Maybe you’ve arrived in Medellin at the end of your trip, money is running out. Perhaps you’ve spent a little more on beer or the amazing food in Colombia and your budget is tighter than you planned. Whatever the reason, just because you’re looking to pinch pennies during your visit doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in your dorm room. We’ve put together a quick list of the eight best free things to do in Medellin (or almost free at least) to help you get the best out of your pocket change.
Just to clarify, by “almost free” I’m referring to maybe spending a few dollars at most – typically just for transportation reasons. Unless otherwise noted in the description, the only cost involved would be the metro fare to reach the location. At time of writing, a one-way ride costs only 2400 COP (or just under $1 USD).
If you do happen to have some money to spend, have a look at our full list of fantastic Medellin activities!
One additional bonus, Medellin has free WiFi hot spots spread throughout the city! You should have no problem getting online while relaxing in a park or any other major public space.
Ride the Medellin Cable Car
The metro-cable is one of the highlights of Medellin. The ease of access to unique barrios is the best part, but the spectacular views of the city are worth the ride alone.
There are two main cable lines running from the main metro. Line K leaves from Acevedo on the northeast end of town, while Line J heads up from San Javier in the west. Whether you decide to hop off and explore the neighbourhoods on either end or not, both rides offer a beautiful perspective of the city below.
This is the only one that literally has a price-tag attached, though it’s no different than most of the others. Whether you’re heading up to Santo Domingo or La Aurora, it’s only the base metro rate of 2400 Pesos to ride. And since you’ll most likely be arriving by metro anyway, your price of admission will have already been paid!
Explore the Markets of Medellin
Medellin is a sprawling metropolis with high-end malls and supermarkets. Though one of our favourite ways to get a true Colombian experience is by wandering through the smaller and often wildly chaotic local markets.
One of our favourites is Plaza Americas. It’s a smaller market located in Laureles, where we did most of our shopping during our first stay in town. Because of its size and somewhat “suburban” location, it’s a perfect spot for first-timers.
However, the best market in Medellin — by far — is Plaza Minorista José María Villa.
Minorista is a crowded and hectic place, full of incredible colours and smells. You’ll find everything here, from meat and produce, to household good, tasty restaurants, and sketchy-looking dive bars.
The best way to get here is to take a taxi. You could also walk from Cisneros metro station, but the area around the market can get a little sketchy.
Do Not walk between Plaza Minorista and Plaza Botero. Though it’s only a 10 minute walk, Avenida de Greiff is one of the dodgiest roads in all of Medellin. Day and night, it’s crawling with homeless people and often violent drug addicts.
Kylee and I almost made this mistake on our first visit. Though a few minutes in, we realized what we were getting into and turned back. After doing a little research later on, we found out how wise that decision was.
Regardless of how it looks on the map, take a taxi.
The area west of San Javier station has a troubled reputation, and rightly so. Comuna 13 was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in all of Medellin until only a few short years ago. In recent years, it’s improved significantly, but still has it’s issues.
Now, don’t let that scare you off! Comuna 13 is a part of the city that stands out above the rest. The government has pushed a ton of money in recent years to help with infrastructure, helping make massive changes for the locals and outsiders as well.
The local residents are extremely proud of the progress, and welcome visitors with beaming smiles. Visiting the area is best done on one of the famed walking tours (see below), but can also be done on your own. Take in some of the spectacular graffiti, local hip-hop artists and breakdancers performing in the streets. If you’re able, pick a Saturday or Sunday afternoon for some of the liveliest activity.
It’s roughly a 15 minute walk from San Javier Metro station. Stick to daylight hours, as with many parts of Medellin, things get sketchy around dark. Also, check the local news before visiting, as we learned recently the situation can change at any time.
The famous “fat statues” of Fernando Botero can be found only a few short minutes from Parque Berrio.
Botero is a great son of Medellin, born and raised. His unique sculpture style is recognizable around the world. Tourists and locals alike flock to the park to snap pictures of the unique statues, ranging from dogs and horses, to naked women and Roman soldiers – also naked.
While you’re there, visit the Palace of Culture, a stunning building of Gothic architecture towering ominously over the plaza. Entrance is free and there are several exhibits displaying the history of the area within. Also, the rooftop is a great spot for photos!
And while you’re in the neighbourhood…
Spend the afternoon relaxing in the bustling Parque Barrio. The park is found right in the heart of Medellin, outside the Metro station of the same name. It’s been a focal point of the city since the 17th century and remains as such today.
The park itself is a simple open space with a few trees, a statue dedicated to it’s namesake and benches scattered throughout. Buskers and other musicians will regularly appear in the afternoon while locals gather to sing and dance along. If you’re lucky, you may even stumble upon a salsa dancing party!
I should add, while public drinking is technically illegal in Medellin, the rules seem to be overlooked on these festive afternoons.
Simply combine this with a visit to Plaza Botero to save on a metro ticket.
Botanical Garden of Medellin
The botanical gardens of Medellin are a spectacular spot to get away from the chaos of the city, without actually leaving it. The best part, is that there is no entrance fee whatsoever.
Spend a few hours wandering through the pathways while breathing the fresh clean air. Sit down near the pond and have a snack while you watch the birds and turtles. Check out some of the unique flora from around the country and if you’re lucky maybe see one of the resident iguanas walking through the grass.
The easiest way to reach the gardens is to take the A-Line to Universidad station.
Free Walking Tours
City walking tours are becoming very common these days and Medellin has some of the best!
The two most popular tours and the two we recommend the most, are though Real City Tours and the Graffiti Tour of Comuna 13. Both tell an in depth story about the history of the city and don’t skip the recent past that makes it what it is today.
While the tours themselves are technically free, the guides are donating their time and are often well-educated in the subjects. Tips are greatly appreciated, but if you don’t have the money to spend, it’s not required.