Medellín Travel Guide

Medellín Travel Guide

A transformative, eternally blue-skied city once the beloved home to notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, Medellín retains a certain grit while also bursting with ever-friendly locals, inspiring nature and a burgeoning art scene. Today as you stroll around Medellin’s bustling streets and shaded parks, there is a tangible feeling of hope and innovation in the air, as well as chic boutiques, fun nightlife and moreish cuisine headed by the beany Baneja Paisa and avocado-sided Aijaco soup. Despite its rough edges and strong police presence, Medellín is one of Latin America’s most progressive cities, embracing diversity in unapologetically Latin style during the Medellín Pride fiesta continuing throughout June. But this is a city that knows how to party all year long, and Medellín nightlife is always a sight to behold. Pop down to El Poblado, the touristy heart of the city, or linger in Lleras for vibrant bars and restaurants amid neat ambience. Wondering what to do in Medellín? Mr Hudson’s ultimate Medellín gay city guide is here to save you.

“I took a sip and had a dream,
And I woke up in Medellín.
The sun was caressing my skin,
Another me could now begin…”

The best hotels in Medellín

Let’s kick start this Medellín gay travel guide to the best hotels with the luxurious 5-star offering Celestino Boutique Hotel, a new addition to the city-based just 600 meters from Lleras Park and within walking distance of three other parks; Poblado, Linear and Dancer. While you’re bound to enjoy the surrounding nightlife and local food scene, for an extra special trip, book a room with a balcony. Closer to the food and nightlife hub of El Poplado is 14 Urban Hotel, supplied with a shared lounge, concierge service and optional tours. Boasting one of the best-rated locations in Medellín, 14 Urban Hotel also provides a daily continental breakfast. For something a little more cosy, opt for the Patio del Mundo guesthouse also found within El Poplado. Nestled away on a quiet residential street, this guesthouse has friendly staff, generous breakfasts and a private Jacuzzi in verdant environs.

Those staying longer in Medellín might consider staying with Viaggio Medellín Grand Select, providing loft and apartment living with huge interiors and terrace chill out areas. Featuring sleek, white façades, pretty city views and free-standing in-room bathtubs, Viaggio is both gay-friendly and stylish as hell. More apartments are up for grabs at Apartamentos Loma Verde, located just over a kilometre from Lleras Park in the optimum setting for relaxation. All rooms come with a garden, outdoor swimming pool and access to health and fitness facilities, while the more premium rooms feature patios with BBQ facilities and balcony areas with views of the mountains and cityscape.

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Recommended hotels in Medellín
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These are the old warehouses where Pablo Escobar used to process his massive cocaine exploits

Things to do in Medellín

Don’t miss a walk through the whimsical Botero Statue Park, a plaza comprised of 23 sculptures by Botero. The Colombian artist famously noted for his “voluminous representations” is one of the most recognised and quoted living artists from Latin America. The park is adjacent to the equally impressive Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture and the Museum of Antioquia. The museum houses over 100 pieces of Botero’s artwork and sculptures that have been generously donated.

Just before dusk, make your way to the Barefoot Park (Parque de Los Pies Descalzos). The park features a “no shoes allowed” sandbox, pathways and waterfall, encouraging people to get grounded and connect with the earth. If that’s not up your alley, then try nearby Parque de las Luces and Edificio Vasquez. These are the old warehouses where Pablo Escobar used to process his massive cocaine exploits. Today the buildings have been transformed into a historic site with an adjacent park that lights up spectacularly at night.

Street art | Photo: X Josele

Street art | Photo: X Josele

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Recommended experiences in Medellín
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Featuring a bizarre staircase that leads to a viewpoint of a surreal lake landscape, El Peñol is ever popular, particularly at sunset

What to see in Medellín

All Medellín points of interest have their merits but the El Peñol rock in Guatapé is surprisingly among the top spots, located just two hours from Medellín city centre. Featuring a bizarre staircase that leads to a viewpoint of a surreal lake landscape, El Peñol is ever popular, particularly at sunset. Guatapé as a whole is also well worth getting to know, particularly Pueblo de Zócalos, packed as it is with brightly coloured housing and inimitable surrounding natural beauty, the highest point being at the top of El Peñol’s 600 steps. For those who can’t get enough of the heavenly scent of fresh beans, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Eje Cafetero coffee region must feature on your list of what to see in Medellín. Take your sweet time with a 3-day tour around the plantations and rural farmhouses, getting your meals, accommodation and transport thrown in. Along the way you’ll also get to hike in the Cocora valley, relax over an espresso or two in the charming village of Salento and even ride high above the historic city of Manizales by cable car, staying overnight in a traditional coffee farm.

Previously renowned as one of Medellín’s most dangerous districts, Comuna 13, comprised of San Javier and Las Independencias neighbourhoods, is now a prime Cambodia sightseeing spot brimming with culture and art. Take the Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour led by community leaders to discover unique local perspectives and historical information on the area. Now an outdoor art gallery and a symbol of social transformation, Comuna 13 teams with more than 200 graffiti artworks all sharing cultural and historical messages about Colombia, the result of various social projects. Another worthy art and culture combination can be found at Plaza Botero in the old quarter, where local sculptor Fernando Botero Angulo’s larger-than-life sculptures are on display. Where you’re in the area, don’t miss the free Musee de Antioquia, where many of Botero’s paintings hang alongside other famous Latin American artworks.

Photo: Kobby Mendez

Photo: Kobby Mendez

Thanks to Medellín’s impressive Metrocable system, many of the city’s hillside areas are now easily reachable from the city centre, with expansive views making the heighty gondola journey anything but dull. A great day trip utilising the Metrocable would be to travel to Parque Arvi, a large nature reserve nestled in the hills away from the hubbub down in the city. As well as an abundance of wildlife and serene trails, nearby town Santa Elena is the ultimate spot for a bite to eat or overnight retreat. Back down in El Poblado, another little worthwhile venture is to go to El Castillo Museum, a stunning castle and museum on fertile grounds, the perfect backdrop for wedding photos and supremely extra Instagram shots. Tour the grandiose interior of the castle before picnicking with friends in the gardens on warm afternoons.

Photo: Shon Ejai

Photo: Shon Ejai

Medellin street art | Photo: Shon Ejai

Medellin street art | Photo: Shon Ejai

Where to eat in Medellín

No visit to Medellin is complete with trying Mondongo. The traditional Colombian soup consists of diced tripe and slow-cooked vegetables. The famous restaurant by the same name, Mondongos, is a favourite place with locals and the ideal restaurant to give the classic dish a try.

If you’re ravenous, then it’s time to try Bandeja Paisa. This Colombian speciality includes soup, meat, fried plantains, fried egg, chorizo, chicharron (thick pork fat), beans, avocado, rice and salad. You can try the dish throughout Medellin, but Brasarepa is one of the best. First made famous by Anthony Bourdain, the unassuming restaurant just outside of the city centre is well worth the short taxi ride over.

Charlee Lifestyle Hotel | Photo: Charlee Lifestyle Hotel

Charlee Lifestyle Hotel | Photo: Charlee Lifestyle Hotel

For something a bit more swanky, head to the Woka Lounge. Expect mouth-watering sushi and Thai cuisine in a breath-taking forest setting. The restaurant’s goal is to stimulate the five senses using the four elements of nature: earth, water, air, and fire. Thankfully, it does so with class, style and mouth-watering meals.

Medellin is known for its nightlife, which is equal parts rowdy, kitsch, and fun. El Eslabón Prendido, Kukaramakara and Sixttina are a few popular places for reggae, salsa or general clubbing on the weekends. If you’re looking for truly unique but also incredibly tacky, then consider Dulce Jesus Mio. The club was designed to resemble a traditional Colombian town but is as outlandish as clubs get. Bring your camera and get ready for a night like none you’ve had before.

If you don’t want the tourists in El Poblado or the kitsch of Dulce Jesus Mio, then perhaps a Tango Tour would be more up your alley. Medellin is an enclave of tango-afficionados, second only to Buenos Aires. Brush up on your tango, or simply be moved by the passionate steps of the experts.

Photo: Joshua Earle

Photo: Joshua Earle

Photo: Dan Moore

Photo: Dan Moore

Shopping in Medellín

There are countless shopping malls and designer department stores located throughout the city. However, we recommend the one-of-a-kind boutiques at Barrio Laureles for clothing and home decor you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Interestingly enough, Medellin has also been referred to as “the Silicon Valley of underwear manufacturers.” While you won’t always find the local brands in shops (many Colombians prefer U.S. name brands), keep an eye out for local designers for men such as Mundo Unico and Clever.

The San Alejo Handicraft Market falls on the first Saturday of every month and is a worthwhile stop if your travel dates coincide accordingly. From baskets to jewellery to clothing to toys, there’s a little something for everyone among the sprawling booths. Alternatively, the Centro Viejo Pueblo Artesanal is a bit more touristy, but still offers similar unique handicrafts every day of the week.

Photo: Edwin Esteban

Photo: Edwin Esteban

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Another of the city’s fabulous rooftop offerings is Alambique, home to relaxed vibes, art-filled interiors and lip-smacking cocktails

Medellín nightlife

Without doubt, Medellín’s most eccentric rooftop bar is Woka Lounge. Enter into this cave-like complex uniquely decorated with iguanas, giant artificial trees and other exotic elements to be transported into a trippy jungle dream. While it’s hard to mistake this place for a real jungle, the faux greenery creates a fun ambience, while the city views, good drinks and full dining menu make this a great place to while away a few hours. Another of the city’s fabulous rooftop offerings is Alambique, home to relaxed vibes, art-filled interiors and lip-smacking cocktails. More like a cosy café than a hip rooftop joint, with its mismatched chairs and fanatical amount of greenery, Alambique serves as a nice retreat from the pollution at street level, providing delicious food and regular live music. Instead of a normal sign, look for a set of light blue double doors behind which lies a staircase up to the gallery. Keep climbing until you reach the bar itself.

Photo: Jorge Iván Correa

Photo: Jorge Iván Correa

Looking for stylish fun in the city? Our Medellín gay nightlife guide has got just the ticket. A brand new gay bar located in El Poblado, Bar Chiquita is the place to go for killer cocktails, modern décor and inclusive vibes. As well as Chiquita’s array of kitschy art, with twin yellow flamingos greeting guests on arrival, other selling points include beautiful, friendly staff and a large outdoor terrace. Although not exclusively a gay option, we mention VinTrash for its gay-popular atmosphere and upcycling ethos. The music here tends to revolve around Latin, indie and electronic with the bonus of a downstairs restaurant if dancing gets you peckish.

For your fill of reggaeton, modern hits, R&B and electronica, Zero Nightclub by Purple Bar is a crowd favourite, centrally located close to Parque Lleras. With drag shows happening throughout the week, Zero has a diverse customer base of expats and locals with no cover charge if you come early. Go big or go home is the vibe that huge gay bar Viva Discotek gives off, one of Medellín’s most famous clubs for its main dancefloor capacity of 1,000 and additional smaller dancefloor both blasting reggaeton, electronica and a splash of classic salsa.  Check Facebook for details on upcoming themed parties. Talking of parties, Wake Up Entertainment is one to keep your eye on. Refusing to settle in a fixed abode, this event organiser is famed for its all-night LGBT-friendly parties in various industrial settings that definitely should not be missed!

Medellín night life

Medellín night life

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