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Discover the 6 Top Things to Do in Medellin: Your Guide to Unforgettable Activities

Let me ask you one question: What do you associate with Medellin?

If Pablo Escobar's face and lots of cocaine turn up in your head, you're not alone. Since the Netflix series 'Narcos' Medellin has made its reputation as the home of the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar among GenZ and Millennials.


I dare to say that this image of Medellin is also present in older generations' minds. Nevertheless, Medellin offers insights into the dark era but has, besides drug lords and cocaine, even more to offer.


After spending more than two weeks in Medellin, I'd like to share my top six things to do in Medellin. So if you're looking for a list of unforgettable activities while in Medellin - here you are.


Table of Contents:

Explore Comuna 13

Drawn by violence, military and police operations, poverty, and drugs, Comuna 13 was indeed not the best place to visit. Thankfully, that was true between the 80s and 90s. Back then, Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, was the most violent and dangerous neighborhood in Medellin.


The district's transformation started in the early 2000s with many social programs to reduce violence and improve access to education and healthcare from the government. It was also the time when metro cables were constructed. That connected Comuna 13 with the city and, since then, connects the people to the city, enabling residents to get better jobs or higher education for the kids.

Today, Comuna 13 is known for its vibrant graffiti street art. Each piece includes insights into life in Comuna 13, the neighborhood's history, and the artist's emotions.


The transformation of Comuna 13 is an inspiring example of how something can be changed if enough value is placed on it.


How to Visit Comuna 13 in Medellin?

There are two ways to explore Comuna 13: on your own or with a guided tour.


I recommend doing a guided tour with a local who lived or still lives in Comuna 13. During the tour, the guide shares insights into how life was during the darker drug times and memories the guide has from it. Additionally, the background and meaning of each street art in detail will be explained.


During the tour, artists perform dances or rap for you. That showcases the impact of the social programs that are still going on. You also have the chance to visit many art galleries from the artists, buy their art, and get in touch with residents. A very nice experience that can't be missed.


I booked a free graffiti walking tour here. We had a lovely guide that explained everything in English and made this walking tour unforgettable.


If you'd like to experience Comuna 13 on your own I recommend taking an Uber to the following address: Communa 13 bus stop, Cra. 109 #38a11, Veinte De Julio, Medellín, San Javier, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia and make your way up. The higher the better (you'll be rewarded with a fantastic view).

Overview Comuna 13

Ride the Medellin Metrocable

Is there a thing in your city that's quite normal for all residents but for the rest of the world it is not? I think Medellin's metro cable is that thing in Colombia.


The metro cable is part of the public transportation network and is particularly important for the poorer population living in hilly neighborhoods. Before the cable car, they had limited access to public services and therefore, were limited in finding jobs or receiving higher education.


Besides the major social impact, the metro cable is the best chance to see the immersive city in all its fullness and the mountains that surround the metropolis.


Additionally, is the use of the cable car a great way to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions since it is fully powered by electricity.


Which Metrocable should I take in Medellin?

If you're asking yourself this question, fair enough. I had asked myself the same question. In total, there are six different cable car routes to take, I'll explain in more detail, which metro cable is the best to take in Medellin.


Line K: Acevedo - Santo Domingo

From Acevedo, this metro cable brings you to a lower-middle-class neighborhood called Santo Domingo. Hop off and explore Santo Domingo on foot. The neighborhood is high up which is perfect for an overlooking city view.


You have two options to get back, take the metro cable that brings you back to Acevedo, walk down to the next metro station, or take Line L which takes you to Parque Arvi.


Line L: Santo Domingo - Parque Arvi

In comparison to the other metro cables, Line L is different. It costs extra and brings you to Arvi Park, which is located outside of Medellin.


Arvi Park is a nature reserve with hiking trails and other outdoor activities. This line is perfect for a day trip to get away from the bustling city of Medellin.


Line J: San Javier - La Aurora

This line starts in San Javier, which is the metro station of Comuna 13. The ride offers panoramic views of Medellin and is a comfortable roundtrip ride. Hop on at San Javier and enjoy the approximately 30-minute ride to the end station. Once you've arrived stay seated (there's nothing to see here) and head back to San Javier.


Line H: Oriente - Villa Sierra

This is another line that connects the city with the neighborhoods. To hop on the metro cable you first need to take the tram. It brings you to the neighborhood La Sierra.


❗️This line is not recommended for tourists, since the area belongs to the more dangerous ones.


Line M: Miraflores - Trece de Noviembre

Line M transports you to Trece de Noviembre, the northeastern part of Medellin. A neighborhood in the greens and with a nice look-out point.


❗️This line is not recommended for tourists, since the area belongs to the more dangerous ones.


Line P: Acevedo - Picacho

This is the newest line and opened in June 2021. This line connects the poorer neighborhoods Comuna 5 and 6. Unfortunately, I can't tell much about it, since I had not done this line during my stay and there are not any information available.


Medellin Walking Tour

You may think that I recommend another guided tour - no I don't. I love strolling around the city by myself and on my own two legs. For me, it's the best way to experience the vibe of the country and city.


For this reason, I don't recommend doing a guided tour, I do the opposite. I recommend walking on your own (and ordering an Uber).


🤔 Are you wondering about safety when walking alone through Medellin? No worries, I got you. Read all about safety in Medellin in this blog post here.


Down below I've listed down some places to visit and walk around. Enjoy and observe the environment, see how residents live, and get a feeling of the city.


A Day Trip Guatapé and El Peñol

If you have a day to spare, I highly recommend doing a day tour to Guatapé which includes the giant rock El Peñol. It's a nice getaway from the bustling city and a chance to see more of Colombia's traditional ways of living.

I wrote a full guide about the whole day trip to Guatapé in a blog post, you can read it here.


Pablo Escobar Tour

El Señor Pablo Escobar has shaped Medellin's reputation and was an important man for the locals. He has done bad things but was respected by the less privileged. He got the name "Un Robin Hood paisa" which can be translated as: "A comrade of the slums."


Yes, he did a lot for poverty-stricken people, built houses, soccer fields, and medical clinics, but did terrible things as well.

Nonetheless, Pablo Escobar is a man that has shaped Colombia and Medellin, in both ways, good and bad. To learn more about the history of the drug lord attending a tour is highly recommended.


You see La Catedral, the prison Pablo built for himself, his grave, the neighborhood where he grew up, and much more.

Pablo Escobar's Mansion, Guatapé

Medellin Street Food Tour

To be frank, I never did the Street Food Tour, however, I didn't want to leave it off my list.


I didn't do it for one main reason: Colombia's cuisine is very meat-based. For those who follow me a little bit, I hardly ever eat meat (only for a few reasons).


When I looked up for a good guided street food tour, I already knew that booking a tour is out of the question for me.


For those who eat meat and want to taste real Colombian food, here's a well-rated tour: Classic Street Food Tour Medellin


Conclusion

Of course, there are even more things to do, that I didn't include in my blog post. As in many other cities, Medellin has tons of museums to visit. There's a zoo in Medellin (that I don't recommend to go, who wants to see animals in prison?), and a botanical garden if you're interested in flora and fauna. Of course, the city itself is a big thing to see. I loved the vibe of the city, trying out the many delicious restaurants and cafés, and experiencing the lifestyle of Colombians.

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