In this article, we cover the best free things to do in Medellin. The fascinating city of Medellin, which is in fact a metropol, has so much more to offer than only nightlife, beautiful people, salsa and amazing food. Although not every area of the metropol is completely safe and some parts of the city should be avoided by foreigners, the touristic areas are perfect to discover the daily lives of the Paisa citizens. As Medellin is built between mountains, there are several hiking and nature trails to discover as well. 

What sets Medellin apart from other cities in Colombia is that the citizens are extraordinarily proud of their city and they try to keep it as neat as possible. There is less corruption in government-level organizations so things really get done here. One good example is that Medellin is the only city in Colombia with a metro system. The streets are surrounded by greenery and the parks look beautiful and well-maintained. Add the rich culture and history of both the country and city to it and you get the perfect recipe for a good variety of free things to do in Medellin. 

In this article, we try to come up with exciting free things to do in Medellin: activities that are worth mentioning. At the bottom of the article, we added highly recommended activities that don’t break your wallet. Combine all of this and we believe that you can have an excellent stay in Medellin when you’re on a budget. With that being said, let’s jump to the results.

 

1. Comuna 13 


A visit to Comuna 13 is one of the top activities in the city in general and as it’s completely free to discover this former-notorious neighbourhood, it’s definitely top-ranked in this article of free things to do in Medellin. Comuna 13 used to be one of the most dangerous areas in the world, especially during the 80s and 90s due to the influence of the nacros. The government began to clear the neighbourhood from these drug traffickers in 2002, which resulted in a violent clash. But after the bloody start, things began to improve as the government invested heavily in projects and improvements. In 2011, the famous San Javier Outdoor Escalators were installed, so that nowadays, you don’t have to climb all the steep stairs. With all these improvements, Comuna 13 is a relatively safe area where visitors can enjoy colourful graffiti art and a unique experience of what these Comuna’s really are like. Keep in mind that poverty is still a big thing in Comuna 13. If it fits your budget, book a tour with a local or else, buy one of the many souvenirs. Drink a cold beer or buy a snack at one of the local shops as every sale they make has an impact on their lives. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - Comuna 13
 
free things to do in Medellin - Comuna 13

free things to do in Medellin - Comuna 13

free things to do in Medellin - Comuna 13
Comuna 13 gives you a unique view of Medellin and is one of the highlights of the city.
 
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2. Cerro de Las Tres Cruces (Hill of Three Crosses)


That Medellin has access to the mountains is no secret. There are a few trails that are often visited by Colombians for their daily cardio. One of them is Cerro de Las Tres Cruces (Hill of Three Crosses). This short (1.2 kilometres) but steep hill takes you to a magnificent viewpoint looking over the city and its airport. Every day, many Colombians take this hike as it’s quite the exercise. On top of the hill, there are outside gym facilities and combining it with the intensity of the trail, it attracts young, athletic Colombians as well. At the start of the hill, there are shops that sell sports clothes, drinks, protein bars and shakes and coffee. Halfway through the first section is an older man that sells ice-cold water. And at the half of the hill, there are two shops serving cold drinks including freshly squeezed orange juice. All very refreshing.

Important: there is also an older man who voluntarily cleans the trail as well as maintains the stairs. He does this for nothing. If you can spare some change, he’d be happy to accept it. You can recognize him by his bright yellow safety vest and his sombrero. 

The majority of the climbers will be at the top in roughly 35 minutes, but the people from all sorts of athletic levels will be at the top sooner or later. In fact, there are kids, old people and families with pets who climb the hill. It’s recommended to visit Cerro de Las Tres Cruces in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the sun. During the weekends, the paths are usually crowded, so preferably, come during the weekdays. The trail can get muddy when it rained the night before, and when it rained for a few days, it’s better not to go. But when the conditions are fine, take on your sports gear, wear good shoes, bring some water and head over to Cerro de Las Tres Cruces for the perfect panoramic viewpoint. You won’t regret it!

Tip: if you are able to speak a few words of Spanish, Cerro de Las Tres Cruces is a great place to meet Colombian people. The people from Medellin are among the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. I climbed the Hill of Three Crosses countless times, and every time I’ve been greeted and often approached by the locals. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - Three crosses

free things to do in Medellin - Three crosses

free things to do in Medellin - Three crosses
Spectacular views are guaranteed once you reach the top of Cerro de las Tres Cruces.
 
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3. Jardin Botanico

 
The Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden of Medellín, also known as the Jaridín Botanico (Botanical Garden), is a spectacular botanical garden that has 4,500 flowers and 139 recorded bird species. The 14-hectare garden has an important collection of orchids preserved in an architectural space called the “Orchideorama”. As there is no entrance fee and you can easily wander around for a while, it’s among the best free things to do in Medellin. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you will encounter exotic animals such as the iguana. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden

free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden

free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
Wildlife and preserved orchids can be seen at the Botanical Garden.


The garden is divided into several sections, which includes a tropical forrest (Bosque Tropical), desert garden (Jardín del Desierto), palm garden (Jardín de Palmas) and a lake (Laguna Franciso José de Caldas). Just by following the main path, you will easily navigate to each section. The park is also popular among Colombians to picnic or just simply sit at one of the benches and watch the world go by. Visitors have the option to take a tiny 20-minute-tour through the butterfly garden, which costs 5,000 COP and includes an explanation. It’s important to know that you need to fill in a form via the official website in order to receive a certificate that allows you to shoot professional pictures. Also, the Botanical Garden is closed on Mondays. There is no entrance fee, except if you want to park your car (3,000 COP per hour, 12,000 COP per day), motorbike (4,000 COP per day) and bike (1,000 COP).
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
 
free things to do in Medellin - botanical garden
The Botanical Garden is a stunning park that you must have seen.
 
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4. Pueblito Paisa


Pueblito Paisa is one of the main attractions of Medellin and is a reproduction of municipalities of the Antioquia built in 1977. It’s like you’re walking through an old, yet tiny town, thanks to its authentic architecture. Pueblito Paisa is located on the top of a hill, which is called Cerro Nutibara. What’s so special about this hill is that it’s one of the few ecosystems that is conserved in Medellín and is considered one of the city's seven "guardian" hills. You can follow the path and climb to the top of the hill, which is an easy job and the path is covered in shade. Once you reached the top, before you enter the "small town", on your right-hand side, there is a small museum and next to it, a plateau where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The museum, which is about the city of Medellin, is not spectacular but with an entrance fee of 5,000 COP, it's hard to say no to that.

Inside the small town are a few restaurants that serve authentic food that’s typical of Medellin as well as some souvenir shops, a small church even a shop where you can take old pictures. Aside from the picturesque town, there is a sculpture park named Parque de Las Esculturas Cerro de Nutibara and an open-air theatre called Teatro Al Aire Libre Carlos Vieco to discover, which hosts all sorts of shows. But the main attraction is the small town that serves perfectly as the ideal selfie background. Pueblito Paisa is open daily and even open during the evening. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa
The museum

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa

free things to do in Medellin - Puablito Paisa
The iconic coulors at Pueblito paisa

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5. Plaza Botero


The sculptures of Fernando Botero are one of the highlights of Medellin’s city centre and definitely worth the visit, especially to take pictures. Fernando Botero is a famous sculptor and has a signature style, known as “Boterismo”. He depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volumes, which can represent political criticism or humour, depending on the piece as well as transforming famous paintings into a Boterismo paintings. On Botero’s square, there are several sculptors where you can pose in front. Keep in mind that the plaza is the ideal place for pickpocketing, so be alert. While other city centres usually are the highlight of the city with exceptional historical buildings, Medellin somehow does not seem to manage that. The sculptures are impressive with the Palace of Culture Rafael Uribe Uribe in the background, but it’s not a city centre where you can stroll around for hours. The square is located in a commercial district, which they nicknamed "the hole" as it isn't the nicest area in the city. But there are countless shops to be found which offer basically all the products you can possibly imagine for a bargain. For that reason, it attracts many people from Medellin to go out and shop there. The shops are closed on Sundays, though. We cannot stress this enough, be careful of your belongings. With that being said, we definitely think Plaza Botero is well-worth the (short) visit. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero
The unique sculptures of Fernando Botero in the city centre.

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero

free things to do in Medellin - Plaza Botero
You can find all sorts of cheap products around Plaza Botero, including football shirts. 
 
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6. Parque Arví


One of the most popular free things to do in Medellin is exploring its surrounding nature. The abundance of mountains with spectacular views is something we cannot get enough of. One of the most popular areas to explore nature is Parque Arví, an ecological nature reserve in Medelín. This gigantic park lies on top of the eastern mountains and can be accessed by public transport, namely with the metro cable. The ride alone over the residential area of Carpinelo is already spectacular. Every day, except on Monday when the park is closed, many Medellin citizens love to walk around the park, enjoy nature and the fresh air and even come for a picnic or a barbecue.
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri

Once arrived at the top of the mountain and at the entrance of Parque Arví, you have two options:

- a. explore a small part of Parque Arví on your own by visiting the picnic area, or
- b. Go on one of the 33 hiking trails with a guide.

It’s irresponsible to walk one of the hiking trails on your own as there is a (big) chance you get lost as there are no signs to follow and in some parts, robberies have been reported. Hiking with a guide only costs you 10,000 COP per person and eliminates both risks. 

Parque Arví is perfectly maintained, something that’s common with many of the city’s facilities. The hiking trails are not that intense, meaning that every family member can enjoy nature to the fullest. Make sure to bring cash as all merchants at the entrance and next to the roads only accept cash, and so do the restaurants and even the metro cable. More detailed information about Parque Arví can be found in the Parque Avrí Ultimate Guide by Medellin Guru, who did an excellent job in his detailed up-to-date guide. 
.
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri

free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri

free things to do in Medellin - Parque Avri


 

7. Visit the nearby town of Santa Fe De Antioquia


Santa Fe De Antioquia is the ideal get-away town for many citizens of Medellin. Contrary to other nearby towns, Santa Fe De Antioquia is easy to reach and if you take the bus from Medellin’s bus from Centro Comercial Terminal Del Norte, you will be in the old city centre in approximately 2 hours (for only 12,000 COP). The former capital of Antioquia is one of the oldest colonial cities in South America and it’s so picturesque, that it should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Colombia. What makes a visit to Santa Fe De Antioquia so special are the following things.
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
 

 

a. Walk through the old centre


The old centre is beautiful, surrounded by colonial architecture and ideal to stroll around, although the temperature is completely different from what you’re used to in Medellin: most of the time it’s really hot! We recommend you to walk in the early morning or late afternoon. Within the city centre, there are four iconic churches you can spot:
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
Catedral Basilica La Inmaculada


free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
Templo de Chiquinquira 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
Templo de Jesús Nazareno
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
Templo de Santa Barbara


The most famous church, the Catedral Basilica La Inmaculada, is located in front of Parque Principal and Plaza de Bolívar, where you can find many good, local restaurants and watch the world go by. 

 

b. Puente de Occidente


A ten-minute drive north of Santa Fe De Antioquia you can find a unique bridge with a fascinating story and that bridge is one of the highlights of visiting Santa Fe De Antioquia. The suspension bridge was finished in 1895 by one of the architects who also helped design the Brooklyn Bridge and by that time, it was among the largest suspension bridges in the world. The story goes that the architect was an alcoholic and that the Colombian people did not trust the strength and construction of the bridge. To prove his bridge was flawless, the architect ordered to pack the bridge full of cows. The bridge completed the stress test and from that moment on, the people from  Santa Fe De Antioquia could safely cross the Cauca River.

Most visitors take a tuk-tuk from the town to the bridge, which costs 30,000 COP in total if you want the tuk-tuk driver to wait for you. Right before you cross the bridge, make sure to have your camera ready as the crossing of the river gives you quite the scenic view. 
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe


 

c. Nightlife


Many citizens from Medellin visit Santa Fe De Antioquia during the weekend, to escape the city. Along with their good, holiday mood, they bring their full wallets with them and make sure they have a good time. Around the bus terminal of Santa Fe De Antioquia, you can find a few bars that are open until late and everywhere in the city, you can find nightlife events. From Sunday until Thursday, the nights in the town are quiet again.
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe 


 

d. Stay over


In case you stay over, which we highly recommend, make sure to book an accommodation that has a swimming pool. The climate is perfect for an afternoon at the pool, enjoying an ice-cold beer or cocktail. For many citizens of Medellin, that’s the reason to escape Medellin and visit Santa Fe De Antioquia. 
 

free things to do in Medellin - Santa fe
Santa Fe De Antioquia is ideal for a full day at the swimming pool doing absolutely nothing!



 

8. Parque de las Luces


Yes, Medellin has plenty of parks and when you’re looking for free things to do in Medellin, it is an activity that you might want to consider. We did our best to make this article as diverse as possible and recommending many parks is not the answer. However, we do understand that travellers like to take pictures of iconic features a city has to offer and Parque de las Luces definitely is iconic. You won’t stay long wandering around this (concrete) park, but it’s definitely recommended to shoot some selfies for your Instagram page. 

The square is named after the Cuban engineer Francisco Javier Cisneros, who was in charge of the construction of the Antioquia Railway. The square itself used to be the place where traders and farms from the Antoquian region traded their goods and functioned as a sort of distribution centre. Unfortunately, this area got a bad reputation because of the high crime rate. The construction of the iconic 24-meter high light poles was part of the revitalization of the area. The park is definitely safer and the area is not as notorious as it used to be, but just keep an eye out for pickpockets. You can walk from Plaza Botero to Parque de las Luces as it's only a ten-minute walk. 

Tip: there is a large library attached to the square, which has free wifi and air conditioning. After showing your ID, you are able to access the library for free where you can see the Parque de las Luces from the third floor.  
 
free things to do in Medellin - Parque de las Luces

free things to do in Medellin - Parque de las Luces

free things to do in Medellin - Parque de las Luces

free things to do in Medellin - Parque de las Luces
The iconic poles at Parque de las Luces and the library, right next to the square.
 
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9. Your own food tour with TopTravelFoods


Medellin has a unique food scene as it offers traditional Colombian food, all sorts of international restaurants including up-scale Michelin-star restaurants as well as restaurants that serve typical Paisa food. Paisa refers to the Antioquia region of which Medellin is part of, and a Paisa refers to someone who is from Medellin. In other words, there is a lot of food to discover and for most foreigners, the Colombian gastronomy is a bit of an unknown area. You can book a food tour but as this article is about free things to do in Medellin, we come up with a free food tour (except for the cost of the food, of course). By downloading our food app called TopTravelFoods, you can search for the best food in Medellin. Instead of recommending restaurants, our app displays the best food these restaurants have to offer. There is a local food filter available that lets you only search for typical Colombian food. Also, the budget filter is accurate, meaning that you can set a limit on how much you want to spend on a dish. At the bottom of this article, you will find more information about the free app itself. 
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10. Free festivals and festivities

 

a. Medellin’s Flower Festival (month of August)


This part will be updated soon.

 

b. Book and Culture Festival (September)


This part will be updated soon.

 

c. Alborada (30th of November)


Celebrating the start of December, an important month full of Christian celebrations, Medellin’s citizens tend to celebrate this day intensively compared to the rest of the country. The evening starts with heavy drinking, loud music and gathering with friends and family. Once it’s midnight, fireworks are lit up and the sky above the city is full of colourful pyro. For tourists, areas such as El Poblado and Laureles are the common places to witness Alborada, but if you want to see the fireworks all over the city, you must pick a rooftop (bar). The whole month of December, you will hear loud bangs of fireworks during the day and night, but on the 30th of November and at 00:00 on the first of December, it is complete madness. New Year's Eve is nothing compared to Alborada. 

More information about this festivity including the complete history can be found in an excellent article written by Medellin Living, named the Love-hate relationship that Colombians have with Alborada.
 
free things to do in Medellin - alborada
 
 

c. Día de las Velitas (7th of December)


More important than Christmas for the people of Medellin and the rest of Colombia is Día de las Velitas, the day of the little candles. On this night, people place candles and paper lanterns on windowsills, balconies, porches, sidewalks, streets, parks and squares; in short, everywhere they can be seen, in honour of the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Conception. It’s celebrated on the 7th of December and you can witness this festivity everywhere in the city. On the days before Día de las Velitas, you can buy these small candles and paper lanterns everywhere in the city, even at supermarkets. Head over to public areas such as parks and squares to participate with Día de las Velitas yourself. With each candle that you lit up, you thank the things you're thankful for and make a wish for each important person in your life. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - Dia de las Velitas

free things to do in Medellin - Dia de las Velitas
 
 

d. Medellin’s Christmas lights


This part will be updated soon.
 
free things to do in Medellin - Christmas lights

free things to do in Medellin - Christmas lights


 

10. Cheap activities that won't break the bank:

 

a. Football game


It’s no secret that football plays a big role in Latin-American culture and Colombia is no exception. Keep an eye out for (friendly) international games played by the National Team. Of course, you could try to watch that game in the stadium, but a much cheaper alternative is heading over to El Poblado. During these football games, there are a few areas where everyone is sitting outside, drinking ice-cold beers and watching the game on large TVs. Keep in mind that the women are more fanatic than most men and earplugs might not be an unnecessary luxury. If you’re a football enthusiast, or just want to experience the togetherness of the Colombian people during these games, head over to the intersection of Calle 8a and Carrera 35 or simply go to El Social Tienda Mixta Desde 1969. And to completely fit in, wear a yellow shirt. 
 
free things to do in Medellin - football game

For a more local approach, head over to La 70, which is a street near the football stadium. La 70 is pronounced as la Setenta and is actually a street where you can find many local bars. But during football games, the street gets crowded and especially when the team wins, the atmosphere can get wild. 


This article will be updated in the upcoming weeks and many free things to do in Medellin will be added soon. In the meantime, check out our food recommendation app that helps you find the best restaurants in Medellin. The app is completely free and helps you decide what to eat by recommending the best dishes and other specialities of (local) restaurants. Especially when you have no (or not enough) knowledge of the local cuisine, the app is a handy tool. 
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