Medellin, the second-largest city in Colombia, has been recommended to us by pretty much everyone we’ve met who has been there. While a certain Pablo Escobar and the fact that Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world largely tarnishes anyone’s view who hasn’t visited. Therefore, we were keen to see why any backpacker who sets foot in the city falls in love with it, despite Medellin’s shady reputation.
Situated in a deep valley surrounded by mountains, Medellin is known as the City of Eternal Spring thanks to its pleasant climate and huge amount of greenery. The flight into Medellin was breathtaking as we swept over mountains covered in emerald-green vegetation. We were already falling under Medellin’s spell before we’d even touched the ground.
To kick off our time in Medellin, we decided to join a free walking tour (one of our favourite ways to get to know a city and meet some locals). The Real City Walking Tour of Medellin was without a doubt the best one we’ve ever taken. Juan our guide gave us a fascinating insight into Colombia’s history and culture, not skipping over the very hard truths but also highlighting what an incredible group of people Colombians are. Welcoming, warm, energetic and always happy to see you, Juan was keen for us to realise just what amazing traits those are considering what hardships most have seen.
Juan took us around the Downtown area to see the many museums, parks and sights the city has in this area, as well as lots of statues by Medellin’s favourite son artist Fernando Botero. We finished the tour in San Antonio Parque, to see two very important statues by Botero. Both of a bird, the oldest had a bomb planted under it in the 1990s, killing 30 people in a horrific attack on the city. Botero asked the Mayor to keep the old statue as a reminder of what happened, with a new version to its right as a look ahead to a brighter future. It was a very emotional and memorable way to end our time with Juan.
Many people have told us that we have to watch a football match while we’re in South America and as we’re on our final country in SA, we decided we better not miss out! We went to see Independiente Medellín at their Atanasio Girardot stadium and what an atmosphere we were met with. We met a lovely group of young Medellin fans who helped us buy tickets from a tout without getting the Gringo price and then off we went! I’m not really sure how they do it, but the Independiente fans jumped, sang and played musical instruments for the entire 90 minutes. The atmosphere was electric. Please excuse how shiny we are in the following photo, I’m blaming the floodlights and the heat!
Once the most dangerous neighbourhood in the most dangerous city of the world, Comuna 13 is now a shining example of how the city is changing. With art to cheer and inspire the young people and a cable car, outdoor escalators and a metro system introduced to try and help connect isolated areas to the city centre. Comuna 13 is a renowned example of how urban regeneration projects can be used to transform and revitalise communities.
We went on a guided tour of the area with a graffiti artist from community centre and street art collective, Casa Kolacho, who are responsible for 90% of the graffiti art in Comuna 13. This tour is without doubt one of the best things we’ve done so far on the entire trip. Getting to meet the people living and working in Comuna 13, seeing how much they’re doing to develop the area and experiencing the incredible art that can come out of such terrible conflict was amazing.
We even got a chance to perfect a graffiti tag ourselves, I don’t think we’re going to set the world alight with our street art skills…
As well as this, we’ve been to the incredible Parque Explora – a mix of science museum, aquarium and reptile house full of interactive displays, the Botanical Gardens and the beautiful Parque Arvi outside of the city centre.
Medellin is one of our absolute favourite stops so far. As we’ve promised to every smiling resident that we’ve met, who’s desperate for us to do so – this is us telling you to reconsider your opinion of Medellin if you haven’t been yet. And if you’re considering visiting the city, do it!
Comment below if you have any questions and see all of our photos below…