Medellín, Colombia is a huge, busy city that increasingly draws tourists coming to explore the jungles or beaches of Colombia. We found this city took time to explore and discover. Here are our best family travel tips as well as where to eat and fun things to do in Medellín with kids.
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Where is Medellín?
Medellín is the capital of the Antioquia department in Colombia. It is located in a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America, about 8 hours by car northwest of Bogata. Medellin is the second-largest city in Colombia, with a population of over 2.5 million people. There are more than 2 million vehicles on the road, including over 1 million motorbikes.
Called the “city of eternal spring”, Medellin is in bloom year-round. It also rains a lot, so be prepared for sudden thunderstorms.
Is Medellín Safe to Visit with Kids?
Yes, Medellín is safe to visit with kids. The city has come a long way from its days as a dangerous destination. It has cleaned up its act and Medellín is now much safer than many US cities like Chicago, Baltimore, or Detroit.
During our visit, we stayed in two different neighborhoods and felt safe in both of them. We walked around in the evenings on our way to and from dinner, and never felt uncomfortable- there were always lots of people out and about in both neighborhoods.
Things to Do in Medellín with Kids
There are plenty of things to do in Medellín with kids, though they tend to be spread across different neighborhoods. From zoos and museums to parks and playgrounds, there’s no shortage of activities for the whole family to do in this vibrant city. Medellín is also a great place to learn about Colombian culture and history.
A Note on Walking Tours
Before we got to Medellin, we read several blog posts about the very popular Real City Free Walking Tour. However, when we went to book the tour, we realized that it states “Tours are 100% in English and not suitable for children”.
It doesn’t specify what age range is acceptable, but we were pretty sure our four-year-old wasn’t going to qualify. Also- this tour is 3 ½ hours long, which can test the patience of many adults.
Real City also has other tours worth considering, including the most popular exotic fruits tour. Be advised that this tour books up well ahead of time, so you’ll need to sign up in advance. When we checked it out, tours were sold out for all of our possible dates.
We looked for an alternative city tour, as this seemed like a great way to get all of us introduced to Medellín and oriented within the city. We ended up booking a half-day tour via WithLocals. I booked it too late the evening before (hot tip: make sure tours that you book online less than 24 hours in advance are confirmed by an actual person!).
When our guide didn’t show up we ended up exploring the Centro on our own, then returned the next day for the rescheduled guided tour, which was a disappointment.
Explore the Centro
There are several key places to visit in the Centro area. This is a busy, packed area, where most locals don’t spend much time.
To get to the Centro, take the Metro either to the major transit station of San Antonio, where the metro lines come together, and walk to Parque Berrio, or head one more station north to exit the metro at Parque Berrio.
When you exit the Parque Berrio station, you’ll see the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria across the square, with the iconic sewing needle building poking into the skyline just beyond.
Officially called the Coltejer Building, it is Medellín’s most recognizable building. It is supposed to look like a sewing machine needle, and once housed a large sewing factory. While there is still a sewing industry in Medellín, much of the work has been moved to Southeast Asia.
Palace of Culture Rafael Uribe Uribe
From Parque Berrio, head north of Carrera 50, then turn left on Calle 52. You’ll see the distinctive striped facade of the Palace of Culture.
The building’s construction was started in 1925, then paused, and finally finished in 1966. You’ll notice that the side of the building facing Plaza Botero does not have the same characteristic striped pattern as the rest of the structure.
Continue past the Palace of Culture and you’ll find Plaza Botero, one of the best areas in the Centro to explore. This large plaza is home to many sculptures by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Kids will love exploring the different shapes and sizes of these robust statues, and there’s plenty of room to run around.
Antioquia Art Museum
To learn more about Botero and other Latin American artists, head to the Antioquia Art Museum, on the West side of the plaza. Kids will enjoy seeing how Botero’s style translates into paintings, as well as a series of other modern works.
Open 10 – 5:30 pm, closed Sundays. Costs 21K pesos per person, kids are half price.
Parque de Bolivar
To find Parque de Bolivar, head east to Carerra 49, a long pedestrian walkway that ends at Parque de Bolivar.
This large park is home to a bustling market where you can buy everything from fruits and vegetables to traditional handicrafts. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and cafes around the park.
This is a great place to try some local sweets- we saw a cart selling Gelatine de Pata, a local specialty, and it was delicious! You’ll see a woman hand-stretching a sugary/taffy-like treat. They scoop some off, roll it in leche powder and crushed peanuts, and put it in a cup. If you see it, give it a try!
La Catedral Metropolitana de Medellín
At the north end of the Parque Bolivar, sits La Catedral Metropolitana de Medellín. Make sure to step inside, it’s a beautiful cathedral with a high ceiling and narrow brick arches.
Take a Cable Car Ride
Medellín is famous for its public transportation system, which includes a network of cable cars that connect different neighborhoods. Cable cars were designed to link various parts of the city that were once difficult to move between because of the hilly terrain and lack of infrastructure. However, they are also a popular tourist attraction, and they offer a unique way to see the city.
You will see the cable cars included on the Medellín Metro map. Your Civica card works on the cable cars the same way it does for the metro.
We recommend taking the J line from San Javier Station all the way to the top of the hill. You will pass over neighborhoods that were built on the Communa 7 hillside with no roads, no water, or electricity. Sets of stairs built into the hillside were the only way to access these communities.
The government has been working on getting services to these communities, including installing the cable car lines. Along with the cable cars, you will find services like libraries and sports fields at the base of each station.
After you exit the cable car at the last station, head to the right and slightly downhill for a great viewpoint over Communa 7.
As an alternative, take the L line cable car from Santa Domingo station to Parque Arvi.
Communa 13 Graffiti Tour
Communa 13 was once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in all of the Americas. We debated about whether to do a tour but had heard many people say it was one of the highlights of their visit to Medellin.
We decided to do a private tour, which allowed us to tailor the discussion of the violence to a level that was appropriate for our kids.
Don’t skip this tour! The neighborhood is now full of color and energy. It is packed with meaningful murals (authorized graffiti) as well as street performers. Taking the tour allowed us to learn about the history of the city, have the artwork explained, and not miss any of the best sights.
Our kids’ favorite part of the tour was stopping at a slide built to memorialize a five-year-old lost to the violence. His family decided the best way to remember him was by inspiring joy in others. It was a moving experience for all of us, and if we’ve visited on our own, we may well have missed it.
We took a tour with Medellin Day Trips that combined a cable car ride, a graffiti tour of Communa 13, and an exotic fruits tour. Our tour guide was fantastic, we actually stayed in touch with her after the tour.
Check Prices: Communa 13 and Exotic Fruits Tour
Exotic Fruits Tour
We did a wonderful exotic fruits tour as part of the combined tour above. We were able to taste over 15 fruits we had never tried- including granadilla, mamey, golden berries, and more! It’s been really fun since the tour to encounter some of the fruits in juices, jams, and ice creams as we travel around South America.
We highly recommend the tour above with Medellín Day Trips. As an alternative, the Real City Tours Exotic Fruits Tour gets great reviews. It books up well in advance and wasn’t available at a time that worked for us.
Check Prices: Communa 13 and Exotic Fruits Tour
The Medellin Botanic Garden is free to enter and makes for a pleasant afternoon observing the plants and animals. The highlight of the garden for us was the butterfly pavilion. While admission to the gardens is free, you’ll need to buy a ticket for this pavilion, at 5K pesos a person.
Tickets are sold by the employee with the snack cart just before you leave the main path for the butterfly dome. Tickets are timed, and each entry lasts twenty minutes. Once inside the pavilion, you’ll have a guided tour (in Spanish) that tells you about the different species, and they may even hand you a butterfly to hold!
We saw several turtles and ducks around the garden, as well as a lot of very brave iguanas. Picnicking is popular in the garden, and we saw at least one picnic interrupted by a large and hungry iguana.
To get to the Botanic Garden, take the metro to the Universidad stop on Line A. When you exit the train, you’ll first see Parque Explora and the large dinosaurs next to it. Head across the street (away from the observatory) to find the round entrance to the Botanic Garden. Opens daily at 9 am.
Parque Explora is a series of hands-on activities for kids based on the five senses. This is a great place to spend a rainy day as the exhibits are extensive, and it’s all indoors. Plan to spend several hours here!
This hands-on science museum that also includes an aquarium is located at the same metro stop (Universidad) as the Botanic Garden. You will see the bright red buildings easily from the train platform. Tickets are 32K per person or 116K for a family of four.
Visiting Parque Arvi with kids is a great way to spend a day in Medellin. The park is located just outside the city, and it’s easy to get there on public transportation. From the Santo Domingo metro stop, take the L cable car to the park.
Once you arrive, there are plenty of things to keep the family entertained. As you exit the cable car, you’ll see the Parque Arvi Market- with everything from snacks to souvenirs. There are picnic areas and hiking trails- you can also rent a bike to explore the park.
The park is free to enter but usually closed on Mondays.
Enjoy a Soccer Game
Futbol is huge in Medellin, with two teams that divide the city’s loyalties, Atletico National (AN) and Independiente Medellín (DIM). When there is a game in town, you’ll see tons of people on the street wearing team jerseys, as well as the bars and restaurants all decked in red and blue or green and white.
This is a great place to either take in a game in person or settle in to watch one on the streets of Medellin with the locals. The energy is infectious!
Visit a Castle
Looking for something different to do in Medellin? How about visiting a castle? El Castillo was built in 1930, its gothic architecture inspired by the Loire Valley in France. Inside Museum El Castillo you’ll find rooms set with antique furniture, dishes, and porcelains. There are also extensive gardens around the castle.
Tickets can be bought on-site, though you must take a guided tour. Admission is 15K for adults, and 10K for children. Located at Calle 9 Sur 32-269 Loma Los Balsos, El Poblado
Where Should Families Stay in Medellín?
Two neighborhoods come highly recommended for families staying in Medellín- Laurales and El Poblano are both lively, safe places to stay with kids.
Where to Stay, Barrio Laureles: Hotel Dorado La 70. This hotel is on a very busy, loud street, packed with cheap restaurants and bars. However, it is very close to the Estadio metro station, which makes it easy to get to the center or other parts of the city.
The room we stayed in was comfortable with a nice large bathroom. We had an interior room, which meant no natural light, and no way to know if it was raining, but also meant we had no noise from the street.
Alternate Hotel, Barrio Laureles: 3H Hotel Av 70. This hotel just south of Avenue San Juan is close to a lot of the interesting restaurants and coffee shops, on a quieter strip. A 9-minute walk from the metro station, and 7 minutes to Parque de Laureles, this hotel splits the difference between the best parts of the neighborhood and metro access. It has a lot of family room options and gets great reviews.
Where to Stay, Barrio El Pobaldo: Hotel Tik Medallín. This hotel is right across from Parque de El Poblado. Right next to the hotel is a small pedestrian strip of restaurants and cafes. The El Poblado metro stop is fifteen minutes to the west, while Calle 10 to the east leads to the more upscale restaurants of the neighborhood.
The hotel is nicely decorated, with a roof terrace, and breakfast included. We enjoyed having a room with a double bed and three twin beds, giving us lots of room to spread out. There can be some noise from the street at night.
Where to Eat in Medellín with Kids
Medellin is such a vast city, that we struggled with where to eat. Here are a few of the places we found that we would recommend for other traveling families.
Uno Mas Uno
Laureles. A small place, the food here is delicious and made with care. We shared a Thai coconut soup, Thai rice, and empanadas Argentinas. This one is a gem.
Full Arabe Medellin
Laureles. This Lebanese place was our first meal in Medellin. We all left full and happy. We tried the Full Vegetariano, and a Full Mixte, with extra pan Arabe.
A traditional and famous Colombian restaurant that is a bit “old-school”. There is one in Laureles, and one in El Poblado. We didn’t actually make it here, but we hear it’s very good.
Cafe Laietana Casa
El Poblado. A great place for coffee and a light lunch. We liked their chicken sandwich and their savory pastries. Near Parque El Polabdo.
Bao Bei Cocina
El Poblado. This place came highly recommended. Their Bao buns sound delicious. We arrived 20 minutes before they opened and there was already a line, so we didn’t wait.
El Poblado. A lovely Indian and Middle Eastern restaurant near the top of the hill in El Poblado, where you can choose to sit on cushions on the floor. This restaurant can get expensive if you order the main dishes. Instead, we ordered a series of side dishes and we all left happily full. Their naan and hummus are delicious.
How to Get to Medellín from the Airport
From the airport, you’ll need to take a taxi to the city. It’s an interesting ride- you’ll go through the longest tunnel you’ve probably ever been inside- over 7 km! The ride is about 30-40 minutes depending on what neighborhood you are going to.
We paid 90K pesos to go to the Laureles neighborhood.
Do I Need a Car in Medellín with Kids?
No! Unless you are a thrill-seeker, you do not want to drive in Medellín. The traffic is crazy, with a lot of motorbikes on the road. People are constantly weaving in and out of lanes. Parking is also tight in many neighborhoods.
You can take a taxi. Uber, or take the metro to where ever you need to go.
We did find that many of the taxis in Medellín are very small- they are designed to hold 3-4 people without luggage. We had to reject some Ubers and many cabs because they couldn’t hold the 4 of us and all of our bags.
Is There Uber in Medellín?
Yes, Uber is available in Medellín. You can use the app to request a ride and pay for it using your credit card. There are also other ride-hailing apps available in the city, such as Taxify, Cabify, and Beat.
How to Use the Medellín Metro
You’ll need to stand in line to buy a grey Civica Metrocard. One card can be used by the whole family. There is no machine to refill the card, so when you buy it, request a certain number of trips. For example, we bought a card and asked for 8 trips to be loaded on it, so the four of us could each ride twice.
To add additional rides to your card, you’ll need to stand in line again and ask to add more rides. To go through the turnstile, simply tap the card for each person.
The main metro lines are A and B. The metro map looks much larger, as it contains bus and cable car lines as well. Look for the icons on the map to indicate which lines are which type of transportation.
Each line indicates direction based on the final stop, so from the Estadio stop on Line B, (Laureles neighborhood), you’ll need to head either towards San Javier, or San Antonio.
We found the metro easy to navigate and safe, though in the afternoons it can get crowded.
There You Have It
Medellín is a bustling city with plenty to see and do for families. While there is a ton of traffic, getting around is relatively easy – Medellín has an excellent public transportation system. We hope these family travel tips help you plan a fantastic visit to Medellín with kids!
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