Second largest city in Colombia, Medellin was one of our main destinations in Colombia. We took a 10 days trip to Medellin, but we could easily stay more without getting bored.
The city of eternal spring
After a few months in the Caribbeans and one week torrid Cartagena, the first thing I enjoyed in Medellin was the weather. No wonder it is called “The City of Eternal Spring”! The weather is mild the whole year, with maximum temperatures almost constant around 27 degrees. Located in a valley surrounded by mountains, Medellin can often be rainy or covered by clouds, but it remains very pleasant.
Such weather has a high impact on vegetation. Walking around the city we sometimes felt like in a huge botanical garden, with lush trees and tropical flowers. I was amazed to see exotic plant species, very expensive back home, but wildly growing along fences here. Medellin, actually the whole Colombia, is a great destination for nature lovers!
Where to stay
The most popular area to stay in Medellin as a tourist is El Poblado neighbourhood. This is very safe, even in the night, and you’ll find everything you need, for all budgets. In the heart of El Poblado there is Parque Lleras, an area with lots of hotels, restaurants, bars, and all kind of other facilities for tourists. But be prepared for noisy weekends until late in the night in Parque Lleras!
We were lucky enough to spend part of our stay at Intercontinental Medellin. Located in a green area uphill in El Poblado, this is a oasis of peace and tranquility. At Intercontinental Medellin we found the international high standards of the brand, with a Colombian touch in terms of interior decor and food options. So we had an authentic experience that we were not sure it is possible with an international brand. Not to mention the great hospitality of Colombians and their care for little Eric. All the three of us had a great time at Intercontinental Medellin, it has something for all ages. Of course the outdoor heated pool and the sandy playground were the top choices for us, but there are much more options to enjoy your stay there.
Get to know the city
Since we travel together with a toddler, we try to take a city tour the first day of our stay, if possible. This way we can see more things than we would have been able to reach by ourselves. We also get a better feeling of the city and decide what sights worth spending more time.
In Medellin we chose a tour with Turibus, which covers a large area of Medellin, with stops at 7 key points. The full tour takes about 3 hours, which was a bit long for Eric, but it is different than the classical Hop-on/Hop-off tours. The bus does not just stop in each location, it also spends around 20-30 minutes there. In some cases this was enough for us. During the tour we could admire Plaza Botero and the sculptures with exaggerated proportions donated by the samous artist, barefoot walk through Parque de los Pies Descalzos or learn more about traditional architecture at Pueblito Paisa.
Medellin was once known as the most dangerous city in the world. But what media and TV shows like Narcos forgot to mention is that this happened more than 20 years ago. The urban wars and drug cartels that took over the city are just old stories now. XXI century Medellin is a modern city, with a rapid development due to the intelligent public projects implemented.
One great example of how to easily make an area safer is Plaza Cisneros. This was a well known area for drug addicts and homeless people. To overcome this, the authorities transformed it into a park of lights: Parque de Las Luces, with 200m lighted tubes and bamboo trees. It can still be a questionable area in the night, but an evening walk is quite spectacular.
Like in any major city, Medellin has sections that are not really safe, especially during the night. It is still a city under development, with lots of citizens living in poor conditions. Generally speaking, in central areas you feel like in any European/American large city. As you go further from the center and up hill you will reach poor neighbourhoods, where you should act with care.
For such a big city, you need a proper infrastructure to get things going. Being located in a valley with densely populated steep slopes does not help at all. Still, Medellin managed to successfully overcome such issues. Lots of big cities back home are not even close in terms of infrastructure and urban planning! Medellin even got several international distinctions for its great urban planning. It was also nominated as the best city in South America, sharing the first place with Santiago de Chile.
Medellin Metro is a pride for all Colombia in terms of urban planning. More than 500.000 people, locals and tourists, are using it each day. The Metro system also includes several cable cars going up the hills. These enable people living in the poor neighbourhoods to easily access the city. The construction of Metrocable was a big pillar in decreasing unemployment and crime rate in the outskirts and to better promote education here.
If you decide to visit the city, we have some ideas of what to do in Medellin with kids.
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Disclosure: We were the guests of Intercontinental Medellin during our stay. All the opinions expressed here are our own.