Things to Do in Medellin Colombia: What to Do in Medellin for Everyone

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When looking for things to do in Medellin Colombia, you’ll likely come across articles aimed at digital nomads and millennial travelers. But I’m here to tell you that travel to Medellin is great and rewarding no matter how old you are. Having said that, lots of people have questions about travel in Colombia and travel in Medellin in particular. Is Medellin safe? What Medellin attractions would you enjoy? What about Medellin for kids? Or what about Medellin attractions for art lovers? Or Foodies? Are there Medellin activities for outdoorsy people? I’ll try to address these questions below. Read on for what to do in Medellin Colombia. 

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Things to Do in Medellin Colombia

Great weather. Fantastic food. Incredible nature and loads of art, museums and outdoor spaces. If you’re looking for what to do in Medellin Colombia, then these are a few of the options you’ll encounter.

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Why Travel to Medellin Colombia?

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There are loads of great things to do in Medellin. Expect beautiful parks, fascinating museums, and great food. There’s also a clean, safe and user-friendly public transportation system. Medellin is tucked into a valley in the Andes mountains, resulting in spring-like temperatures year round. There are lush green forests full of outdoor opportunities such as hiking and rafting. Best known recently as a digital nomad hub, Medellin travel is also great for family travelers, retirees, adventuresome couples, and more.

Is Medellin Safe?

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To some, travel to Medellin sounds like a strange proposition. After all, isn’t that where the drug lords were? Is Medellin safe? To many people, Medellin Colombia conjures up images of machine guns and drug cartels. It’s true: you probably didn’t want to visit Medellin in 1987. That said, decades have passed since the darkest days, and now Medellin is a completely different city. Today Medellin is a modern, cultured and thriving place. Is Medellin safe like, say, Tokyo? Well, maybe not to this extent, but I would consider Medellin as safe as Memphis Tennessee, or New Orleans, Louisianna. Actually, maybe safer.

I’m talking about violent crime here. Is Medellin safe from muggings and gun violence. Yeah, pretty much. You should still be wary of pickpockets and bag slashers in some crowded downtown places. There are also cases of thieves on motorcycles snatching phones or purses out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists, so don’t wave expensive items around (this happens in Vietnam, too). But if you simply pay attention to your environment and your belongings, then yes, Medellin is safe. Follow what locals do. If you see people carrying their packs on the front, do the same. 

Medellin Weather

best day trips from Medellin cycling - Medellin with teens

Medellin is called the “city of eternal spring” for a reason. Temperatures are mild in comparison to many South American travel destinations. Travel to Medellin is good just about any time of year, but like much of Colombia, Medellin has its wet and dry seasons. The Medellin wet season is usually from mid-March to early August, but it doesn’t rain all day every day. Sometimes it rains for hours, while other times it’s one big squall for an hour and it’s over.

Our last visit to Medellin was during the rainy season (mid-April). It affected our trip, but only slightly. Heavy rains made our rafting trip a little different and cut off just the very end of our cycling trip. Despite this, I’d travel to Medellin in the rainy season again. The rainiest months are usually around April/May and September/October.

Best Time to Visit Medellin

Many people consider December the best time for travel to Medellin. The weather is warm and dry and the crowds are lower. Besides, this is also a great place to celebrate Christmas as the lights and illuminations are considered one of the best Medellin attractions of the season. 

Best Things to Do in Medellin Colombia

Travel to Medellin means many things to many people. For foodies, there is a real culinary renaissance going on. For outdoorsy types, you have loads of great opportunities in nature. Architects and city planning nerds will marvel at Medellin’s modern transformation. Art lovers and culture vultures could take weeks to explore every museum and gallery. Then there are traveling families like ours who will love discovering Medellin attractions for kids. Travel to Medellin has something for everyone. Here are our tips on what to do in Medellin Colombia.

Parks, Plazas & Open Spaces – What to Do in Medellin

places to visit in medellin barefoot park

Looking for a great place to people-watch or just to sit and soak up the atmosphere? These are the places to visit in Medellin. Plaza Botero is probably the most famous. Artist Fernando Botero is one of the city’s most beloved sons, and the rotund figures in his paintings and sculptures can be seen all over town. Plaza Botero is full of bronze statues that represent his work well. Nearby casinos give this area a sketchy vibe sometimes (watch for pickpockets). Yet we loved taking pictures around the square and walking from here down long shopping streets in the area.

Parque de Los Pies Descalzos – (aka “Barefoot Park”)

The idea here is for everyone to pull off their socks and shoes and let your feet get reacquainted with the textures beneath them. In concept, this sounded great, but I must say that I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. It’s possible we missed some of it. That said, it’s a fun thing to do in Medellin with kids if they’re little, as there are fountains and mazes for entertainment. 

Jardin Botanico

Cool shade, fresh air, and interesting architectural flourishes make this one of the fun outdoor things to do in Medellin downtown. Sure, there is plenty of forest surrounding the city. But when you’re pounding the pavement, this place is a welcome relief.

Parque de las Luces

This “park of lights” looks like dozens of flagpoles until you realize they light up at night. Is it one of the best things to do in Medellin Colombia? Not really, but we enjoyed walking through. Having said that, we walked through during the day, and it’s just not that impressive until it’s lit.

Art & Museums – Educational Things to Do in Medellin

is medellin safe? - parque botero

For some of you, the most interesting things to do in Medellin will be discovering the modern art in the city. The Modern Art Museum of Medellin (El MAMM) is in a cool reclaimed factory. Family travelers in Medellin with kids might want to check science-related museums like the Museo de Agua and Parque Explora. Both are impressive interactive science museums that both kids and adults can enjoy.

There’s also a good planetarium in Medellin which sits next to Parque Explora and the Botanical Gardens. All can be visited together easily in a single day. If you want to see more of Botero’s work, then visit the Museo Antioquia, which is right next to Plaza Botero. This is Medellin’s most popular museum. It’s what to do in Medellin if you’re interested in art and artifacts that define the city: from pre-Colombian pottery to modern art.

Pueblito Paisa

Located atop a hill in the center of town, this Medellin attraction was built to represent what Colombia’s small traditional towns are like. This place gets a bad rap as a tourist trap. That said, we enjoyed our brief visit as it has its own charms as a “traditional” Colombian village, however, manufactured they may be. There is also a 360º view of the city from here. Avoid on weekends as it’s crazy crowded. If you go on a weekday away from the crowds, it might be a fun place to visit in Medellin.

Soccer Games in Estadio

The boy and I so wanted to do this, but alas, all the tickets were sold out for the home games when we last visited. Next time. No one needs to tell you just how popular soccer/futbol is in South America. And by most accounts, this is a great way to experience the sport in Medellin with kids. Definitely what to do in Colombia for soccer fans…just plan ahead better than we did.

Medellin Tours: Some of the Best Things to Do in Medellin

Comuna 13 Medellin graffiti tour

Whether you’re staying for three days or three months, we highly recommend looking into some of the best tours in Medellin. Depending on your schedule, we recommend doing Medellin walking tours and Medellin food tours as early as possible. Medellin tours like this help you get more out of the city later on. They help explain the lay of the land and places you may want to return to later. Here are some Medellin tours we recommend.

Comuna 13 Graffiti Medellin Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Medellin Colombia is to visit Comuna 13. Once the most dangerous neighborhood in the world, Comuna 13 is now one of the most popular Medellin tour attractions. Expect amazing street art and public performances.

Medellin Comuna 13 Street Art Tour

Free Walking Medellin Tours

If you’re looking for a primer on the city, then this is what to do in Medellin. The guys at Real City Walking Tours do a great job of showing you around and giving you the highlights of this dynamic town. It’s free, but the guides work for tips, so keep this in mind. There are lots of Medellin tours, but these guys have one of the best reputations. 

Metro & Innovation Medellin Tours

Medellin went from one of the most corrupt and dangerous cities in the world to one of the most innovative. Part of that is due to far-reaching public works projects and an incredible public transportation system. Medellin tours like this take you on the trains and cable cars that help turn the city into the place it is today. Medellin is safe, prosperous and admired for many things. These Medellin tours explain them. 

Private Medellin Metro Tour

Innovation in Medellin Tour (4 Hours) 

Food/Market Tours in Medellin

The markets of a country are one of the best windows into the local culture. That’s why you should look into Medellin market tours and Medellin cooking classes. And if you love fruit, then Medellin will have lots of new and exotic varieties for you to try.

Private Colombian Food Tour in Medellin

Half-Day Colombian market Tours in Medellin

Private Culinary Tours in Medellin

Cooking Class

Just like the market tours in Medellin, the kitchens of Colombia are a fun and educational way to learn about Colombian culture.

Medellin Food Tour with a Paisa Family

Botero Tour

The best way to learn about Medellin’s most famous artists is through a specialized tour. This tour includes pick up, drop off, and admission to the Museo Antioquia as well as insight into the many statues and sculptures you’ll see in the Plaza de las Esculturas and the Parque San Antonio.

Medellin Walking Tour: The Work of Botero 

Sunday Ciclovia

Every Sunday, cars are blocked in a large swath of in downtown Medellin and bicycles take to the streets. from 7 am to 1 pm. In a country of bicycle lovers, the idea the Ciclovia originated in Colombia. Many cities in Latin America and around the world have copied the idea since (We’ve seen it in action in Mexico City as well).

Outdoors & Adventurous Things to Do in Medellin 

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One of the best things to do in Medellin is to explore the jungles and rivers just beyond its borders. This part of Colombia is lush and green, with stunning valleys and beautiful rivers with seeing for yourself. Here are a few ways.

Park Arvi

Okay so this may technically be part of Medellin City, but Parque Arvi certainly doesn’t look like it’s “in town” at all. You take a Metrocable up the hillside and ride for a while over the forest below until you reach Parque Arvi, a nature reserve directly connected to the town. It’s beautiful here, and a great place for hiking. Keep in mind you have to go with a group and a guide. We also loved all the snack shops set up at the entrance. Here we had papa rellanas (stuffed potatoes) and chocolate covered strawberries. The boy ordered a cup of fresh berries that were at peak freshness. Yum!

Whitewater Rafting 

If you love paddling through rapids, then this is one of the best things to do in Medellin Colombia. The surrounding area has several rivers to choose from, with rapids enjoyed by both novices and hardcore paddlers.

Rafting in Medellin – Book a Medellin Rafting Tour 

Canyoning 

If you love nature and adrenaline-pumping action, then canyoning may be one of your favorite things to do in Medellin. I’ve often described canyoning as “whitewater rafting without the raft.” Add in some rappelling and rock climbing and you’re getting close. We love canyoning and recommend it to everyone.

Downhill Cycling

Aside from soccer, cycling is the most popular sporty thing to do in Colombia. When you see the landscape around Medellin, you’ll know why. Lush green hills and valleys are a spectacular backdrop for a ride. If the idea of riding up those hills doesn’t sound appealing, then may I suggest just riding down them? We took a “gravity bike” tour, which is essentially a 2-hour ride that is almost entirely downhill. It was amazing: a real surprise hit for my daughter and me and I can’t recommend it enough

Paragliding

The Cocorná valley outside Medellin is green as far as the eye can see. Perched atop the valley are paragliding companies that take you soaring over that valley into the town below. Our paragliding brought us so close to waterfalls and treetops. I felt I could almost touch them! Easily one of my favorite things to do in Medellin.

Hiking

Various tour outfitters offer guided hikes and eco-walks in the valleys surrounding Medellin. These lush forests and streams make for a beautiful day out. Medellin tours like these can be anywhere from a half-day to multi-day tours. 

Book a Private nature Tour in Medellin

ATVs

Go offroad and experience the Colombian countryside from the seat of an all-terrain vehicle. We’ve done an ATV tour in Mexico and loved it, and after seeing the area around Medellin, I can imagine that this would be an amazing tour.

Book an ATV Tour in Medellin 

More Day Trips from Medellin

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There are loads of fun things to do in Medellin with kids or on your own. But drive a little out of town and suddenly your options expand even further. In fact, some of our favorite things to do in Medellin weren’t in Medellin at all, but rather in the countryside surrounding the city. Here are a few more Medellin attractions that lie outside the city limits.

Guatape & Piedra del Penol

This cute little town is easily one of the most popular day trips from Medellin. The houses are painted bright and colorful and the surrounding lakes are a great place to boat around. Then there is the Piedra del Penol, a gargantuan finger of granite you can climb for amazing views of the area. Just remember that it’s well over 700 steps to the top.

Full-Day Guatape Tours from Medellin

El Peñol and Guatape Private Tours from Medellin

Full-Day Guatape Tour

Tours from Medellín: Guatapé, Piedra del Peñol & Boat Tour

Santa Fe de Antioquia

Located about 90 minutes northwest of Medellin, this lovely Colombian village one of the most charming places to visit in Medellin. It’s hotter here than in Medellin’s mountain valley. Yet it’s worth a visit if you like to see old Spanish colonial architecture and a village frozen in time.

Medellin Tours to Santa Fé de Antioquia

Don’t Take Pablo Escobar Tours

Medellin is best known as the home for drug trafficking. Pablo Escobar and his long-gone empire may be famous, but it is a past that the locals want the world to forget. Colombia has come so far since the dark days. Yet one of the most popular things to do in Medellin Colombia is to take a “Pablo Escobar” tour. Many of these tours put money into the hands of Escobar cronies and family members, some of whom were also responsible for heinous crimes.

Everyone from Medellin has a horror story from their past thanks to Escobar. he is gone, but the scars of that era remain. Taking a selfie at his grave smoking a cigar doesn’t make you “gangsta.” It makes you a douchebag. Ask the locals what they think of Escobar, and what effect he had on their families. See how many people died or wasted away thanks to him. I know this is mostly a family travel blog, but I feel the need to be clear: skip the Escobar Medellin Tours. That’s not what to do in Medellin Colombia. Not by a mile. There are so many better things to do in Medellin Colombia than pay homage to that man.

Getting to Medellin Colombia

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Most people who travel to Medellin will arrive by plane. Keep in mind that the Jose Marie Cordova International Airport in Medellin is around an hour southwest of the city. However, travel times may change soon if the new tunnel opens in July 2019, cutting time to/from the airport in half.

From the airport, we suggest taking Uber, an authorized cab (White Airport Taxi) or have a driver waiting. There are also buses and collectivos (shared taxis), but we have not tried these yet. If you use Uber, keep in mind that most cars are small so you may need to upgrade.

Medellin Airport Transfer (airport to hotel)

Medellin Airport Transfer (hotel to airport)

Airport Transfer to Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (hotel to airport) 

Flights to Medellin Colombia

There are loads of flights in and out of Bogota, the Colombian capital, but you can also book direct flights from places like Mexico City. Another option is to visit Medellin from Cartagena. There are more direct flights between US destinations and Cartagena. Here are a few options for getting to Medellin:

Find The Cheapest Flight to Medellin on Kiwi.com Flight Search

Flights to/from the USA

NYC to Medellin / Medellin to NYC

Flights from NYC to Medellin transfer in Florida (Orlando, Miami, etc), Panama City or Bogota. Average flight time is around

Atlanta to Medellin / Medellin to Atlanta

Lots of flights Atlanta to Medellin stopover in Miami or Orlando. Average flight time is around 6-7 hours.

Orlando-Miami to Medellin / Medellin to Miami-Orlando

Direct flights between Orland and Miami to Medellin are available. Average flight time is around 3.5 hours. That said, plenty of transfers occur in Panama City, Bogota, and Cartagena

Flights to/from Latin America

Mexico City to Medellin / Medellin to Mexico City

Both direct and transfer flights Mexico City to Medellin are common. In fact, that’s where we flew (direct) from. Average flight time is around 4.5 hours. Longer for transfers out of Panama City, Bogota and Cartagena

Lima to Medellin / Medellin to Lima

Plenty of direct flights Lima to Medellin and vice versa. Average flight time is around 3 hours direct, 4-5 hours if transferring in Bogota or Panama City.

San Jose to Medellin / Medellin to San Jose (Costa Rica)

No direct flights from Costa Rica to Medellin, but loads of planes transfer in Bogota and Panama City. Average flight time is around 4 hours.

Flights Within Colombia

Bogota to Medellin / Medellin to Bogota

Bogota is the hub of flights to Colombia. Average flight time Bogota to Medellin is around 1 hour.

Cartagena to Medellin / Medellin to Cartagena

There are lots of flights in an out of Cartagena, so consider starting here if you have big Colombia travel plans. Average flight time from Cartagena to Medellin is one hour.

Flights from Europe

Barcelona-Madrid to Medellin / Medellin to Madrid-Barcelona

There are no direct flights from Barcelona to Medellin, but plenty from Madrid to Medellin and back. Barcelona > Medellin average times around 14.5 hours, while Madrid to Medellin is around 11.

Getting Around Medellin Colombia

getting around medellin - medellin cable car & train

Getting around Medellin is much easier than many South American destinations. The city’s public transportation is some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. And this is coming from a guy who spent over a decade in Japan! The monorail and Tranvia trains are clean, safe and efficient.

Built into a valley, Medellin is surrounded by steep hills. To solve this transport problem, they built cable cars and escalators to widen city access. Part of the city’s resurgence is thanks to this impressive system. In fact, we looked at the Metrocable cars as Medellin attractions, but they are really for transporting people to and from work. We did not take the buses, and from what we learned, would recommend walking or hailing a ride instead.

Taxis VS Ubers

The city has plenty of cars to take you around, but it’s recommended not to hail a taxi from the street. Instead, have a restaurant or hotel front desk call you one. Like in Mexico City, there are some fake taxis rolling around town, and it’s best not to jump in the back of them.

And just like in Mexico City, we found Uber to be a better alternative. All the Ubers we took were clean and professional. However, regular Uber cars tend to be small. If you’re a family of four with luggage like us, you might want to upgrade to a larger vehicle. We had to twice because the Uber that arrived couldn’t comfortably carry all four of us and our bags.

Phone & Internet

Medellin’s recent reputation as a digital nomad hub is noteworthy. It makes sense, though, since we found the internet at our accommodation and in cafes to be well above the South American average.

As for getting a SIM for our phones, there are options at the airport but we heard they were overpriced. Besides, we arrived at midnight when everything was closed, anyway. Instead, the next day we sought out the nearest Claro office and got SIM cards for my phone and Keiko’s. It was a multistep process. First, we bought a SIM. Then we bought the data plan and activated it all separately. We’ve heard it was easier if you go out to Santa Fe Mall, but we sorted it out at just a local stand in a strip mall near the stadium in about 20 minutes.

Claro is the largest provider in the country. There are others, but we went with the big company and had no problems. Don’t forget your passport. You’ll need it to get the SIM

Do You Know What to Do in Medellin?

medellin travel adventure rafting in colombia

Tell us more great Medellin activities! What’s missing from our list of things to do in Medellin Colombia? We loved our Medellin travel so much that we’re thinking of returning as soon as possible (I really thought of living there for a while). What do you think? Do you what to do in Medellin? Is Medellin safe in your opinion? Let us know in the comments!

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something or book a Medellin tour using one of the links here, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help you discover what to do in Medellin Colombia. 

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