Comuna 13 Neighboorhood

We love Medellin. It is a vibrant metropolis nestled between mountains and bursting at the seams. It is a city rich with culture, history and promise, simultaneously tormented by its past and writing its bright future. Whether you have 24 hours, 48 hours, or a week to spend in Medellin, keep reading below to help plan your trip – what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and more. 

Medellin in a Nutshell

Tucked away in a valley in the center of Colombia is the colorful, vibrant city of Medellin. Regardless of your travel preferences, if you’re in Colombia, you must spend time in Medellin. Medellin has something for everybody. Whether you’re looking to party or do some outdoor exploring, let Medellin be your hub.

Things To Do

See below for things to do in Medellin. Keep scrolling for recommended itineraries based on how much time you have.

  • Real City Walking Tour: You may have heard that there is only one walking tour in Medellin. This isn’t technically true (see the 2nd bullet), but this IS the only walking tour covering the city center and the major landmarks. We cannot recommend it enough as an introduction to the city, its sites, layout, history, and local tips. Real City Walking Tour offers a free 3-4 hour tour of the city, which includes a visit to major landmarks, an overview of Medellin’s complex history, a deeper understanding of paisa culture, and even a taste of traditional eats! You’ll leave feeling well on your way to being a savvy Medellin tourist, with a layout of the city, knowledge of the public transit system, and even some tips on current and local events. Book this tour in advance and make sure to bring enough to tip and buy snacks (about 50,000 COP per person) and also water and sunscreen!
Motorcycle Grandma Mural in Medellin Comuna 13
Mean moto gramma in Comuna 13. Zippy offers free walking tours led by locals.
  • Comuna 13 Tour: Medellin is split into 16 comunas or neighborhoods. Comuna 13 was ravaged by drugs and violence during Medellin’s dark period and was one of the most dangerous places in the city. It has undergone an extraordinary transformation into the colorful, tourist-filled neighborhood you’ll see today. There are lots of agencies that offer free walking tours of Comuna 13; we were recommended Zippy and recommend it to others. (Note this is also the only walking tour we’ve taken of Comuna 13, but we’ve met tourists who used a random tour company and didn’t enjoy it.) Zippy offers a free ~3 hour tour usually led by a local who grew up in Comuna 13 and witnessed the transformation firsthand. Book this tour in advance and make sure to bring enough to tip and buy snacks (about 50,000 COP per person) and also water and sunscreen!
Male Traveler at Atanasio Girardot Stadium Medellin
Random soccer fan in his happy place.
  • Go to a Soccer Match: Whether or not you are a soccer fan and regardless of who’s playing, we recommend going to a local soccer game at Estadio Atanasio Giradot. You can ask your hostel or tour guide if there is a game during your stay. Hostels will often recommend an excursion that includes transportation, a jersey, tickets and a some drinks for ~$100,000 COP (~$30 USD). It’s more expensive, but worth it (we hear)! You can also organize your own group and buy tickets from a ticket office for ~$35,000 COP per person. We made friends on the walking tour and chose the cheaper option, but would choose the excursion the next time around as they sat in the section with the craziest fans ever — think 90min of a mosh pit with people singing and chanting some version of “Yo soy verde y yo soy feliz.” (I am green and I am happy!)
Botero Plaza Medellin Horse Sculpture with Male Traveler
Nick with his favorite sculpture.
  • Plaza Botero: Botero was a paisa, or local to Medellin, and donated much of his artwork to the city. Check out the entire plaza dedicated to him; although it is one of the stops on the Real City Walking Tour, we found ourselves back there for more staring and giggling at the chubby statues. Apparently, there are more Botero sculptures and paintings in the museum next to the plaza, although we didn’t make it in.
  • Jardin Botanico: Medellin has an incredible urban park right in the city center, perfect for a casual stroll or to lay down in the grass. We recommend stopping by at least one hour before closing at 4:30pm. Entrance is free.
Trip to Santa Elena. This is a smaller version of the silleteras used in Feria de las Flores.
  • Parque Arvi: Parque Arvi is a nature reserve located over the hills outside of Medellin. You can get there using solely public transportation – metro and cable car; it takes about 1.5 hours and $10,000 COP (~$3 USD). Once you arrive to Parque Arvi, the first thing to do is to walk through the food market to your left. They’ve got empanadas, arepas and pastries to fill the tank. Dig in! From there you have the option to pay for a guided tour through the park or walk down the road to a picnic area. We recommend a guided tour, but if you choose the free walk (which we did), just make sure to ask for a map and good directions. After, you can either return to Medellin via cable car or hop on a 15min bus to Santa Elena . Santa Elena is home to the finca silleteras, which supply flowers to Medellin’s largest festival of the year, Feria de las Flores. Fun fact: the largest flower farms are actually on the way to Santa Elena from Parque Arvi. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at one of the fincas along the way and once you’re done exploring, ask where you can catch the bus back to Medellin.
  • Walk Carrera 70: Carrera 70 is one of Medellin’s party streets. Come for dinner, for a drink after a soccer game, or even later to dance salsa. To get there, take the metro to Estadio and bam, you’re there. See Where to Eat for restaurant recommendations in the area.
  • Play Tejo in Envigado: Tejo is a Colombian game where you through clay at gunpowder with the aim of causing an explosion. (Don’t worry, it’s small!) Make some friends and wander over to Envigado, described by many as the Brooklyn of Medellin, for a game at Cancha de Tejo next to the stadium. Drinks are mandatory. It’s about a 25min taxi from El Poblado.
  • Explore Laureles: Laureles is a cute residential neighborhood with lots of students, restaurants, cafes, and parks. It’s just the perfect place for an afternoon stroll through tree-lined streets, for picking up a great (dare we say best) cup of coffee, and wandering through tree-filled parks. You’ll see lots of students, likely some expats, and virtually no tourists. To get there, take the metro to Estadio and walk down Carrera 70. Take a right on Calle 42 and a left on Carrera 72 to take you to your first park. Go to Rituales, our vote for best coffee in Colombia, for any of your favorite drinks, or cool down with their specialty iced coffee with a popsicle (passion fruit, doooo itttt!).
  • Hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces: For a more local experience and while Parque Arvi is more of an excursion, this hike is a must. Depending on your fitness level, the hike up can take 40-60min and there is an awesome outdoor gym at the top. This gym is pretty much Colombia’s version of Muscle Beach out in California. This is where to experience Medellin’s fitness culture. To get to the trail head, ask a taxi to take you to Cerro de las Tres Cruces in Belen. It’s about a 15 minute, 10,000-15,000 COP taxi from El Poblado or Laureles. You’ll get dropped off at the trailhead and the path up is apparent. Don’t bring too much with you (nothing flashy) and wear some shoes with some traction. Do bring some change in case you want to buy fresh juice or fruit from the stands at the top.
View of Medellin from Cerro de las Tres Cruces.

Itineraries

Below, we’ve put together a few ideal itineraries based on our time in Medellin. Pick and choose what works for you based on the time you have and your preferences. Make sure to ask your tour guide if there are any soccer games during your visit, then adjust your itinerary as needed.

48 hours in Medellin

Day 1:

  • Start the day with a Real City Walking Tour.
  • After the tour, grab a beer or bite with new friends. Then, circle back to any sites from the tour that you wanted to explore more (Plaza Botero?) or escape the hustle and bustle all-together and go to Laureles for a casual stroll through tree-lined streets. (Go to Rituales!)
  • In the evening, explore Carrera 70 or go out in touristy El Poblado. (Parque Llera is a good launchpad.) If you’re not into the party scene, stay in Laureles. Some of the restaurants listed in Where to Eat below also have various events at night. Check out Naturalia and Cafe Cliche, specifically.

Day 2:

  • Start the day with a Comuna 13 walking tour.
  • From there (more specifically, the San Javier metro station where you started), take the metro to Estadio. Head to one of the restaurants in Laureles for a menu del dia or walk down Carrera 70 for a typical sopa de mondongo from Mondongo’s.
  • In the evening, gather some new friends and head to Envigado to play tejo at Cancha de Tejo.

If you have more time

Day 3: Explore Parque Arvi & Santa Elena OR day-trip to Guatape

Day 4: Explore Medellin’s outdoor fitness culture

  • There are two ways that we recommend doing this, depending on how much time you have. The longer option is to hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces. The shorter option is to go to the stadium (at Estadio) where they have the biggest outdoor gym. To get there, go to the intersection of Carrera 72 & Calle 48.
  • Explore Laureles, Envigado or Belen.
Medellin Outdoor Gym
Outdoor gym at the top of the Cerro de las Tres Cruces in Medellin.

One Week in Medellin (or Longer)

If you have over 4 days, we highly recommend exploring the small towns outside of Medellin. You can take a day-trip to Guatape (though we recommend spending a night) or take a multi-day trip to Jerico, Jardin or Salento.

Guatape Medellin Colombia
View from top of La Piedra del Peñol in Guatape.

How To Get There

You’ll most likely fly to Medellin, but you can also take a bus depending on where you are before. If you’re in Bogota or Cartagena, fly. If you’re in Salento and have the time, we recommend busing with a stop in between, such as in Jardin or Jerico.

Medellin has two airports, but you’ll likely fly into the larger one which is outside the city. From there, you’ll take a 40min bus ride for $10,000 COP into the city. Stay alert lest you miss the views!

Where to Stay

If this is your first visit to Medellin, and so long as you’re not looking for a tourist-free experience, stay in El Poblado. If you’re looking for a quiet area and don’t care to meet other travelers, stay in Laureles.

Where to Eat

Your tour guide will be keen to recommend where to get typical Colombian food. We usually prefer places that aren’t generally recommended to tourists. Below, we’ll share some of our favorites. Note, nearly all of these are in Laureles or very close and all have vegetarian options.

  • Cafe Cliche
  • Saludpan
  • Naturalia
  • Uno Mas Uno
  • Espiritu Libre (vegan)

Coffee:

  • Rituales (if you can only go to one, make it this one!)
  • Cafe Revolucion

Where to Go Next

From Medellin, Colombia is your oyster. (We’re working on a post to summarize our roadtrip from Medellin and will link here.)

Other Notes

  • Pro-tip: menu del dia (menu of the day) is the best way to eat like a local and try good food at good prices (all depending on the restaurant you choose, of course). Menu del dia is a STEAL and is typically served from noon to 2pm. You get a soup appetizer, strong plate, fresh juice, and sometimes dessert for $10,000-16,000 COP again depending on where you go. We LOVED menu del dia at the restaurants in Laureles and highly recommend it.
  • All prices and durations are as of late August 2019.
  • We do not claim to have know the in’s & out’s of this town nor of its every restaurant or hotel. There are so many things you could do that would work perfectly fine.
Typical Colombian mondongo soup
Typical Colombian mondongo soup from Restaurante Mondongo