Medellin’s downtown is a particular place. A lot of things happening in there make it unique, especially for those who want to experience the busiest and “real” side of the city. History, art, commerce and culture are part of a puzzle that is difficult to decipher at first, but you get a taste for it once you try it.

My story with the Medellín’s downtown began when I was a child and I used to visit my family’s shops located on the famous Carabobo street. The downtown of that time differs a lot from nowdays’.

A couple of decades ago, the downtown was a place with a lot of chaos: homelessness, informal commerce, congested streets and a lot of insecurity. But over the years, like many areas of Medellín, the downtown has been transformed and has integrated its fast-pace with the historical elements that make it a key place to understand the city in a much more pleasant way.

In this guide I am going to tell you everything you can do in the Center and I am going to give you the best advice so that your visit to this sector is very pleasant and safe.

Location

Medellín’s downtown is located in Comuna 10, known as “La Candelaria”. This area is delimited by an “imaginary square” that connects four key points: 1) The Metropolitan Cathedral 2) San Antonio Park 3) La Alpujarra 4) La Minorista Marketplace.

This small district that today is the commercial and political epicenter of Medellín was the point where the city began to be “built”, having as its nucleus the extinct Plaza de Mercado Cisneros, where the people of Medellín in the late 1800s went to sell and buy basic goods.

Getting There

The best way to get to the downtown of Medellín is by Metro. There are 4 stations that are directly connected to strategic points in the sector.

The first of them is Parque Berrío. This station will give you direct access to historical places such as Plaza Botero, the Palacio de la Cultura, the Museum of Antioquia, the church of Veracruz or the Parque Berrío itself.

One stop later you will find the San Antonio station, which connects directly with Paseo de Carabobo and the sector called “El Hueco”, which is the largest commercial area in Medellín.

Then you will find the Alpujarra station, which connects to the Plaza de la Alpujarra, which is the political epicenter of Medellín. There are institutions such as the Mayor’s Office and the Governor’s Office.

Finally, there is the Cisneros station, which is also close to Plaza La Alpujarra, but which connects with a slightly more informal and chaotic commerce sector.

The main bus lines of the city also pass through the center, but if you are not from Medellín this is a means that I advise against since it is very difficult to find your way around.

You can also arrive in your private vehicle if you wish. But here’s a little warning: to drive through the downtown you have to be very patient, since its streets are small, restricted and very congested. Although you will find an easy parking space to leave your vehicle, getting there can be an odyssey.

What to do in Medellíns downtown?

In the downtown of Medellín there are dozens of things to do. From visiting open-air museums such as Plaza Botero, to buying all kinds of products at the best prices in the city. Here are my favorite plans

Visit Plaza Botero

Fernando Botero is the most recognized Colombian plastic artist worldwide. His “Gordas y gordos” have been admired in world capitals such as New York or Paris. Plaza Botero is an open-air museum made up of 25 sculptures that the artist donated to the Museum of Antioquia and that are accessible to the public for free.

The setting of this museum is quite picturesque, since along with the works of such a renowned sculptor, there are street vendors, street artists and locals who take the opportunity to take a photo mocking the nudity of the works.

Visit Veracruz: the oldest church in Medellín

A few meters away from Plaza Botero is the oldest building in Medellín. It is the Iglesia de la Veracruz, a small chapel built in 1803 and one of the few buildings of the time that are still standing.

Among the locals, this point has become famous not only for its historical component, but also because the atrium of the church became a meeting point for the city’s prostitutes for several decades, who wait for the men who leave the canteens of the Center of Medellín to arrange an encounter.

Buy anything you need in “El Hueco”

The pedestrian street of Carabobo is one of the main commercial areas of the Center.

This is my favorite plan. Going to “El Hueco” is how it is popularly known among the people of Medellín to go to the center of Medellín to buy all kinds of items. Medellin people is famous throughout the country as good merchants and if you come to this place you will understand why.

The main reason I love the plan of going to “El Hueco” is because being in it is like navigating a little bit of a Chinese trade show. If you’re looking for a product for personal use (clothing, shoes, accessories, perfumes, electronics, luggage, etc.) and it’s not in “El Hueco” you probably won’t find it anywhere else.

Another reason is that the prices of the products in this sector can be up to 50% cheaper than those you get in shopping centers of the city. In fact, many of the merchandise stores in the rest of Medellín get their supplies directly from the hole. Don’t forget to ask for a discount to get the best rates.

Finally, this is a sector that has modernized a lot over the years. There are several pedestrian malls, buildings, and stores where shopping is not only a comfortable but also a safe experience.

Don’t you forget to bring local currency cash with you, since most of this places does not accept payments with credit card.

Enjoy a tango show in the Salón Málaga

Just right in the exit of San Antonio metro station is one of the most iconic places in the Center of Medellín. Salón Málaga is a tango hall founded in 1957 and that 6 decades later seems to have stopped in time.

Tango is closely linked to the history of Medellín. Not only because the historic artist Carlos Gardel died in the city in a plane crash, but also because this musical genre was adopted in popular neighborhoods as an insignia of Medellín’s culture.

Salon Malaga is a tribute to this musical genre. You can visit it at night and enjoy some of the live tango shows that take place on Saturdays.

Eating dessert in the Astor Lounge

Astor is a Colombian coffee and pastry chain that was born in the bowels of the downtown in Medellín. Several decades ago, the wealthiest families in the city drank tea in the Astor hall, which was the first branch of this chain in the city. Today the hall retains that touch of elegance and its desserts are delicious.

Visit La Alpujarra and the Parque de las luces

La Alpujarra is the administrative center of Medellín and Antioquia. All decisions at the city and department government level are made there. This square brings together 3 large buildings that house different institutions of the paisa political power.

Although the entrance to these buildings is not public, you can take some very good photos of both the buildings and the imposing sculpture that is right in the middle of them.

On the other side of the square, crossing San Juan street, is the park of lights. A park that was built to recover a place in the center that was occupied by homelessness and drug trafficking. Today it is quite a beautiful place, especially for the view it has of the Vásquez Building, one of the most iconic architectural structures in the city.

Safety in the Center of Medellín

In general, the places recommended in this post in the center of Medellín are quite safe. You can go to them and take some photos with your cell phone without worrying about being robbed. In fact, for many years I have visited the center with some frequency and I have never had a problem of this type.

Of course, keep in mind as it is an area with so much movement, you must follow some advice.

The first is that you do not walk through the streets of the center at night. This is a commercial area that closes very early. After 6pm it can get lonely and the experience can be uncomfortable and scary.

My second recommendation is that you stay away from the commercial areas. Use your common sense, if there is a street that looks bad, do not go there.

The third is that you go light of belongings. Take only what you need to do your shopping or visit the places you want to go. Keep your things in sight and preferably stored in the front of your pockets.

Lastly, be careful when crossing the streets. I already mentioned above that the streets in the center are very busy and vehicles usually do not respect the pedestrian crossings. Go through corners only when the traffic light is red.

Hotels in the downtown of Medellin

The downtown is not one of the best areas to stay in Medellin. And I actually don’t recomend it at all for foreing visitors. Additionally, keep in mind that there is not much you can do walking from your hotel at night. Of course, because of what I just said, you can find some very cheap hotels or inns.

One thing that you should be aware of is that even when you can find Airbnbs that look great and very cheap, you probably won’t like what comes in the package outside the building.

But if for some reason you insist on staying in the center of Medellín, these are some hotels that you can choose.

The first is the iconic Hotel Nutibara, one of the most classic hotels in the city and where the wealthiest families in the country stayed when they visited Medellín.

If what you are looking for is a cheaper option, you can choose the Hotel Ayenda, which It is a low cost chain with convenient options.

But let me insist. If you don’t have a very strong and specific reason to stay in the downtown, don’t to