“It was only by chance that we included Medellin in our Colombian itinerary. We did so because the cheapest way to get between Panama City and Bogota was via Medellin, flying in economy class with VivaColombia.
Elsewhere in Colombia, several people told us that Medellin's people are much harder-working, more civilized, and more organized than the average in Colombia.
Medellin’s surprising level development suggested to us that there is some truth in this, or at least made the opinion understandable. We did not choose a hotel in the city center but in the hip El Poblado district. This proved to be a good decision because we could walk and explore there in greater safety in the evenings. The El Poblado district is very, modern, beautiful, tasteful, affluent, compact, and elegant. The shopping malls are spectacular.
It is an advantage to be within walking distance of the Zona Rosa, which is also known for its nightlife and perfectly safe. Late at night, we walked the streets in a feeling of complete security.
On Saturday nights, the Zona Rosa is full of life and music. We had a very, very good time, and there was a vast range of places to eat. The better ones are not cheap.
Botero, the world-famous painter, and sculptor was born in Medellin, and it was a great experience to see the Botero Museum (not its official name) and the statues in the square in front of it.” (K. J., 2015)
“We did an Escobar tour in Medellin, which many people dislike, and I understand why. There are a lot of unqualified Escobar tours where they make things up and show things that have no relevance to true events. We were lucky. We got a phone number from a local for a four-hour tour. It was very informative. It was not just about Escobar and that period, but about the whole of Colombia. He presented what happened realistically, and we received a lot more information than you can get from the movies and books.
Anyway, Colombians don't handle this issue very well. They hate it so much that they’d rather pretend it never happened, though I think it’s worth learning about what happened not so long ago.
“In Medellin, drug gangs were at war for a couple of decades, but now it’s full of bars, discos, hotels, and hostels, and you can even walk the streets after dark.
Medellin is the wealthiest city in Colombia, and possibly in all South America, though it was once infamous for the drug cartel led by Pablo Escobar.
In the 80s, Medellin was known as the most dangerous city for continual drug and gang conflicts. Fortunately, this is now a thing of the past, and this city of two million in gorgeous mountain surroundings is once again a safe tourist destination.
After the capital, we also wanted to get to know the Colombian countryside, so we planned to take a bus for the 400-kilometer journey from Bogota to Medellin. In the end, we changed our minds: the journey would have taken eight to ten hours, and for the same price as the bus ticket (about $30) we could get there with the local low-cost airline, VivaColombia, in just one hour.
The main tourist attraction in Medellin is not the city center, but the El Poblado district. This is where the hotels are, and it’s the safest area, where you can take a leisurely stroll even after dark. Bars and discos, hotels and hostels intersect. The district is surrounded by rich neighborhoods with many 20- and 30-story luxury residential towers. The city can no longer expand along the valley, so there are more skyscrapers here than I have ever seen anywhere else.
We ventured downtown aboard the pride and joy of Medellin, the super-rapid subway. Not a single line has been opened in the capital, Bogota, for decades, and residents of the second-largest city are happy to mock the capital’s residents for this. By the way, Medellin was not – or not only – enriched thanks to the cocaine trade: it has been one of the continent’s largest industrial centers for centuries.
You can live here at a very high level through decent work – an office worker can earn a monthly salary of $1600, while someone with several years of experience and language skills can easily make double this. Contrary to stereotypes, work is taken seriously: they compete in the morning over who gets into the office first, and nine- or ten-hour working days are normal. There is not much leave, just 15 days a year, although there are a few more national holidays than at home.
The center of Medellin is not really impressive, but it is interesting. On the most important square, you can admire the statues of Botero - this native of the city moved to Mexico due to the poor public safety situation at the time. The pictures of the cultural palace rising in the square are a good illustration of the development of the city and how many places immigrants have come here from.” (2016)