Centro: Most of Medellín’s major sights and landmarks are located in Centro, within a 5-block radius of Plaza de las Esculturas, also known as Plaza Botero for the captivating series of voluptuous sculptures fashioned by native son Fernando Botero. Also on the square stands the city’s cultural highlight: Museo de Antioquia, with a sublime collection of Latin American art, including a gallery devoted to Botero’s signature works. From here, pedestrianized Carrera Junín—lined with bakeries, traditional Paisa restaurants, and local brand stores—funnels south. Outside of Centro’s historic kernel, a web of ramshackle streets, with improvised storefronts and workshops spilling onto potholed sidewalks, reveals life on the margins: It’s messy and it’s chaotic, but it’s utterly compelling.
North of Centro: A 10-minute ride north of Centro, but a world apart from the downtown madness, Calle Carabono is the main artery/reference point that links a collection of child-friendly museums and attractions. Families with kids could spend at least a day here. There’s the stellar Parque Explora, with its aquarium and interactive natural science exhibits; an excellent Planetarium; the serene and architecturally striking Jardin Botánico; and Parque Norte, a classic theme park with the usual quota of rollercoasters and carousels. Farther northeast, accessed by the iconic Metrocable, Parque Arví is a densely forested wilderness with miles of hiking trails and recreational activities, including ziplining, and a butterfly park.
El Poblado: A 10-minute metro ride from Centro, the fashionable enclave of Poblado is where most travelers should (and do) end up retreating to for the night. It feels rather like a hip California neighborhood dropped into a tropical forest, with an inviting ensemble of fashionable stores, gourmet restaurants, and boutique hotels, crisscrossed by meandering pathways where tropical plants and flowers run amok. Poblado’s epicenter is lively Parque Lleras with its earthy local Paisa bars, tropical dance halls, international breweries, and wild dance clubs. Up in the hills, Vía de las Palmas leads to Los Altos de Poblado, which rich Colombian’s have always claimed as their own. Here you’ll find gated mansions, fine restaurants, and decadent clubs and casinos that formed the city’s nocturnal center of gravity during the drug lords’ heyday.
Laureles: This leafy, upscale neighborhood with a decidedly French layout (the rest of the city adheres to a more traditional Spanish grid template) lies just west of Centro. With a lowkey, residential charm, it’s also one of the most pleasant places to stroll, dip in and out of designer boutiques, watch the world go by in a funky coffee shop, and party like there’s no tomorrow. Some of the city’s best bars and clubs are found at La 70 and around Calle 33.
Comunas: On the city’s Andean slopes, Medellín’s slums were neglected by the government for more than half a century. Comuna 1 and 13 are two neighborhoods emblematic of Medellín’s renaissance. Back in the 1990s, gripped by extreme poverty, isolation, and blight, Medellín’s comunas (or barrios/shantytowns) nurtured a young, destitute populace ready to find meaning (and money) working for Escobar and the cartels. Now, more than 20 years since the fall of Escobar, Comuna 1 and 13 are barely recognizable.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.