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Medellin: A City of Optimism, Comfort, and Diversity

Medellin, a city filled with 21st-century optimism, offers a blend of comfort, a mild climate, and a cosmopolitan ambiance. As Colombia’s second-largest city, following Bogotá, Medellin has overcome its tumultuous past. Gone are the days when it was in the clutches of the notorious narco-trafficker, Pablo Escobar.

Over the past few decades, the city has undergone a remarkable transformation. Medellin, with its population of 4 million, has evolved into a destination brimming with diverse activities that cater to all types of travelers.

Besides other large South American cities where the majority of attractions are concentrated in the old town area, Medellin’s main highlights are spread out. Navigating the city’s significant traffic requires some planning, but the wealth of things to see and do makes it all worthwhile.

1. Explore El Poblado, the Trendiest Neighborhood in Medellin

El Poblado is the heart of Medellin’s entertainment and lifestyle scene. This upscale neighborhood is full of cozy cafés, stylish restaurants, and chic boutiques. You’ll love strolling along the shady streets, admiring the lush greenery and the charming architecture. El Poblado is also the place to go for nightlife, with bars, clubs, and live music venues to suit every taste. Calle 10 is the main strip, but don’t miss the quieter side streets where you’ll find hidden gems. 

2. Ride the Medellin Metrocable for Breathtaking Views of the City

One of the most unique and fun ways to see Medellin is by taking the Metrocable, a system of cable cars that connects the city center with the surrounding hills. Visitors can take Line J to La Aurora,  and you will find a lookout point and a mural project. Or you can take Line L to Arvi Park, a natural reserve that offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and local crafts. The Metrocable is part of the public transportation system, so visitors can use the same ticket as the metro.

3. Admire the Sculptures of Fernando Botero at Plaza Botero

Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist, known for his distinctive style of depicting people and animals in exaggerated proportions. He donated 23 of his bronze sculptures to his hometown of Medellin, and you can see them at Plaza Botero, a public square near the Parque Berrio metro station. The sculptures range from humorous to provocative and are a delight to photograph and pose with. Visitors can also see more of Botero’s works at the nearby Museum of Antioquia, which houses paintings, drawings, and ceramics by the artist.

4. Visit the Museum of Antioquia, the Second Oldest Museum in Colombia

The Museum of Antioquia is a must-see for art lovers and history buffs alike. The museum showcases the artistic and cultural heritage of Colombia, from the pre-Columbian era to the present day. Visitors will find a rich collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles, and pottery, as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum is also home to the Botero Room, where you can see some of the most iconic works by Fernando Botero, such as La Muerte de Pablo Escobar (the death of Pablo Escobar). The museum is located next to Plaza Botero, and the entrance fee is very affordable.

5. Shop in Downtown Medellin

The area is packed with shops, malls, and markets that sell everything from clothes and accessories to electronics and souvenirs. Visitors can walk along the pedestrian-only Calle 52, where you’ll find hundreds of vendors and stalls. Visitors can also explore the galleries and arcades that branch off from the main street, where you’ll discover more shops and bargains. One of the highlights of downtown shopping is the National Palace Mall, a historic building that has been restored and converted into a modern shopping center. 

6. Experience the Transformation of Comuna 13

Comuna 13 is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the people of Medellin. Once a war zone plagued by gangs and paramilitaries, this neighborhood has reinvented itself as a cultural hub and a tourist attraction. Thanks to a series of open-air escalators that connect the hillside communities, Comuna 13 is now accessible and safe for visitors and locals alike. Visitors can take a guided tour or explore on their own, admiring the colorful graffiti and murals that adorn the walls and tell the stories of the past and the present.

7. Enjoy the Scenic Views of Guatapé

If you want to escape the city for a day, you can take a trip to Guatapé, a picturesque town about 90 kilometers away from Medellin. Guatapé is famous for its giant rock, El Peñón de Guatapé, which rises 200 meters above the ground and offers spectacular views of the surrounding lake and countryside. People visiting Guatapé can prepare themselves to climb the 750 steps to the top or simply admire the rock from below. 

They can also explore the town itself, which is known for its colorful houses decorated with zocalos, or bas-reliefs, that depict various scenes and motifs.

8. Appreciate the Modern Art of MAMM

MAMM, or the Medellin Museum of Modern Art, is a must-visit for art lovers and anyone who wants to appreciate the contemporary culture of Colombia. The museum is housed in a former steel mill, which has been renovated and expanded to create a stunning space for displaying and promoting art. 

The museum features works by local and international artists, ranging from pop art to expressionism. Visitors can also enjoy the museum’s cinema, library, and café, as well as the surrounding Ciudad del Rio neighborhood, which is a trendy area with art galleries, restaurants, and parks.

9. Relax at the Botanical Garden and Parque Explora

Head to the Botanical Garden and Parque Explora, the two adjacent attractions that offer a green oasis and a fun learning experience. The Botanical Garden is a free-entry park that showcases more than 600 species of plants and trees, as well as a butterfly house, a lagoon, and a herbarium. 

You can wander around the paths, enjoy a picnic, or join a guided tour. Parque Explora is a science and technology museum that features a vivarium, a planetarium, and an aquarium, as well as interactive exhibits on topics such as physics, neuroscience, and communication.

10. Learn about the History of Medellin at the House of the Memory Museum

Medellin has a dark and tragic history, marked by decades of violence and conflict. The House of the Memory Museum is a place where you can learn about this history, but also about the hope and the peace that the city has achieved. 

The museum is a free-entry space that collects and displays the testimonies and the memories of the victims and the survivors of the armed conflict in Colombia. The museum aims to raise awareness, promote dialogue, and foster reconciliation among the different sectors of society.

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