Recommendations: Medellin, Colombia
Where to Stay: There is no doubt that you want to stay in the El Poblado neighborhood. It is the trendy, chic area of Medellin that is home to a number of boutique hotels and great restaurants. It will be easy to navigate the city using the metro (the Poblado station) and you will be within walking distance to Parque Lleras, the area to go out. Be wary though, don't stay too close to Parque Lleras unless you can sleep through blaring salsa music or if you will be out till 2 or 3 in the morning. If that's the case, check out The Charlee Hotel where we stayed - great hotel but meant for night owls.
How to get around: Medellin is pretty spread out so you can't walk everywhere. The metro is really easy to use and can get you up and down the city to basically everywhere you will want to go...it's also really cheap. Taxis are also all over the place and insanely cheap - the total cost usually matches that of the initial fare in NYC.
What to Do:
Where to go out: In the heart of El Poblado district is Parque Lleras. It's probably a four to five block radius of nothing but clubs and bars blaring salsa music. I've never been to New Orleans but I imagine this is what Bourbon Street is like. We didn't witness but the nightlife doesn't die down until past 4AM.
Where to Eat/What to Eat:
|Samantha and I working out in the gym of our hotel.|
|Samantha and I riding the metro.|
- Real City Walking Tour: This free tour is a great way to get introduced to Medellin. Our guide was fantastic and kept the four hour tour really interesting while diving into the history of Medellin. It also gives you a good perspective on how to navigate the city. On the tour you will see a number of the major attractions like Botero Square, Parque de Luz, Parque Bolivar and La Alpujarra. If you don't do the tour, all of the places I mentioned should be a must but this is a great way to see them.
|Parque de la Luz which you see on the tour.|
|In the Plaza de Botero, Botero's statues are|
all a little disproportioned. His art is all over.
- Santo Domingo Station/Parque Arvi: Make it over to the Acevedo station and transfer for free onto Medellin's other mode of transportation, gondolas. Not only will you get breathtaking views of the city, you'll get a view into where many of the every day citizen's of Medellin live. Once reaching the Santo Domingo station, I'd recommend transferring (costs about $1) to the L line (right next door) to go up to Parque Arvi. If you want to hike a few hours this will be a great place to do it but we just walked around for about 30 - 40 minutes to escape the noise of the city. On the way back down, stop at Santo Domingo and walk around a bit, or at least to the library.
|Cable car system with the city in the background.|
- Pueblito Paisa: At the top of a 2km hill right off the Industriales metro stop is a replica of a typical Antiquoia town. While this is not a must see, there is a look out point that provides incredible views of the city. The views alone make it worth a trip.
|The replica church in the town.|
- Other: We only had two days in Medellin so between all of the above and some relaxing time, we weren't able to do everything. You can check out some of the Museum's in Medellin and there are also a few day trips you can take. If you are staying more than a couple of days, I would recommend looking into these. That being said, leave yourself some time to relax and sit on a patio in the El Poblado neighborhood.
|The view from Pueblito Paisa.|
|The salsa bar Samantha and I wandered into to.|
Where to Eat/What to Eat:
- Street Food: Towards the city center, there will be plenty of food vendors that line the streets. The food will range from fresh cut mango to fried balls of dough. My favorite was of course empanadas. There was a great hole in the wall that served crispy delicious empanadas right by the horse in Botero Square. Regardless, if you see something being sold on the street that you want to try, just do it.
|The empanadas by the horse statute you must get.|
- Coffee: I mean, it is Colombia after all. The best place is right by Parque Llareas on the trendy Carrera 37, Pergamino. Known for sourcing it's beans from some of the best local farmers, this is a great place to grab a cup of joe to start your day or to sit on their patio for a late afternoon iced cafe.
- Bandeja Paisa: This monster dish is the traditional dish of Medellin. To give you some context as why to this is so hearty; it was meant for the farmers who needed one huge meal to give them enough energy to work in the fields all day. Beans, rice, plantains, blood sausage, chicarron, chorizo, fried egg, avocado and I think that's about everything. The most traditional place to get this is Restaurante Hacienda - and I suggest splitting it with someone else.
|This is a big meal.|
- Carmen: If you are looking for a nicer establishment, this El Poblado hot spot is home to a husband and wife team that has all of the Medellin foodies raving. We opted for the tasting menu which gave us a six course flight through Colombian cuisine. Make sure you make reservations.
|One of our dishes at Carmen.|
- Safety: If you read my first blog, you'll see I felt very safe. Sure there are areas of Medellin you probably shouldn't visit but as long as you use common sense, you'll be fine - we felt totally safe. Do be aware of pick pocketers in certain areas though...just like any major city.
- Money: The restaurants will take card but make sure you carry cash on you for taxis and some of the food stands or smaller restaurants. It's really cheap throughout all of Colombia which makes for a cost friendly trip.
- Language Barrier: There is definitely one in Medellin and in Cartagena. Most people do not speak english, even your waiters or some of the service staff at the hotel. So with that said, just make sure if you get in a cab, you have a clear idea of where you are going Also, most restaurants offer english menus if your Spanish isn't so good.