Looking to explore Medellin, Colombia, like a local? Epicure & Culture caught up with Pablo Alvarez-Correa, founder of Real City Tours S.A.S, to get his take on how to get to know the city beyond the typical tourist sites.
1. For a lesser-known cultural attraction, visit the SiCLeadas, Medellin’s Critical Mass. It happens every Wednesday evening, and is organized by Colectivo Siclas, who set amazing routes to take your bike — they can also lend you a bicycle — and hit the road together with other 8,000 people.
2. One experience not to miss is the football games. This city loves football, and the football games gather the whole spectrum of our society: poor, rich, young, old…all types of city-dwellers will be seen at a football game. Regardless of which team is playing, you must go!
3. For a true taste of Medellin, don’t miss Sancocho de Bagre (fish soup) at La Esquina de la Ricura in Minorista Market (Calle 55), a delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurant. If you prefer a higher end restaurant offering a more diverse, yet incredible authentic and well prepared cuisine, then you should go to Queareparaenamorarte (Partida EL Retiro, Las Palmas) — yes, it’s a long name, but the food is amazing. Or simply try our most typical dish: Bandeja Paisa at Hacienda (Carrera 49 #52-98)
4. For a truly local travel souvenir, Caballo de Troya (Via Las Palmas Kilometer 16) is a souvenir shop that looks more like a Museum rather than a shop, there you’ll find extremely high quality handcrafts from all regions of Colombia. Plus the have very high standards of responsible production and manufacturing.
5. Take in a spectacular view at “Mirador de Las Palmas.” Las Palmas is the road that connects Medellin with the airport, and it climbs up the mountain. On that road there are three different viewpoints of the city. All of them are nice — particularly the last one offers a great view. It’s even better in the evening when there are people selling grilled meats, sausages and other eats.
The view from the Cable Car (either Santo Domingo or La Aurora) is quite stunning, too.
6. One overrated attraction in Medellin is Pueblito Paisa. Instead, you should spend some time at Parque de Bolivar, have a “tinto” (black coffee) and let the time pass doing some people watching. Or wonder around the alleys of those wonderful markets you’ll find in the city, such as La Minorista (Calle 55A #57-80), where you can amaze your senses taking the Exotic Fruits Tour.
7. A local celebrity every visitor should meet is “La Reina” (the queen) from Parque de San Antonio. Her real name is Blanca, and she keeps the park clean and she is constantly looking after all its visitors. Another is “El Fuicioso,” a young man who works around the stadium area and lately became an online star for his deep love of his football team and his funny answers in interviews. There are memes about him, James Rodriguez, our football-star, is imitating him, and there is even a song about him.
8. Want to get tipsy like a local? For the older folks, go to Salon Malaga (carrera 51 # 45-80) and enjoy some drinks surrounded by thousands of old pictures and old jukeboxes. Younger people will enjoy Parque del Poblado in the Poblado area or El Guanabano (Girardot and Maracaibo) in Parque del Periodista. You might like to start ordering a “media de guaro,” a small bottle of Colombia‘s most beloved spirit: Aguardiente.
9. To experience the local music scene, on Tuesdays the Eslabon Bar (Calle 53 #42-55) hosts live salsa bands; on Fridays there is a party inside of one of our local breweries, 3 Cordilleras (Calle 30 #44 – 176); and every day of the week in the late afternoon at the Parque de Berrio there are folk musicians playing at the square.
10. For a nature experience in Medellin, take the cable car to the Arvi Park and in less than 40 minutes you’ll have access to a great natural park where you can spend some time in the wilderness. You can even you can trek some Pre-Hispanic roads.
11. If Pablo had one free day in Medellin, he would: I would love to take my road-bike and climb up the Las Palmas road. Or just wander around the city center with a camera finding all those anonymous heroes who work so hard day after day to make a living and to build this city.
Have you visited Medellin, Colombia? What were your favorite experiences? Please share in the comments below.
About The Author
Pablo Alvarez-Correa is the founder, director and guide of Real City Tours S.A.S, the leading company of walking tours in Medellin. In two years of operation they have guided more than 17,000 tourists through the city, and have much experience suggesting great local things to do in Medellin, Colombia.
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