Medellín, Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia
8 days - March 2018
From overseas Medellin is probably the most famous city of Colombia but not for the good reasons. Everyone heard about Pablo Escobar, how the city suffered from the narcotrafic in the 80s and 90s , the guerrilla and its even more famous now because of the show Narcos....
Well let’s make it short: the city changed A LOT!
Medellin has been able to recover from its dark past and today it’s quite an interesting city to live in. Favorite destination in Colombia for the digital nomads, we decided to stay 8 nights to discover it and make our own opinion of the city.
Nobody will tell you it’s a beautiful city but a lot of people will end up staying there quite a lot of time and become nostalgic when they leave. Why? It’s vibrant, dynamic, full of restaurants, museums, it has the only metro in Colombia, people are extremely nice and soccer is more than a hobby here it’s a way of life !
Like Cali and Bogota the city has been built in a valley, is surrounded by mountains and most of the houses have red/orange tiles.
We stayed in Laureles, a nice residential suburbs close to many restaurants (including the amazing Cafe cliché in which we had pâté and chicken with mustard for the first time in 18 months! Yummy!)
As usual when we arrive in a big city, we started our visits with a guided city tour. The one is Medellin was one of the best we had in Colombia. During 4 hours, the guide took us through the history from the creation of the FARCS and in response some armed guerilla groups, the narco traffic and how it changed the city. Pablo Escobar never got mentioned during the tour as a bit like Voldemort you can’t pronounce his name in Medellin. Indeed some people still consider him as a hero due to its generosity giving people cash and houses but occult the many deaths and chaos he caused (more than 6000 just in Medellin just in 1991...) so to avoid confrontations with locals better not to pronounce his name.
The centre of the city is not really interesting except the market located in the streets and where you can find everything from some clothes to street food to pans etc. All useless but vibrant part of the city!
Funny to see all the statues Botero offered to the city. There are made of bronze and if you touch some parts the colour changes to gold. I let you guess which part of the body had a colour change ;)
In addition to the city tour we went to the Casa de la Memoria which showed us the transformation of the city from the 19th century where farmers arrived to the city to how narco traffic and guerillas destroyed it and how it recovered and is still recovering. The Colombian history has never been simple and is still complex and you will leave the museums with many questions...
To continue with our discovery of the city we took another tour to Comuna 13. It used to be one of the most dangerous suburbs of the city (and the world) at the end of the 90s when Pablo Escobar got killed and some armed groups fought to take over the suburb as its on the cocaine exportation route. The army and government also did some actions and caused many deaths and disappearances. Since 2013 the different groups stopped fighting as they realised that it was bad for their traffic. The government and the local artists then decided to develop it by creating some programs around education, creating some elevators to connect the suburbs to the city and gave to locals paints to reinvent the suburb and give it life back. Besides a lot of artist created some street arts around the values of peace and future.
While it was interesting we didn’t really enjoy this tour. Our guide was clearly occulting the reality about Pablo Escobar and was supporting him, she didn’t know much about history and most importantly we felt bad for the locals due to tourists looking at how they live like animals in a zoo... do we recommend it ? I’m still not sure. On one end yes to discover another aspect of the dark past. on the other end I was not comfortable at all with the voyeurism.
The suburb offers unlimited views on the orange roofs of Medellin. We realised how big it was and how the cable car was developed to unblock locals who live in the mountains. Make sure you take one of these cable cars to live like a local !
Another day we went to the Botanical garden and we have been really surprised to find such a big garden and with such high standard in the middle of the city. We saw tropical plants, massive iguanas, birds and a nice architecture. Don’t miss it!
Finally a bit of fun! Medellin has two local teams Atlantico Nacional and Medellin. We went to two games at Estadio (don’t ask me against which team!) and wahooooo they sure know how to support their team! Music and songs for one hour and a half non-stop with people standing! (Cedric would say one song for 1 hour and a half but in reality a bit more diversity!) amazing atmosphere.
Medellin it’s also torrential rains and storm every night and one has to get used to that!
# Many travellers stay in Poblado to party. We preferred Laureles, a nice residential suburbs, close to the metro station and with a lot of cafés. Manila is quite nice as well as a bit more hipster and with a lot of restaurants with terraces.
# start your stay with a guided tour. We tried Real city tours and they were amazing!
# don’t miss la casa de la memoria: it’s moving to discover how the city suffers over the years and how it changed. Most of the exhibitions are really well done. And it’s free !
# don’t go to Comuna 13 with zippytour for the reasons above.
# soccer games; 27,000 pesos for a game in the area supporting the teams. So worth it!
# don’t miss the botanical garden
# it’s easy to use the subway in Medellin and you would be surprised how clean it is. There is also cable car.
#Uber is cheap and super convenient