A cosmopolitan city that has a good Metro System to take you downtown to see the wonderful museums, bus station and other sights.
I stayed in the El Poblado area which is known to be safe – especially for tourists, lively with lots of places to eat, drink and party and some great places to stay to suit all budgets (hostels, B&B’s and small hotels).
There are locals who go out in this area on the weekend as it does feel safe however, in Colombia – there are a lot of prostitutes walking the streets. Personally, this is not my thing but it exists here so don’t be frightened if you see people bargaining on the type of service they are giving.
There are PLENTY of food options for both meat and vegetarian lovers. There’s always an empanada stand nearby that you can grab on the go or have a midnight snack from a night out :P.
In the El Poblado area – during the week, there are bar crawls that a lot of hostels promote. It’s a great way to get your bearings, meet other travellers and locals and have a great night. I stayed in quite a few places in Poblado and I would recommend staying in the following depending on what your vibe is or even stay around these areas:
- Aura Boutique Hostel – small hostel with a jacuzzi and bar on the rooftop. There is a double room available but the rest is dorm style and the staff are friendly as well as funny. Laundry service for anyone staying here or another place is available but can be pricey.
- Los Patios – this is located next door to Aura and is a larger hostel but much more livier as they have a restaurant/bar ground level, rooftop and they own another hostel across the road that has another bar. They usually have something happening every night of the week and is designed in an urban / nature style that is super clean. Most of the time, you won’t get any sleep here but is a good place to start the night too. This hostel will cost more than your average hostel but the standards are high.
- The Woods Hostel – located below Aura where if you like to be close to these livier hostels but still want a good nights sleep; this is a good alternative. They have both double rooms, shared dorms and good showers. Also, a cheap laundry service that anyone can use (even if you’re staying next door).
The above three hostels are close to El Poblado Station and you can walk to the main strip to start your bar crawl, salsa dancing and maybe a late night empanada.
- Purple Monkey Hostel – this is just a block or two away from the above but is a good hostel for the early — mid twenties.
- Bandido Hostel – just don’t stay at this hotel. I had a lot of bad experiences here.
There are SO many things you can do in Medellin and these are my highlights:
- Comuna 13 Graffiti – Incredibly sad history where the Guerillas used this Comuna as a playground committing a lot of murders and once the roughest area here. You can’t do anything about the history but the locals won’t let this hold them back and decided to use art to communicate their turbulent history and represent their stance on gang violence. There are famous graffiti artists that have created masterpieces here and you can see how things have changed.
There are free walking tours of Comuna 13 and I recommend going with someone who lives in the area (they will state this in their bio) as they can tell you exactly what they’ve experienced and guide you into this area – I had one that gave me ice cream :D.
This was a great tour and is definitely worth doing whilst in Medellin.
These tours are tipped based so make sure you have some cash.
You can book this online however, I turned up at the metro station where there were umbrellas that stated ‘Free Comuna 13 Tours’ and they let me jump in an English speaking group (they do tours in Spanish too). Depending where you meet, you might need to get a bus that the tourguide takes you so another reason to have cash!
- Parque Explora – THE BEST SCIENCE MUSEUM EVER!! The reason I have given this museum this title is that it’s so interactive and everyone was so engaged as there’s so much to touch, play, see and feel. It doesn’t matter your age, every child, adult and elderly person were playing (as well as learning) about something here. This is located north of the city and is very close to Universadad Metro Station. This place has an interactive outdoor area, a small aquarium and four separate hubs which means there’s plenty of things to play with. It is a good morning or a good afternoon session of playing. Then afterwards, you can visit the Botanical Gardens.
- Guatape Day Trip – If you speak Spanish, you can get a local bus and do a day trip here for cheap! But as I don’t, I booked an English tour where they picked me up from my hostel and dropped me of in the evening as well as gave me some good facts about the history. All the hostels will have leaflets on the front desk who do frequent day trips and all you need to do is whatsapp message them to see if they have availability then they book you on the date. Simples – give or take; they all charge a similar amount about 79,000 COP (about £18). This tour included breakfast, lunch, a visit to the Guatape rock (you have to pay a separate entrance fee to climb up), visit El Penol town, see an old replica of the Old Penol (the original place drowned in water), ride a boat along the Guatape Reservoir – which was beautiful and you get to see one of the exploded houses of Pablo Escobar and enjoy the scenary. I had a great day out here!
- Coffee Experience – You cannot go to Colombia and not do a Coffee experience. I took a day trip with Colombia Coffee Tour that I found online (then booked via whatsapp as it was so much cheaper!). The day tour costs me 145,000 COP (approx £33) which included pick up and drop off to my hostel. This was a nice and insightful experience as we went to a coffee bean farm, they explained the different types of beans and how the tasty roasted beans got shipped off to other countries which only left the bitter coffee beans for Colombians to drink. Now, things are changing as one of the main goals is to have tasty coffee that Colombians can drink IN Colombia. Like who knew that one of the top coffee producers in the world and the locals haven’t consumed their own tasty goodness. We tried some coffee and then we hopped into the car to go to a coffee lab (that has award winning coffee beans). These guys showed us what happens when it goes into coffee shops and showed us the different tastebud that judges focus on. It was a formative trip however, I was the only solo traveller there and the rest were couples. As some of you know, there are some couples that like to exclude everyone else out and make an awkward situation even more awkward. I was happy to leave and join my new friends back at the hostel >.<.
- Bar Crawl – during the week there are multiples of bar crawls that take place to bring people together mostly travellers and locals, then dance the night away. These are usually advertised by reception so always worth taking a peek to see what’s happening that week. The age range seem to be 18 to late thirties and as long as you are up for a messy night and meet new people – you’ll have a cracking time.
- Museo de Antioquia – if you are going to pick one art museum to see, this is the museum to see as it houses 100 pieces of art from Medellin own Fernando Botero. There’s also a floor for international artists but you would come here just to see Botero’s famous pieces from the sculptures, his art explores the proportion, size, and shape and here hangs the paintings of Pablo Escobar’s shooting.
Other things to do:
- Pottery Class – so I had an extra day and I could not bear to go into another museum (I’ve been to many museums since travelling) so I opted to do something I’ve always wanted and that was to do a pottery class. Luisa the hosts was welcoming and we made two pieces (I opted for different types of bowls) and Luisa gave me a small pot to paint. Of course, the movie The Ghost (with Demi Moore) did come into mind but it was quite therapeutic. This took an afternoon but they need to put these in the kiln so which can take a couple of days so only do this if you have time. It costs about 200,000 COP (approx £45).
- Ayahuasca – a spiritual experience that’s turned me into a hippy but made me appreciate life just a little bit more. I would only recommend this for people who are late twenties or older and you are battling some inner demons. I met some newly turned 18 who were only curious and wanted to do this for kicks – it’s not for these type of people as they wouldn’t get anything out of this. This is a spiritual and an experience with a deeper meaning.
I’ve met people who go onto these retreats in Peru and other parts of South America but I didn’t want to do a retreat as I feel everyone’s journey is different. Some need one session and others need more. So for me, I was able to find a day session where someone picks me up and takes me to the Titan’s house (another name for Shaman) which is located about an hour from Medellin – it was very peaceful and safe.
I really liked doing this as it made me rethink about my life. Here are some images of the place I went to where we were sort of outdoors so we could hear the wind, fire, leaves or the fire crackling – it was incredible and I may write another blog post about this but for me, I felt one trip was enough and that my journey has ended… for now.
- Get a TATTOO – You will find tattoo parlours on every corner and tattoos is a big thing here. Anyone can do a tattoo but if you want an artist, spend some time and research on Instagram – if you like anyone then message them to see if they can design something for you and book a timeslot. A friend of mine recommended Sasha at Hybrido Tattoo Studio. I told the artist what I wanted and he literally did a couple of drawings that hit the nail on the head – this guy is so talented that it amazed me how perfect he got it especially when I’ve been thinking about this tattoo for years. I thought this place was professional, clean and they do have other good artists working in the studio. Of course, you need to find an artist that suits your style and hygiene is important.
Otherwise, if you’re into your food, I’ve found this street has a couple of nice cafes Calle 10 (where El Cielo is located):
- El Cielo – very experimental set menu (courses of 9,11 or 13 small courses). It’s a sensory experience and there are debates whether the chef here will get a Michelin Star. This Chef has a place in Miami and I am sure it would be SUPER expensive however, in Colombia, with a wine flight (can’t get a glass of wine – you have to buy a wine flight or a very expensive bottle) and I opted for 11 courses – it came to approximately £90!! If this was in London, this would’ve easily costs hundreds of £££. The chef can cater to vegetarians too!
One of my favourite sensory courses was when they poured pure cocoa liquid onto my hands and I had to dip it in some grinded coffee/sugar mixture and lick it off my hands. I felt like a child and just wanted to smear it all over my face (but I restrained myself) and it was super tasty like when you eat a sugary donut and you can’t help but lick your fingers.
I hear that this place is packed out during the evenings and it’s difficult to get a reservation however, lunchtime slots are available for small tables of two. I was lucky just to walk in and get a table but most of the tables were taken so if you are a big group – best to book in advance.
- La Bronca – another place I ate and sipped some tasty cocktails that has a good vibe. Although, I would say this place is expensive so this was more of a treat for me. This place felt like a place I would go back home and gave me that home comfort I needed.
Oh by the way – you can drink the tap water in Medellin. It was completely fine for me during my many weeks here.
That is Medellin in a nutshell for me but let me know your thoughts or if you had different experiences – I would love to know!