Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia right after Bogota, and is located in the center of the country in a state called Antioquia.
Due to the city’s mild altitude, 1500m, the city enjoys a round a year “spring-like” climate of about 60F (17C) nightly, and around 75-80F (25-27C) daily temps. During my time here (Feb-May) days have been mostly overcast with an afternoon shower. Towards the end of my stay it has been raining during most nights as well.
Colombia is a diverse country, and Medellin and its surrounding area can be its own country. The Paisas (as the locals are called) have a unique Spanish accent (thicker than the one from Bogota, but clearer to understand than Caribbean variety).
It’s also a surprisingly organized city (at least by Latin American standards; much better than Lima). The middle-upper class areas all have good security with doormen, the buildings are well built and don’t look like they’re falling apart. The streets and sidewalks are clean, and all the roads are nicely maintained.
The flipside is that it’s a rather bland city (just like the weather), and there’s really not much to see here. A friend recently spend 5 days here, and it was probably 3 days too many. How I managed to live here for 3 months is a puzzle even to me.
The city runs north to south and is sandwiched between two mountain ranges, so it naturally just extends from it’s southern tip near Envigado all the way to Bello (which is another municipality all together).
The city also has a subway (the only one in Colombia, and perhaps the only one in Andean countries?) which naturally runs north to south. It’s clean and efficient.
Avenida Poblado is the main artery running north to south. Avenida Las Vegas runs parallel north to south as well. In the middle part of the city, there’s Calle 33 that runs east and west and connects Centro to Laureles and San Joaquin neighborhoods.
My favorite neighborhoods were Poblado, Laureles and Envigado. The best and most expensive neighborhood is Poblado. It’s the cleanest neighborhood consisting of nice condos, expansive shopping centers, and well dressed citizens.
Laureles, located to the northwest of Poblado is a great choice without all the pretentiousness of Poblado. I went out there a few times, and it had more down to earth bars, and absolutely no foreigners.
Envigado, which is really another city just south of Medellin proper is a great quiet area. This is where I spent the bulk of my time, after moving to my second apartment, and I enjoyed the tranquility of the neighborhood. In the downtown area there’s a park and a bunch of very traditional Colombian bars playing your typical Colombian music including Salsa, Bachata, Vallenato, etc.
– Parque Lleras. Huge concentration of clubs, restaurants and bars in the wealthiest part of town. This is usually the go-to spot.
– Calle 33: Tons of clubs and bars along this street.
– Calle 80: I came here a few times in Laureles to see how to locals party.
– Las Palmas: Nice collection of clubs and restaurants.
– Envigado: Downtown Envigado (near the Parque) has some nice areas including, La Tienda, a very typical Colombian bar w/Salsa music.
– Also be sure to checkout my ramblings about nightlife in my first few weeks of being here.
– Blacksheep Hostel, Poblado. I stayed here for 5 days before moving to an apartment. It has great location and pretty chill hostel. I didn’t like the smoking patio too much though.
– Casa Kiwi Hostel, Poblado. Few blocks away from Blacksheep in the same neighborhood. A good option if it gets too crazy in Blacksheep.
– Pitstop Hostel, Poblado. I heard this is a great hostel with a lot of amenities (Basketball court?), but since I prefer quieter hostels, I shied away from this one.
Typical Prices (as of April 2011, street)
– Bottle of Beer: $1.50
– Bottle of Water: $0.50 – $0.75
– Rent for 1 bedroom (furnished) in Poblado – $900-$1100/mo
– Rent for 1 room (unfurnished) ex-Poblado – $150-300/mo
– Taxi ride from airport: $27.00
– Taxi ride (20 mins): $5.00
– Bus: $0.75
– Metro: $0.75
– Lunch (menu of the day, Colombian): $5.00
– Dinner (Colombian rest): $10.00-12.00
– Gym membership (monthly): $35/mo
– Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: $80/mo
– Cell (unlimited internet): $32/mo
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