Medellin. What a place! Setting the benchmark for what a developing city can achieve and a high one at that. We’d heard good things and are pleased to say our expectations were exceeded. Go here.
We arrived in early evening to lightening striking the distant surrounds of the valley, piercing the fading blue-black light in a most drammatic fashion. In other places this would’ve seemed forboding but here it was but a pleasant backdrop to the bright lights of the city. Colombians seem to share a strong sense of national pride. This is perhaps best evident in the city Medellin and it’s surrounding region of Antioquia. People from other regions may well call the Antiquians arrogant…
Many of the cities suburbs are beautifully green, lush, clean and a showcase of success. Other suburbs are achingly poor but even there there’s the sense that this will change. The signs of it’s troubled past still linger: some by choice, some ingrained and others that will pass with time. The metro here is the most pristine I’ve laid eyes on and is a symbol that anything can be achieved even when the odds are truly against you.
There’s a lot to bring one here. Be it Botero artwork, parks, food, museums, culture, history or just the warmth of the people.
The best way to see the place is with a walking tour. We went on a few over our 6 month trip and found many to be awful (even some 5* tripadvised ones) but the Real Walking Tour is the best way to start your time in the city and get to know its people and history. Highly highly recommended! We would also suggest setting aside a day, or part of a day, to go back and re explore some of the sights such as Museo de Antioquia.
Almost all visitors to Medellin are somewhat aware of the cities disastrous history. The city has come a long way since but Medellin’s are reluctant to forget their past in fear of history repeating itself. A trip to Casa de la Memoria museum will leave you both shocked and inspired. Its a real testimony to the struggle and strength of the city. The most convenient metro stop for Casa de la Memoria is Parque Berrio.
Medellin is a basin city with the poorer suburbs set amongst the hills. Medellin has not totally forgotten about these areas and their people. Long lines of gondolas serve as transportation and a great viewing point for tourists. The price of these gondola trips is included in your metro fare and are based at San Javier metro station and Acevedo metro station. If you only have time to do one gondola, Acevedo to Parque Arvi is the most worthwhile. The line is split in two with the first half included in your metro fare (COP2000) and the second half an additional COP4600 to Parque Arvi. Both halves are worth doing with one offering views of the city and the other half views of the green hills below. Parque Arvi is an attraction in itself with day walks scattered over the hill side. We would recommend visiting on a Sunday when the place comes alive with a small market and street vendors.
Sometimes when you’re travelling long term you just need a sense of normal. Get off at Metro Universidad station on a Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the city like any other citizen. Pack a picnic on a sunny day and enjoy Jardin Botanico with the many other families and even Iguanas. If you’ve got some spare cash Parque Explora Aquarium might be worth a look. If you are poor like us wander over and check out the cool piece of artwork just outside the entrance! The university sits on the opposite side of the station and is an interesting place to wander around and enjoy people watching.
Hungry? Heres some good options:
• Mr Grill Food and Drink – COP8000, decent set menu. Address: Cr42 10-44 L 102 Medellín, Colombia (follow the main highway (Carerra 43A) just up from the hostel and turn right into Calle 10 before you see Carrera 42 on your left.
• Alambique – You won’t be able to easily spot this place from the street which is part of the appeal. Look up and you’ll see a mixture of greenery and low lighting letting you know you’re in the right place. Follow through the blue/green door to find this great restaurant with relaxing vibe. COP70,400 for mains and beverages for two. Address: Cra 41 #10-6, Medellin.
• Hacienda. If you take the Free Walking Tour this place will be pointed out to you. It really has that “tourist restaurant vibe” but offers the famous Bandeja meal (pictured below). COP55,000 for mains and beverages for two. Address: 49 # 52-98 / Balcon de Flores de Junin, Medellin 0011
• Obleas (bottom left) are a scrumptious sweet treat sold by street vendors throughout Colombia. Yum!
Accommodation: Hostal Poblado Park: COP 30,000 – 4 bed dorm. This hostel is a bit pricey but is in a safe area of the city where you can go out and enjoy the nightlife. There is 2 supermarkets and a metro station within 3 blocks of the hostel. The price includes one of the best hostel breakfasts we had: 2x toast, 1x arepa, 2x eggs, cheese and coffee or hot chocolate made by a lovely and friendly Colombian lady. There is a clean, large kitchen available for use.
• We also stayed in the International House Hostel. Its a nice enough hostel and cheaper at COP20,000 – 8 person dorm. This hostel does not include breakfast and requires multiple transport changes to get there. By the time we factored these costs in, we returned to Hostal Poblado Park for the rest of our time in Medellin.
Getting there from the airport:
• A Flat rate taxi 60,000 pesos to central city. It took 48 mins to our hostel.
• Collectives are available from the airport and take you into the city. From here it is easy to navigate the city by the metro or a taxi.
Getting away to Cartagena:
Again, two options:
• Flying. Viva Colombia has affordable tickets if you book a few weeks in advance. Flights are around the same price as a long windy bus ride but climb steadily in price if not booked as soon as possible. We don’t often recommend booking in advance however flights in Colombia is one thing we recommend.
• Catch a bus from by taking the metro to Caribe Station in Medellin. Buses are just as expensive as an early booked flight starting at COP115,000 per person (12+ hours). From the main terminal in Cartagena there is a large sign stating fixed prices for taxis to various locations in Cartagena. Taxis take approx 40 minutes to the walled city.