The “city of eternal spring” is located in the Antioquia region of Colombia, a lush region whose zigzagged borders enclose mostly the mountainous terrain of the Andes. But things were not always flowers and butterflies for Medellin.
Colombia has, for lack of more appropriate phrasing, seen some shit. For the past 50 years, Colombia’s reality has been plagued by profound violence, much of it narco-fueled, due to its government being at war with the urban militia group known as the FARC. Plane hijackings, car bombs, kidnappings, and war consumed this country. Medellin was the epicenter of this conflict, serving as the command tower (and birthplace) of Pablo Escobar, a man whose name Netflix has made commonplace. It’s no coincidence that at one point Medellin was the murder capital of the world, with a yearly death toll of 6,000. That’s roughly 16 people being killed a day.
Today, Medellin (and Colombia as a whole) has made a remarkable transformation.
They had nowhere to go but up— literally. Medellin is geographically challenged because it lies in a valley; the economically disadvantaged have been pushed out on to the steep surrounding mountainsides, physically cut off from the rest of the city and thus, creating ungovernable spaces that fueled drug trade and violence. Medellin’s government invested in a cable car system that created access to the city’s jobs. Multiple story-high escalators were built, and while libraries, schools, and public works projects popped up, crime rate went down.
Existing for nearly a century without knowing a day of peace, Medellin is now a model of urban innovation and a fascinating comeback story. Foreign exchange students are now sent to study in Medellin’s universities, and vacationers now flock to the city in droves… some of them in a female wolfpack of four, who happen to have a travel blog.
Betcha didn’t know:
- Medellin is dubbed “The City of Eternal Spring” for its year-round perfect, temperate weather (60s-80s F)
- During the holidays MDE has the best Christmas lights in Colombia (watch how an advertising agency used Christmas lights in a campaign for peace that caused 218 Colombian guerrillas to surrender their weapons)
- The city’s subway is said to be the most modern in the Americas
- There is free wi-fi availably literally everywhere you go
- Plaza Botero – home to 42 bronze statues created by Fernando Botero, a world-famous sculptor and painter obsessed with obesity. This plaza is in the city center of Medellin and is in front of the Museo de Antioquia, an opulent art museum also worth a visit.
- Parque Explora – featuring Latin America’s largest freshwater aquarium
- El Pueblito Paisa – a replica of a historic colonial town in Colombia boasting a 360-degree views of the city
- Parque Arví – one of the region’s largest nature reserves
- If you’re MDE-bound in August, the annual flower festival “La Feria de las Flores”
- Around Parque Lleras neighborhood, it’s a Latin American rendition of NYC’s Meatpacking and an excellent area for shopping and going out at night
- Up the cable car up over the former gang-ridden slums and witness true progressiveness at work
- Don’t do a Pablo Escobar tour. Act like you’ve been here before. (Also, we’ve been told by locals that the guides on these tours sensationalize and don’t tell the exact truth about the city’s events or landmarks)
- One word: Airbnb. They’re dirt cheap and amazing. One of our trips we stayed here and it was a dream!
- If you want to opt for a hotel, stay around Parque Lleras (Hotel Charlee is legit)
- El Cielo, a gastronomic interactive food experience (you’ll understand what we mean when you go)
- Coffee. You’re in Colombia, silly. (Our favorite cafe was Cafe Pergamino) brimming with indie vibes and situated on a street near Parque Lleras with adorable clothing boutiques
- Aguardiente. You’re in Colombia, silly. (Also, each region makes their own, and the Paisas claim that Antioquia Aguardiente rules above all others, so all the better reason to give it a try and either confirm or deny that theory)
- Craft brews. Stop in for a tour or just head over to enjoy some local craft beer at 3 Cordilleras Brewery. Go on a Thursday for live music!
- On the rooftop at the Charlee Hotel (the city’s best place for happy hour and the views aren’t so bad either)
- People from Medellin are called “Paisas” and they like to party. Go to a Fonda for a late-night experience unlike any other. (Just ask around for the nearest one, you’ll get pointed in the right direction and you won’t regret it one bit)
- Go paragliding. One of the city’s most popular activities. (As is ATVing and mountain biking)
Questions, comments, concerns? Indulge us.