In this section we give a "quick introduction" to various neighborhoods of Medellin. Most visitors to Medellin really only visit "El Poblado" and "El Centro", because that's all the guide book tells them to do. However there are many other interesting neighbourhoods of the city to explore, if you have the time.
El Poblado is the modern and affluent area of Medellin and where you’ll find yourself eating, partying and sleeping. There’s not a lot of touristy things to do in Poblado except check out some shopping malls, sip coffee at trendy cafés and dine at great restaurants. Actually It’s not a bad way to spend a your time. However we do highly recommend you get out of Poblado to enjoy many other great things Medellin has to offer.
Whilst in Poblado don’t forget to drop by the Toucan Café for great Colombian coffee and some of Medellin's best tours.
At the Coffee Tasting Experience you can learn everything there is to know about coffee, right from the bean stage up to a cup of freshly roasted coffee. You’ll learn what makes a good or bad coffee and the different techniques you can use at home to make a better cup of coffee. Part of the workshop is a sensory aspect where you get to taste-test a variety of specialist coffees in a similar style to wine tasting.
El Centro (Medellin's Downtown)
Medellin Downtown "El Centro" in comparison to modern and clean El Poblado, downtown Medellin could well be a different world. However amidst the hustle and bustle of El Centro there are many interesting museums, historic building, parks and sculptures.
Of course there is the famous Botero Park which sits alongside the Museo de Antioquia. And a walk down shopping streets Carabobo and Avenida Junin are a great way to see the locals of the city hard at work and play.
For more details about what to see downtown check out our Medellin Walking Tour a self guided walk through the most interesting parts of downtown. No need to book just download the map and go.
Envigado is located to the south of Medellin and easily accessible by using the Metro or you could take a bus from Parque Poblado along Avenida Poblado. Although technically a different city to Medellin you would be hard pressed to notice when you cross the border as the two cities have grown into one large “greater Medellin”. We love Envigado because it’s a more traditional working class suburb full of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Unlike Poblado which is a fairly new suburb Envigado has a very historic feel to it.
Start at Parque Envigado a small plaza based around a charming looking church. Walk around 2 or 3 streets in any direction and you’ll see loads of traditional style shops as well as numerous restaurants and nightclubs. A visit to the local market is highly recommended, you’ll find it on the left as you walk down the street to the right of the church. You’ll see all sort of local produce for sale including loads of plants and herbs hanging outside the shops of the traditional medicine practitioners (and general witchdoctory). If you’re around for lunch stop by the traditional Colombian restaurant, Doña Gloria for a traditional “bandeja paisa” that is so big you’ll need a few more friends to help you finish it.
If you’re about at night time and want a really unique experience we recommend grabbing a table and a bottle of aguardiente at La Cabana de Recuerdo, a tiny little bar full of music related antiques. The dj plays music from the 20’s from their vast vinyl collection.
There are also some great places to party in Envigado where you won’t see any other tourists. Walk to base of the park and you’ll see a pedestrianised street. Walk down there and when you get to the end turn right and follow the sound of music.
In Envigado there are also two new modern gastronomic zones:
Jardines - a little suburb enclave that has quickly grown to be one of the best gastronomic offers in Medellin outside of Poblado. In a couple of cute little tree lined streets you’ll find a great selection of restaurants and cafes. If you like good steak, then add Lucio Carbon & Restaurant to your list, make sure you book. Meanwhile Olivia is a good option for pizza.
Barrio Populares are the poorer neighborhoods on the upper edges of the mountains built by tens of thousands of families displaced by Colombia's internal conflict. Probably not the sort of places you want to visit alone. However for the curious there is a safe option to see how life is on the mountains.
The Metro Cable (cable car), an extension of the Metro system, was designed to allow residents living high up on the mountains to easily travel up and down the hills, thus enabling easier access to jobs, medical care and social integration. Over time the Metro Cable has become Medellin’s no.1 tourist attraction giving a glimpse of everyday life in Medellin's barrio populares, from the safety & comfort of the cable car.
There are 3 main cable car routes with a fourth on it’s way (excluding the separate Parque Arvi line). Once you are on the Metro there is no extra charge to ride the Metro Cable. Theoretically you could get on the Metro at Poblado Station, switch to the Metro Cable, ride both cable cars as many times as you want and then return to Poblado – all for 2,400 COP.
Just 10 years ago Comuna 13 was regarded as one of the most dangerous barrios in Medellin. Hardly the sort of place tourists would be advised to venture. However through a series of events, some controversial, some international recognised, violence has been significantly reduced. Comuna 13 is now an important tourist attraction that even the mayor's office promotes in order to show how the city has moved forward from it’s terrible past. Many locals may still be afraid to go to Comuna 13 but there is plenty of security just to put you at ease.
One of the best ways of getting the most out of your visit to Comuna 13 is via the Toucan’s Cafe’s Medellin Graffiti Tour. As you ride the only outdoor escalators in the south hemisphere you’ll hear how these escalators turned a 35 minute uphill walk into an easy 6 minute journey. The tour is conducted by a foundation created by a group of local graffiti & hip hop artists who are responsible for 95% of the graffiti art in the area. They provide a real local’s perspective of the changes that happened in Comuna 13 and the importance that the graffiti plays in the barrio. Your attendance also financially supports the foundation in their mission to educate local youth in the skills of graffiti, hip hop, breakdance and rapping.
Sabaneta - Another traditional neighborhood worth exploring is Sabaneta. To get there take the Metro to Sabaneta station, cross the pedestrian bridge to your right and then head to the main plaza known as the Parque Principal which naturally has a church as it’s focus. The Iglesia de Santa Ana is an important church of the Virgin María Auxiliadora, adored by Catholics in Antioquia. After sightings of the Virgin Mary in 1968 hundreds of people now visit the church every Tuesday for Mass (hourly from early morning until 8pm) and to fulfill their penance. The plaza itself is surrounded by bars and restaurants, all with a quaint Colombian feel. Take a casual stroll around and when done sit at one of the bars overlooking the plaza, take a beer and watch the world go by. Stay long enough and who knows, maybe the virgin will make another apparition.
There’s also a great grill restaurant nearby worth visiting famous for it’s meat and ribs, a full-rack is less than $10 USD - La Doctora. There’s also some great nightlife spots in Sabaneta like Canalon Bar & Carbon, located just behind La Doctora. We recommend you take a taxi to get to these places.