More than a city without a soul, contemporary Medellin oozes an easy charm with its unique blend of attractions - often associated in one way or another with its violent past. In the 80s, Medellin was the undisputed cocaine trafficking wonderland or hell (take your pick), and there was a serious backlash when the government tried to eliminate the drug scene and its leader, the infamous Pablo Escobar, near the end of the decade.
At its worst, the city recorded the world’s highest homicide rate but thankfully, under the leadership of more prudent leaders, Medellin tells the incredible story of ‘bad boy turned good’. Akin to the resurrection of a phoenix, this capital of the Antioquia department has shed its shady reputation for improved security, modern comfort and simply, just being a great place for living and playing.
In tribute to the city and as a firm believer of the expression “good things are meant to be shared”, here’s my been-there-done-that 1-day Medellin itinerary for your reference:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
Hop on Colombia’s only urban train
Begin your day by hopping on Colombia’s only urban train! While it is nowhere in comparison to the Japan Rail or Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit, the Medellin Metro is quick, convenient and gets you to where you want to. The Metro started operations in 1995 and runs from North to South and Centre to West of the city. The best of all? It includes stops at key tourist sites.
Forgoing our usual preference for UBER (which is also a great way to travel in Medellin), my friend and I took a ride on the Medellin Metro just for the experience. The cabins were clean, and there weren’t many people, so no worries about being squeezed like a sardine in a can, as one might likely experience in another busy city.
Website: Medellin Metro
Hug a bronze statue at Botero Plaza
Colombia is full of talented artists, and the most popular one is possibly Fernando Botero. Art is portrayed to be larger than life in Botero’s art, which defines sensual lines and exaggerated forms with wry humour. At the so-called ‘Old Quarters’ of Medellin, Botero Plaza features 23 bronze sculptures donated by the Medellin-born artist. Be seduced, as you take in these not-so-simple voluminous sculptures with their deceptively simple names.
Interestingly, this dynamic sector in Medellin also represents the confluence of cultures, thereby leading to various myths and sometimes, superstition. Word has it that touching certain Botero’s sculptures can bring one love or good fortune!
As this is one of the main tourist sites to visit, do be prepared to encounter street peddlers selling souvenirs or photography services.
Address: Carabobo, Medellín, Antioquia
Duration: around 0.5 hours required
Contact: +57 318 4710487
Website: Botero Plaza
Discover art & history in the Museum of Antioquia
Ardent fans of Botero, rejoice! If you cannot get enough of the Colombian artist at the Botero Plaza, well, think of that as an appetizer! Your main course for Boterismo lies within the Museum of Antioquia and will surely satiate your art hunger.
Being the first museum to be established in the Antioquia department and the second in Colombia, the Museum of Antioquia dates back to 1881 where it used to be known as the Museum and Library Zea. In the present day, this art museum houses more than 10 permanent and temporary exhibitions that highlight the art and heritage of Antioquia. The building itself is an artwork to be admired too! There is also a restaurant and museum shop that are worth visiting after your museum tour.
The Museum of Antioquia is currently located in the old city hall building of Medellin (also the former Municipal Palace), which has been declared as a national monument.
Museum of Antioquia
Address: Cl. 52 #52-43, Medellín, Antioquia
Price: from ~ 3 USD (for students), 6 USD (for adults)
Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 5.30pm
Duration: around 1.5 hours required
Access: How to access [ex: 1 min walk from hougang mrt]
Contact: (574) 251 36 36
Website: Museum of Antioquia
Recollect your thoughts at Iglesia de la Veracruz
A stone’s throw away from the Museum of Antioquia is the Church of La Veracruz (commonly known as Iglesia de La Veracruz) - a whitewashed building reflecting purity and goodness in life - that stands in contrast with its environment. Despite the short distance from Botero Plaza and the Museum of Antioquia, you will notice an increased number of homeless people in this area.
A pungent scent of urine and feces hung in the air while lonely, sleeping figures lay dead to the world on the streets outside the church. I cannot help but to wonder if the homeless receive or are willing to receive help from the church? Regardless, stepping into the Church of La Veracruz shall bring you a sense of peace, as do most places of worship. Recollect your thoughts here (and make a prayer for a better world), at the only colonial church in this city. Dating back to 1682, parts of the church including a high altar was brought from Spain.
Church of La Veracruz (Iglesia de La Veracruz)
Address: Calle 51 No. 52-58, Medellin
Access: Take the Medellín metro to the Parque Berrio station and walk about a block and a half west along Calle 51 from the metro station.
Contact: 57 (4) 512 50 95
Stroll along the pedestrian walkway at Paseo Peatonal Carabobo
The ancient city of Paseo Peatonal Carabobo originally comprises eight blocks but after an urban transformation, this pedestrian walkway now extends to more than 30 blocks. Walking down the characteristic streets, it would be hard to take in everything at one time because there is just so much to see!
Aside from shops and street peddlers, conserved historical buildings will command your attention with their magnificent architecture. It is said that the Paseo Peatonal Carabobo remains a living artery for locals and visitors to experience the art, culture and trade of Medellin. And indeed, that is precisely what you will find here.
For shopaholics, if you are looking to get some souvenirs or good bargains, check out the National Palace (commonly known as Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional) that looks like a Disney castle. Previously housing the government, it has since been converted into a shopping center for apparel, footwear as well as restaurants and bars.
National Palace, Medellin (Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional)
Address: Cra. 52 #48-45, Medellín, Antioquia
Opening Hours: Daily 8am - 7pm. Closed on Sunday.
Contact: +57 (4) 5134422
Website: National Palace, Medellin
Dine and chillax at 37 Park, El Poblado
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Marthe Troly-Curtin
This perpetual cafe dweller totally agrees with the quote. I could stay at 37 Park the entire day and week or until I get thrown out! Located at the hipster neighbourhood of El Poblado, there are unlimited choices of good restaurants, cafes and bars. However, for one of the best gastronomy experiences, you do not want to miss 37 Park.
Comprising a restaurant, bistro and bar, the atmospheric environment gets extra points in addition to its delicious culinary that is priced reasonably. Food is flavourful, and the cakes are to die for. As if that is not enough, beautiful people are everywhere in this beautiful neighbourhood, and one can sit here for hours just people watching.
37 Park, Medellin
Address: Cra. 37 #837, Envigado, Medellín, Antioquia
Opening Hours: Daily 12pm - 2am
Contact: +57 (4) 3115781
Website: 37 Park, Medellin
Party at Parque Lleras to experience the popular Medellin’s nightlife
Known for its vibrant nightlife, Medellin offers a fun night out at various clubs, discos and bars - the most popular location being Parque Lleras. Be it a group, couple or solo traveller, there are different venues with a wide choice of music to cater to preferences.
Should you be undecided, head to Centro Commercial Rio Sur - one of the newest malls in Medellin - for an eclectic mix of trendy clubs and theme bars. Located in the upmarket stretch of Avenida Poblado known as “Milla de Oro” (Golden Mile), you can have a nightcap at the Sinko Bar. With its dim lightings and chic outdoor patio, the relaxed atmosphere is somewhat similar to a sky bar in Manhattan, albeit friendlier and at a lower level.
Alternatively, head to level 7 for some great Latin music and fun dancing! To enter Kukaramakara and Sixttina only one cover charge is required. Expect a live band with awesome crossover music including reggaeton and electronica. The energy is infectious, and even the reserved tourists may soon find yourself grooving to the rhythm on a fun night out!
Rio Sur Medellin
Address: El Poblado #26-6S, Medellín, Antioquia
Price: from 9 USD
Contact: +57 (4) 3114759
Website: Rio Sur Medellin
Modern comforts and fine pampering in Medellin
If you have been touring the coffee region in Colombia and are in need of a respite from the countryside (I was!), visit the city of Medellin and you will not be disappointed. Amongst the various public works including Colombia’s only urban train system, fun museums and green scape, this metropolitan city has much to offer.
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