3 Days in Medellin: The Perfect Medellin Itinerary for First-Timers

It’s crazy to think that Medellin was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. However, over the past few decades, the city has drastically changed and is now a popular tourist destination in Colombia.

If you’re planning on visiting Medellin for the first time, then this 3 day Medellin itinerary will be perfect for you. I will guide you through the must-visit attractions, delicious food spots, and unique experiences that will make your trip unforgettable.

I’ve also added some extra attractions to check out if you have more than 3 days in Medellin, plus some of my top recommendations for where to stay, how to get around, and when to visit.

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

Are you planning a last-minute trip to Medellin?

If your trip is coming up soon and you still haven’t booked anything, we have you covered! Below you can find our top picks when it comes to hotels, tours, getting around, and more.

Best Tours and Experiences in Medellin

Best Places to Stay in Medellin

Can’t speak Spanish very well? As people in Medellin (and in Colombia in general) don’t really speak English, our best tip is to download Spanish on Google Translate so you can use it offline! Trust us, you’re going to need it.

Panoramic view of El Poblado, Medellin

Overview of Your 3 Days in Medellin

Breakdown of your Medellin 3 day itinerary

  • Day 1: Historic center of Medellin, Museo de Antioquia, Jardin Botanico de Medellin, Parque Explora, Pueblito Paisa
  • Day 2: Comuna 13, El Poblado, Parque Arvi
  • Day 3: Day trip to Guatape

Map for your 3 days in Medellin

Below you can find a customized map that includes all the locations you’re going to visit on this Medellin itinerary.

I marked your 3 days in Medellin with different colors – I used blue for the first, green for the second, and red for the third day, so you can easily see which places you’re going to visit each day.

How to use this map: This map is fully interactive, so you can move around, zoom in/zoom out, and click on the icons. If you want to see a larger map, click on the bracket in the upper right corner. To see more details and the different layers, click on the tab in the upper left corner. If you want to save it for later, click on the star icon next to the name of the map. Then simply open Google Maps either on your desktop or phone, go to ‘Saved’/’Maps’, and open the map whenever you need it.

Day 1 of Your 3 Day Medellin Itinerary

Walking tour in the Historic Center of Medellin

The historic center of Medellin, also known as “El Centro,” is one of the must-visit places in the city.

Although Medellin has undergone a lot of change over the years, you will still have to exercise some caution in this area. Generally speaking, the main streets are safe during the day but you have to make sure not to wander off into the smaller side streets.

We visited on our own after getting local advice on where not to go but it was still an overwhelming experience and definitely not my favorite memory from our 3 days in Medellin.

That’s why I would strongly recommend joining a walking tour of the Historic Center. Not only will you feel safer with a knowledgeable guide, but you’ll also learn a lot about the history and culture of Medellin.

We did a similar walking tour with Beyond Colombia during our Bogota itinerary and it was one of the highlights of our trip. I really wish we would have done the same in Medellin!

You can join the free Walking Downtown Tour of Medellin, which runs every day except Sundays from 9:30 am. The tour lasts around 3 hours and takes you to the main attractions in the Historic Center such as Plaza Botero, Parque de las Luces, and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Walking tours in Medellin are typically free of charge, but be sure to tip your guide at the end, as they really are fountains of knowledge and bring the city’s history to life.

Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional, Medellin
Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional

Museo de Antioquia

As the tour concludes, make your way back to Plaza de Botero to the Museo de Antioquia, an art museum that’s a treasure trove of Colombian artworks.

Housing a huge collection of pieces from Colombian artists like Fernando Botero and Pedro Nel Gomez, the Museo de Antioquia is set over four levels. Through the fascinating paintings and sculptures, this museum tells the story of Medellin’s complex history.

Many of the pieces are incredibly unique and diverse, so it’s best to allow yourself around two hours to explore each floor in depth. 

Entrance to the museum costs 24,000 COP ($6 US) and you can buy the tickets directly at the museum.

Jardin Botanico de Medellin

The next stop on your Medellin itinerary is a visit to the Jardin Botanico de Medellin, the city’s peaceful botanical gardens.

With such a diverse assortment of plant life, this place could give some of the country’s national parks a run for their money!

From the Museo de Antioquia, hop on the A metro line at Parque Berrio station and get off at Universidad Cll.73 station. From there, it’s a short walk to the Jardin Botanico.

The gardens are free to enter and open daily from 9 am to 4 pm (closed on Mondays). Take your time strolling through the different sections of the garden, which includes a butterfly exhibit, orchid pavilion, and a small lake.

While you’re here, keep an eye out for the iguanas that frequent the gardens. Some of them are surprisingly big, so they’re super easy to spot.

Parque Explora

Less than 10 minutes from the botanical gardens is Parque Explora, Medellin’s much-loved science museum.

This is no ordinary museum, as Parque Explora is also where you’ll find the city’s huge freshwater aquarium, which is the largest of its kind in South America, a planetarium, and a bunch of play areas. Should you have worked up an appetite by now, there’s a lovely cafe available onsite.

The thematic exhibitions are all hands-on and interactive, and I can confirm they’re just as entertaining for adults as they are for kids! If you’re traveling with your kids, they’ll have a blast at this museum, and you could easily spend an entire day here.

Some of the displays you’ll stumble upon include their famous dinosaur exhibit, their music showcase, and numerous physics demonstrations.

However, when you’re trying to discover Medellin in 3 days, it’s probably best to keep your visit to around two hours.

General admission is 48,000 COP ($12 US), and adding a trip to the planetarium will set you back 72,000 COP ($18 US) in total. You can buy your tickets online in advance or directly at the museum.

Parque Explora, Medellin

Pueblito Paisa

Hop in an Uber and make the 10-minute journey to Pueblito Paisa, where you’ll wrap up the first of your 3 days in Medellin.

If you’re feeling energized, a combination of the metro and a 25-minute uphill walk will get you here too but I personally wouldn’t waste my time on this.

Pueblito Paisa is a replica of a typical local village, and as well as being oh-so-charming, it’s also where you’ll catch some of the best views in Medellin.

Consisting of a cobblestone courtyard, an open-air theater, and colorful houses, Pueblito Paisa has been renovated as recently as 2021 and is now home to a cluster of Colombian eateries, food stalls, and souvenir shops.

If you time your day right, you’ll get here just in time for sunset. The crowds tend to disperse after the sun goes down, but I think it’s worth waiting around a little longer and seeing Medellin light up from above as the evening sets in.

Visiting Pueblito Paisa was hands down one of my favorite things to do in Medellin so definitely don’t skip it!

Girl sitting in front of a colorful house in Pueblito Paisa, Medellin
View of Medellin from Pueblito Paisa
The view of the city from Pueblito Paisa

Day 2 of Your 3 Day Medellin Itinerary

Comuna 13 Tour

No Medellin itinerary would be complete without a visit to Comuna 13, one of the most interesting and inspiring areas in the city.

Comuna 13 is one of my all-time favorite spots in all of Medellin, and it’s hard to believe that this neighborhood was once considered among the most dangerous in Colombia.

With colorful hillside houses, eye-catching murals, and funky graffiti everywhere you look, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put your camera down.

Small houses in Comuna 13, Medellin
Colorful street in Comuna 13, Medellin

Today, the area is dynamic and lively, but you have to join a guided tour here to fully grasp how art and creativity have helped this neighborhood shed its dark and brutal past.

Comuna 13 is a testament to the local’s desire for change, something that you’ll see through many of the pieces.

Not only will you get a history lesson and a chance to appreciate local art, but the tour also includes a scenic cable car ride, a street dance show, Colombian ice cream, and a drink at a nearby bar.

Although the area is very steep and hilly, there are escalators on the street to take you all the way up, so you don’t have to worry about the physical demand. That being said, wearing comfortable shoes is still a great idea!

El Poblado

Experience an entirely different Colombian neighborhood with a visit to El Poblado, Medellin’s most affluent and high-end area. As it’s so tourist-friendly, there’s a good chance you’ll be basing yourself here during your visit.

The meeting point of the Comuna 13 tour is the El Poblado metro station and this is where the tour will end as well, which makes you already in the neighborhood, and ready to explore.

High-rise buildings in El Poblado, Medellin

There’s always something happening in El Poblado, and the high-rise apartment blocks, fancy restaurants, and glamorous bars are an indication of the upmarket vibe of this pocket of Medellin.

Although it’s often credited as Medellin’s nightlife hotspot, its cafe scene is just as impressive. There’s no shortage of top-quality coffee here, but Pergamino Cafe really proves why Colombian coffee is so sought-after.

Pair your freshly roasted coffee with a slice of their famous red velvet cake for the ultimate treat. For those of you feeling particularly peckish, I can personally recommend their smoothie bowls and sourdough sandwiches.

Parque Arvi

You’ll spend the second half of the day around an hour outside of central Medellin at Parque Avri, which is famed for being an archaeological site and a nature reserve.

Ask anyone what to do in Medellin in 3 days, and I can guarantee you that you’ll be encouraged over and over again to visit Parque Avri. There are many things to see and do here, so you’ll need to pick and choose your activities.

Horseback riding and ziplining are always popular choices, but most people flock here for the hiking opportunities.

Depending on whether you’re looking for views, wildlife, or flora, you’ll have your pick of different routes, and most of them are quite easy and take less than two hours.

Parque Arvi, Medellin

Even if you don’t feel particularly active, I would still suggest taking the cable car to Parque Arvi purely because of the views you’ll get to soak up along the way.

I don’t think I’ve seen any other city in the world where cable cars are part of the public transportation system, so this is an experience you definitely shouldn’t miss.

To get to Parque Arvi, you have to take metro line A from El Poblado, then transfer to the K line at Acevedo Cra.63, and finally take the cable car L from Santo Domingo all the way to Parque Arvi.

The A and K lines are connected so you don’t need to leave the metro to change, nor do you need another ticket. However, you will need to leave the metro and buy a separate ticket for the L cable car.

View from the cable car going to Parque Arvi, Medellin
View from the cable car (line L) going to Parque Arvi, Medellin

We visited Parque Arvi on our first day in Medellin and I was a bit afraid of using public transportation so I figured since the L line runs separately, we would be safer to take an Uber to the Santo Domingo station and hop on the L cable car there. Huge mistake!

Our Uber driver was really nice but the route was just awful. We practically drove through a very steep and very sketchy neighborhood.

We also got caught in a traffic jam near the station and since I saw it was only a 5-minute walk, I offered that we get out and walk. Luckily our driver stopped us and warned us that it was a very dangerous area and we should wait in the car.

All in all, I would definitely recommend taking the public transport option instead of Uber. The metros and cable cars are 100% safe and the view from the cable car is much more enjoyable than traffic lights anyways.

Cable cars in Medellin
Cable cars (line K) between Acevedo Cra.63 and Santo Domingo

Day 3 of Your 3 Day Medellin Itinerary

Day trip to Guatape

Medellin is just a two-hour journey from the mesmerizing town of Guatape, a place so picture-perfect that it’s worth venturing to during your 3 days in Medellin.

Getting to Guatepe is pretty straightforward. From Terminal de Norte, Medellin’s northern bus station, you’ll be able to catch a bus directly to Guatape, and it should only cost you around 14,000 COP ($3.5 US). Head down to the ground floor of the station and look for booth 14.

Once you arrive, you’ll have a bunch of things to see and do in Guatape. The most famous attraction is the massive Guatepe Rock, which was one of my favorite places during our 2 weeks in Colombia.

It’s a steep climb of over 700 steps to the top, but the views of the reservoir you’ll be treated to at the summit are some of my favorite in all of Colombia.

Stairs on El Penon de Guatape
El Penon de Guatape, otherwise known as the Guatape Rock
View from El Penon de Guatape
View from the top of El Penon de Guatape

Other must-do activities include hopping on a boat tour that sails past Pablo Escobar’s former holiday home and wandering around the adorable brightly-colored streets, with Calle del Recuerdo being the most famous.

If you’re feeling a bit uneasy about using public transport to get to Guatape, there are plenty of organized day trips that’ll take care of the planning for you. 

This excursion is made up of all the activities I ran through above, and it’s also inclusive of hotel pick-up and drop-off, breakfast, and lunch.

Plazoleta de Los Zócalos, Guatape
Guatape Town

If you have more time, it’s also worth staying the night in Guatape to truly experience the peaceful atmosphere of this charming area. Guatape is a great place to try glamping in Colombia as it’s home to some of the most unique bubbles and luxury tents in the country.

We stayed a night at Bosko and it was an absolutely amazing experience. The bubble itself was very comfortable and the views were out of this world. Plus, the pool overlooking the lake was a lovely bonus!

If you’re interested, you can read more about our experience in this complete hotel review of Bosko Guatape.

More Great Places to Visit in Medellin 

As I mentioned earlier, Medellin is truly bursting with interesting and diverse things to do.

In addition to the activities outlined in this Medellin 3 day itinerary, below are some of the other places I recommend visiting if you have some spare time.

  • The Real Pablo Escobar Tour – Dive into the infamous drug kingpin’s past with visits to his old home, grave, and his very own prison with this guided tour. Your guide will also detail the brutal impact of Escobar’s exploits on everyday Colombians and how Medellin is bouncing back.
  • El Castillo Museum and Gardens – Located near El Poblado, this museum has a huge collection of antiques, sculptures, and ceramics, though its fairytale setting and manicured gardens are what it’s best known for.
  • Casa de La Memoria – History buffs won’t want to miss this one, as this museum chronicles the tragic and violent history of Colombia through a mix of informative and interactive exhibits. If you’ve already completed the walking tour, you’ll get a tonne of additional information here.
  • Coffee Tour with Tastings – You don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate Colombia’s coffee, and this coffee tour is the perfect way to learn the ropes of this country’s most beloved export. Of course, plenty of tastings are included in your ticket, too.
  • Paragliding in the Colombian Andes – Get your adrenaline pumping with a paragliding experience overlooking Medellin from the Andes. This tour also includes round-trip transportation and a short lesson beforehand.
  • Museo de Arte Moderno – Discover the world of contemporary Colombian art at the Museo de Arte Moderno, which displays works by famous local artists, including Débora Arango. The unconventional architecture alone makes this spot worth visiting.

Useful Info for Spending 3 Days in Medellin

Where to stay in Medellin 

Medellin is broken up into multiple neighborhoods and districts, though some are more suited to tourists and are conveniently located close to the main attractions. 

The upscale El Poblado area is usually most visitor’s first choice. As well as being served by a wide array of cafes, restaurants, and bars, El Poblado is also one of the safest parts of Medellin and has a strong police presence. Poblado metro station makes getting around easy, too.

Laureles is an up-and-coming neighborhood that tends to be popular with students and expats. It’s slightly more laid back than El Pobaldo, but there’s always something going on, thanks to the buzzing music and dining scene. This is the place to go for a less touristy stay.

A little further south of El Poblado is Envigado, a primarily residential area with good metro connections to the major tourist spots. Envigado is where you’ll get the most authentic Medellin experience, but it might be a bit too quiet if you’re hoping to make the most of the city’s nightlife.

Check out my top hotel recommendations below, with options for every budget and travel style.

  • Luxury | Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant – A swanky boutique hotel in the heart of El Pobaldo, Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant is brimming with top-class amenities, including a chic pool area, a spa, and a fantastic restaurant.
  • Mid-range | Sites Hotel – With stylish rooms, a rooftop sun deck, and a convenient location, Sites Hotel in El Poblado is the ideal place to rest and recharge. They also offer apartments if you prefer to do your own cooking.
  • Budget | Hotel Bh El Poblado – You don’t have to break the bank to find a sophisticated hotel that’s close to everywhere you need to be. Hotel bh El Poblado features sleek rooms, a well-equipped fitness center, and an onsite restaurant.
Rooftop pool at Sites Hotel, Medellin
The rooftop pool at Sites Hotel

How to get to Medellin

Unless you’re arriving from another Colombian city, you’ll probably touch down at José María Córdova International Airport, Medellin’s main airport. It generally takes around 30 minutes to reach the center and areas like El Poblado from here.

You’ll have a couple of options to get you to your hotel, but booking a private transfer is certainly the most comfortable and straightforward mode of transport.

This is especially useful if your flight gets in late at night or early in the morning, and it’s ideal for groups as you can easily split the cost. 

The most budget-friendly option is to take the public bus. This is super cheap, normally costing just 10,000 COP ($2.5 US), but you’ll likely need to get a taxi or Uber from the bus stop to your accommodation.

Another option you have is to take a local white taxi from the airport to the city. Ordering an Uber is a great alternative if you don’t have cash and are prepared to walk a little past the main arrivals area. Bear in mind that this can be tricky without data on your phone. 

Small houses in Comuna 13, Medellin
Comuna 13

How to get around Medellin

Getting around Medellin is much easier than you might think.

The city’s modern metro system is very user-friendly and affordable. Consisting of two lines, you usually won’t have to walk too far to find a station near you, and many of the top attractions are just a short stroll away. 

Simply buy your tickets at the machines inside the station for just 2,880 COP ($0.7 US). Each line typically runs between 4:30 am and 11 pm from Monday to Saturday and from 5 am until 10 pm on Sundays.

Medellin also has a well-connected public bus system. This can be a little more challenging to navigate than the metro, but it can come in handy when you want to reach somewhere that’s far from a metro station.

Uber is an excellent way to explore Medellin, particularly if you’re headed from one side of the city to the other. You’ll generally be able to get a driver in minutes, and it’s often cheaper than traditional taxis.

Metro in Medellin
Taking the metro is one of the best ways to get around Medellin

Best time to visit Medellin

Medellin has earned itself the nickname of the ‘City of Eternal Spring,’ as it’s blessed with a temperate, year-round climate.

For this reason, it’s fair to say that there’s never really a bad time to visit Medellin. Temperatures tend to stay between 17-27°C (62-80°F) throughout the year, so warm weather is pretty much guaranteed.

December until February is Medellin’s driest months, while April, May, September, and October receive the highest amounts of rainfall. Despite this, the downpours rarely last all day, so you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the city, even during the wetter months.

As the host of some brilliant events, it’s worth keeping an eye on the upcoming festivals before your visit. Some exciting happenings to look out for include:

  • Feria de las Flores – Medellin’s biggest and brightest event, the Festival of Flowers, takes place every August. Street performances, parades, and endless blooming flowers are what it’s all about.
  • Fiesta de la Musica – Traditional and contemporary Colombian beats take over Medellin every June, with live music from every genre you can imagine on offer. 
  • Alumbrados Navideños – The Medellin locals don’t hold back when the holiday season rolls around, and their Christmas Lights festival is an unbelievable display of festive cheer. This event attracts millions of visitors every November and December.
View of Medellin from Pueblito Paisa

Planning a trip to Colombia?

Then you might want to take a look at all our other travel guides about Colombia. I promise, they are just as awesome as this article was!

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