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I’ve been here for less than a day. But I can already say: I love Medellín.
This city is beautiful, it’s fun, many of its great attractions are free or cheap, and it’s everything Bogotá isn’t.
Bogotá’s streets are a mess of pavement and mud, even in nice neighborhoods. Medellín’s are well paved, even attractive, through all the parts of the city we saw today. Transmilenio, Bogotá’s public transportation system, is better than nothing, but woeful in several ways–speed and comfort foremost. Medellín’s metro is a delight: clean, fast, smooth-running, and just plain pleasant. It’s so comprehensive it includes a gondola-style cable car system up a mountain into one of the city’s poor new neighborhoods.
Bogotá is a decent museum city, but really only because of the Museo Botero and the Museo del Oro. Those two are impressive, and the Museo Nacional is fine, but then there’s nothing else. The Museo de Antioquia is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to, a reason in itself to come back to Medellín. I could definitely spend a whole day, or more, back there when I have the time–and I highly recommend the museum to everyone. Bogotá has some public spaces, but nothing special. It has plazas and some parks, including the huge Parque Bolívar. But only Parque Bolívar is worth repeated visits, or visits of several hours–and it’s not central, something a hassle to get to from almost anywhere.
Medellín’s Jardín Botánico is free and beautiful, its public parks (which we didn’t enter today) look gorgeous, and there are numerous other family-style sights and attractions, like the fun and interesting Parque Explora, and the plaza Botero, with over a dozen grand Botero sculptures outside the Museo de Antioquia. Bogotá’s nightlife neighborhoods are fine, but not particularly exciting as neighborhoods: Zona Rosa/Parque de la 93/Zona T aren’t neighborhoods as much as rows of bars and restaurants. El Poblado here in Medellín is a true party neighborhood, reminding me more than anything of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Having heard that Medellín was Chicago to Bogotá’s New York, I was prepared to see lots of the ways this smaller city is inferior. But in my first day here, all I’ve seen are ways this second city is better. I’ll be coming back soon. I think I’ll spend much more time here. All of you should come too.