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Medellin: Visiting The Ex-murder Capital Of The World


by Elsbeth Hartz



Welcome to Medellin, a city that has shed its troubled past to become one of the most vibrant and exciting travel destinations in the world. Located in the heart of Colombia, this cosmopolitan city is nestled in the Aburra Valley and surrounded by breathtaking mountains. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes, Medellin offers a unique experience for travelers seeking adventure, relaxation, and exploration.


Once known as the notorious “murder capital of the world,” Medellin has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Through innovative urban planning, social initiatives, and a commitment to progress, the city has emerged as a shining example of urban revitalization and safety. Today, Medellin is celebrated for its modern infrastructure, efficient transportation system, and a thriving cultural scene that attracts visitors from all over the globe.


Beyond its impressive transformation, Medellin is also blessed with a pleasant climate throughout the year, earning it the nickname “The City of Eternal Spring.” With average temperatures of around 72°F (22°C), Medellin offers a comfortable and enjoyable environment for outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and exploring the stunning botanical gardens.


Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or a lover of art and music, Medellin has something to offer everyone. From its fascinating historical sites, such as the Plaza Botero and the Museum of Antioquia, to its lively nightlife and world-class dining options, this city promises an unforgettable experience.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deeper into the history of Medellin, the transformation it has undergone, the safety and security situation, the top attractions to visit, the cultural scene, gastronomic delights, shopping opportunities, transportation options, and accommodation choices. So, get ready to explore the captivating beauty and spirit of Medellin, one of South America’s most captivating travel destinations.


History of Medellin

The history of Medellin dates back to the 17th century when it was founded by Spanish conquistadors. Initially, a small indigenous settlement, Medellin grew rapidly during the Spanish colonial period as a result of its strategic location and fertile land. The city served as a center for trade and agriculture, with its main products being coffee, gold, and textiles.


In the early 20th century, Medellin experienced an economic boom with the expansion of industries such as textiles, tobacco, and manufacturing. This era of prosperity brought wealth and modernization to the city, leading to the construction of many grand buildings and an increase in population.


However, Medellin’s history took a dark turn in the 1980s and 1990s when it became the epicenter of the notorious Medellin Cartel, led by the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. During this time, the city experienced extreme violence, drug-related crime, and social instability. Medellin earned the reputation as the “murder capital of the world,” with daily reports of violence and drug-related killings.


Despite the dark period in its history, Medellin began its transformation in the late 1990s with the decline of the drug cartels and the implementation of government initiatives aimed at restoring peace and stability. The city focused on social development, infrastructure improvement, and innovative urban planning projects.


Today, Medellin stands as a testament to its resilience and determination to overcome its troubled past. The city has achieved remarkable progress in reducing crime rates and improving the quality of life for its residents. It has become a model for urban transformation and has received international recognition for its innovative approaches to governance and social development.


Visitors to Medellin can still witness remnants of its complex history. The legacy of Pablo Escobar can be explored in places like the Casa Museo Pablo Escobar, where visitors can gain insights into the life of the notorious drug lord. Additionally, the city has several memorials and museums that honor the victims of violence and commemorate the struggle for peace.


Medellin’s history serves as a reminder of the city’s resilience and the strong spirit of its people. It is a history that has shaped the identity of Medellin, making it a place of both struggle and redemption. As you explore this vibrant city, you’ll discover how Medellin has emerged from its tumultuous past to become a beacon of hope and inspiration.


The Transformation of Medellin

The transformation of Medellin is nothing short of remarkable. Once plagued by violence and crime, the city has undergone a profound shift in recent years, emerging as a shining example of urban revitalization and social progress. Through a combination of innovative urban planning, investment in public transportation, and social initiatives, Medellin has transformed itself into a modern and vibrant metropolis.


One of the key factors in the city’s transformation is its commitment to inclusive urban planning. Medellin has implemented a number of ambitious infrastructure projects aimed at improving the quality of life for all residents, especially those in marginalized neighborhoods. The Medellin Metro Cable, for example, is an impressive aerial cable car system that connects the most impoverished communities in the hills to the city center, providing them with easy access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.


The city has also invested heavily in public transportation, making it efficient, accessible, and affordable for all. The Medellin Metro is a modern and reliable metro system that connects different parts of the city, making it easy for locals and tourists to navigate around. Additionally, the MetroPlus system provides an extensive network of bus routes that reach every corner of Medellin.


Another significant aspect of Medellin’s transformation is its commitment to social development. The city has implemented various social programs and initiatives to address poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. These programs have focused on improving education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, particularly in disadvantaged areas. One notable example is the “Medellin Me Cuida” program, which aims to promote community participation in crime prevention and social cohesion.


Medellin has also become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. The city has fostered a supportive environment for startups and technology companies, attracting investments and talent from around the world. This has led to the emergence of innovation districts, such as the Ruta N technology and innovation center, where entrepreneurs and researchers can collaborate and develop creative solutions to urban challenges.


Through its transformation, Medellin has not only improved its physical infrastructure but has also revitalized its cultural scene. The city is now home to numerous art galleries, museums, and cultural festivals, showcasing the creativity and talent of its residents. The iconic Comuna 13, once notorious for violence, has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood filled with colorful murals and street art, attracting visitors from all over the globe.


Today, Medellin stands as a shining example of urban progress and social transformation. Its journey from a city plagued by violence to a thriving metropolis has inspired cities around the world. As you explore Medellin, you’ll be captivated by its breathtaking landscapes, innovative infrastructure, and the warmth and resilience of its people. It’s a testament to the power of human resilience and the ability to create positive change.


Safety and Security in Medellin

Safety and security are important considerations for any traveler, and Medellin has made significant strides in improving its reputation in this regard. While the city has transformed dramatically and the crime rates have decreased significantly, it is still essential to take precautions and stay informed when visiting Medellin.


Medellin has implemented a range of measures to enhance the safety and security of its residents and visitors. The city has increased its police presence in key tourist areas, ensuring that there is a visible and reassuring presence. The police force in Medellin is known for its proactive approach and commitment to ensuring the safety of the community.


It is recommended to stay aware of your surroundings and avoid displaying valuable items openly, as petty theft can still occur in crowded areas. Like any other major urban center, there may be isolated incidents of theft or scams targeting tourists, so it is important to exercise caution and adopt common-sense practices. Avoid venturing into unfamiliar neighborhoods at night, and always use reputable transportation options.


When it comes to transportation, it is advisable to use licensed taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber, as they are generally considered safer and more reliable. Exercise caution when using public transportation, especially during busy periods, and keep an eye on your personal belongings.


Medellin also has a robust network of security cameras throughout the city, helping to deter criminal activities and ensure the safety of its residents and visitors. Additionally, the city has implemented community-based programs, such as the “Vecinos Vigilantes” (Vigilant Neighbors) initiative, where locals collaborate with law enforcement to keep their neighborhoods safe.


As with any travel destination, it is also a good practice to stay informed about the current situation and any potential safety risks. Check with reputable sources, such as government travel advisories or local tourism authorities, for up-to-date information and guidance.


While safety has dramatically improved in Medellin, it is important to remember that no destination is entirely without risks. It is always a prudent choice to take appropriate precautions, secure your belongings, and most importantly, trust your instincts. By being aware and cautious, you can fully enjoy the incredible experiences and vibrant atmosphere that Medellin has to offer.


Attractions in Medellin

Medellin is a city filled with an array of captivating attractions that cater to every traveler’s interests. From historical sites to stunning natural landscapes and cultural experiences, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant Colombian city.


One of the most iconic attractions in Medellin is Plaza Botero and the nearby Museum of Antioquia. Plaza Botero is a public square filled with the famous sculptures of renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. These oversized sculptures provide a unique artistic and cultural experience, highlighting Botero’s distinctive style. The Museum of Antioquia, located next to the plaza, houses an impressive collection of artwork, including pieces by Botero himself.


An unmissable attraction in Medellin is the Comuna 13 neighborhood. Once known for its troubled past, Comuna 13 has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now a vibrant and colorful neighborhood filled with street art and lively markets. Visitors can join guided tours to learn about its history and witness the stunning street murals that tell the story of the community’s resilience and triumph.


For nature enthusiasts, a visit to Parque Arvi is a must. Located just outside the city, this sprawling ecological park offers a refreshing escape from the urban bustle. Explore the park’s extensive hiking trails, enjoy a picnic amidst lush greenery, or take a cable car ride to get breathtaking views of Medellin and its surrounding mountains.


Another popular attraction is the Botanical Garden of Medellin. This expansive garden is a haven of tranquility, boasting a wide variety of plant species from the region and beyond. Take a leisurely stroll through its pathways, visit the butterfly house, or immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of the orchid collection.


In addition to these attractions, Medellin offers a vibrant nightlife scene. Parque Lleras in the El Poblado neighborhood is renowned for its bustling bars, clubs, and restaurants, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and indulge in delicious cuisine.


No visit to Medellin would be complete without experiencing the city’s incredible cable car system. The Medellin Metro Cable provides stunning panoramic views as it takes you through the hills and mountains surrounding the city. It is not only a means of transportation but also offers a unique perspective of Medellin’s urban landscape.


These are just a few of the many attractions that await you in Medellin. Whether you’re interested in history, art, nature, or simply immersing yourself in the vibrant Colombian culture, this city offers a wide range of experiences that will leave you captivated and wanting to explore more.


Exploring the Cultural Scene in Medellin

Medellin is a city renowned for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant arts scene. From museums and art galleries to theaters and music festivals, there are numerous opportunities to immerse yourself in the diverse and captivating cultural landscape of this Colombian gem.


A great place to start your exploration of Medellin’s cultural scene is the Museum of Antioquia. Located in the heart of the city, this museum boasts an extensive collection of artwork, including pieces by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Marvel at the masterpieces on display, ranging from classic to contemporary, and gain a deeper understanding of Colombia’s artistic heritage.


For contemporary art enthusiasts, the Museum of Modern Art of Medellin (MAMM) is a must-visit. This dynamic museum features cutting-edge exhibitions, showcasing works by both national and international contemporary artists. The MAMM also hosts workshops and events that encourage creative expression and engage visitors in thought-provoking discussions.


If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Medellin’s vibrant music scene, don’t miss out on the annual Medellin International Jazz Festival. Held in September, this renowned festival attracts world-class jazz musicians from all over the globe. Enjoy captivating performances in various venues across the city and experience the magic of live jazz music.


Another cultural highlight in Medellin is the Casa Museo Otraparte. This historic house honors the life and work of the renowned Colombian philosopher Fernando Gonzalez. Explore the eclectic collection of books, artworks, and personal artifacts, and gain insights into Gonzalez’s philosophical ideas and contributions to Colombian intellectual life.


In addition to its museums and festivals, Medellin offers a thriving theater scene. The Teatro Metropolitano is the city’s premier performing arts venue, hosting a range of theatrical performances, dance shows, and music concerts. From ballet to opera, you can experience the beauty and passion of live performances in this architecturally stunning theater.


For a taste of traditional Colombian culture, head to the Plaza Botero on a Sunday evening. Here, locals gather to dance and celebrate to the rhythms of traditional Colombian music. Join in the festivities, watch the lively performances, and perhaps even try your hand at the energetic dance moves.


Medellin’s cultural scene is a testament to the city’s dynamic and evolving identity. Through its museums, festivals, theaters, and local traditions, the city showcases the rich diversity of Colombian art, music, and cultural expression. Immerse yourself in this vibrant scene, and you’ll discover a tapestry of creativity and inspiration that will leave a lasting impression.


Medellin’s Gastronomic Delights

Medellin is a gastronomic paradise that tantalizes the taste buds with its unique blend of flavors and culinary traditions. From traditional Colombian dishes to international cuisine, the city offers a diverse range of culinary delights that are sure to satisfy even the most discerning food enthusiasts.


One must-try dish in Medellin is the Bandeja Paisa, a hearty and filling traditional Colombian meal. This iconic dish features a generous portion of grilled steak or pork, served with beans, rice, plantain, avocado, and a fried egg. It’s a true representation of the rich and flavorful cuisine of the Paisa region.


For seafood lovers, a visit to Medellin is the perfect opportunity to indulge in delicious ceviche. Made from fresh fish or seafood marinated in citrus juices and flavored with herbs and spices, ceviche is a refreshing and tangy dish that showcases the coastal influence on Medellin’s culinary scene.


Medellin is also known for its delicious street food. From empanadas, a pastry filled with meat or cheese, to arepas, a cornmeal flatbread filled with a variety of toppings, street food stalls offer a tasty and affordable way to experience the city’s vibrant food culture.


If you’re a coffee enthusiast, Medellin is a paradise for you. Colombia is world-renowned for its high-quality coffee, and you can sample some of the finest brews in the numerous coffee shops and cafes scattered throughout the city. Treat yourself to a freshly brewed cup of locally sourced coffee and savor the rich and aromatic flavors.


When it comes to international cuisine, Medellin does not disappoint. The city boasts a wide range of restaurants offering flavors from around the world. Whether you’re craving Italian, sushi, or Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ll find a diverse array of options to satisfy your cravings.


For those with a sweet tooth, Medellin offers a variety of delectable desserts. Try the indulgent tres leches cake, a sponge cake soaked in three types of milk and topped with whipped cream. Or sample a traditional Colombian dessert called postre de natas, made from sweetened milk custard and accompanied by a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Exploring the local markets in Medellin is also a must for food lovers. The bustling markets offer a feast for the senses, with colorful fruits, fragrant spices, and a variety of local products. Engage in conversations with local vendors, sample exotic fruits, and pick up some unique ingredients to take home with you.


Medellin’s gastronomic delights reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage and diverse culinary influences. Whether you’re a fan of traditional Colombian dishes or a lover of international flavors, the culinary scene in Medellin will leave you craving for more. So, come with an appetite and get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will delight your taste buds.


Shopping in Medellin

Medellin is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide array of options for those seeking everything from high-end fashion to local handicrafts. With its modern malls, bustling markets, and trendy boutiques, the city caters to all tastes and budgets, making it a perfect destination for a memorable shopping experience.


One of the must-visit shopping destinations in Medellin is El Poblado neighborhood. Here, you’ll find the upscale El Tesoro Parque Comercial, a modern mall that showcases both international and local brands. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through its stylish boutiques, stop by its gourmet food court, or relax on one of its scenic terraces offering panoramic views of the city.


For a more eclectic and bohemian shopping experience, head to the neighborhood of Laureles. Known for its vintage shops and independent stores, Laureles offers a unique shopping experience where you can find one-of-a-kind clothing items, jewelry, and artworks.


Medellin is also famous for its textile industry, and you’ll find an abundance of fabric shops and craft markets throughout the city. The neighborhood of Envigado is particularly known for its fabric stores, where you can find a wide variety of textiles to create your own custom-made clothing or home decor.


For those looking to support local artisans and bring home unique souvenirs, a visit to the Plazuela de San Ignacio is a must. This charming square hosts a handicraft market where local vendors sell a range of traditional Colombian crafts, including handwoven textiles, intricate ceramics, and colorful hammocks. It’s the perfect place to find authentic mementos of your trip.


If you’re seeking a bit of luxury shopping, head to the Oviedo Mall in El Poblado. This upscale shopping center is home to international luxury brands, high-end boutiques, and exclusive designer stores. Whether you’re in search of designer clothing, fine jewelry, or premium cosmetics, Oviedo Mall has it all.


Experience the vibrant local culture at the Medellin Flower Market, held every August. During this festival, the city showcases a spectacular display of flowers, creating a visually stunning and fragrant atmosphere. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, admire the beautiful floral arrangements, and even purchase fresh flowers to take home.


When it comes to shopping in Medellin, you’ll be spoilt for choice. From modern malls to traditional markets, the city offers a diverse range of options to suit every taste and budget. So, grab your shopping bags and get ready to discover the vibrant retail scene in Medellin.


Transportation in Medellin

Getting around Medellin is a breeze thanks to its efficient and well-connected transportation system. Whether you prefer public transport, taxis, or exploring the city on foot, there are plenty of options to ensure convenient and seamless travel within the city.


The Medellin Metro is a rapid transit system that spans across the city, making it easy and affordable to navigate from one neighborhood to another. It consists of two lines, Line A and Line B, which intersect at various points, allowing passengers to transfer easily. The metro is clean, safe, and equipped with air conditioning, making it a comfortable way to travel and explore the city.


In addition to the metro, the MetroPlus system complements the public transportation network in Medellin. It consists of buses that operate on dedicated lanes, ensuring faster and more reliable travel. The MetroPlus buses reach areas that are not directly served by the metro, expanding the accessibility of the city’s public transportation system.


For those looking for a more scenic way to travel, the Medellin Metro Cable is a unique and enjoyable option. This cable car system provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city as it takes you up into the hills surrounding Medellin. With several routes available, it offers both convenient transportation and a spectacular sightseeing experience.


If you prefer traveling by taxi, there are plenty of options available throughout the city. Yellow taxis are easy to find, and most drivers use meters to determine fares. It is always a good idea to confirm the fare with the driver before starting your journey. Additionally, ride-hailing services like Uber also operate in Medellin, providing a convenient and reliable alternative.


For those who enjoy exploring on foot, Medellin is a walkable city, especially in neighborhoods like El Poblado and Envigado. These areas feature wide sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly streets, and bustling commercial strips where you can enjoy leisurely strolls and discover local shops, cafes, and parks.


When it comes to traveling outside of the city, Medellin is well connected by air, with the José María Córdova International Airport serving both domestic and international flights. Located in the neighboring municipality of Rionegro, the airport offers a range of transportation options to Medellin, including shuttle buses and taxis.


Overall, transportation in Medellin is reliable, accessible, and convenient. Whether you choose to explore the city using public transportation, taxis, or simply enjoy walking, you’ll find that getting around Medellin is a seamless and enjoyable experience, allowing you to make the most of your visit to this vibrant Colombian city.


Accommodation Options in Medellin

Medellin offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels, budget-friendly hostels, or cozy guesthouses, you’ll find plenty of choices that provide comfort, convenience, and warm Colombian hospitality.


If you’re seeking upscale accommodation, the El Poblado neighborhood is a popular choice. Known for its stylish hotels and modern amenities, El Poblado offers a luxurious experience with its high-end hotels that boast spacious rooms, rooftop pools, and stunning city views. Many of these hotels are located in close proximity to popular attractions, shopping centers, and vibrant nightlife areas.


For a more budget-friendly option, consider staying in Laureles or Envigado. These neighborhoods offer a variety of mid-range hotels and guesthouses that provide comfortable accommodations at affordable prices. Many of them are situated in charming residential areas, allowing you to experience the local lifestyle while still being within easy reach of Medellin’s main attractions.


Another popular accommodation choice in Medellin is hostels, which cater to backpackers and budget-conscious travelers. The city has a vibrant hostel scene, particularly in El Poblado and Laureles, offering shared dormitories and private rooms. Hostels provide a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers, make new friends, and access communal areas such as lounges and kitchens.


If you prefer a more intimate and personalized experience, consider staying in a guesthouse or a bed and breakfast. These options are often run by locals who provide warm and friendly service, making you feel right at home. Guesthouses and bed and breakfasts can be found in various neighborhoods, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the residents on a more personal level.


One unique accommodation option in Medellin is the “finca.” A finca is a traditional Colombian country house or farm that has been converted into a vacation rental. These properties offer a tranquil escape from the city, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning landscapes. Finca accommodations provide a peaceful retreat where you can relax, unwind, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Colombian countryside.


When choosing your accommodation in Medellin, it’s important to consider factors such as location, amenities, and proximity to the attractions and neighborhoods you wish to explore. Regardless of your choice, you’ll find that Medellin offers a variety of accommodation options that cater to different needs and preferences, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay in this vibrant Colombian city.



Medellin, once infamously known as the “murder capital of the world,” has undergone an extraordinary transformation to become one of the most captivating and vibrant travel destinations today. The city’s rich history, remarkable urban revitalization, and commitment to progress have made it a shining example of resilience and reinvention.


As you explore Medellin, you’ll be struck by the city’s breathtaking landscapes, modern infrastructure, and warm hospitality. From its bustling markets and modern malls to its colorful neighborhoods and vibrant cultural scene, Medellin offers a diverse array of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests.


Medellin’s commitment to safety and security is evident in its increased police presence and community-based programs, providing peace of mind for visitors. While it’s always important to practice caution and be aware of your surroundings, the city has made significant strides in ensuring the well-being of its residents and tourists.


The city’s attractions, from the iconic Plaza Botero and the Museum of Antioquia to the transformed Comuna 13 and the sprawling Parque Arvi, offer a blend of history, art, and nature that will captivate your senses. Immerse yourself in Medellin’s vibrant cultural scene by visiting its museums, attending music festivals, and exploring its charming neighborhoods.


Food lovers will be delighted by Medellin’s gastronomic delights, from traditional Colombian dishes like Bandeja Paisa to international cuisine and delicious street food. Satisfy your taste buds with unique flavors, indulge in locally sourced coffee, and explore the local markets for authentic culinary experiences.


Getting around Medellin is a breeze thanks to its efficient and well-connected transportation system. Whether you choose to take the metro, taxis, or enjoy leisurely walks through the city’s vibrant streets, you’ll find that getting from one attraction to another is convenient and accessible.


When it’s time to rest, Medellin offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s budget and preferences. Luxury hotels, cozy guesthouses, budget-friendly hostels, and traditional fincas provide comfortable and welcoming spaces for you to recharge and relax.


In conclusion, Medellin’s journey from a city plagued by violence to a thriving metropolis is a testament to the resilience and determination of its people. With its remarkable transformation, captivating attractions, cultural richness, and warm hospitality, Medellin invites you to explore, experience, and embrace its vibrant spirit. Discover the magic of Medellin, immerse yourself in its culture, and create lasting memories in this captivating Colombian destination.