series of drawings that depicts the family’s story. I may be one of the few that was disappointed with the town Guatape, however in my opinion it just seemed so artificial. I would recommend visiting La Piedra del Penol without a tour and rent a boat to cruise around the lagoon.
Fruit has never tasted so good! Maracuya (passion fruit) and lulo were the stars of the trip. Street vendors will blend up your favorite fruit for less than $1 USD. Ask for your fruta “en agua” for a juice or “en crema” for more like a smoothie.
Pergamino Cafe – start your day off with Colombian coffee straight from local producers. It has a tranquil outdoor patio where you’ll be surrounded by leafy trees. Excellent spot to plan your day ahead. Don’t miss the almond croissant – best I’ve ever had.
Cafe Velet – good alternative to Pergamino across the street.
Recoto – Must visit Peruvian treehouse restaurant- we went for dinner two nights in a row! We’re still dreaming about the Ceviche Peruano, Arroz Peruano, and Chaufa Verde.
Tabun – Arabic and Hindu cuisine, perfect for lunch or dinner. We ordered the Kebab Irani and Falafel plates which proved to be too much food because they provide a HUGE naan bread and 8 spreads complimentary. Don’t miss the fresh Mujeseq juice!
Empanadas Envigadenas Plaza Botero – BEST EMPANADAS IN MEDELLIN! Look for aji, fresh Colombian hot sauce. Tear in half, pour in aji and enjoy!
Pizzaiolo – “Home is Where Pizza Is” in El Poblado
Criminal Taqueria – delicious Mexican tacos, perfect late night bite after the bars.
NIGHTLIFE + COCKTAILS
Parque Lleras is the nightlight capital of Medellin.
Sky Bar, excellent for dancing reggaeton. Added bonus: the staff helps find you a table without having to order bottle service.
Lleras Park Disco – plays a mix of electro and reggaeton music. Super cheap drinks. Shots of “guaro” are less than $2 USD each.
Just a few streets away from Parque Lleras you’ll find lounges, cocktails at American prices, but a really nice atmosphere. Music is just loud enough to where you can still have a conversation.
Gato Resto Bar – Excellent spot to start or end the night…with cats!
Botanika lounge – Pre dinner drinks. Check out the Botanika – Tanquery London with maracuya (passion fruit) and Gin Infusion – gin, celery, and cucumber.
Burdo – trendy relaxed atmosphere. Order “La Parca” for a unique mezcal cocktail and the “Patenegra” for Ron 23 with lemon.
Cerveceria 3 Cordilleras – local brewery open until midnight.
Drinker Beware: When promoters invite you for a free drink, clarify what is included to avoid being charged.
Makeno – Colombian boutique filled with local designers. You must buzz in to enter the second floor of the building. Great South American fashion at reasonable prices.
Gracias, Medellin! Next stop, Cartagena!