The 6 Best Cultural Sites to See in Medellin

One way to measure a city is by the quality of its culture. To do this, one only needs to survey its museums and heritage sites.

Visitors and residents in Medellin will find no shortage of engaging and educational sites to explore. Whether you’re interested in history, science, astronomy, art – this city showcases world class institutions that warrant a visit – or two.

Let’s take a trip around Medellin and survey the six most outstanding museums, parks and sites available.

#1 Museo el Castillo y Jardins

Tucked away in the hills of Poblado is the breathtaking Castle Museum and Gardens. Walking inside the wrought iron gates and across the cobbled stones is akin to taking steps back in time and across the continents to medieval Europe. This absolutely massive estate is both a feast for the eyes and food for thought, an essential cultural landmark not to be missed in Medellin.

The Castle was built in 1930. The architecture was inspired by the castles of the Loire Valley in France. The medieval style is Gothic. Imposing towers complete with crenellated walls are interspersed by courtyards separated by ogival shape archways. Red needle spires could have held Rapunzel in style. The interior rooms are as historically accurate as the exteriors, preserved in time as a livable castle to the ruling elite.

There are five distinct gardens on the castle grounds. Standouts include the French Garden, the large main park of the museum, that looks today as immaculate and symmetrical as European castles of old. The Japanese garden merges the mystical and modern aesthetics, beauty and natural perfected in balance between Occident and Orient. The native forest in back maintains the wildlife native to the area and the Patio Azaleas is flowering, fountained mosaic resembling Sevillian courtyards and Andalusian houses.

Cobblestones, flowering hedges trimmed in fanciful shapes, five main water works flowing and birds singing provide an ambiance worth staying to enjoy. Many choose to picnic on the lawns, as this is a service that the museum provides between five different menus. The museum also rents its rooms for marriages, social receptions, seminars and corporate events.

This was first the residence of Jose Tobon Uribe who brought planes directly from Paris. It was purchased by Don Alejandro Echavarria who later bequeathed it to the public in memory of his wife. He meant it to be an educational center and museum.

Today, it’s run by a non-profit foundation that preserves the collections of works by Colombian teachers, Europeans artists and collections of decorative arts. Furniture of the early last century, Baccarat crystal, porcelain and European manufactured goods can be found as well.

It features a hall of decorative arts, an exhibition seeking to stimulate creativity and initiative in designers and Colombian artisans. It blends useful and practical object with the whimsical and purely artistic.

There’s a yearly salon embroidery and knitting collection and well as an antiques bazaar held twice annually. If you’re an antiques roadshow lover, this is your cup of tea. There’s a modern and classic Gran Turismo car show happening soon as well.

Flamenco dance classes are available, as are classical piano and guitar lessons. Painting, figure drawing, photography and jewelry making classes round out the monthly lineup.

Cost for entry: $10,000 COP for adults, $6,000 for children

#2 Jardines Botanicos

The Botanical Gardens of Medellin are a 14-hectare sanctuary with more than 1,000 species of plants and 4,500 flowers. Expect to encounter iguanas and plenty of birds as you stroll the spacious lanes between between ferns, palms, acacias and rubber trees in astounding variety.

While visiting these beautiful gardens, don’t feel restricted to walking only on the pavement here. Every inch of the garden is meant to be enjoyed on foot. Move between the lagoon, the tropical garden, the butterfly farm and the Orchidarium as you like.

Free to the public, this is a popular place to spend time with loved ones, whether it’s a picnic or just enjoyable quality time. The gardens are pet friendly as well.

The Biblioteca Andres Posada Arango is a collection of works related to forestry, agriculture, landscaping, gardening, medicinal plants and environmental sciences. There’s also a variety of royal heritage illustration collections, preserved from expeditions in the 1800s to places like Grenada.

Each month features new classes. Whether it’s about the sustainable home, gardening or botanical illustration, you can immerse yourself in plant-based learning. Take a guided tour for an in depth perspective on your surroundings.

The gardens also host great events. On the first Sunday of each month, enjoy a Green Market with organic products. Each Sunday at 10 a.m., there’s even a free Atman yoga class held under the outdoor theatre and event area that was designed to look like a bouquet of flowers – quite an impressive sight.

Be sure to check out their upcoming calendar of events. The Feria de Flores, or Festival of Flowers, showcases an impressive orchid display here between July 29 and August 7. Vibra Mi Terra, a beer and music festival, happens from August 23-24. And the Feria de Libros y Culture, The Book and Culture Festival, takes place from September 11-21.

In Situ, the gorgeous restaurant within the gardens, is one of the best in the city. Sit looking into the forest canopy or enjoy the courtyard water features under a parasol. The garden lamps illuminate after the sun sets and the grounds, or “Green Lung” of Medellin, come to life under a new light. Very cool.

#3 Parque Explora

Located in the northwest part of Medellin, close to the University of Antioquia, is the remarkable Parque Explora. This interactive science museum is loosely modelled upon San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The four red cubes hold the museum’s science and technology rooms.

One section houses South America’s largest freshwater aquarium, Explora Aquarium. The 25 tanks exhibit many of the representative species within Colombia’s rivers and ocean, as well as Amazonian species like piranhas and electric eels.

The Vivarium Emplora is a pavilion that recreates the world of reptiles and amphibians in and around Colombia. Find turtles, poison dart frogs, boas of incredible size and many exotic species rarely seen other places.

The park also includes a 3D auditorium showing nature films, a television studio and restaurant and 300 interactive attractions. In the exposition hall, you’ll find regularly scheduled PhD scientists as guests.

Cost of entry: $23,000 COP

#4 Medellin Planetarium

The Medellin Planetarium is a part of Parque Explora, bordering the Parque Explora building and adjacent to the Botanical Gardens. With the proximity of all of these wonderful sites to one another, it makes for a great visit during a full-day trip to this part of the city.

The Planetarium itself features a resounding stage and reclining seats for a modern and immersive experience in geoscience, astronomical and space age experiences. This is the most engaging and educational interstellar experience you’ll ever enjoy!

The main dome runs an all day, hourly showcase of learning exhibitions such as: ‘Are we aliens?’, ‘Live show: Mercury’ and ‘We are astronauts’.

Astronomy courses are available for children and adults requiring little more than an enthusiasm for learning and several free hours in a day.

Check out the hologram exhibit to appreciate the illusions inherent in our understanding of earth. Or drop in on a guest lecture to learn about deep space on a whole new level.

After you’ve been to space and back, sit and relax on the rooftop terrace or on the grassy area around the waterwork outside. Enjoy the cafe delights of Kaldi Kaffe if you’re hungry or thirsty.

Cost for entry: $14,000 COP

#5 Museo del Arte Moderno

The Medellin Museum of Modern Art, or MAMM, is a fantastic contemporary institution dedicated to facilitating free expression in the arts, film and music. The building itself is a nouveau industry marvel, five stories of geometric symmetries and idiosyncrasies wedded with a fractal patterning.

The rooftop cafe affords visitors stunning views of the Eastern Medellin hillsides and surrounding city. Each of the five stories offers balconies with abstract wood sculptures and further opportunities to relax in style.

The ground level is finished by a giant stair amphitheater in back that opens into the Parque Ciudad del Rio. Cafe Bonuar perches at the corner and makes for an excellent “sit-down spot” full of people watching, treats and nature.

If you make your way across the park, visit one of the many food trucks stationed around the perimeter. The variety and the quality of the food is outstanding!

Inside the museum you’ll find many of the seminal works of Débora Arango. A devout social activist, Arango dedicated her art to exposing the injustices suffered by the Colombian people at the hands of the government as well as what women suffer at the hands of men. Arango is remembered as the favorite daughter of Medellin and as a saint amongst the populace.

Exhibits of photography and ethnographics prints rotate, as do other Antiochian arts of note. Sound and music projects find a home in the monthly calendar as well.

The cinema house shows a revolving sequence of independent films from around the world, both contemporary and classic.

Cost of entry: $10,000 COP for adults, $7,000 for children

#6 Museo de Antioquia

When you visit Plaza Botero – and you must – be sure to save time to regale yourself of the Museum of Antioquia. This is the perfect way to develop an appreciation for Paisa culture, see great art and artifacts and spend a few enjoyable hours surveying fascinating pieces.

The Museum of Antioquia was founded in 1881. It was initially named the Museum and Library Zea to honor the botanist, national hero and diplomat, Francisco Antonio Zea. Since then, it has morphed into a more traditional museum offering permanent exhibitions of the culture. Now, full of handwritten documents, natural history elements of the region (minerals, geology, botany), archaeology, painting and colonial elements, it’s an excellent place to view this to learn more of the area.

The museum collection holds more than 5,000 pieces such as sculptures, drawings, reports, reviews, drawings and historical pieces. A total of 4,224 historical objects are on display here also, including Indian jewelry, stone artifact and textiles.

Sit in the charming outdoor Cafe Botero for a treat of the tasty cuisine, a glass of wine or a cup of coffee while surveying the lively Plaza Botero. Or choose to enjoy the seclusion and serene atmosphere of the Secret Garden Cafe inside.

Bilingual tours are available of the museum as well as Plaza Botero outside.

Cost for entry: $18,000 COP for foreigners, $12,000 for nationals

The Last Word

Medellin certainly doesn’t lack for culture nor does it miss an opportunity to celebrate the arts, science, nature, history or its people. Visitors and residents alike will find plenty of rewarding times spent amongst these public institutions and interesting areas of the city. With a sense of curiosity in tow, there’s much to be learned and seen when visiting the museums and cultural sites here.

Andrew Campion

This might be my quick "bio" but I want one thing to be crystal clear: this site is all about YOU! It’s my singular mission here at Medellin Lifestyle to report on and create awesome stuff that’s really helpful, insightful, to the point and makes your time (or potential time) in Medellin better. Since 2006 I've been investing in and helping others–from digital nomads to retirees and expats of all stripes–transition here to lead wonderful lives in my favorite city in the world!