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Destination Colombia

Medellín Inside and Out

There is history, energy, and art hidden around every corner in Medellín. The city’s layout, its love of all things local, and the friendly people of Antioquia have made this city –where you’re welcomed with a cup of coffee and an “arepita”– an open-air cultural center. Here, your bandeja paisa (local specialty dish of rice, beans, ground beef, a fried egg, and more!) comes with tango music and the urban chaos is softened by multi-colored gardens. After years of darkness, the sun shines once more on Medellín and the city is bursting with places to discover. The following is just one person’s shortlist; there are hundreds of other places worth visiting. And, between outings, “another little shot of aguardiente” is always welcome.

By Julia Henríquez
Photos: Demian Colman

Palacio de la Cultura: An architectural jewel, museum, and exhibition center, this cultural center serving Medellín and the Antioquia region in general is the perfect setting for artistic endeavors of all kinds.

Museo Casa de la Memoria: This museum opened its doors in 2006 as an exercise in collective memory at a time when the violence was still very fresh in the minds of a people seeking a peaceful future and reparation for victims.

Museo de Antioquia: Featuring a wide variety of thematic exhibitions and a permanent collection with over 5,000 works representing the history of Antioquian art, from its origins up to the work of Medellín’s world-famous sculptor and painter, Fernando Botero.

Plaza Botero: In front of the Museo de Antioquia, this outdoor exhibit of more than twenty of Fernando Botero’s monumental sculptures is open to the public. It attracts tourists from every corner of the globe who delight in posing in front of the famous “fat” figures.

Parque de los Deseos: Visited by hundreds of people searching for relief from the hot sun that shines down on the city day after day, the park is an ideal outing for small children who enjoy the water park attractions, fun atmosphere, and cool refreshment. On certain days, the walls of the planetarium become a huge screen and family-oriented films are screened from the Casa de la Música.

Parque de la Luz: The sun sets over Medellín, but time refuses to stand still. Downtown is alive with color, especially in this park where light jumps to life.

Jardín Botánico: No city where culture and greenery reign supreme could be without a place dedicated to the many species we’ve spent so many years destroying in order to “plant” cement. Here, city dwellers and tourists find the perfect spot to celebrate a birthday, take pictures, lie in the shade of a tree, or just enjoy nature.

Parque de los Pies Descalzos: Podiatry, meditation, and spa treatments come together in this park that is open to everyone. This is just one of the hundreds of squares in the city, but it has a unique guiding philosophy and goal: relaxed people are peaceful people.

Zona Rosa: If you’re looking for nightlife, this is the place. Around this square there are bars, restaurants, and discos, perfect for a pub crawl, or you can choose the atmosphere you like best and stay put!

Parque Arví: The perfect escape from the cement and urban hustle. Miles of greenery provide the setting for a day in the country, a walk, a picnic, or even a campout to break up your daily routine.

Parque Explora: Children and adults alike enjoy over 236,000 square feet of science and technology, exploring and learning about diverse and fascinating subjects.

Planetarium: The ideal place for budding scientists. There are rooms in which to explore and experiment and a gigantic dome for screening documentaries that will widen your eyes and expand your mind.

Cerro Nutibara and Pueblito Paisa: This open-air museum is also a lookout point and a cultural and gastronomical center that cannot be summed up in a single word. A great family outing for discovering the history, culture, and food of Medellín from above.

Puente Guayaquil: This 1878 architectural treasure continues to grace the Medellín River, watching time flow along under its arches.

Ciudad Verde: All over the city there are delightful places such as Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Libertad, or the Pantalla de Agua water screen, inviting visitors to stop for a rest to enjoy the fresh air, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the greenery that thrives in the warm “Paisa” sunshine.

La Paloma: A bomb exploded here, leaving behind an unforgettable wound in Colombian society. Today, the victims of the horrifying event are remembered in a dove sculpture that was destroyed in the explosion, which displays its injuries next to an unscathed, healthy sister, evoking the power of recovery and progress of an entire nation. Five years after the attack, Botero renamed the maimed sculpture “Violence” and made a new gift of the other, called “Peace.”

Architecture: Walking around Medellín, you won’t want to miss a thing, as the city’s streets, parks, and general organization all leave visitors amazed and wanting more. Those who walk and observe carefully will reap the greatest rewards as they pass buildings like Coltejer, the Metropolitan Basilica, the train station, and the National Palace.

Tango Music: Not to be overlooked when speaking of Medellín and its people. Tango music made its way into the city to stay, burrowing deep into the unique identity of the Paisa people and leaving lasting marks all over the city; there are bars, restaurants, and the fateful memory of the tango star who never left, Carlos Gardel. Gardel came and never got away, leaving behind his memory and a love of tango music.