Dec 12, 2021
3 min read
A City Guide to Medellin
While Bogota and Cartagena might be the first stops for travelers in Colombia, Medellín is definitely worth scheduling into your plan. Set in the Aburrá Valley, a central part of the Andes Mountains, it has been dubbed ‘the city of eternal spring’ for its year-round warmth – our favorite kind of weather.
Yes, for years it was the center of Pablo Escobar’s drug operation, but there’s a lot more to Medellín than that (and it goes without saying now that this is a safe and friendly place to travel). Expect to explore amazing architecture, botanical gardens, contemporary art galleries, and enjoy fantastic food. Plus, that renowned Colombian party spirit is strong in Medellín.
Read on for our tips on where to stay, eat, drink, dance and explore in Medellín.
Where to stay in Medellín
The neighborhood of El Poblado is where you want to be in Medellín. It’s walkable, or a short taxi ride, to most sites of interest, and full of bustling eateries, shops and places to go out, as well as lush parks to chill in. The Charlee hotel itself is design-forward and well appointed — each room has a private little atrium with sofas and a well-stocked ‘mega bar’ (beware the full-sized tequila). Breakfast is included, and served on an incredible rooftop with sprawling views of the city and mountains. The building is one of the highest in the area, so head back up to the roof for a pool dip and sunset cocktails to make the most.
Where to eat & drink in Medellín
The food and beer is really cheap (around $3), but substantial and tasty, at this traditional local cafeteria. The local tripe soup is known as one of the best delicacies; while the arepas and various meat and fish platters are also good, if tripe isn’t your thing.
Go here for contemporary or fusion dishes. Chef Laura trained for eight years across Europe, Australia and Asia — and it shows. They specialize in slow (think 14 hours or so) cooking times, so dishes like the short ribs are properly delicious.
This is the gold standard for the fancy foodie – book ahead, and save up. Chef Juanma is in his 30s and already killing it, serving a tasting menu that will change your life. El Cielo now has outposts in Bogota and Miami, as well.
This restaurant and bar is tucked away above a storefront in El Poblado – only those in the know seek it out. The open-air space is decorated with mismatched lamps and charming farm tables. Order a couple of cocktails and the albondigas.
Where to get coffee in Medellín
We’re calling it, this is one of the best coffee places in the world. Brewing with beans from their own farm, which is mere miles away, coffee has never tasted so damn fresh. The space is large and beautiful, filled with local hipster freelancers hanging out. If the red velvet cake is on the counter, definitely order a slice. And buy a bag of beans to take home.
Where to get a hit of culture
While the modern art exhibitions here are good, for us, the building itself is the most interesting part of the experience. It’s an incredible copper lattice-worked structure, with living walls and sculptures throughout. Definitely check out the gift shop.
Other guides will definitely tell you to go to Pablo Escobar’s final resting place, Cemetario Jardins Montesacro, in Itagüí. But, for a more off-the-beaten-path cemetery with incredible architecture and views of the city, go to Crematorio Campos de Paz at dusk. It reminded us of Richard Serra’s large copper sculptures at Dia Beacon, in the best way.
Come here to see Medellín-born artist Fernando Botero’s finest sculptures – 23 of them, in fact. Huge and round-edged, you might recognise their voluptuous forms from their counterparts on 49th St. in NYC, by the Rockefeller Center.
Where to work out
The gym at The Charlee
Like a mini Equinox in the heart of the city, here you’ll work out next to locals and visitors alike. The Charlee’s gym is two stories high and has all the equipment you might need (even a cycle room). Cool down with a drink at the rooftop pool after.
Where to hang out
If you do just one thing in Medellín, make it a visit to these gardens. Colombia is a hugely diverse country when it comes to plant life, and the lush, colorful array here captures that perfectly. The restaurant, set on a pond and surrounded by bamboo forests, is amazing – complete with a small vintage train car that serves drinks. It’s straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
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