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Medellín is a city in Colombia. It has over 2 million people and is the capital of the department of Antioquia. It's set in a valley running south to north just one hour by plane from Bogotá.


[edit] Understand

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world for its size, and had a highly disproportional homicide and kidnapping rate. It was the home of the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the so-called Medellín Cartel, who virtually took over the city in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Since his demise in the mid-1990's, the cartel was disbanded and the city has returned to normalcy. For example, the number of homicides 1991 was greater than 4,000. As of June 2005, there were only 386 homicides, making Medellin one of the most secure cities in Latin America and safer than Miami, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois.

Medellín is a vast city built north to south in the Aburrá valley and surrounded on either side by majestic mountain ranges. The wealthier classes live in the well-protected hillside neighborhood of El Poblado, and the more traditional suburban neighborhoods, Laureles and Envigado. This is far removed from the action and commotion which are found in the city's center. There are the busy markets and a thriving street life that make up much of the city's charm. The city is home to a half-dozen universities, accounting for a vibrant cultural and nightlife scene fueled by thousands of young adults from all over the country. Medellin is also Colombia's largest industrial center, and home to factories making everything from designer clothing to Toyota SUVs. Ironically, the city's northern hills are flooded with rural refugees from the ongoing civil war and their ingenuity in make a living is impressive. People sell anything from crayons to guinea pigs to garden earth in the bars in order to make a living.

For international travelers, Medellín is perhaps most famous for its Botero Museum, whose namesake is arguably the most famous modern artist alive today. It is also known for its perfect climate, as witnessed by its nickname "city of the eternal spring".

Traveler beware: while it is true that the crime rate has dropped significantly in recent years, Medellín remains on the US state department list of dangerous destinations. The best advice is to use common sense. Remember, common sense is the least common of all senses. As modern and picturesque as it may seem, this is a third-world country after all.

[edit] Get in

Medellín is served by José María Córdoba International Airport, located in the city of Rionegro. Flights arrive here from Madrid, Bogotá, Miami, and New York City (among other places.) There are usually taxis that can take you down to the city. As of January 1, 2006, a taxi from Rionegro to the city is 45.000 Colombian Pesos (close to 23 dollars). The minibus to Medellín downtown is at 5.800 Pesos and takes approximately one hour.

Medellin has two bus terminals (north and south) and one local airport (Olaya Herrera) where only small airplanes arrive.

[edit] Get around

Traveling trough the city is easy and quick, with the Metro System, you can go to anywhere in the city with The Metroplús (Bus extension to the Metro) and the Metrocable, a sky train that has revolutionized transport in the city.

All taxis have meters, make sure they use them. Minimal fee costs about 3.200$ (1.6 USD).

There is also the TuriBus, a modern bus that goes around the city showing it's parks, beautiful sectors and historical parts; it only costs 10.000$ (about 5 US$)

If you want to go around downtown or neighborhoods near the downtown area without using Taxis, try using the Circular Coonatra (there are various routes).

[edit] See

Photos of Medellin and Colombia

  • Pueblito Paisa is a reconstruction of a typical Antioquia village. It's located on top of el Cerro Nutibara and has a breathtaking view over the city. It's within walking distance from the metrostation "Industriales".
  • Museo de Antioquia [1], Cra 52 #52-43, displays a collection of contemporary art including work of Botero. Open: Mon through Fri 9:30am-5:00pm and Sun and Hollidays 10am-4pm. Entrance COP$8 000 and students COP$4 000.
  • Prado neighborhood, formerly it was the wealthy neigbourhood of the city so many huge houses were built there, it still has some of these beautiful old houses, though it should be visited with caution as it's near the center of the city.
  • The Boston Park is an attractive area that leads down to the main promenade La Playa where people can be found gathering at night to see street acts.
  • The "Parque de los Deseos" (Dream Park) near Antioquia's University, has an Indian context, beautifully enmarqued with the planetarium, and science experiements.
  • The "Plaza de Cisneros" is in the heart of the city, it borders some beautiful buildings from the 20's, the EPM library, and a sector that was full of drug and poverty many years ago, but is now a place to visit and have a great time.
  • The Metropolitan cathedral, which holds the record as one of the building on the world with more bricks, located along the Bolivar park in the city heart.
  • The Parque Periodista is a parque (square) right in the center of the city. It is where the 'bohemian' and 'alternative' people meet. The bars play music varying from reggae and old salsa to alternative rock. You will find the majority of the people on the street, instead of in the bars though.
  • Los Alumbrados, the christmas lights decorating Medellin, make it the most beautiful Latin American city in December. The lights stay put from the beginning of December to the beginning of January. The most impressive parts are centered around the Rio Medellin at the 'puente de Guayaquil'. Large statues made of lights can be found throughout the city.

[edit] Do

  • Watch a football game at one of the two teams based in Medellin, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín. Attending a home game at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium is recommended for any football fans, or those wanting to experience the famed South American passion for futbol! Games generally take place on Saturday, and tickets can usually be purchased at the stadium.
  • Take the metro to Acevedo station and from there take the Metrocable up to Santo Domingo for a nice view over the city. The cablecar is included in your metroticket. Go during the day and walk around to see what working class people live like. The area at the top sees tourists so there are little stands set up and people selling empanadas and other things. You can stop at a little bar and have a beer. Don't stray too far or off the beaten path in this neighborhood, though. For those so inclined, there were young people that give tours waiting at the top wearing t-shirts that said "guia" (guide).
  • Learn Spanish with the Language Institute Medellín (www.cstoeckle.info). They offer cheap courses with great accommodation! Call Chris at +57 316 4039 305
  • Visit the city the first days on August for the local festival "Feria de las flores" (Flowers fair). There are all kind of events during one week including the "Desfile de Silleteros" (Parade of flower carriers).
  • Medellin also has a very active cultural life, so be aware of the Metropolitan Theatre and Pablo Tobon Theatre program, because they offer very well known concerts, Opera pieces, Theater, and other International events. There are also several minors good quiality theaters as Matacandelas, Horas 25, Pequeño teatro, Oficina Central de los Sueños, Teatro Popular de Medellin.
  • Of course there are many museums, as the World wide known Museo de Antioquia which holds the most important paintings and sculptures of Fernando Botero (One of the most important artist in the world). Among other museums you can find Museo Universidad de Antioquia, Casa Museo Fernando Gonzalez (Envigado), Museo Pedro Nel Gomez, Museo Interactivo EPM, MAMM (Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin), Museo Etnológico, etc.
  • Medellin is also known for its parks, where the cultural life is extremly active, specially in the Parque de los pies Descalzos, Parque Cisneros (o de la luz) and Parque de los deseos (where you can find free open air movies and discussions with film directors Saturdays at 7:00 PM)
  • Turibus is a good option to get a general overview of the city. You can take it in the main touristic places and for around 5 dollars. There are two Turibus tours a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, you must return to the same bus after each stop, it is not a hop-on/hop-off service.
  • Medellin also has one of the most important Poetry festivals in the World. Every year poets from all around the world (including Nobel Prices)come to this amaizing event. Check the dates and events in: http://www.festivaldepoesiademedellin.org/

[edit] Buy

Colombia is famous for its coffee and Medellin is only a few hours from the coffee growing centers of Colombia. You can find coffee flavors of everything you can imagine, from ice-cream to arequipe (sweetened milk), however, there are not many places to buy local coffee directly from the coffee farms, nor is the ‘Starbucks’ coffee culture evident here. The supermarkets mostly sell Nescafe coffee, albeit with local coffee beans.

Aguardiente Antioqueño: Schnaps with a special flavor, much like black licorice.

Ron de Medellin: The local Rum, excellent!

Despite the claim of being the textile capital of Colombia, Medellin is not a shopper’s paradise for clothes. The main malls sell a limited variety of clothes, (especially men’s clothes), at only slightly discounted prices from the US, although there are always bargains to be found if you look hard enough. The style of clothes for women in Medellin is very revealing and sexy, so it perhaps more suited for gift buying than shopping for yourself.

[edit] Eat

Colombian cuisine is varied and regional. The more typical dishes are referred to as comida criolla.

Some examples are: sancocho de gallina (chicken soup), carne en polvo (ground beef), arepas de choclo (fresh corn tortillas), empanadas (meat-filled turnovers), ají (hot sauce), ajiaco (bogota's chicken and potato soup), bandeja paisa, natilla, buñuelos (fried cheese puffs), hojuelas (fried puff squares), rice with coconut, Antioquian beans, sobrebarriga (flank steak) mantecada (bun made with lard), papas chorreadas, pandeyuca (yucca bread), and carne desmechada.

Colombia also has an incredible variety of tasty fruits. A few of these are: guanábana, lulo, zapote, mamoncillo, uchuva, feijoa, granadilla, maracuyá, tomate de árbol, borojó, mamey and tamarindo.

Colombia is well known for its coffee, and Medellin is no exception. As with any large city, there are the usual chain restaurants, however the American "fast-food culture" has not made a huge splash in the country.

One treat that will leave anyone stuffed is the "Tipico Antioqueño"; arepa con queso (small flatbreads with cheese on top), beans, chicken, rice, eggs, chicharron (salted meat), and patacon (deep-fried plantain pancakes). Topping that off with a Colombian beer and a cup of "chocolate" (pronounced the Spanish way - it's milky, sweet hot chocolate) makes for an excellent meal. An excellent place to eat typical food is Hatoviejo.

There is a large variety of restaurants all throughout Medellin, especially concentrated around the ‘Zona Rosa’ or social zone, which is located in Poblado between Parque Poblado and Parque Lleras. You can find more or less what ever food you desire in these areas and at good quality for comparatively cheap prices to the US, although there is a shortage of authentic Greek, Indian and Thai restaurants. Sushi is increasingly popular and may be found at the larger malls or supermarkets that are more "international."

[edit] Drink

Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the main days to party in Medellín, the rest of the week the mainstream nightlife isn't really exciting. Most bars and clubs close at 3am.

  • El Blue is a popular place with cross-over muic (a mix of rock and local music). It's popular with gringos and 'gringo hunters'.
  • Republica opposite of El Blue offers electronic music and local music.
  • Mangos is the most famous of clubs here in Medellín and has a reputation of being visited by rich mafia-related Colombians but is also usually full of incredibly hot women (proceed with caution, some women are paid for).
  • Universal is a relatively new club which rivals Mangos for size and popularity but generally has a much younger clientele.
  • Palmaia is the newest, biggest and arguably best club in Medellin and has a capacity of 3000 people. Standard crossover music with a boxing ring for girl-fights!
  • B-Lounge is an electronic disco with rich, beautiful women as is...
  • La Kasa which are both good on Thursday nights as it's Ladies Night.
  • Circus is a new venue with great views over Medellin. Very popular with the beautiful, in-crowd and normally plays cross-over music.
  • Es La Bon is a great place to watch, or if you can, dance salsa. It's located in the centre so some precaution is necessary.

The area around Parque Lleras, (la Zona Rosa), has a concentration of restaurants and bars and great people watching. It is active on most nights and a must visit for those looking for Colombian night life. The major restaurants on the corner, El Rojo and Basilica are great for food, drinks and people watching. Occasionally they have live music or big screens when important football matches are played.

Parque Lleras is interesting any night of the week although admitedly Thursday, Friday and Saturday are far more lively. There are places, mostly electronic music venues open till 6 or 7am outside of the city limits as the laws forbid any bar to remain open after 3pm. People however gather around Parque Poblado until dawn drinking, smoking and chating. You can buy cigarettes, alcohol and anything else you could wish for from the street vendors until the last man standing.

Just outside of Medellin, there are many venues in Sabaneta, and a very interesting, unusual and fun art-museum/bar called Vinacure in Caldas. It's truly unique. Entry is about US$4. To get there, take a taxi to the beginning of Caldas (carrera 50 No 100D Sur 07, Caldas). Or you can take a bus.

[edit] Sleep

There are several hostels in Medellín. The following two are located in El Poblado, the safe upscale residential area, close to the nightlife.

  • Blacksheep hostel http://www.blacksheepmedellin.com , Transversal 5A #45-133 (Patio Bonito), Tel 4 311 1589, Cel 311 341 30 48. New hostel with a "staying by friends" atmosfere. The hostel is owned by a New Zealander offers kitchen use, two TV/DVD rooms, 3 BBQ per week, laundry facilities and internet facilities. Great website with information about colombia, Really nice staff www.blacksheepmedellin.com Price for dormbed COP$15.000
  • Casa Kiwi, Cra 36 #7-10, Tel: 4 268 2668.

Great foreign run backpacker hostel in an unbeatable location, with cheap dorm beds and private rooms, and a new addition with nicer private rooms and suites. High speed internet, free Wi-Fi, plasma TV with Satellite. Terraces and patios, a fully equipped guest kitchen, laundry service, pool table, and lockers in the dorm rooms. Great atmosphere and good customer service and travel information. Dorm beds 17,000 pesos. Private rooms from 35.000 pesos. Take the Metro to the Poblado station for 1300 Pesos. Then walk uphill until you get to Carrera 36 and take a right. Go about 3 blocks until you get to the adress 7-10 on the left side of the road. Dorm 17,000 Pesos.

For more info see http://www.casakiwihostel.com

Or for a hostel nearer the centre of town try...

  • Palm Tree Hostel [2], Cra 67 #48D-63, Tel: 4 260 2805.

For Apartment acccommodation and whenever possible, you should try to rent for a month. Prices in El Centro range from 200,000 pesos, in Laureles from 400,000 pesos and in El Poblado from 500,000 pesos per month.

  • Medellin Vacation Apartments [3]. In the Zona Rosa near Parque Lleras, Medellin Vacation Apartments offers furnished apartments with the best service, the best amenities and the best locations for vacationers and businessmen.
  • Medellin Executive Hotel http://www.medellinexecutivehotel.com The Medellin Executive Hotel is a Private Hotel with exemplary service, modern amenities, and idyllic surroundings. Located in Parque Lleras one of the most beautiful areas of Medellin, Colombia. The Medellin Executive Hotel is within walking distance to the finest Restaurants, Entertainment, Casinos, and Shopping.

Although there is no Hilton in Medellin, you can find hotels such as the Intercontinental, Sheraton and the Dann.

The Poblado Plaza Hotel, Cra 43A No.4Sur-75, is also very good and to a similar standard as the major chain hotels. It has a pleasant garden where meals can be taken and has free wireless internet connection in the rooms.

  • Hotel Intercontinental Medellín (Calle 16 No.28-51)
  • Four Points by Sheraton Medellín (Cra 43C No.6Sur-100)
  • Hotel Dann Carlton Medellín (Cra 43A No.7-50 Av. El Poblado)
  • Hotel Belfort (Calle 17 No.40B-30
  • Hotel Las Lomas (Route: Medellín - Airport José María Córdoba Km. 26)
  • Sauces del Estadio (Cra 69 No.49A-30)
  • Hotel Portón Medellín (Cra 43A No.9Sur-51 Av.El Poblado)
  • Hotel Casa Laureles (Calle 35 No.78-66)
  • Hotel Park 10 (Cra 36B No.11-12)
  • Hotel Laureles 70 (Circular 5a No.70-15)

[edit] Stay safe

Staying safe in Medellin comes down to common sense.

Women and Men shouldn't travel alone after dark. If you must, travel with a few friends. As Colombia is still a country with a "macho man" mindset, women might be the subject of lewd comments, cat-calling, or whistling. Women shouldn't take this personally - although women have the same rights as women in the US and elsewhere, it's just the culture.

Do not, under any circumstances, make any jokes about the use of cocaine or bombs. The Colombian police take jokes as threats, and you may find yourself in a police station explaining yourself to unsympathetic police officers. Under normal circumstances, police officers are usually kind and helpful towards tourists.

The age of majority in Colombia is 18. Minors are not allowed to be in possession of alcohol at any time, and they may not enter night clubs of any kind. If a minor is found to be in a night club, the entire club will be immediately closed for violating a national law.

Always change your money at a bank (Conavi or Bancolombia are the two national banks) or at "Moneygramm".- "street changers" offer tempting rates for your dollar, but be on guard. "Street Changers" palm several of the biggest bills for themselves. Do not flaunt large amounts of money around

[edit] Get out

  • Visit Guatape to see La Piedra del Peñol (a.k.a. Peñon de Guatape) is a 200m high rock dominating the landscape. A climb to the top will cost you a few thousand pesos, but the view is breathtaking. There are busses going about every hour from the Medellín north bus terminal.
  • Santa Fe de Antioquia, a tropical town with beautiful colonial architecture. An annual film festival draws the national elite and cinema lovers to this charmign spot.

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