In a lush valley in the heart of Colombia is the modern city of Medellin. The Pablo Escobar & "most dangerous city in the world" days wrought with violence, drugs, and crime are long gone, replaced with an inventive, fresh city humming with energy, innovation, and tourism.
Unlike other major Colombian cities, Medellin has a widespread and efficient public transportation system. The metro system and the metrocable car systems are clean, easy to use, and safe, allowing visitors and travelers to easily navigate the city. UBER is also available throughout the city and is a good option when in a rush or to get to less accessible parts of the city. Much of the city is hilly, so expect some incline if you are planning to walk regularly.
WHERE TO STAY
1| Charlee Hotel - Located right in all the action of Parque Lleras, the Charlee Hotel is a modern and well designed hotel, featuring a rooftop pool and bar, a health club, and spa.
2| Art Hotel Medellin - A 54-room boutique hotel in Poblado with soaring brick walls. Enjoy a mini film festival in the 40-seat theater just off the lobby during your stay.
3| Hostels! Medellin is a backpacking haven, and as such there is a plethora of trendy hostels scattered throughout Poblado. If you have a tight budget, The Black Sheep Hostel, Hostel Lleras Calle 8, and Maloka Hostel come recommended.
WHERE TO EAT
1| Oci.O - Contemporary and unfussy food in a lively and trendy environment. Try the 12 hr slow cooked pork shoulder and the fish of the day ceviche.
2| El Trifasico - For authentic Colombian eats visit El Trifasico in the uber hip Envigado neighborhood. Order junior sized plates as the portions are huge.
3| Otraparte - Relaxed atmosphere restaurant/cafe behind the former home of famed Colombian poet & philospher Fernando Gonzalez. The restaurant is peaceful and usually quiet, and thus a great place to get some work done or have a leisurely lunch.
4| In Situ - A beautiful indoor/outdoor dining experience in the heart of the Botanical Garden. Lofty ceilings, wooden accents, plenty of plant life, and a fresh menu make for a perfect leisurely afternoon lunch.
5| Carmen - Arguably my favorite restaurant dinner in Colombia. They offer both a tasting menu (with the first acceptable wine pairing I've had in the last few months) as well as a la carte options with a definite Californian influence. The interior of the restaurant is also not bad to look at.
6| El Cielo - Another high end tasting menu type place with a cool jungle-y ambiance. I include this because many of my friends really enjoyed the meal, I however, found it to be somewhat strange and more about the show than the food itself.
7| Zaaika - For those craving a bit of spice or just a break from Colombian food, head to Zaaika for some pretty good Indian eats.
8| Amor-Acuya - My daily, ummm I mean weekly, gelato stop in Poblado. They have won several worldwide competitions for a few of their flavors including my go-to amor-acuya (for which they are named) flavor of passionfruit gelato with fresh passionfruit and chocolate bits swirled in.
9| La Serennisima - Casual italian spot serving pizzas, pastas, and a selection of appetizers. Every time I visited we were given some freebies, either tomato soup or a few raviolis to sample.
10| La Cantine - French meets Colombian at this hip corner restaurant. Cocktails are great here, so be sure to sample one of their daily drink specials.
11| Espresso Sanducheria - Quick sandwich, soup, salad spot perfect for lunch. The restaurant is small with only a handful of tables and yellow tiled floors. The icing on the cake was a wall of cookbooks with a few of my hometown favorites like Tartine Bakery & Ad Hoc.
12| Barcal - One of my favorite spots in Medellin. Barcal puts out fresh and simple food, with both a la carte and tasting menu options. The restaurant is modern yet understated, and the staff is attentive and friendly.
13| Ajiacos & Mondongos - As the name suggests, this local favorite only serves three items: the potato stew known as ajiaco, tripe soup, and cazuela.
WHAT TO DO
1| Visit Plaza Botero and the Museum de Antioquia.
2| Explore the small, but lovely Botanical Garden and make friends with the various reptiles strutting their stuff around the park. Wind down with lunch and a glass of wine at In Situ (above).
3| Take the metrocable up to Parque Arvi and spend a few hours hiking around.
4| Spend some time in the trendy Envigado neighborhood full of tasty restaurants, beautiful parks, nightlife, , and artistic flavor.
5| Get a taste of the city's turbulent history with a tour of Comuna 13.
6| Take a day trip to the neighboring colorful town of Guatape and the famed Piedra de Penol. Take the bus or try it my way in a hippie van.
7| Some people like to visit Pueblito Paisa or el Castello, but I found both overly touristy and not that interesting...up to you!
8| Medellin is one of two cities that has flights to Colombia's Pacific coast. Take a weekend off the grid and visit Nuqui and El Cantil Ecolodge.
WHERE TO COFFEE
- See my post on 5 Digital Nomad Friendly Cafes in Poblado.
WHAT TO PACK
My month in Medellin was characterized by warm, often humid days, interrupted almost daily by short bursts of rain. An umbrella and/or a rainjacket with a hood are vital, as are comfy shoes, sandals, and sunglasses.