If you are reading this, then you are probably looking for a quick answer rather than a roundabout discussion of the two only for the writer to say that you should go to both. I could also do that to avoid offending anyone who feels strongly about either city, but I won’t. The answer is Medellin.
Okay, if you were looking for the quick answer, you can stop reading now. The next bit is going to be me justifying my answer and trying to say that Bogotá is also cool.
Is Bogotá worth the visit? Absolutely, but if you’re on a crash course through South America, it can be sacrificed in favor of more time in Medellin. If you don’t feel like reading this and are more of a visual person, you can check out my Colombia video so you can see for yourself why Medellin is just simply superior.
So how exactly is Medellin better than Bogota?
There are quite a few reasons, but for me, the biggest thing is that the liveliness of the city is undeniably better. It is vibrant, bustling, and has a fantastic personality of its own that Bogota lacked. Bogota was beautiful and I’ll admit, the city had its share of breathtaking sights. At about 10,000 feet above sea level, being surrounded by the mountains was truly something to behold. The street art was also incredible. The graffiti in Bogota is ubiquitous, fantastically detailed, and difficult to get enough of. There is no denying that it has a lot to offer, but again, if you were in a dilemma and needed to pick one over the other, to me, Medellin is a no-brainer.
Related: The Backpacker’s Guide to Medellin
Medellin is all-around one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. The rolling, lush green hills surrounding the entire city along with the vibrant red buildings clumped together along the hillsides make for endless views. Do you want to see how beautiful Medellin is? Go to your nearest metro station, buy a ticket for 2,000 pesos (not even a dollar), and admire everything you pass by on the train ride. You can hop off literally anywhere and enjoy some of the most breathtaking sights you’ll see in urban Colombia.
The weather is another thing to take into account. I’ll admit that landing in Bogota from Cartagena was one of the most relieving and satisfying feelings I’ve ever had. I went from constantly sweating profusely to actually shivering once or twice. It was quite nice but the cold can get old real quick. The change in temperature was pleasant but after I arrived in Medellin, I immediately wondered why I hadn’t lived here my entire life. The weather in Medellin is perfect. The Snapchat filter literally says “Eternal Spring”, which I definitely found to be true. The weather was my ideal temperature the entire time. In Cartagena, I went back to the hostel every two or three hours just to shower because it was so humid and I felt disgusting. In Bogota, I would bundle up, bundle down, then bundle up, and so on. Medellin is the weather that dreams are made of.
The next, and probably most important, thing is nightlife. In terms of nightlife, Medellin is a top global destination. That is true for all types of travelers, but backpackers especially. For travelers looking for a good time, Medellin is where it is at. The top hostels in Medellin provide everything a backpacker is looking for and will provide any solo travelers with a good home base before diving into the raucous Colombian nightlife.
The nightlife areas of Medellin are as packed and lively as you’ll find anywhere in the world on a Friday night. For most tourists, drinks are much more affordable than you’ll find in your home country. The Colombian people are also among the friendliest that you’ll meet. If you fail to make at least a few local friends on a night out, there is something wrong with you.
I also found Medellin to feel much safer than Bogota, despite the reputation it has due to Pablo Escobar’s cartel. Of course, each city has its good neighborhoods and its bad neighborhoods, but overall, I was more comfortable in Medellin. I didn’t have anything bad happen to me in Colombia, but it never hurts to look into travel medical insurance like SafetyWing. Unexpected things and accidents happen all the time while traveling. The added peace of mind that travel insurance brings is worth the cost. Even the most careful traveler might fall victim to circumstances out of their control.
I had some friends wander into the wrong neighborhood in Bogota and a local woman had to pull them into her car and drive them to safety. That’s not to say that Bogota is unsafe, but a clueless traveler might easily be taken advantage of. While Bogota felt more like a college town to me, it also did not share the same vibrant nightlife that Medellin has. In terms of stumbling around drunk at 3 AM, I would also prefer to be in Medellin for safety reasons. Bogota is a massive city, almost twice the size of Medellin. There are good areas and bad areas, but Medellin’s most prominent nightlife areas felt much safer than those in Bogota.
Things To Do
When it comes to things to do, I felt like I could explore Medellin day after day and find something new to love. It blows Bogota away in that aspect, which is likely the most important for a traveler looking for new adventures. As a short-term tourist, I got bored in Bogota after my first day. Bogota was chill and had a relaxing vibe to it, but most short-term travelers don’t go to new destinations to chill.
Ever since I began my longer-term backpacking trips, I can see the appeal in a city like Bogota. I did enjoy sitting at coffee shops and taking in the hustle and bustle of Bogota. That is also something I did in Columbia (Missouri) quite often, and not quite something I wanted to do in Colombia. You can easily knock out La Candelaria, El Museo de Oro, and Cerro Montserrat in under a day, which are Bogota’s three main attractions. I managed that no problem, and then suffering from boredom that night, moved my flight to Medellin a few days earlier. It was one of my best decisions, as even a week in Medellin was not nearly enough time to really appreciate how incredible the city is.
Even if you just stay in Medellin, you are going to have a fantastic time, but Medellin is also in great position for some amazing day trips and activities. Guatape is about a two-hour ride away from the city and is very much worth going to. Hike the giant rock, take in the colorful canvases of the city’s casas, and stop by Pablo Escobar’s old mansion to do some… paintballing. Oh yeah, if you’re into Narcos or Pablo Escobar, Medellin is the city to be in. Many tourists think of Pablo Escobar and cocaine when they think of Colombia. Rather than try to bury that dark part of Medellin’s past, many tours will gladly educate you on one of the world’s most cruel and fascinating figures.
As one of the Americas’ largest cities and Colombia’s capital city, Bogota is probably the city most well-known by travelers itching to go to Colombia. But seriously, go to Medellin instead. If I were to go back to Colombia, it would be a no-brainer for me to go back to Medellin. Part of that reason is because I told some little kids I’d come back to kick their asses in soccer again, but even if that were a non-issue, I would still pick Medellin hands-down.
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Check out my Colombia video below to get a small taste of what the beautiful country of Colombia has to offer.
It barely scratches the surface, but hopefully, it convinces you to go to this fantastic country, especially Medellin! Nothing will do the beauty, culture, and life of Colombia justice. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
More on Colombia
The Backpacker’s Guide to Medellin, Colombia
The Best Places to Work Remotely in Colombia
The Best Party Cities in Colombia
One Month Colombia Backpacking Itinerary
The Backpacker’s Guide to Bogota
20 thoughts on “Bogotá vs. Medellín: Which Is Better?”
Thanks for creating such a exciting video and relevant commentary.
My neighbor friend grew up in Bogota and would like me to come and visit, yipee!
This is great stuff that I just stumbbled upon, while googling some questions.
I’ll be sure to follow your blogs.
Thats an amazing video. I would love to make some video like this. What software do you use? Any web links on how to learn making such cool video?
Just a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great style and design. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.
Planning a trip to Columbia so this really helps 😀
Have fun! Colombia is amazing
No offence, but you’re not really qualified to write this article based on one day in Bogota and the fact you only a small fraction of it, and areas where locals don’t really go. You didn’t hit Chapinero, Zona G, Zona T, Zona Roza, Usequen…
Agree with you 100%, but this was article was catering mostly to people with time constraints and could only choose between one or the other. For long-term travelers, I’d say both cities are pretty equal, with Medellin being trendier but Bogota being overall more liveable. However, people who are already short on time probably won’t be staying in Bogota long enough to go beyond the typical tourist spots. If I had only one week and could only go to one city in Colombia, then Medellin is the clear winner for me.
I’m so jealous you went to Medellin! I really want to go there but I think my trips to Colombia have been exhausted. I have been to Bogota and Barranquilla. Thank you for this detailed post and allowing me to live my Medellin dreams.
Aww man, Barranquilla looks amazing too but I haven’t been. Hope you get a chance to make it back to Medellin someday!
Great review of both cities. I was invited to a wedding in Medellin but I didn’t make it due to various reasons. The couple have always told me that Medellin is the best city in Colombia to visit. I always thought they were just biased but looks like they were right! The vibe sounds amazing.
I can see that both cities are beautiful (I’ve only been to Bogota and that was nearly 40 years ago so I’m not counting it). But great to have the low down on which is better and also your thoughts about why!
Wow! Great comparison! You’ve completely sold Medellin to me. The city looks absolutely beautiful and has a lot to offer. Love your amazing video, especially the sunset part. Looks like the trip was super fun. Thanks for sharing.
I always wanted to go Colombia and have loved your analysis on both cities of it. Medellin really looks stunning and I loved your video. Bogota though crowded looks full of traditional style of living and may be interesting for some people.
Bogota was a great city that I wish I had spent more time in. Definitely worth seeing also but I just couldn’t get enough of Medellin!
Great Post and Nice Article.Great comparison .I like it.Thanks for sharing.
I tend to disagree. Although I haven’t been to Bogota, all the craze about Medellin is nonsense.
Yes, the weather is indeed perfect, the mountains are lovely, the transport is efficient, although there are traffic jams. But aside from that there’s really nothing much to do. The architecture sucks, it’s all brick buildings looking like each other, whether fancy condos or favelas, as there’s practically colonial. The center of the city is full of junkies, sketchy people selling you stuff and just filth. The food isn’t something to note as well, comparing to Mexico for example. There are basically 2 districts where expats hang out and where it’s nice and heavily patrolled by police, but you can have a drink and shop around. I wouldn’t also call locals extra friendly and Spanish spoken around is somewhat a dialect, making it harder to understand/communicate and English is just generally unknown. The nightlife? Uhm, I don’t know if you’ve ever been a part of a proper nightlife, sitting in a bar or hostel and getting drunk on Friday night doesn’t really count for it.
Bottom line, its not a bad city, but not as great as people tend to portray. I mean, everyone has an opinion, and that’s mine to share. I found Mexico and Panama to be much more friendlier and vibrant.
Bogota, in fact, the city has many faces, it is very colorful, beautiful and interesting, if you know where and when to go. An unprepared tourist will not be easy without a local guide and not even safe.
I’m planning to travel to Colombia in 2021. I’ve been excited about it despite the pandemic. There’s just so much information out there. It’s a little overwhelming. I plan to go alone. I have a few questions and I hope everyone can give me their personal experience and suggestions. I plan to do this alone so safety is top priority for me. I don’t know how they feel about an American Chinese in Colombia, but I can speak and understand very basic Spanish. With translator apps these days, it’ll make things a lot more easier. How long does a typical tourist visit for? MedlIelin or Bogota? I want to rent a car but is it a good idea? I want to be able to walk down from the hotel and everything is convenient. Bars, nice girls, shops and restaurants. Should I stick with fellow tourists? Should I meet a Colombian girl online, get to know her and meet her when I visit so she can show me around? That’s kind of like bringing sand to the beach so to say? I’m very excited but I need guidance. I worry about being in an area where I shouldn’t and getting robbed. Well thanks for your time everyone.
Went to Bogota and Medellin, a couple years ago, and both places are great! Bogota has a lot fo history, being the capital, but there is so much to do in Medellin!
I just read your article about comparing Bogotá and Medellín and I have to say, I agree with your assessment that Medellín is the superior city. You made some really good points about Medellín’s liveliness, beautiful views, perfect weather, and incredible nightlife. I also appreciated how you mentioned the safety factor and the importance of travel insurance.
One thing I might add is that while Medellín may be the better option for backpackers and solo travelers, Bogotá still has a lot to offer for other types of travelers. For example, Bogotá is a great city for history and culture buffs, with its many museums and historic sites. It also has a thriving culinary scene and is a great place to experience Colombian cuisine.
Overall, I think you did a great job of highlighting the strengths of Medellín and providing a balanced perspective on both cities. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!