After far too much lock down and not nearly enough overseas travel, it’s the perfect time to explore again.
One of our favorite places in South America was the infamous Medellin – a beautiful city still tarred by its association with Pablo Escobar and the muderous days of the past.
Whilst there are certainly dodgy areas in Medellin, we only visited those areas during guided tours and stayed in lovely, central locations that are safe, walkable and have all the modern amenities you could want: restaurants, supermarkets, bars & coffee shops (including super Starbucks stores if you need an office away from home).
The Best Area to Stay in Medellin
El Poblado is by far the most popular neighborhood to stay in Medellin. Expats and tourists are drawn to the area because of the high-quality accommodation, plentiful restaurants and bars and exciting nightlife. Poblado is the #1 area to stay in Medellin for first timers.
Medellin has a unique way of ranking properties on a socioeconomic scale from 1 – 6 known as “estratos” with 6 being the highest. The main thing you really need to know is 93 percent of the homes in El Poblado are classified as estrato 5 or 6.
This mains these properties are the most expensive in town which generally means the area is one of the safest for first times visitors to Medellin. Each estratos is made up of barrios (neighborhoods).
The best hotels in Medellin are located in El Poblado and Rionegro which is near Medellin Airport. Rionegro is a nice area if you’re looking for rest and relaxation but it is far from the action.
Medellin areas not accessible by foot can easily be reached by metro. One of the interesting things we learned on a walking tour in Medellin was that locals take huge pride in their modern Metro network. After the fall of Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror in Medellin, the newly opened Metro gave locals something to be proud of. To this day you won’t see teens vandalizing the trains like in almost every other city of the world.
The upshoot is that first time tourists to Medellin can us the metro without any fear.
The Best Places to Stay in Medellin
Best Luxury Hotels in Medellin
Novotel Medellin El Tesero | Medellin Marriott Hotel
Best Boutique Hotels in Medellin
Celestino Boutique Hotel | The Click Clack Hotel
Best Mid-Range Hotels in Medellin
Four Points Sheraton Medellin | Hotel Porton Medellin
Best Cheap Hotels in Medellin
Best Neighborhood in Medellin for Sightseeing: La Candelaria
In this area you’ll find many of Medellin’s most interesting attractions. In Plaza Botero you will find rotund sculptures from the artist by the same name. His sculptures can be seen all over the world: we even found one on our Norwegian cruise to Chile! In this area of downtown Medellin you can find Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria, the impressive Palace of Culture, Parque de Las Luces and much more. In this neighborhood you’ll find the highest concentration of attractions in Medellin.
Best Neighborhood in Medellin for food and restaurants: El Poblado
On almost every street in trendy Poblado you will find upscale restaurants serving fine Colombian and international food. Of a morning there is no shortage of hipster cafes to get your coffee fix – Colombia is of course known for exceptional coffee. El Poblado has everything you need as a tourist: supermarkets, nearby transportation and plenty of bars. On the other hand, the area is particularly hilly so it’s not the most walkable neighborhood in town. Ubers in Medellin are very affordable, so it never worried us at all.
Best Neighborhood in Medellin for nightlife: Parque Lleras
Parque Lleras is the area in Medellin with by way the most nightlife. The area contains a high concentration of bars, clubs and discos for every party-goer; locals and foreigners all flock to the area. Some of the most popular include Envy Rooftop Bar, Babylon and Sixxtina Discoteca. You can create your own DIY bar-hopping itinerary by heading to Parque Lleras and seeing where the night takes you.
Best Neighborhood in Medellin for a local vibe: Laureles-Estadio
Get a better feel for local life by staying in this region between El Poblado and the Medellin city centre.
One of the really nice aspects about this neighborhood are the tree-lined streets. It’s a really family-friendly neighborhood where you will often see families strolling about and kids playing on the street of an evening. The area has wide, flat streets which make cycling a breeze. You’ll find plenty of bicycle pick up-drop off stations all over the neighborhood from the city’s bike share program.
While the award for the best nightlife in Medellin belongs to Parque Lleras in Poblado, Laureles puts up a fight for the silver medal. Visit “La Setenta” or 70 street which is filled with sweaty salsa bars and traditional clubs which you can party the night away in. Son Havana is one of the most famous salsa clubs in Medellin.
After dancing the night away you can recuperate the next morning with exceptional coffee from one of the millions of trendy cafes in the area. The baristas take their coffee seriously serving up some of the best lattes in Colombia.
Unsafe Areas of Medellin
El Centro has the highest reported rate of crime in Medellin. It also happens to be one place where you really want to visit because it has some of Medellin’s most important buildings, museums and attractions.
The go here is to visit during day time. Keep your wits about you. Don’t flash any valuables. Depart by sunset. Don’t walk around at night time by yourself.
The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Medellin for Tourists
1. El Poblado, Poblado
This region is the best neighborhood in Medellin for first timers. You
- Best Hotel Cafe Hotel by Lars
- Best cheap/mid-range hotels: Hotel Dix | Hotel Lleras Express
- Best Hostels/Backpackers: Los Patios Hostel | Garden of Blues Hostel | Hostal Andante
Lots of trees, family-friendly, close to downtown Medellin but nice and quiet. Also far less expensive than El Poblado.
- Best Hotel Factory Lofts
- Best cheap/mid-range hotels: Obo Hotel | Terra BioHotel | Hotel Med 70
Experience more of what it’s like to be a Colombian living in Medellin by staying in this friendly neighborhood. This area is a good place to practice your Spanish phrases because there are fewer tourists here. It’s a great place for nature lovers because you can hike to a waterfall located in Parque El Salado.
- Best Hotel: Arame-Hotel
- Best cheap/mid-range hotels & apartments: La Esencia
4. La Candelaria, El Centro
Staying in the heart of the city, nearby all the important attractions is never a bad idea. This is the perfect place to base yourself to see all the museums, palaces and artwork in the center of Medellin
- Best Hotel: Hotel Parque del Rio
- Best cheap/mid-range hotels: Hotel 47 Medellin Street | Hotel Gallery
Fancy escaping the hustle and bustle for some true rest and relaxation? Technically this isn’t quite Medellin anymore and you can tell because the region is filled with luxurious spa resorts where you can pamper yourself. Near the airport and still only 30 minutes from Medellin – you won’t miss out on anything by staying out here.
- Best Hotel: Movich Hotel Las Lomas
- Best glamping/mid-range hotels: Travelers Rio Verde | Glamping LLanogrande
A fast-growing barrios in Medellin which is becoming popular with tourists and particularly expats. Located across the river from El Poblado, the area is cheaper and offers great value for money. The area can still become lively at nighttime as the area occasionally hosts music festivals. You will find lots of high-quality malls to go shopping.
- Cheap Hotel: Zona Verde Hotel | Ayenda Belen Plaza