Plaza Botero is home to the 23 large-format sculptures donated by Fernando Botero, the Museum of Antioquia and the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture.

This is a must-see for those curious about art and authentic local culture, with no filters. This means that during your visit you will probably encounter some circumstances such as informal sales, homelessness and prostitution.

I think these things are part of Medellin’s society and it’s not worth hiding them. On the contrary, we must warn of its presence so that visitors are more aware of our reality and, in the event that they feel uncomfortable with it, they do not get unwanted surprises.

Personally, the only thing that worried me before going was the insecurity. Many tourists and residents have complained about theft in the past. So I didn’t know if I could bring my camera to take pictures of the sculptures.

But from now on I tell you that you can do it without trouble. Of course, you must follow several tips that I will leave you below. The most important: make the most of it by also entering Museo de Antioquia and Palacio de la Cultura, the perfect list for a day full of wonder.

Location

Plaza Botero is located in the downtown of Medellín, in the Candelaria sector, between Av. Carabobo, Carrera Bolívar and the intersection of both with Av. León de Greiff.

It is surrounded to the west by the Museum of Antioquia and the Church of Veracruz, to the south by the Palace of Culture and is diagonal to Parque Berrío and the Metro station that has the same name.

Getting there

Due to its proximity, the best option is the Metro transportation system. Other alternatives are asking for a taxi (or mobility applications such as Didi, Uber and Cabify) or taking a bus.

However, these other options are not so recommended because the streets around Plaza Botero (and the downtown in general) are usually very congested. In addition, I rule out the use of my own vehicle because it is difficult to find a good parking lot.

Going back to the Metro, you must get off at the line A station called Parque Berrío, which is approximately 300 meters from Plaza Botero. Keep in mind that this is one of the largest stations on the Metro, so there are 3 different exit points and that can be confusing (the chaos is part of what makes downtown so much fun).

If you don’t want to get lost, pay attention. When you get off the train, identify the stairs further north (on one side of the station you will see the red building of the Flamingo Shopping Center and on the other side the checkered façade of the Palace of Culture). Go down and when you pass the turnstiles take the exit on the right, which will leave you in Bolívar street.

From there you will see the Palace (a large building in black and white colors, like a chessboard). Beyond you’ll find the square filled with sculptures.

Keep in mind that as soon as you get off the station there will be hundreds of street vendors. They may or may not offer you to buy something. The important thing is that you do not feel obligated to buy and even if you want to buy a product, do it quickly, without browsing too much.

There are other places like Carabobo where you can go shopping with more peace of mind. In Plaza Botero it is best to go to the land line; the less you wander, the less you expose yourself to pickpockets. Now let’s get to the fun.

History

Plaza Botero was a transformation that “came to stay”. This was stated by the artist Fernando Botero the night that his 23 sculptures were placed in front of the new headquarters of the Museum of Antioquia. Minutes later, he himself ordered the destruction of the crates in which they had been transported, thereby ensuring his permanence.

To understand the importance of that moment, it is necessary to know a little more about this institution and the person who gives its name to the square. The Museum of Antioquia was founded in 1881. Since then it has been the place that preserves the history of the region and its plastic expressions.

However, entering the 1970s, the entity was going through a financial crisis and, furthermore, it lacked sufficient space to exhibit its entire collection. Into this panorama appeared Fernando Botero, an artist from Medellín who had conquered the world, elevating Latin American popular culture to a universal level with his voluminous aesthetic.

Botero promised to donate a handful of works kept in his personal collection, if the conditions of the museum were improved by creating a room in honor of his son Pedrito, who had died prematurely. After many efforts, the first artworks arrived in 1974, although it was obvious that the entity needed a fundamental change.

So the artist and the museum boards decided to raise their stakes, promising a much larger donation if a new headquarters and a plaza for several large-format statues were built. Which only was possible until the late 1990s, when the museum was facing imminent bankruptcy and the city was undergoing one of its most violent times.

Counting on the support of the private sector and the necessary political will for this endeavor, the old Municipal Palace was chosen as the new headquarters and the 7,000 m2 lot located in front was designated for the plaza; where there was a whole block of buildings inhabited by a citizenry that, in a certain way, never gave up that space.

Construction began in 1999 and, with the arrival of the 23 sculptures in 2001, the official inauguration took place. Nowdays, the sculptureare still there. And around them the life of the city also vibrates in exaggerated proportions.

Things to do

It usual to take a photo of yourself with each bronze sculpture. I propose that you do it as a game where, before reaching the Museum, you must capture the largest number of scenes in the shortest possible time.

Although it is not necessary to run either. For me, one of the attractions of Plaza Botero, beyond the statues, is its almost carnival-like atmosphere of an open-air marketplace. And it’s great to stop for a few moments to observe the curious characters that populate it daily.

Then you can enter the Museum of Antioquia (with more than 5,000 pieces in its permanent collections), the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture (whose greatest charm is architecture), or both. But without them it is not worth exposing yourself only for 23 sculptures. So in the links I leave you their official pages so that you can review the schedules and possible programming changes.

Safety tips

If you got here you know that visiting Plaza Botero involves a bit of risk. However, for some time the authorities have been redoubling their efforts to guarantee the integrity of tourists. That is why you will find there the presence of policemen and security guards.

Even so, as we say in Medellín, it is best not to give papaya (or put yourself in a situation to be taking advantage of). That’s why I leave you the following tips:

  • The earlier the better: from the morning hours until afternoon there is a greater presence of the authorities, so it is safer to go early. No matter how pretty the square is in the late afternoon, I don’t suggest visiting it after 4 p.m.
  • Travel light: it is better that you only take the essentials with you; nothing fancy. This way it will even be more comfortable to travel by Metro.
  • Stay just long enough: seeing all the sculptures and taking photos with them takes about 30 minutes.
  • Go accompanied: if you are in a group it will be easier to protect your belongings, although there should be no problem if you travel alone.
  • Keep yourself inside the square: the authorities only monitor inside the square. There is no reason for you to go out into the surrounding streets, especially those located to the north such as Av. León de Greiff, where the risk of robbery is much greater.
    That is enough so that you do not have to worry during the time you spend there.