Medellin – famous for a few things: Atletico Nacional, formerly the ‘murder capital of the world’, now a hip town, and, of course, its most famous progeny: Pablo Escobar.
Medellin is a great city. We liked it a lot.
The airport is far outside the city, in elevation, and had a crazy drive into town.
At the Four Points, my platinum status got us upgraded, and our room had good views. We were super hungry, because Copa had once again messed up our requests for vegan meals, so we headed up to Mati, being one of few places open at that time on a Saturday. It was…mediocre. Half of the menu was unavailable, what we ordered and received didn’t entirely match, and it was just…mediocre.
From here, we wondered pretty aimlessly, just getting to know the city and seeing what’s around. We really liked Medellin a lot.
The next morning, we walked up to the Monaco apartment building, which was a former home of Pablo Escobar and site of a mid-80s car bomb attack by the Cali cartel, which injured Escobar’s sister. It’s been demolished now and has memorials on the fence. It looks like it was huge back in the day.
Walking back, we noticed how many roads are closed on Sunday mornings, so people can walk, jog, take their dogs out, ride bikes, etc. Great city!
From here, we got a ride up to Escobar’s old hideout, where there’s now a museum operated by some of his relatives. The taxi driver dropping us off said, “Are you sure this is the right place? You sure you want to get out here?” It was exactly as sketchy as he had seemed to worry.
- It’s run by the niece and nephew, who will autograph anything you buy from their gift shop.
- They essentially follow you without talking to you during your tour.
There was a bunch of really interesting stuff, like the fact he built housing for about 30,000 poor people, who loved him and protected him afterwards, calling him a saint.
In one of those housing complexes, he discovered world-famous goalkeeper (who played for Colombia at the World Cup a few times) Higuita, who had a house next door at one point.
Apparently, Escobar never lived here, just using it for business. It was pretty crazy.
It was a Sunday, so walking around and checking vegetarian restaurants we’d pinned on the map was mostly fruitless. We wound up at a place (named ‘German Street Food’) that offered vegan hotdogs, only to find out that it was just falafel in the shape of a hot dog…
From here, we got the subway and took it up to the cable cars that ascend the mountains and pass over the favelas.
The favelas seemed decently organized and much less run-down than in Brazil. There were tons of signs of life, lots of parties and stuff going on.
We caught the subway over to the Metropolitan Basilica, which was actually cool-looking, but it was 100% the area where addicts meet up to hang out during the day, and we were the only people who weren’t part of the crowd. Talk about everyone knowing you’re not from there and staring at you…so we walked fast, took no pictures, and went elsewhere.
At the Palace of Culture, we were surprised that it was closed, but the building and statues were really awesome.
From here, we got the subway back down to our hotel and poked around the hotel next door. After I had a burrito, we went to grab a coffee and then found out the Starbucks there has vegan whipped cream. We couldn’t believe it! We asked about 10x to verify. When they asked her name to write on the cup, of course my wife said her name is “Shakira”. The employees weren’t sure if it was funny or not.
The next morning, we got a ride over to check out El Atanasio stadium. It’s much more than a stadium. It’s a full-on sports complex with every training site you could imagine.
They had a cool tribute for Chapecoense, the team that basically all died in a plane crash en route to play them in the final of Copa Sudamericana in 2016.
We were walking across the street leaving the stadium and spotted some red macaws flying above our heads and settling into the trees. The 1 day we didn’t have a good camera with us…
We got a ride over to Plaza de la Libertad
and then walked over to Plaza Cisneros, which basically looks like a place growing giant light sabers.
We got the plate of the day from Veggie Life, but not until we managed to find it. There’s a mall where this restaurant is on the 3rd floor. The 3rd floor is cut into small sections, and you have to go up the correct stairs to wind up in the correct section. That was fun!
Good food, though.
Back at the mall by our hotel, we went to pick up snacks for the next day and were amazed to find that the Philharmonic Orchestra practices in the mall, and you can listen to practice for free. Amazing! This mall has vegan ice cream, vegan whipped cream, burritos, and free top-notch classical musicians. We also enjoyed some fun product names at the store.
We packed up our stuff at the hotel. Medellin is a cool city. It was horrible a few decades ago, but the city is making a serious effort to be great. I liked it a lot.
After breakfast, we caught a taxi up to the airport, and we were off.
Quick: think of something more stereotypical of Colombia than this Juan Valdez cafe.
Answer: you can’t.
This entry was posted in Colombia, Medellin, South America