My wife and I lived in Medellín, Colombia, for 3 years. One of the best things about the city is its array of public parks.
Here are eight of those parks you must visit when you travel to Medellín, The City Of Eternal Springtime. I selected the public parks based on accessibility, interest, nearby attractions, and cultural considerations.
1. Parque Arví
This park is at the top end of the cable car ride from the Acevedo Metro station. Stepping off the cable car into the natural beauty of Parque Arví, the stunning floral displays, lush vegetation along nearly 15 miles of winding trails, and the various offerings at the park, such as arts and crafts booths, numerous dining options, and guided tours through Colombian geological and cultural history, are not to be missed. At 9,000 feet above sea level in this Andean refuge, it’s hard to imagine that a few miles down the mountain is a bustling city of 3.5 million souls.
Pro Tip: Leave the Metro at Acevedo and go upstairs. The Line K cable cars board and depart from the upper floor of Acevedo station. Guides assist you while boarding. You must leave Line K at Santo Domingo, halfway up. Then board Line L to continue up to Parque Arví. The best time to ride is mid-morning. Pack a light sweater, it can be chilly at Arví. It’s moderate to strenuous if you plan to hike. Note that Parque Arví’s hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s closed Mondays.
2. Las Escaleras, The Outdoor Escalators
Built to help people living in the hillside barrio to get to and from work, the escalators are a major tourist attraction. In Comuna 13 (Commune 13), they’re the envy of other hillside comunas. The escalators also represent the amazing rebirth of Medellín. Thirty years ago, Comuna 13 was the most dangerous neighborhood of the most dangerous city on Earth. Today its residents celebrate life every day, safely welcoming visitors from around the world to show off their arts, crafts, and stunning wall paintings, entertaining all who wander through their vibrant and colorful comuna.
- If you don’t speak Spanish, simply tell the taxi driver, Vamos a Las Escaleras electricas, por favor.
- As of now, there’s no charge at the escalators.
- Vendors sell street food and arts and crafts, and music is a constant presence. A graffiti tour originates at the escalator site, and is worth taking.
- Getting to and from your taxi dropoff point the terrain is steep, so it’s moderately strenuous for a block or two.
- Best time to go: mid-morning.
3. Parque De Los Deseos And Parque Explora
Colombianos refer to Parque de Los Deseos as Medellín’s front yard. With a planetarium, an aquarium, and a concert venue, on any given Saturday evening, it’s easy to see why. Kids run with colorful streamers, vendors sell snacks, and there’s a free concert every weekend. The venue hosts the Medellín Symphony at times, and also its counterpart, the Medellín Symphony’s Youth Orchestra.
Parque Explora, on the grounds, is a place to go for interactive science exhibits, the aquarium, video courses on a variety of subjects (most with English subtitles), and many dining options within both the science hall and the aquarium.
- Weekend concerts are free, so they’re always busy. Arrive early, and take a cushion.
- Parque Explora is adjacent to the Universidad Metro stop. There are many dining options close by, and lots of street food. Best time to visit: Saturday evenings.
- The planetarium is adjacent to the music venue. Leave the Metro at Universidad station.
- Parque Explora hours vary. It’s closed Mondays, and Tuesdays following holidays.
4. Jardín Botanico De Medallín
Medellín’s Botanical Garden is a 14-hectare (35-acre) oasis of calm serenity and lush surroundings adjacent to Parque Explora. With more than 4,500 flowers and 140 bird species in a lush arboreal setting, this is Medellin’s backyard.
Elevated pathways wind through dense forest. Exotic birds fly by overhead. People play chess at public tables, and photographers happily snap away at resident iguanas, which are happy to pose for pictures. Restaurante in Situ, inside the garden, is one of the finer dining places in Medellin. Several shops inside the grounds offer souvenirs, T-shirts, postcards, and photographic collections. Every year, the Botanical Garden’s floral display brings flower vendors from all around Medellin.
- The botanical garden is free to the public, and often quite crowded on weekends. Best time to visit is early on weekdays.
- Take the Metro to Universidad station, and the garden is a 3-minute walk.
- The park is open 8:30 to 3:30 and closed Mondays.
5. Primero And Segundo Parques Laureles
Primary and Secondary parks in Laureles — a popular suburb of Medellín named for its stately laurel trees — are a great place to get a taste of what life is like in this bustling, temperate city of 3.5 million. A 10-minute walk apart, Laureles’ Primer and Segundo parques are both surrounded by fine restaurants, free-to-use bicycles as part of the Metro transit system, and always free Wi-Fi. Segundo Parque was our favorite place to buy fresh-off-the-farm fruits and vegetables at the weekly farmer’s market, and fresh flowers every day. These two parks are a great place to sit and relax, read, and people-watch.
- For the caffeine deprived, there’s a Starbucks adjacent to Segundo Parque.
- In both parks, street performers demonstrate their acrobatic skills for tips.
6. Parque Inflexión
“Inflection” means shifting our view of something. Inflection park was built to shift the perspective of the violent years in Colombia’s history away from the perpetrators and toward its victims. That inflection received a major boost on February 22, 2019. At 10 a.m. that Friday morning, The Monaco, a mansion belonging to Colombia’s biggest drug dealer, turned to rubble from high explosives placed in it by the city of Medellín. The controlled and highly publicized demolition cleared the grounds for construction of Parque Inflexión.
Built atop the site of the demolished home, Parque Inflexión repurposed the destroyed building’s crushed rock to form a protective wall around those to whom the park is dedicated. Granite steles placed around the grounds have quotes from prominent anti-trafficking citizens, some of whom paid for their efforts with their lives. There are 43,000 punctures in the park’s black granite wall, each hole representing a victim of the violence. Families place flowers in every hole. The wall’s inscription reads Somos lo que dejamos a los demas. “We are what we leave behind.”
- Best time to visit is at night when the granite wall is backlit. The effect is mesmerizing and moving.
- People in Medellín do not wish to revisit the awful years of drug-fueled violence. Avoid taking drug lord tours. “That man’s” name is not used in Medellin, nor do I use it here.
7. Plaza Botero
Named for native son of Medellín Fernando Botero, this public space has several of the sculptor’s most recognizable works, and a museum with more of them. Señor Botero, who now lives in Italy, donated some of his sculptures to the city in 2004. Located in downtown Medellín, near a section of shops and vending booths called The Carabobo, Plaza Botero is always alive with street vendors, acrobats, street food carts, and the din of the city.
8. Parque De Los Pies Descalzos
In Spanish, los pies descalzos means “barefoot.” Barefoot park is a fun place to take kids of any age, remove shoes, relax, and wade in the fountain-driven pools. It’s one of the most visited parks in Medellín, not just for recreational offerings, but for several nearby attractions. EPM, Colombia’s largest power provider, maintains the parks and various public spaces surrounding its headquarters overlooking Barefoot Park. Nearby are Medellín’s symphony hall and the water museum, with a fascinating look at Colombia’s pursuit of renewable energy.
Barefoot Park isn’t just the water feature. The closeby Zen Garden and bamboo grove promote the theme of three elements: air, earth, and water. The children’s play area is safe for barefoot walking, and several picnic tables are available. The water in the Barefoot Park pool is chlorinated and changed daily. Barefoot Park is yet another public area dedicated to the renewal of Medellín following the drug trafficking years.
From the park it’s an easy walk — with or without shoes — to the convention center, Plaza Mayor. Every year, the center hosts ExpoArtesano, a grand display of artisanal wares of craftspeople from all over Colombia.
- The best time to go is mid to late afternoon (when the weather is warmest) and following a long day of visiting other parks and sites.
- The park is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and closed on Monday.
General Medellín Advice
- The best time to visit Medellín is between December and March.
- Medellin International airport is a 3-hour flight from Miami.
- No Spanish? No hay problema; many signs and menus have English, and people are happy to help, and to practice their English with you.
- The best places to stay are Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado.
- As of this writing, the Colombian peso trades at 0.25 USD to 1,000 COP. So 10,000 pesos is 2.50 USD.