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Medellín: the surprise of Colombia

by Sabine
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Languages / Talen

Did you know that Medellín was voted the most innovative city in the world in 2013? And in doing so just briefly beat New York and Tel Aviv? Ask an average Colombian about Medellín and many will tell you how amazing this city is. Not for nothing one of the highlights of Colombia. Discover this highly acclaimed city, which less than 20 years ago was listed as the most dangerous city in the world.

The innovative side of Medellín Colombia

It’s true: Medellín is truly innovative. It just feels weird to be on a subway in Colombia. Which is also cleaner than in Amsterdam. Only here, the subway means so much more: it is a symbol of freedom. Finally after all these years of violence, the government has given this city back to its inhabitants. Partly because of this subway, which makes transportation much faster and cleaner as well as ensuring that the poor population on the mountain can now easily get to the center. Because this subway consists not only of a train, but also of two cable cars up the mountain. For €1 you can go all over town. But the subway is not the only thing. There are also real speed cameras along the road and they really do some maintenance: wonderful driving without potholes in the road. The population is immensely proud of these positive developments, which have significantly improved the quality of life. Which is also justified, as the Medellín government continues to improve the city with a multi-year plan, while the mayor of Bogotá has never heard of any developments.


The green side of Medellín

The beauty of Medellín is that the city is built between and on the mountains. There is not a particularly large amount of greenery in the city, but it is very easy to get into beautiful nature from Medellín. The cable car takes us to Arví Park in 20 minutes. Slowly we see the big city and slums disappear below us and suddenly we are above the clouds. Arriving at the park, we join a walk and enjoy this great piece of nature so close to the city. We buy the most delicious strawberries and board the cable car back to civilization.


The poor side of Medellín

Unfortunately, Medellín also has a dark side. Because there are still many people living a hopeless existence in poverty and dangerous conditions. In the slums on the mountain. Fortunately, the government also thinks a little about this poor population and a large library was built on the mountain in 2007. And can you safely take a tour Comuna 13, once the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellín. Want to go off the beaten path? Then safely explore the Bello Oriente and Carambolas slums.

We were a little apprehensive about walking around there, but we finally ventured to the library. A very beautiful building in which many projects are done for the poor people. We were able to view the rest of the slums safely from the cable car. Which, by the way, is also kind of a weird feeling.


The inside of Medellín

We visit the city center with a free organized walking tour. I have traveled so much but never before had I heard of Real City Tours . Outrageous. Therefore, I would also like to pass this along as a tip, because it was so much fun! And also available in every larger city in the world! With an English-speaking guide and other travelers, we took an informative tour of the city. And the great thing is that the guide tries extra hard to earn as much tips as possible from this 4-hour trip. So a win-win situation.

Our guide told us about the history of the city and the country and took us to interesting places in the downtown area. So we went to Simon Bolívar Park, where many do not go because of all the drug and alcohol addicts who wander around. And visited the chaotic streets where all the fake goods are sold.

It’s a weird idea that all those people lived through the war on drugs. All that violence in the city. Those bombs that exploded. Of which, by the way, reminders can still be seen: the exploded sculpture of the bird, for example. By now, with the help of the government, and a little from artist Fernando Botero, the center has also been considerably refurbished and made safer to walk in.


Hostels and hotels in Medellín

We stayed in Grand Hostel Medellín in the El Poblado neighborhood. El Poblado is a safe neighborhood with many restaurants and close to public transportation. The hostel was lovely with a nice big room over a little garden. There is a kitchen at your disposal and the owner helped us well with exploring the city. We were actually going to stay 4 nights, but we ended up adding 2 more nights, that’s how nice it was! And there are many other good hotels and hostels in Medellín:


Safety Medellín

Like any major city in Colombia, Medellín is far from safe everywhere. Indeed, with increasing (drug) tourism, nasty things still happen that you don’t want to experience. Read up carefully (e.g. here) and listen to locals rather than tourists who haven’t had anything happen to them and don’t know the city well. Dangerous things also happen in the safe neighborhood of El Poblado, especially at night. Stay away from drugs if you don’t want trouble, don’t just stop cabs (especially at night) and walking the streets drunk is asking for trouble. Increased tourism is again creating new problems, and although Medellín is much safer than it was years ago, there are still many problems.

Medellín: a surprising city

Medellín is surprisingly fun. A city in the Andes that feels more European than Colombian. With beautifully maintained roads, beautiful green mountains, many shopping centers AND one of the best hospitals in Colombia. Medellín continues to develop at lightning speed. Whether I could live there I do not know, but it is certainly a very nice city to visit!


Want to take a day trip during your stay in Medellín? Then visit the beautiful El Peñol and Guatapé, or go back in time in Santafe de Antioquia.


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