Top 18 Things to do in Medellin for Foodies & Instagram Lovers!

things to do in medellin
Medellin street art

I absolutely fell in love with Medellin! This amazing city of 2 1/2 million has the big city energy and drive of a London or a New York. The Paisas are passionate full on people and I adored them and their beautiful city of eternal spring! When it comes to things to do in Medellin Colombia the list is long! I spent over 3 weeks in the city and I feel like I left with quite a few things on my to-do list.

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Some amazing colours

Medellin is not so much about major Eiffel Tower type sites – the top things to do in Medellin are much more about experiences, exploring neighborhoods, eating fruit and generally embracing the paisa life!

Want to know more about Colombia? Here is a great guide to all you need to know as to why Colombia is the next big travel destination! 

Interested in becoming a digital nomad in Medellin? If so don’t miss this fantastic ebook Medellin Digital Nomads Guide

Things to do in Medellin – How To Get There

Medellin has an international airport – however, there are not a load of international flights in and out! Iberia flies direct from Madrid (see my review of Iberia Business Class) but generally, you will go via Bogota. There are however loads of domestic flights in and out of Medellin.

As Colombia is large and hilly flying internally is common and very reasonably priced. I used the national carrier Avianca several times and found them very safe, good service and quality and very reasonably priced.

Click here for deals and availability on international flights to Medellin

Click here for deals on flights Medellin to Cartagena and Medellin to Bogota

If you’re heading to Cartagena check out this great City Guide to Cartagena Colombia.

The airport is about 45 minutes by car from El Poblado – the main tourist area in Medellin. It is a long and windy trip down a mostly single lane road. They are currently building a tunnel from the airport into Medellin but that is still under construction.

A private taxi will cost you about 70,000COP. It is not recommended to use one of the taxi apps to and from the airport as they have been stopped and not allowed to continue.

A shared taxi can be taken from the Taxi Colectivo Aeropuerto near San Diego Mall. It will cost you less than 20,000 COP but will not leave until it is full (4 passengers). There is an airport bus which goes from a stop on Palmas near San Diego Mall and this costs about 10,000COP.

And if you’re planning your Colombia Trip don’t miss my 2 Week Colombia Itinerary post.

What are the best ways to get around Medellin?

Medellin is in a valley – which becomes clearly evident as soon as you arrive due to the hills and the views!!! The centre of the valley is where the main city centre is located. The general rule is the further up the hills of the valley you go the worse off is the neighbourhood, driven by its distance into the centre.

what to do in medellin
The Medellin Metro

The people of Medellin could not be more proud of their Metro system! It is very clean and no one eats on it or leaves rubbish. It is jam-packed during rush hour. The metro basically runs the spine of the city.

Initially, I found the payment system a bit confusing. The best thing to do is go to the ticket office at any metro station and buy a 10 ride plastic card that you can use to tap on and off.

In addition to the metro, the city also has cable cars and trams that provide access to some of the steep hill neighbourhoods. These also make for fantastic tourist experiences as you get some amazing views and into really interesting neighbourhoods – more of this to come! Funnily enough on the top 10 things to do in Medellin is to use the public transport system!

medellin things to do
Heading up a Medellin Cable Car

There are many buses around. They are cheap to use and tend to leave when full. These are the best way to get yourself up and around the neighbourhoods near the top of the valley.

In terms of taxis, there are official taxis and uber, tappsi and EasyTaxi. Uber, Tappsi and EasyTaxi are very cheap and easy to get. However, the biggest thing is DO NOT SLAM THE DOOR of the taxi. Medellin taxi drivers are very particular about how the door is closed – be as gentle as possible or you will greatly upset them!

Also, when using an Uber or Tappsi or EasyTaxi at least one person should sit in the front of the taxi. The drivers prefer this as it is then not so obvious that they are operating the vehicle as a taxi.

What to do in Medellin – Places to Go

1. Museo de Antioquia

I am not much of a museum person – it normally has to be quite quirky to get me in the door. But I really fell for the modern art of Fernando Botero from the moment I saw my first sculpture so I felt I needed to go and I am so glad that I did!

Museo de Antioquia Medellin contains a mix of sculptures and paintings by Botero – although it is heavier on the painting side. This includes one of his most famous paintings of the death of Pablo Escobar. Museo de Antioquia also exhibits the work of other local Medellin artists.

medellin things to do
One of the many stunning exhibits in the museum

Museo de Antioquia is in a lovely building with a great gift shop (see shopping further below) and it also has a nice little restaurant! The museum is located on Plaza Botero and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Medellin Colombia.

2. Plazoleta de las Esculturas (Plaza Botero)

Plazo Botero was one of my favourite things to see in Medellin. Fernando Botero donated all of these sculptures to his home city of Medellin – on the condition that no payment was required to see them. Plaza Botero was quite derelict prior to the gift and now it is a delightful plaza in the heart of Medellin and one of the major Medellin Colombia tourist attractions.

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Activity in Botero Plaza

There are 23 bronze sculptures in total in the Plaza Botero and they are all very photogenic – and attract many photographers! The square has many benches for a break, vendors galore selling hats and rather load fruit vendors. It has a lovely busy main square atmosphere and feel to it.

There is a very interesting building in Plazoleta de las Esculturas – well it is actually the main building. It is a rather interesting mix of styles. The story behind it is that there were problems with the original architect. He quit halfway through the build.

The people of Medellin decided that they would be fine to finish it and would do it in their own way – and in a completely different style! I kind of like it – it is a bit crazy and all feels rather paisa appropriate!

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One of the many amazing Botero Sculptures in the Plaza
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Can’t get enough Botero
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More Botero

3. House of Memories Museum

This local museum is housed in an absolutely stunning building that on its own is worth a visit. However, I must confess I did find the House of Memories Museum a little dull. The exhibits are limited and are mostly in Spanish – which is of course fair enough.

Most of the memories are pre-1980 so there is not much on the drug and guerrilla fighting which gave Colombia its no longer relevant bad reputation. Of course, if this pre-1980 information is of interest to you then you will love it – its all about what the top things to do in Medellin are for you.

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Entrance to the Museum of Memories

4. Parque Arvi

Arvi Park is on the outskirts of Medellin. It is a massive park where you can hike, trek etc. It takes a couple of metros and a cable car to get to Parque Arvi but it is the largest park in Medellin. Free guided walks leave every hour from 10-3 at the tourist information point. One of the major Medellin Colombia tourist attractions.

5. Pueblito Paisa

This kitschy little mock paisa village is located at the top of Cerro Nutibara – a very tall hill! Walking up the hill is a great work out (ok I took a cab but it looked like a great work out 😊). The mock village Pueblito Paisa at the top is not that fabulous – especially if you have visited actual Colombian villages which I had by that point.

However, if you don’t have much time in Colombia then it would be worth popping up here to have a look. Not top of my list on what to do in Medellin Colombia but a good option if you’re short on time.

what to do in medellin
The Little Paisa Village
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The view from Pueblito

There are the usual food and souvenir options. But the real reason to come up Pueblito Paisa is the view. When you arrive the little village is on your left – head to your right where there are a lot of stairs and a big building. Behind the stairs and building is a large quite plain sort of concreted area where you can see some amazing views of Medellin. Walk around the entire area as you will get 180-degree views of the city.

6. Alpujarra Administrative Center

This is not a particularly exciting area as it is the centre of the government in Medellin. However, it does contains some quite cool and very photogenic buildings as well as the Monument to the Race sculpture.

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Brutalist architecture in the heart of Medellin
things to do in medellin colombia
View from the Administrative Centre

7. Square of Lights/Plaza Cisneros

This square in the middle of Medellin has been fitted out with 300 lights on poles. The lights in Plaza Cisneros are a mix of heights up to 24m. This art installation was part of the overall city effort to rejuvenate Medellin. It is stunning to visit the Square of Lights both during the day and in the evening. When it comes to photography, this is one of the definite Medellin things to do.

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The square of lights

8. San Antonio Park

San Antonio is not the loveliest of parks – it is quite heavy on the concrete – but it is an important park in Medellin. When you visit you will see 2 identical Botero sculptures – one is severely damaged and the other one in perfect shape. A terrible bombing took place in San Antonio Park in 1995 and killed 23 people. The sculpture known as the Bird of Peace was also damaged in the attack.

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The destroyed bird in San Antonio Square

The original plan was to remove the damaged sculpture. However, Botero himself insisted that it remain in the park. He said he would provide a new sculpture but only if the old one stayed as a reminder of that terrible day.

San Antonio park also becomes a bit of a pumping food and beer area on the weekends for a lot of the workers of Medellin. If you are looking to get under the skin of the city this is one of the key things to do in Colombia Medellin.

9. Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico)

As Medellin is renowned for its flowers expectations are high for its Botanical Gardens! I visited Jardin Botanico in the middle of Feria de Las Flores (see below) and was blown away! I only got to explore probably a small percentage of the gardens as there was so much going on with the festival. This is definitely somewhere worth visiting and spending some time.

10. Feria de las Flores

This one-week festival is the biggest thing that happens in Medellin each year. Read all about Feria de las Flores here. If you are visiting in August this is a must do in Medellin.

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Amazing Pink Animals

11. Shopping Medellin

There is a lot on offer when it comes to shopping Medellin! My absolute favourite area for shopping were streets Carrera 35 and 37 of Via Primavera in the El Poblado neighbourhood. There are lots of local designers on offer in super cute boutiques and they are heavy on swimwear and resort wear. Wandering these little streets is one of the great fun things to do in Medellin.

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Carerra 37

My number one shopping discovery in Medellin was Entreaguas. This local designer specializes in swim and resort wear. Her bikinis and bathers are gorgeous as are her cover-ups – they are made with stunning prints and the straps are often made from a unique macramé style.

The brand is quite rightly positioned as wearable art. This is exactly the type of thing you want to buy when you are travelling – every time I wear my Entregeaus outfits I get asked about them.

In the same area is the lovely Bonhomia which stocks gorgeous homewares and gorgeous fabrics – I bought a backpack. Bonhomia is located on Carrera 37.

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Hats in Botero Square

For all your standard shopping needs head to the Santa Fe mall. This has all of your mainstream brands with over 380 stores.

Need some electronics? Then head to the Monterrey electronics mall just near El Poblado station. This mall is over 3 levels and has everything electronic you could ever need. From the station, you will need to cross the main road to get to the mall.

The gift shop at the Museo de Antioquia is fantastic for some stylish Medellin souvenirs. Botero prints are on everything and look great. They also stock art and crafts from local artists.

Medellin Tours

When it comes to the top things to do in Medellin Colombia tours are definitely the best way to see this city. So much of Medellin is about exploring rather than big stand out attractions. Additionally, there is quite a bit of recent history in Medellin that doesn’t have museums or sculptures so a tour is the best way to find out more.

I absolutely loved wandering the streets with a small tour group (apart from the free walking tour Medellin which is a big group but you still must do it!) and experiencing the food and art and stories of Medellin. This is the best way to find out the secret things to do in Medellin!

If you only do one thing when you are in Medellin take a tour! And try to make it combine street art and food! I did four tours whilst I was there and they were some of the best things to do in Medellin.

12. Real City Tours Free Walking Tour Medellin

This was the first tour that I did in Medellin on my second day I think? Anyway, I do highly recommend it. The free walking tour model has become very popular – essentially the tour is “free” and you decide at the end how much to tip your guide. A great model!

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Colourful Medellin

All the guides on Real City Tours are locals which makes a huge difference in a city as full of recent history as Medellin. Our guide, Julio, did a fantastic job bringing Medellin to life and explaining the complexities of recent history across drug cartels, guerillas, and corrupt government officials. The tour covers the downtown area.

I wrote a dedicated post on Medellin Walking Tours which includes this tour on a great website called Medellin Guru.

13. Medellin Food Tour

When it comes to what to do in Medellin Colombia this is a must do! Colombia is all about street food and it can be quite tricky to figure out how all of these work. A food tour is perfect plus you get to explore some of Medellin’s many neighborhoods.

There were only four of us on this food tour so it was perfect for questions and adequate sampling time! We kicked off with the classic Medellin street food – Bunuelos. These are of course made from corn (like most things) and cheese and are at their best fresh. I doubt they are low calorie or high in nutrition but they must be sampled while in Medellin!

Next up was one of my personal highlights – Maria’s fruit cart at San Antonio station. Maria is fabulous fun and full of personality. We liked her and her fruit so much that we went back a couple of times and she remembered us and it was like seeing long lost family!

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Bring on the Bunuelos!

I highly recommend the ripe mango with lime and salt – it is amazing! Locals prefer their mango unripe but I couldn’t embrace this – see how daring you are!

We then hopped on a cable car and headed up high into the valley and Villa Sierra for some delicious bakery treats and amazing views. We also passed some great street art.

Next up was the quintessential Colombian street food arepas. There are different versions of this mix of corn and soft white cheese. Then we enjoyed Obleas – a multilayered snack of wafers and different sauces.

We finished at Salon Malaga near San Antonio station where we tried the white spirit of Colombia Aguardiente. How is it that so many countries have such dreadful white spirits as their national alcohol? One shot was more than enough…..

The Medellin Guru post also covers the street food tour in more detail. And here is another article that I wrote on the food in Colombia.

Book your Medellin Food Tour Here

 

14. Medellin Communa 13 tour – Stairway Graffiti

Street art has exploded in Medellin and has been a critical part of the city’s rejuvenation. Perhaps the area that has benefited the most from this is Communa 13. This neighborhood was literally the epicenter of the problems of Medellin with the highest murder rate in the world. This was driven by its location high up the valley and close to the highway.

things to do in medellin colombia
Street art mural

Today the residents have turned Communa 13 into an outdoor art gallery and you can now see children happily playing on the streets. Several companies offer tours of the area but I would highly recommend you use Stairway Storytellers. This company was set up by residents of the area to help teach English and the tour guides all grew up in the area – and the money you pay for the tour goes to support this very worthy organization. And their tour was brilliant! We even got to meet one of the street artists! When it comes to Medellin Colombia things to do this tour was in my top 3!

Or click here for some other Street Art Tour Options.

I have written a complete post about this tour on a terrific website called Medellin Living that you can read here.

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More amazing street art

15. Pablo Escobar Tours

There are a number of Pablo Escobar based tours run from Medellin. This is a highly contentious area for locals. There are a mix of views – all negative – around this new type of tour. Those negatively impacted by Escobar feel it is wrong for locals to make money out of Escobar, there are many different views on Escobar so no tour can be completely correct and the people of Medellin are desperate to escape their association with the man.

I have written a dedicated post on these tours that you can read here and make up your own mind.

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Fresh flowers appear everyday on the grave

Where should I stay in Medellin?

I had a fantastic stay in the Art Hotel Medellinread my review here. For prices and availability click here. I would highly recommend staying in the El Poblado area for first time visitors as it is full of great restaurants and shops and easy to get around. It is also very tourist friendly and just makes life a bit easier so you can enjoy Medellin.

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Super cool bar area!

I also used the gym at the Charlee Hotel and it was lovely! It also has a great central location in Medellin and a fantastic rooftop bar and pool! The rooms are gorgeous and they also have a great restaurant on the ground floor. This would be a great place to stay if you’re looking for romantic things to do in Medellin with all these lovely views. Click here for prices and availability.

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Looking over Medellin from the Charlee Hotel

I have also read good things about the Diez Hotel Click here for Prices and Availability. For a quieter option in the centre of town check out The Sites Hotel Prices and Availability Here.  And Hotel Loyds is another good option in El Poblado – Click here for Prices.

If you’re looking for a lower cost option check out this ultimate guide to backpacking in Colombia. 

Being Unsettled in Medellin

I was based in Medellin for one month as a participant in a new way to travel – Be Unsettled. This organization is only just over 12 months old. Essentially their purpose is to give travelers an experience of being a local in the city they visit rather than being a tourist. The way they achieve this is to get 25+ people together from all over the world and find them apartments near each other and a central workspace.

This then becomes the community. The community is supported by two hosts who support with everything from SIM cards to doctors names to great nights out. It is up to the individual as to how involved they choose to become in the community. Most people come to Unsettled on their own – it is a very easy way to meet people!

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Even rubbish bins become art in Medellin

You can learn much more from their website here but I will tell you that I absolutely loved my month being Unsettled in Medellin. I have visited over 80 countries and I am sure Colombia now holds a special place in my heart because of being part of Unsettled. As the ultimate test, I am seriously considering being Unsettled somewhere else in the world in 2018!

Committing a month to this supposedly dangerous city might sound like one of the more adventurous things to do in Medellin but I always felt safe and felt like I gained so much more from this model rather than staying in a hotel and being a tourist.

If you are interested in being Unsettled make sure to tell them that The Boutique Adventurer sent you as you will receive a discount of USD$150. Click here to find out more about Unsettled.

16. Take Some Day Trips

Guatape Medellin is the number one day trip from Medellin for good reason. It earns its own dedicated blog post – you can read all about Piedra El Penon and Guatape here.

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A typical house in guatape

The other very popular day trip is Saint Elena which is the base of the Medellin flower industry and best visited in July leading up to Feria de las Flores.

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a colonial town which has well-preserved architecture and Jardin is a cute small town surrounded by coffee farms.

There are also full day trips around Pablo Escobar and around Paragliding.

Book your Medellin Day Trip Here

 

Pablo Escobar death Botero Painting
The famous Botero paining on the end of Escobar

Due to the windy and mountainous roads around Medellin most other nearby towns require an overnight stay

Keen to get moving on planning your next trip to South America? Check out my post on Chile Itinerary 2 Weeks in Boutique Hotels!

17. Drink coffee in Medellin

Read all about the best places to have coffee in Medellin here. If you are in a rush my favourites were in El Poblado and across the road from each other on Carrera 37: Pergamino and Velvet.

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Great outdoor eating at Pergamino

Where are the best places to eat in Medellin?

Read all about the best places to eat in Medellin here. If you are in a rush my number one recommendations are Al Alma for brunch, Oci for dinner and Crepes and Waffles for dessert!

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And of course the waffles!

18. Visit Food Markets

There are two particularly great food markets in Medellin. One is a small farmers market that is in El Poblado on Sundays. The El Poblado Farmer’s Market features local producers and covers fruit, honey, preserves etc etc – a mix of food you can eat on the spot plus things to take home.

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Getting the passionfruit juice going!

Mercado del Rio is a fantastic market in the centre of the city that has at least 50 odd restaurant stalls, a wine bar, more formal restaurants upstairs and everything you could ever want to eat! The market covers every cuisine as well as doing its own tasty and upmarket versions of traditional Colombian food like Arepas. The ice cream and popsicle stalls at Mercado del Rio alone justify a visit!

Mercado Del Rio Medellin
Entrance to Mercado Del Rio

As you can see when it comes to What to Do in Medellin the list is long! I spent a month in Colombia and was based in Medellin – I would definitely recommend spending the most time on a trip to Colombia in Medellin – ideally 5 days. There are so many things to do and areas to visit that even then you will only get a taste of this energetic and innovative city.

Other Boutique Adventurer Posts You Might Enjoy Reading:

Things to do in Bogota Colombia in 24 hours

And a few more things I have written for some other websites:

Boutique Hotels in Colombia

Top 5 Highlights of Cartagena

what to do in medellin
Even the stairs of the metro come alive with Feria de las Flores

Tours for Solo Travelers

If you are travelling solo and looking for tours of Colombia try these options:

Other Way Round is a Colombia expert with tours designed to get you out of the usual tourist zones!

Exodus Holidays Colombia

Explore Holidays Colombia

G Adventures Colombia

Or if you are travelling with others but want a hand planning a trip check out Chimu Adventures

Don’t leave home without travel insurance Click here for a good deal .

If you like my post Why Not Pin It?

Medellin has been called the most innovative city in the world - with good reason. This city is booming - from fantastic restaurants and coffee to using art to regenerate its downtown to hip boutique hotels - here is your complete guide to what to do in Medellin. #medellin#medellincolombia#medellinelpoblado#medellincity#medellinpueblitopaisa#medellinciudad#medellinfotos#medellinthingstodoin#medellinferiadelasflores#medellinart#medellincommuna13#medellinantioquia#medellinpictures#medellinparque#medellinphotography#medellinfood

Click here to see my Pinterest Board on Colombia

If you click through on the links that appear on my blog posts around flights, accommodation, tours, travel insurance etc. I get a small commission if you end up buying on these sites. Just wanted to let you know.


Also published on Medium.

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What to do in Medellin: The Things Not to Miss
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What to do in Medellin: The Things Not to Miss
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Medellin has been called the most innovative city in the world - with good reason. This city is booming - from fantastic restaurants and coffee to using art to regenerate its downtown to hip boutique hotels - here is your complete guide to what to do in Medellin.
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26 Comments

  • Pingback: Backpacking in Colombia: Solo travel in Cartagena -TrotterHop Travel Blog
  • I’ve read so much about Medellin! And yet not many bloggers visit it so this is the first post I can read with a true experience behind it: how colorful! It’s also great that they have a good Metro system, so you won’t have to rent a car to explore the area! I’m bookmarking this!

  • I would be super interested in that Pablo Escobar tour- I’m addicted to the Netflix series! lol. Glad to hear you loved Medellin!

  • Everyone I know that visits Medellin has just fallen in love with it! I even know several people who ended up staying there months longer than intended. The free walking tour sounds like a great way to see the city and get your bearings of where you are.

  • Ah, Medellin looks like a perfect place for art lovers – those light poles, that street architecture, all those sculptures and the colorful steps at the metro station. All of them make it very enchanting for me. Thank you for introducing me to a lovely new city.

  • I have never been to Medellin but I’ve seen it in some movies (yes, mostly about Pablo Escobar haha) and from articles from other blogs as well. The place seems always vibrant and full of art. The boteros are so cuteee!

  • Utterly love that lead image of the mural of the lovebirds, by the way! I keep seeing great content about Medellin recently that’s really making me want to visit, your post has totally added to that desire. It looks such a colourful city and with a wonderful combination of historical and modern. Food tours are always a highlight for me, food is a huge part of why I travel so I’m definitely up for that.
    Kavita Favelle recently posted…3 Week Thailand Itinerary | Food, Culture, History, Cities & NatureMy Profile

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  • What an incredibly comprehensive list of recommendations! The Feria de las Flores stood out to me – because I love a chance to experience the “local flower scene” in a new place, haha! It looks like such an adventure here with endless activities! 🙂

  • Medellin is indeed a revelation. It seems to be a riot of colours. Fascinated how even the Metro stairs are awash with brilliant colour. The other absolutely unique and fascinating is Botero’s sculptures. I understand that Medellin is where Botero was born. I find his unique and iconic style so intriguing.

  • Medellin seems like an exceptional travel destination and your post and pictures just prove that, Amanda. How many days would be enough to explore Medellin?

  • It is always good to know about new place for two reasons. First it inspire you to travel more and second it makes you feel humble for still there is so much to see and feel. Medellin is a new thing for me and I love your colorful images. Would love to see Brutalist Architecture myself and visit Paisa Village some day. And yes, my preferred way to explore the city would be to join a walking tour with a local.

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  • Medellin is a fantastic trap. You know when you arrive, you know when you plan to leave but You’ve got no idea when you will actually quit the city. Hahaha

    I love this city!

    Nice report 😉

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  • I was traveling as a digital nomad so I put together some experiences I had here https://medium.com/@kyleschutter/digital-nomad-moving-to-medellin-heres-everything-you-need-to-know-c8a5feb22d39

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