Medellin was such a nice surprise for us. The fear from its turbulent times are left in the past. The city has learned it’s lesson and has been reinventing itself in the past decade. What used to be the most violent city in the planet now is a hipster destination attracting tourists and digital nomads from all over the world. The violence lived for such a long time, is being replaced with art that flourish with vibrant colors from every corner. This is something you can feel and see as you walk the streets of Medellin. We have to admit, we fell in love with this city and it’s people.
As we travel the world we learned a lesson, the local knows better. With this in mind and a strong desire to dive deeper into this beautiful culture we interviewed Juan. He is an architect passionate about traveling. He was born and raised in Medellin and has a lot of travel tips to share with us from a gay local perspective.
medellin gay guide:
WHERE TO STAY
The centre of gay Medellin life, it’s called Provenza, within the El Poblado neighborhood. It’s an area full of restaurants, bars and clubs. It comes to light at night and during the weekends. And because of that the area has lots of options of accommodation with a variety of hostels and hotels.
WHERE TO PARTY
There are two usual spots where gays meet: Parque Poblado or Parque Lleras. These two parks are in the Poblado neighborhood and close to where the most recognized restaurants, bars and clubs area is. So usually people meet in these spots just as a meeting point to decide later where to go. My favorite and most interesting gay-friendly bars and clubs are located in this same area, around Provenza. Places like El Social, 37 Park are bars that I enjoy pretty much visiting, sitting for a chill drink and having a talk with friends. As for clubs I like spots like Calle 9+1, Bolivar, the Rooftop of the Charlee Hotel and Salon Amador. All of this are not gay bars or clubs per-se, but definitely gay-friendly where you can go and have a great time.
WHEN TO GO
Although I would say any time of the year it’s nice to visit Medellin, there are two big events in the city that are worth your time: Feria de las Flores (Flower’s Fair) at the begging of August, and Christmas time in December.
“Feria de las Flores” is the city’s most iconic festival; therefore, you will have activities for two weeks to get to know more about our culture and traditions. From the ‘Silleteros parade” and flowers exhibitions in the botanical garden to tours around the region of Santa Elena where the tradition started.
And Christmas just has a different feeling in Medellin than anywhere else, the whole city is lit up with big light installations all over the city. Every day you will feel like you are in a fairytale. Every day there is something to do and somewhere to go. A good time for family, friends and gays.
WHERE TO EAT
There are a couple of traditional restaurants that I love that offer these traditional dishes and that are not very expensive: El Rancherito or Mondongo’s restaurant are two very good options. The most traditional dish in Medellin is called “Bandeja Paisa”; quite a heavy dish as it is full of different meats, chorizo, beans, rice, plantain, among other ingredients. It’s an amazing variety of flavors! If you are not used to heavy meals be careful not to eat too much and hurt the stomach. Don’t forget to try the traditional plates called Sancocho and Mondongo too. Last but not least important you can’t miss the coconut lemonade or “limonada de coco”. It’s delicious!
WHERE TO SHOP
I would say any coffee related product is a good thing for someone to buy, there are plenty of products based with coffee for you to try and buy. Some of the local alcohol it’s also a must try: Aguardiente and Rum. If you go to the country side and small towns around Medellin, don’t forget to get your traditional ‘sombrero aguadeño’ and your ‘poncho’ with you! Also you have to try the coconut lemonade, or “limonada de coco”. It’s a traditional drink of Colombia and is delicious!
There are lots of cool stores that you can’t miss selling colorful clothes in El Poblado. Fashion is part of the local culture and you will see people wearing bright happy colors everywhere you go.
THINGS TO DO
In Medellin you can’t miss going to the Botanical Garden, it’s a must see! Also go to the little town Pueblito Paisa located on the top of Nutibarra Hill. You can’t miss taking the graffiti tour around the Comuna 13! This neighborhood used to be the most dangerous in the world in the past and now they welcome tourists from all over the world to see a lot of Medellin’s history, the struggles and how a very difficult neighborhood has managed to stand up and fight adversity. Also they have the first outdoor public escalator in the world where you can go all the way to the top of the hill as you see the colorful alleys of the community.
DAY TRIP FROM MEDELLIN
Two hours away from Medellin there is a small town called Guatape, a very cute little town with one amazing landscape and a unique attraction: “La Piedra del Peñol” (The Stone of El Peñol), which gives a unique panoramic view over the area. Can’t miss it! It takes around 2 hours to get there. You can also spend your day at the Arvi Park, a natural spot close to town where you can easily get to by the cable of the metro. A car trip to the East and all the small towns around is another fun activity with local food, traditions and unique culture.
GAY PRIDE IN MEDELLIN
The local gay pride is still very small, not yet a big display or well-known parade. In the last couple of years, it has slowly been growing, which makes me hopeful as becoming a more inclusive town, ready to embrace and celebrate diversity.
As in any city in the world there are areas or neighborhoods that should be avoided, at least by yourself. Always seek for information about a place you’ve never been before . Be aware of the environment where you are and try not to show off your phone while walking around. Pickpockets could give you a harsh time. I think this is the most important advice I can give you, staying alert for any suspicious activity around you will prevent you to have a bad experience.
THE GAY SCENE IN MEDELLIN
It could be said that starting around 10 years ago, the gay scene has changed quite a lot in Medellin. As there is now a bit more acceptance and tolerance around from the community, it has become a more open topic. Right now, there is no longer one specific area where the gay bars are; there are spots in several areas of the town. Besides this, and thanks to the more tolerant environment, a lot of “straight” bars and clubs are becoming gay-friendly as well, so you feel welcomed in different scenery.