Medellín holds a special place in my heart, and I think it’s in large part because while their recent history has been so tragic, the transformation the city has undergone in the past decade is incredibly inspiring. Once known as the most dangerous city in the world, Medellín is now a fun, lively place filled with all the monstera leaves my boho-loving heart could ever desire.
El Poblado is the place to stay. It’s fun, trendy, safe, and there’s a lot going on. Keep in mind Medellín is a hilly place, and El Poblado is no exception—so while this neighborhood is walkable, you may find yourself calling an Uber more often than not.
Laureles is another trendy neighborhood that is flatter and worth looking into, although I haven’t stayed there myself.
This is hands down the best free walking tour I’ve ever done—and I’ve done a lot! This tour takes you around Medellín’s downtown, and the RCT tourguides do a beautiful job at telling the story of the city’s complicated history. Since the tour is free, the guides are working for tips, so make sure you bring cash for the end.
Comuna 13 is a lively neighborhood known for it’s graffiti, street performers, and outdoor escalator, and like so many parts of the city, it has seen both heartbreaking tragedy and beautiful transformation. I would highly recommend taking a tour with Julio, who grew up in this neighborhood only a few short decades ago when even the police wouldn’t cross the invisible border for fear of getting killed. You can WhatsApp him at +57 300 2024148 to book—tell him I sent you! It’s also worth going for a day and just walking around and enjoying the energy and the views.
This tour, by the same company that does the free walking tour, is a great way to see the neighborhood of Laureles while learning about and trying traditional Colombian food.
OCI → Our absolute favorite restaurant. You can get a bunch of stuff to try, or all order your own—whatever floats your boat. We never had any issues walking in if we went before 7pm-ish, but if you’re going with a bigger group or later in the evening, definitely make a reservation.
Casa la Bendición → Super cute place for arepas.
Repeat → My favorite breakfast spot + place to work.
Amor-Acuyá Gelato → Best gelato… just trust me.
Criminal Taqueria → Casual taco joint with great tacos (duh) and amazing elotes.
El Zorro y La Gitana → Thin crust yummy pizza (New Yorker approved)
Alambique → A really cool food “experience.” Go with a group and share a lot of stuff. Give yourselves time, as they cook everything fresh to order.
Black Fitness Premium Center → The best boutique fitness studio! They have 3 different classes—one boxing, one that’s like Barry’s Bootcamp, and one that is focused on strength training.
Selina → This Selina’s coworking space has been my favorite so far. It’s spacious with lots of meeting rooms, there’s a great café, and a bar with lots of natural light. Make sure to visit the Latin Lover boutique for the perfect souvenir!
Sousa Spa → This is a great place to come relax with an affordable massage and some time in the steam room and jacuzzi.
You can drink the water → Medellín and Bogota are the 2 places in Colombia where the tap water is safe to drink.
Safety → El Poblado is a safe neighborhood, and many other neighborhoods are also safe, however be careful of petty theft and always watch your drink—slipping drugs into drinks + then robbing the person unfortunately does happen. Men are just as much of a target here, if not more than women, so men—don’t consider yourselves invinsible. Take Ubers at night or if you ever feel uncomfy walking—they’re cheap and easy to come by.
Money → Credit cards are widely accepted, but I always carried around small amounts of cash too. For tipping, 10% is standard if the service is good, but you’ll have to either leave cash or tell them to add it before they swipe your card.
Narcos → Educate yourself on them, but don’t go asking every local you meet about Pablo Escobar. That guy was a huge asshole, and part of your trip to Medellín should be about unpacking the effect it had on the locals. And before you say, “but didn’t he do a lot of good, too?” I’ll pose the question that a good friend once posed to me: how many houses does someone have to build to justify killing tons of innocent people?
Uber → Is widely available but actually illegal, so drivers may ask you to sit in the front seat. It’s no big deal.
Taxis → The taxi fares are metered, but make sure you’re getting into a legit one and be cautious. In particular, try to pay with smaller bills—it’s common that taxi drivers will scam you out of your change.
Don’t let my warnings about safety dissuade you—this is one of my favorite cities. Just have your wits about you 🙂