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Surrounded by the Andean Mountain Range in northwestern Colombia and with 2.5 million people (the second most populated city in the country), the capital of Antioquia has found culture and entrepreneurship to be the tools to carry out a definitive transformation.
Its thriving business ecosystem made it one of the most attractive investment destinations in Latin America, according to the FDI Intelligence division of the Financial Times. Furthermore, in 2017 Medellín was considered a 'Global Innovation Hub' by the 2ThinkNow Innovation Cities Index.
Around 170 companies from approximately 25 countries have come to its so-called Innovation District, and it comes as no surprise that six of the 100 most prosperous 'multilatina' companies in the region have been born in Medellín.
Every year, between July and August, the Flower Fair (Feria de las Flores) is celebrated: a traditional display of the culture of the Paisas—as the people from this region of the country are called—in which the Silleteros Parade is the main activity. At the Fair, the Antioquian peasants travel about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) carrying their colorful saddles (large structures covered with flowers that are worn on the back).
Color is also a protagonist at important textile fairs such as Colombiamoda and Colombiatex de las Américas, which confirm the city's historical role as the epicenter of the local design industry. The most recent edition of the Colombian Fashion Week brought together about 19,000 attendees.
Medellín is the home to 25 declared Cultural Patrimonies of the Nation and nearly 100 buildings of municipal cultural interest. The Museum of Modern Art (MAMM) displays works by renowned national artists such as Débora Arango, Adolfo Bernal, Adriana Duque or Alberto Uribe. Furthermore, at Plazoleta Botero, located in the center of the city, you can see the world's largest exhibition of open-air sculptures by acclaimed artist Fernando Botero, born on this land.
In the field of architecture, the Orquideorama, at the Botanical Garden, and the Explora Park were projects selected by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York in a past edition of its art biennial. Indeed, the garden is a space to celebrate life and color; a place where the orchid—Colombia's national flower—grows and where creativity and words are also harvested, since each year it hosts the Festival del Libro y la Cultura, a book festival with about a hundred editorial presentations.
More than a century after the adventures of the first Antioquian settlers, more than 70% of Medellín’s municipal territory remains green and is classified as 'rural land'. The Aburrá Valley, where the city is located, is a source of water, fauna and flora, and its periphery is still the home of the oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), an endangered species.
Protecting this ecosystem is not an easy task; which is why the city has understood the importance of working towards sustainable growth. A green belt to plan responsible growth, a road system that encourages the use of bicycles and the renovation of the Medellín River are some of the initiatives locals undertake to truly become the city of eternal spring.
This is the name of a strategy that was adopted in 2016 to control urban expansion in the Aburrá Valley. It has come to life through macro projects such as Jardín Circunvalar, Parques del Río, or the Innovation District Ruta N.
Architect Jorge Pérez, former director of the Administrative Department of Planning, explained at the time that the Belt's goal was to help create "A city that builds on the inner river corridors; that discourages the expansion towards the edges and the slopes; that favors pedestrians, bicycles and mass transportation systems (Metro, Metrocable, Tram and Metroplús)."
These efforts have been recognized with incentives such as the special mention of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Award in 2014 and 2016. Furthermore, the capital of Antioquia was recognized as one of the five most innovative cities in Latin America by 2ThinkNow, mainly for its Innovation District.
Carlos Cadena Gaitán, researcher at United Nations University and member of independent movements such as La Ciudad Verde and Low Carbon City, said: "sustainable mobility should be understood as a strategy that seeks to promote a balance between the economic growth of the city, social equity, and long-term environmental protection."
That is why Medellín has reinforced its road network for cyclists with initiatives such as Encicla, the public bicycle program of the Metropolitan Area, which already has 48.6 kilometers (30.1 miles) of bike paths. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, ciclovías are enabled through road closures that allow the circulation of a larger number of cyclists. The use of bicycles is also encouraged through citizen groups such as the Fiesta de la Bici, SiCLas and Bellocicleta, among others.
The community has been determining in the commitment for a more sustainable city. The 'ecohuertas' (ecogardens), an initiative promoted by the people living close to the Green Belt, have benefited close to 160 families, putting together the wisdom of the peasants who arrived in the city and the knowledge of professionals from the Municipality of Medellín, the Botanical Garden, Cornare, the Metropolitan Area and some universities. These home gardens require a modest space and get their resources through social management.
Another important initiative was the Pacto por el Aire (Air Pact), signed in the Botanical Garden's Orquideorama in February 2018. There, 66 social actors such as authorities, companies and community leaders committed themselves to find more solutions to improve the air quality in the city. One of the commitments was to ensure that, by 2019, the city would have over 80 kilometers (49 miles) of new bike paths and 90 new EnCicla stations in the 10 municipalities of the metropolitan area.
Throughout its 100-kilometer course (62.1 miles), the Medellín River receives water from more than 64 tributary streams. Empresas Públicas de Medellín has carried out the River Sanitation Program for five decades. This initiative was recognized in 2018 by the Inter-American Development Bank as one of the five best in Latin America for its environmental commitment.
A Noise Lab top and body, a matching Pura skirt and a pair of GoTwo tennis shoes. Then, a Ducky Black leather jacket and Innata accessories, with a Tigre de Salón bag. The idea of an urban style to be worn on any day in Medellín is promoted by Juanita Arcila, creative director and designer of Noise Lab.
The five brands she mentions reveal the vitality of local design. Young people like her, who don't stand in line to find what they want to have in their wardrobes: they design it and turn it into a business.
The fashion sector is thriving in Colombia, especially in Medellín. According to data from ProColombia, in 2017 Fashion System exports amounted to 921 million USD and represented 1.13% of GDP in that same year. For its part, Inexmoda, the institute that organizes the Colombiatex and Colombiamoda fairs in Medellín, points out that in 2017 clothing consumption reached $13.8 trillion and grew 6.2%.
In Medellín, fashion is in people’s DNA. Around a century ago, fashion began to take a stand with the birth of Colombia's most traditional textile companies, Coltejer and Fabricato, which opened the door to clothing companies that worked for the Antioquian and international markets.
The city has positioned itself in the Latin American scene and today employs nearly 600,000 people, promoting talents such as Luisa Nicholls or Andrés Pajón, national leaders in bridal design and luxury fashion.
Luisa’s brand specializes in brides. In 2010 she founded Especia, a brand targeted at the working woman willing to take risks; a family woman with a passion for fashion. The brand already has two stores in Medellín and one in Bogotá, in addition to its online shop. "For me it is very important to have grown up in Medellín, not only because of the fairs, but also because of the textile and supply production, and because the consumer believes in what we offer," she said.
According to Martha Calad, former director of Inexmoda's Fashion Lab, fashion "Made in Medellín" steals the limelight on the international stage, especially when it comes to bathing suits and lingerie, with brands like Leonisa, OndadeMar, Maaji and Agua Bendita, among others.
According to data from Raddar and Inexmoda, during January 2018 Medellín reported a total spending of $122 billion in the fashion and textile sector, the second most important in Colombia. Juanita Arcila, who has seen her brand grow, enthusiastically sums up this impact: "The fact that Medellín is on the map gives us a push to get recognition. Every day, more and more people are interested in what the city has to offer, and we must take advantage of this moment to deliver the best we have."
"La soyadera", as some describe life in Medellín, is an expression that can mean "uncomplicated gusto" and "informality". This lifestyle influences Medellín's rhythm and spirit, turning it into a mocking, fresh and happy city. Here are three ways to enjoy this lifestyle.
To go out for a walk in Medellín is called 'callejiar'. Paisas are used to doing it since their childhood, mainly by holding hands with their grandmothers, mothers and aunts. On Saturdays or during the evenings, 'callejiar' is almost a religious act: people go out to run errands, to go window-shopping, to buy, to discover new things.
You can begin with a tour through the urban gallery at the Northeastern Comuna, to see the local artists and their murals drawn in facades, cylinder heads and bridges. You can then make some memories by riding the Metrocable while listening to the murmur of the neighborhood beneath your feet.
The Belén Library Park is very close to carreras 80 and 76, right in the middle of one of the most popular areas in the city. In this place you can still feel a neighborhood vibe: the butcher still rushes orders and writes down in his account book, and the shopkeeper is also an amateur psychologist. There, surrounded by ordinary people, you can find one of the most interesting and recent public buildings in Medellín.
In this Library Park, designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito, nature, water, wind and people are in harmony. Every detail conceived by the architect had the purpose of giving new life to an inclusive, democratic and contemporary area of social renewal.
This is how the place’s unique dynamic was created: here you will find community leaders gathering to talk about budget distribution in their area; members of the rap group Lírica Social (MTV award winners) rehearsing, and mothers who go with their young children to surf the Internet on public computers to do homework together.
This way, by meandering and discovering that other side of Medellín, somewhat hidden its visitors but very visible to the citizens who have seen its consolidation, you can also find another interesting urban project: the Bulevar de Castilla (La 68), located in the same neighborhood where the famous footballer René Higuita grew up; a place where it was almost mandatory to pray for and thank Saint Jude.
Given the lack of a park, a few years ago, the Mayor's Office of Medellín proposed to close a street on weekends during the nights so people could walk, have fun and enjoy themselves. As a result, at La 68 you can eat delicious food, listen to good music, dance to every song, shop, dream and fall in love.
Nostalgia comes without a warning. It demands nothing of you. Some people are born with it like it’s a part of them, others are suddenly invaded by it, and there are those who reach that state over the years.
Nostalgia can be earthly but also ethereal. Maybe that's why tango, despite its Argentinian nostalgic touch, is also very Colombian. Carlos Gardel seduced this Antioquian land: his death consecrated him, and now he resurrects almost every day in places like El Patio del Tango in the Antioquia neighborhood.
El Patio del Tango belonged to 'Gordo' Aníbal, a man who found not only himself but also his place in the world thanks to his love for Carlos Gardel and Argentina. He already died, but his wife, Aura, the love of his life since they were almost children, is there to rescue every magical secret he used to keep.
By her side, friends, family and clients return with a shared enthusiasm to this gathering place.
In addition to El Patio, Medellín has other unforgettable bohemian places: Salón Málaga, for example, is located in the center of the city under the metro viaduct and close to La Alpujarra. There, music of yesteryears comes out of the old jukeboxes, and the red wine served with water, just like in the old days, is tried every morning.
Another unmissable place, very close to Bomboná Towers and currently the headquarters of the Gardelian Association of Colombia, is called Homero Manzi. Here, Javier Ocampo has worked hard to promote the idea of a tango cultural house.
At Homero Manzi is not unusual to see young people who, connected with electronic tango, search for their own roots and discover that tango runs through their veins.
Dancing scares away bad spirits, relaxes the mind, makes energy flow, unfolds; but to dance salsa in a Cuban cabaret is to travel to another time and another culture. In Medellín, Cuba feels at home in a place that revived at the end of 2008. We are talking about Cien Fuegos Cabaret, a generous space not only to go and listen to salsa, but also to learn to dance it.
At Cien Fuegos Cabaret everything is designed for a good party: from the tables and chairs to the cocktail and liquor menu, here you can dance without anyone invading your space.
At the other end of the spectrum, but with the same shared madness, is where John Guanábano dwells. Nine years ago, he decided to buy a rock bar with a romantic name, "El bar de la calle Luna", and turn it into a wild club for salseros called El Eslabón Prendido. Near Parque del Periodista, John tends to his clients, both lifelong and new, as if they were his beloved friends; yet, he enjoys the party like no other.
According to his DJ, Édgar Valderrama, at El Eslabón, when someone walks in, it is as if the earth trembles. Joy is a magnet: the more people there are, the more they enjoy themselves. And while Édgar reiterates that salsa is his strong suit, he also says that traditional rhythms from other regions have room in his playlists too: that is why Petrona and Totó, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto and El Porro de San Pelayo also take over the dance floor.
As a party club, El Eslabón has no bad day. However, for the past couple of years, the best and most special day to visit is Tuesday, because a jam session is scheduled from ten o'clock at night and the party doesn't stop until two in the morning.
These nine urban complexes devoted to recreation and knowledge, which began to be built in 2006, surround the city from its slopes and offer its citizens the chance to take part in a large offer of cultural activities.
In 2006, Comuna 13 (located in the west of the city) became the first zone to have a Library Park. Its wigs are meeting points to talk about poetry, enjoy short films or promote writing.
In this same sector you can take a graffiti tour: a historical and aesthetic walk that reveals the life stories of the community. To make the most of this experience, visitors must ascend 384 meters (1260 feet) through public and free escalators that lead to the top of Medellín's hillside.
Its location allows you to observe Medellín almost in its entirety. A perfect view to photograph the city after touring its halls where events as diverse as dance shows, historical memory talks and yoga classes are held.
The three structures that make up this complex are located on the northeastern slopes of the city. Designed by architect Giancarlo Mazantti, the complex emulates the mountains of Medellín through its irregular and flattened shapes. Its rooms have allowed the community of the Santo Domingo Savio neighborhood to promote its social and artistic initiatives.
Before 2008 not many people knew the western slopes of the city. This changed when the architect Ricardo La Rotta Caballero built the park that bears the name of one of the most representative writers from Medellín: Tomás Carrasquilla. For this, he received an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Colombian Architecture Biennial.
Medellín transforms its public space to create a more inclusive and hospitable city through green corridors where you can ride a bicycle along its 45 kilometers (27.9 miles) of bike paths. According to the Ministry of Mobility of Medellín, 2% of the population in 2017 used this means of transportation and, by 2019, the amount is expected to grow by 4%.
Rising 80 meters (262 feet) above the city, the imposing mountain watches over Medellín and is considered a 'Holy Grail' by cyclists. The endurance test is to ride 1.25 kilometers (0.77 miles) uphill.
On Sundays, it connects with the city's ciclovía (streets adapted for the enjoyment of bicycle users) through the southern highway. The 'Pueblito' is a replica of the region’s traditional populations during the first decades of the twentieth century: it includes a central square, a canteen, a barber shop and stalls where you can buy handicrafts and typical sweets.
You can either ask for Parque de las Luces or for Plaza de Cisneros, since both names correspond to the same place: a small square in front of the Medellín City Hall and the old railway station of Cisneros.
Its allure lies in the three hundred 24 meter high lamp posts that embellish the nights, and in the bamboo gardens that are mixed with water sources to create a forest inside the city. The station, located next to the park, was an icon of the Antioquia Railroad’s development.
A museum that promotes science and innovation through more than 300 interactive experiences spread across its halls. There are biology, physics and mathematics exhibitions, as well as a planetarium and an aquarium. Simply by crossing the street you can also access the Botanical Garden and the University of Antioquia.
The main rule of the park is simple: take off your shoes to explore its sand, stone and water paths. A public space in the middle of the administrative area of La Alpujarra that invites visitors to connect with Antioquia's soil through their own bodies.
The curtain opened for the first time in 1979 for the Matacandelas Theater Collective. Located in the center of Medellín, in the last 39 years this artistic space has been both witness and protagonist of the city's evolution. With his 53 productions (12 of them puppet theater shows), and his most famous works, O marinheiro and Angelitos empantanados, the place has become an emblem of dramaturgy. This initiative 'made in Medellín' is also a stage to enjoy live music. Its end-of-the-year season features concerts by the Spanish artists Rupatrupa and Diego Ojeda, the Fiesta puppet show and a conversation club about the most emblematic western movies.
Location: Calle 47 # 43-47
Tip: If you visit Matacandelas Theater by bicycle, tickets have a special price of 9,000 COP. The normal rate is 20,000 COP
Murals by Pedro Nel Gómez are scattered throughout the walls of Medellín. You can follow his footsteps at University of Antioquia, Piloto Public Library, Berrio Park, among other places. However, the largest exhibition is located in what used to be his home in the Aranjuez neighborhood: the Pedro Nel Gómez House Museum. There, the muralist's personal archive, his drafts and more than three thousand of his works are preserved. To visit this space is to peek into the most intimate aspects of his life and production, to know his motivations firsthand and to enjoy the story of the guides who explain the muralist's most iconic moments. You can visit from Monday to Saturday, from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon.
Location: Carrera 51b # 85-2
Tip: In case you want a guided tour (in Spanish or English), you must first call the House Museum to schedule it in advance.
The Museum of Modern Art in Medellín is located in a building that used to be a steel and metal foundry factory. For forty years, the MAMM has discussed the topic of the body and the city as political subjects represented by photography, video, painting, music, dance and technology. Its seven halls display art as an extrasensory experience and a matter of feelings, rather than a product of intellect. Eight temporary exhibitions, such as Politofonía by Alba Fernanda Triana (interactive music installations) or the joint work of 28 artists called La vuelta: a reflection on how Colombian photographic art has portrayed the armed conflict, feature the year-end program.
Location: Carrera 44 # 19A-100
The sector of Las Palmas, in El Poblado neighborhood, is one of the gastronomic centers of the city. It's typical restaurants such as El Rancherito, Hatoviejo or Sancho Paisa follow the traditional recipe of the bandeja paisa. The Laureles sector is also a highlight, as it is one of the most exclusive areas of the city and its restaurants have a wider offer of Colombian and international dishes.
A gastronomic journey in which each moment of the day becomes an opportunity to taste Medellín's gastronomic diversity.
Founded 57 years ago in the center of Medellín, this restaurant offers a range of options from a continental breakfast (orange juice, coffee with milk, bagels, jam and butter), to a steak 'a caballo' (meat cut with two fried eggs on top). Here, trying the chocolate buñuelo (fried corn dough) is definitely a must.
Mid-morning is "parva" time, which is how the people of Medellín call a snack between main meals. At the Astor you can try "parvas" like 'alfajores de arequipe' while you hear anecdotes from the Nadaists, a literary group from the 60s.
One of Medellín’s most traditional dishes is the mondongo soup. Its main ingredient is one of the cow's stomachs (also known as tripe) and is considered a local delicacy. At Cazuelita’s you can try a typical Antioquian lunch, either the iconic mondongo soup or a bean casserole.
The afternoon snack (or 'onces') in Medellín is accompanied by a cup of Colombian coffee. In this place you can have a 'tinto' (espresso) while you learn about the coffee industry and its processes.
At the end of the day, visiting this restaurant in the heart of El Poblado neighborhood on Medellín's Golden Mile is a good choice. The Boutique is famous for its hand-made French cheeses accompanied by a range of wines from the south of France, as well as its supply of charcuterie, foie gras and duck confit.
beans, white rice, ground beef, fried pork, fried egg, patacón, chorizo, arepa paisa (made from ground corn), hogao (chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, oil and salt) and black pudding (rice and pork sausage cooked with coagulated blood).
A thick drink made from peeled corn, panela and sugar.
Antioquian mazamorra is considered one of Colombia’s traditional desserts, although in other regions it is prepared as a salty dish.
Ingredients for 4 Servings
This chef, entrepreneur and peace leader born in Medellín is the creator and founder of the restaurant chain El Cielo. Barrientos is only 35 years old and has already been selected as one of the 50 best chefs in the region for three consecutive years, according to the 50 Best Latin America list. This 'paisa' has managed to revolutionize traditional cuisine with culinary innovations based on the ancestral roots of Colombian cuisine.
For the past 51 years, Medellín has inaugurated the holiday season with its Christmas lighting, which in 2011 was named one of the best in the world, according to the National Geographic. A team of 162 people, among which there are 94 artisans, builds about 6,000 figures that can be seen in Parque Norte, Avenida La Playa and in the main parks within Medellín's five zones: San Sebastián de Palmitas, San Cristóbal, San Antonio de Prado, Santa Elena and Altavista.
From December 7th
The Paul Bardwell Contemporary Art Gallery, at the Centro Colombo Americano, hosts a garage sale. This is an opportunity to support social inclusion and peace initiatives, since 70% of their profits goes directly to the DeseartePaz organization, which promotes communal cultural development through art laboratories with communities.
From November 16th to January 11th
Centro Colombo Americano sede Centro
What does the entrepreneurial world expect from its entrepreneurs? In what way has a hyper-connected world changed entrepreneurs? Wobi promotes this debate based on the role of the leader in business transformation with 7 guest speakers, including Stephen Ritz, entrepreneur and creator of the urban renewal initiative "The Green Machine" in New York's Bronx borough.
December 5th and 6th
This is the most important textile business fair in Latin America. It brings together the sectors involved in fashion's entire creative and business process. In its 2019 edition, the theme will be 'Conecta saberes' (Connecting wisdom): a dialogue between the attendees aimed to learn from experiences and analyze the challenges posed by the industry.
January 22nd, 23rd and 24th
SIMS is a four-day musical encounter in which 50 events, between live presentations, conferences, workshops and networking sessions, are held simultaneously. The project is led by curators and influencers of the industry and is sponsored by the hosting, events and coworking platform Selina.
From February 28th to March 4th, 2019
Carrera 32D # 9-17
In its XVII edition, ForoMET: Mujer, Energía y Tecnología, shows the achievements of five years of consecutive development in the city. It carries on with its purpose to inspire, connect and support women who undertake businesses in the energy, science and ICT fields. The event includes seven talks and a fair to create business opportunities.
February 12th, 2019
Calle 67 # 52-20
The flight date is outside of our promotion.
José María Cordova International Airport (Rionegro)
Monday to Saturday: 4:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday: 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sundays and Bank Holidays: 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. * Closed on Mondays Arví cable costs 5,500 COP (1.73 USD) per trip.
Minimum rate: 5,400 COP (1.70 USD). Rate to the international airport: 70,000 COP (22,06 USD), turnpike fare included.