Today I visited for the second time El Castillo Museum. This rare and extravagant destination that seems to arouse a lot of curiosity among tourists in Medellin.

It is a palace converted into a museum that offers an intimate look at the life of the Echavarrías, one of the richest and most powerful families in Medellín during the 20th century.

Are you interested in luxury and antiques? Then you must know El Castillo. There is no other place in the city that mixes both things in such an exotic way. That is why I am sharing some tips for you to enjoy the tour and activities such as having a picnic in its splendid gardens.

But keep in mind this warning: if you are looking for a lively experience that allows you to discover the history of the city, there are other plans such as the Graffitour in Comuna 13 that will surely meet your expectations better.

Personally, El Castillo is not my favorite museum. I’ve heard that sometimes people are disappointed because they expected something different. With this post I want you to know what it offers and avoid you to get any unwanted surprises.

Location

The museum is located to the southeast of the city, in the Poblado sector. Exactly on calle 9 sur N° 32 – 269, going up the hill of Los Balsos.

It is a mostly residential area, although near there, on Av. del Poblado, you will find other tourist destinations such as the Santa Fe shopping center (one of the largest in the city) and the Rosa Mística Sanctuary, a religious pilgrimage space very frequented by local devotees of the virgin.

Continuing further south is Envigado, with equally interesting attractions such as the Casa Museo Otraparte, where Fernando González, the philosopher and sorcerer, lived (according to his acquaintances). But for now let’s stay in Medellín.

Getting there

Your options to get to El Castillo Museum are the Metro system, requesting a taxi (or ridesharing app such as Didi, Uber and Cabify). You can also go on your own vehicle.

In the Metro you must take line A to the Aguacatala station. When you exit the turnstiles turn right. Going down the steps of the bridge, the white Metro buses are parked. There are usually several routes that pass through the museum. Ask the driver directly if he makes a stop there. But if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll go to the landline taking route Poblado 133llA. The total price of the integrated trip can amount to $3,475 (0.70 usd).

On the way back, you will most likely have to ask for a taxi or an Uber, since the street in front of the museum only goes up and you would have to walk several blocks to go back down to Los Balsos. Keep in mind that the ride fare to neighborhoods such as Laureles-Estadio (or any area further north) will be higher than $20,000 COP ($4 usd).

In case you drive your own vehicle, the museum has a parking lot that costs $10,000 ($2 usd) for cars and $6,000 ($1.20 usd) for motorcycles. This covers you for all the time you spend there.

History

Although we started by mentioning the Echavarrías, El Castillo was ideated by José Tobón Uribe, founder of the Pasteur pharmacy. He was so fascinated by the French castles of the Loire Valley, that he decided to build a country house with the same characteristics.

The work was finished in 1931 but months later Tobón died of a heart attack. Then Diego Echavarría Misas bought it to settle there with his wife Benedikta Zur Nieden, whom he called ‘Dita’. In honor of her they baptized “Ditaires” to a neighborhood of Itagüí.

The Echavarría family was already among medellinians for having created the San Vicente de Paúl Hospital and the Coltejer textile company, whose spire-shaped building was considered the tallest in the country until 1977 and still dominates the downtown landscape.

From the beginning, the couple dreamed of turning their lives into a museum. They expanded and decorated the spaces of the palace with valuable artworks that they acquired through sales and auctions in Paris, New York, London and other cities. Everything seemed to be going well for them.

But this story hides a painful tragedy. The Echavaría couple had an only daughter named Isolda, who died at 19 due to Guilliam Barré syndrome. Just 4 years later, in 1971, Diego Echavarría was kidnapped and assassinated by the FARC guerrilla.

However, that was not enough to end his dream. After returning from exile, Benedikta Zur Nieden decided to open the doors of the Castle to the public and turn it into a foundation. Now, thanks to multiple acquisitions and donations, the facilities have the largest collection of decorative art in Medellín.

Things to do

The Castle is characterized mainly by the museum and by the gardens that surround it. These green areas are so amazing that people reserve them for weddings, photo studios, and even filming movies. And you can complement your tour by having a picnic there. Just keep in mind: pets are not allowed to enter.

Make sure that your visit is on a clear day, since the true charm of the place is experienced when it is sunny. Medellín is known for its changeable weather, so if you see too many clouds change your destination.

For weekends, my biggest advice is not to spend the whole morning or afternoon in El Castillo. Instead, take advantage of the fact that you are going to be in El Poblado and plan your day to later explore other areas such as Manila, Provenza, El Lleras and Ciudad de Río, where you will find delicious food and more entertainment.

Museum

Inside the palace there are 14 rooms filled with all kinds of eccentric curiosities. Don’t forget that Diego Echavarría was the first person in the city to own a limousine.

In the case of such a character, you will come across objects such as the smallest book in the world (a Bible translated in 7 languages the size of an earring), Persian rugs made with camel hair and chandeliers that at the time were worth more than the entire land of the castle.

Some things to keep in mind are eating and going to the bathroom before you start. This is not said by the guides, but the tour lasts approximately one hour and there are no bathrooms for the public in the building.

You should also know that the guide is only given in Spanish, so it is good that you are accompanied by someone who translates for you if you do not speak the language.

At the reception they sell self-guides for $10,000 (2 usd). They are small books in English, French and Spanish that narrate the script of the tour, but I personally think the experience is not the same if you also have to worry about reading.

The museum isalso in charge of storing your belongings during the tour; this is for the safety of the collection. They are not supposed to allow you to take photos inside the castle either, but I recommend that you always take your camera or cell phone with you, because there are some specific points where the guides give time to take photos with the landscape.

My last recommendation is that you think twice if you are going with someone who is very old or has some kind of mobility disability. The route has very steep stairs on several occasions and there are no ramps to facilitate movement.

Gardens

The Castle is surrounded by a set of gardens that have the same essence as the building, because they are inspired by foreign aesthetics (mainly French medieval gardens). Even though they keep the wonderful local flora inside.

The main garden that is located in front of the palace is the French Garden and dates back to the times of the Echavarría family. A little over a decade ago, other spaces were also revamped, such as the Japanese garden, the tropical garden, the succulent garden and the native forest.

So you have many places to choose where to put your tablecloth and eat something with your family or with that special one.

Picnic

As for the picnic there are 2 options. You can bring the elements yourself to assemble it in the castle gardens. In that part they do allow food to enter.

But this alternative has limitations: the group with which you go must not exceed 10 people and you cannot put special decoration.

If you want to go with a large group or decorate, El Castillo offers a series of plans with delicious picnics for 2 or 4 people, whose prices range from $38,000 (7.60 usd) per person to $190,000 (37.99 usd) for 4 people. This service must be reserved 2 days in advance through Whatsapp or on its official website.

But let my tell you my advice here, again: whether you plan your visit in the morning or in the afternoon, you better have lunch in El Poblado, where there will be restaurants of the same quality but much more varied, at similar prices or even cheaper than picnics.

Price

I remind you that the parking lot for the entire time you spend there is worth $10,000 (2 usd) for cars and $6,000 (1.20 usd) for motorcycles.

The admission fee to the museum may vary depending on the plan you choose.

  • Guided tour & gardens admission: Adults: $18,000 (3.60 usd) / Children (between 3 and 13 years old) and students $12,000 (2.40 usd).
  • Gardens admission only: Adults: $15,000 (3 usd) / Children and students: $10,000 (2 usd)

Open hours

  • Weekdays: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

These hours apply for admission, it does not mean that the museum closes at that time. They just don’t accept more people.

For the visit to the castle, no prior reservation is required, the guided tours are assigned at the ticket office in order of arrival and according to availability.

For this reason, it is recommended that you arrive with time in advance, since the wait to start the tour can be 45-50 minutes on weekends if there is a lot of attendance.

In addition to this, temporary events and exhibitions occasionally take place at El Castillo, so it is good to check their social networks before going, where they usually update the programming.