Exploring The Top Public Spaces In Medellín - Medellin Advisors

Exploring The Top Public Spaces In Medellín

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Medellín, in its successful endeavour to shift away from violence and towards social inclusion and cohesion, has placed significant emphasis on restoring public spaces. Medellín is a city, blessed with year-round warmth, where you can always dive into its public spaces and truly feel the essence of its people and culture.

In this article, we will share our favorite public spaces that showcase the best of Medellin’s vibrant community, rich culture, and innovative urban design.

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Parques del Río

Parques del Río is undoubtedly Medellín’s most ambitious transformation of public space. Previously an industrial area, the project began in 2015 and was completed in 2019.

The area that now constitutes the park was once neglected and dominated by highway traffic. Today, the park is built on top of the highway and features thousands of trees and plants, transforming what was once a polluted area into a new green lung for the city. It’s a prime example of urban design that turns a problem into an asset, showcasing Medellín’s commitment to sustainable development and improving urban living conditions.

Located in the heart of the city, this park invites participation from everyone in the community, regardless of economic background. It includes cycle lanes, a playground for kids, and is dog-friendly—evident from the many dog walkers you’ll see during your visit. The park also hosts various cultural and recreational activities, including outdoor concerts, fitness classes, and art installations, making it a vibrant community hub.

If you arrive with an appetite, you’ll find a number of modern and bustling restaurants, including a pizzeria that I have personally tried and recommend. Additionally, there are food trucks and pop-up stands that offer a variety of snacks and local delicacies. Just make sure to bring cash, as some of the restaurants do not yet accept card payments, and ATMs can be hard to find in the area.

Parques del Río exemplifies how urban spaces can be reclaimed and repurposed to enhance the quality of life for all residents, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment that fosters community interaction and environmental stewardship.

Exploring the top public spaces in medellin

Depending on when you visit, particularly on Sundays, you may encounter various events such as dance classes, yoga sessions, group rollerblading, and other social activities.

That’s just on any given day of the week. Throughout December, during the annual ‘Alumbrados’ event when the city lights up with festive decorations, Parques del Río takes center stage. It boasts the greatest concentration of festive murals and lights, attracting thousands of visitors and locals alike to enjoy one of the city’s most significant touristic events.

Even if you’re just visiting Medellin, I highly recommend you visit the Parques del Rio. 

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Is the park safe?

Yes! In addition to CCTV, there is ample private security that conduct patrols throughout the park. I’ve been to the park late at night and even then felt safe. Having said that, it is necessary to apply common sense, as you always should. 

Where is the park?

Located in the heart of Medellín, Parques del Río stretches along the Medellín River, connecting different parts of the city and providing easy access from various neighborhoods. The park is conveniently situated near major thoroughfares, making it accessible by multiple modes of transportation. The nearest neighbourhood is Conquistadores.
 

Parque de los Pies Descalzos

Located near the EPM building, Parque de los Pies Descalzos is a unique and tranquil oasis in the city. As the name suggests, visitors are encouraged to take off their shoes and walk barefoot, experiencing the various textures of sand, water, and grass. This sensory park is designed to promote relaxation and mindfulness, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The park also includes water fountains, bamboo gardens, and shaded areas perfect for picnics.

Also worth noting is that this park is very closely located to the aforementioned Parque del Rio (around 5 minutes on foot). 

Exploring the top public spaces in medellin

The concept of this park, as articulated by the official Medellin travel website, is designed to ‘awaken the senses, starting from the feet and reaching the spirit’.

I’m not so personally sure about that, however, I can confirm that it’s a beautiful public space adorned with shade-giving trees and well-manicured green areas. The Barefoot Park is particularly popular with children, who are drawn to its numerous water features.

Within the park, you’ll also find the Museo del Agua (Water Museum), a forward-thinking institution operated by the city’s utilities company, EPM. The museum is dedicated to educating visitors on the importance of water management, conservation, and sustainable use. Entry to the museum is entirely free, ensuring that it is accessible to all city inhabitants, regardless of their economic situation.

Having personally visited the museum, I highly recommend it. You can easily spend 45 to 60 minutes exploring its array of interactive and educational exhibits. It’s an excellent place to take the kids, offering both fun and learning in a unique setting.

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Parque de los Pies Descalzos also offers a variety of culinary delights. You’ll find everything from traditional Bandeja Paisa to pizza and Asian cuisine within easy reach.

Throughout the park, various street vendors offer delicious treats. Some of the juiciest mangos I’ve ever had are available here, just so you know!

In my opinion, the best thing to do in this park is to slow down and people-watch. Whether you’re observing people entering and exiting the nearby EPM office or watching the vendors at work, the atmosphere is always relaxed and feels very secure.

How to get there:

The park is situated in the administrative area of Medellin, right in the nexus of the city. In the surrounding area you’ll find emblematic buildings such as the EPM office, the Metropolitan Theater of Medellín, and Plaza Mayor, Convention and Exhibition Center. 

The closest metro station is Alpujarra.

Cerro Nutibara

Next on our list of top public spaces we have Cerro Nutibara, synonymous with the famous Pueblito Paisa situated at the peak of the hill. Just to warn you now, this is the most touristic public spot so far included, although I wouldn’t say that takes away from the enjoyment of the place. 

So, what does Cerro Nutibara have to offer?

  • A great view of the valley/city.
  • Walking trails
  • An open-air auditorium
  • A small museum
  • Restaurants
  • A small replica of a traditional Antioquian village (hence the diminutive name Puebl’ito’ Paisa).
  • Lots of vendors and potentially buskers (depending on when you visit).
Exploring the top public spaces in medellin

Cerro Nutibara has a rich history dating back before the arrival of the Spanish into Colombia. ‘Cerro’ means ‘hill’ in Spanish. The name ‘Nutibara’ derives from the indigenous Nutibara tribe, who inhabited the region before the arrival of Spanish colonizers.

Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Nutibara tribe inhabited the area around what is now Medellín. They were one of the indigenous groups that lived in the Aburrá Valley, where Medellín is located. The name “Nutibara” comes from their language and is believed to mean “father of the land” or “great lord.”

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One of the great things about Cerro Nutibara is that it is deeply embedded within the city, therefore providing a much needed juxtaposition of peace and tranquility amongst the bustle around it. 

It is centrally located and easily accesible, making it a popular destination for both locals and foreigners, especially on Sundays. Likewise, have this in mind if you want to avoid the crowds (mornings tend to be quieter). 

In 2019, Cerro Nutibara underwent significant renovations aimed at enhancing the visitor experience and preserving the cultural and natural heritage of this iconic Medellín landmark. The renovations focused on several key areas such as infrastructure (creating trails, auditoriums, and cycle lanes). There were also significant cultural enhancements around the top of the hill where the Pueblito Paisa is. The platforms and accessibility of the area were improved to allow a better flow of visitors within the model village. The surrounding restaurants were also revamped.

El Jardín Botánico (The Botanical Garden)

The Botanical Garden of Medellín, officially known as Jardín Botánico Joaquín Antonio Uribe, is a rather beautiful green oasis that provides a quick escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Located in the northeastern part of Medellín, near the University of Antioquia, the garden covers around 13.2 hectares (32.6 acres) and is home to over 1,000 species of plants. Medellín belongs to one of the most biodiverse territories in the world and believe me when I say that this garden attraction does well to showcase its splendor. Wandering through the well-groomed grounds, you’ll find themed gardens such as the Orchidarium, which showcases hundreds of orchid species, and the Medicinal Garden, highlighting plants used in traditional medicine.

As a center for botanical research and education, the garden plays a crucial role in the conservation of plant species and the study of local flora. It offers educational programs, workshops, and guided tours that provide visitors with insights into botany, ecology, and environmental sustainability. The garden also collaborates with universities and research institutions to conduct important scientific studies.

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Architecturally, the garden features several interesting structures, including the Orquideorama, a large pavilion designed to mimic the form of a giant orchid. This innovative structure provides a sheltered environment for the orchid collection and hosts various events and exhibitions. Another highlight worthy of a visit is the Tropicario, which houses a variety of tropical plant species in a controlled environment.

The Botanical Garden also serves as a vibrant cultural and recreational hub. It hosts concerts, art exhibitions, and festivals, drawing both locals and tourists. The garden’s open spaces, walking trails, and tranquil ponds make it an ideal spot for picnics, leisurely walks, and relaxation. Accessibility is a key feature, with the nearby Universidad Metro station making it easy for everyone to visit. Best of all, admission is free, ensuring that people from all walks of life can enjoy this wonderful space.

The garden’s commitment to conservation is evident through its participation in reforestation projects and efforts to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem preservation. Amenities such as a café and well-maintained facilities enhance the visitor experience, making the Botanical Garden of Medellín a must-visit destination for anyone looking to connect with nature, learn about plants, or simply enjoy a peaceful day outdoors.

Jardin botanico de medellin hace homenaje en el dia de los jardines botanicos

N.B – The Botanical Garden is not open on Mondays! Also, it’s worth checking online to see if it will be open that day. Whilst it is open throughout the year, Colombia is packed with holidays; on those days, the garden is likely to be closed. 

Parque De Las Luces

Parque de las Luces, or the Park of Lights, is a square in downtown Medellín. This unique space, situated among the busy administrative and cultural centers of the city, offers a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle that surrounds it.

However, what really sets Parque de las Luces apart is its forest of towering light poles that transform the park into a dazzling spectacle at night. With 300 light poles, each standing at 24 meters tall, the park lights up in a way that’s both modern and rather artistically designed. 

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The park was part of a major effort to revitalize downtown Medellín. What used to be a neglected area has been transformed into a safe, welcoming space with open areas, gardens, and plenty of seating. It’s now a great spot to take a break, relax, or just enjoy a quiet moment in the midst of the city’s chaos.

Close to landmarks like Plaza Cisneros, the EPM Library, and the Medellín Metropolitan Theatre, Parque de las Luces is easy to get to. During the day, it’s often bustling with activity, but it still offers a peaceful escape from the busy streets around it. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll, sit and people-watch, or just soak in the ambiance, this park is ideal.

The park also hosts various events, from public performances to community gatherings, making it a lively spot for both day and night activities. It’s open every day, but it’s a good idea to check for any special events or maintenance that might affect access. 

Again, as is often the theme with many of Medellín’s public spaces, Parque de las Luces exemplifies the city’s efforts to reclaim, clean up, and transform its areas into something that reflects its new, vibrant identity.

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The park is easily accessible by public transport, including the nearby Alpujarra Metro Station. For those who prefer biking, the city’s public bike system, EnCicla, has stations nearby, making it simple to grab a bike and enjoy a ride to and from the park.

Also just a heads up, there are plenty of street vendors here. In particular, you’ll find freshly extracted (and extremely delicious) sugar cane juice. 

Conclusion

So there we have it. By no means an extensive list of Medellin’s public spaces but rather a curated one, based on my time in this city. 

Medellin has taken large strides in the last few decades to reclaim its domain and hence why each park mentioned on this list incorporates some sort of social and cultural significance. 

These spaces provide not just pretty and relaxing spots for a bit of downtime, but also a look into the city’s efforts to foster community and promote sustainability. They will give you a real sense of Medellín’s vibrant transformation.

As always, if you need any further assistance, don’t hesitate in getting through to the team at Medellin Advisors. 

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