Medellín is everything you want it to be. On one end, the city’s upscale neighborhoods are loaded with international culinary offerings, world-class shopping options and trendy hotels. Otherwise, the city is generally a budget traveler’s dream-come-true. Throughout the “City of the Eternal Spring,” your dollar can go a very long way - from affordable lodging to cheap street eats to inexpensive Aguila beers at local watering holes.

Regardless of your budget and when you go, it never hurts to sprinkle in a free activity or two. And, in the case of Medellín, these freebies are some of its most quintessential experiences. Here are the nine best free things to do in Medellín.

Plaza Botero features sculptures by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero ©sunsinger/Shutterstock

Admire Fernando Botero's sculptures in Plaza Botero

Where in the world will you find a major city’s principal square dotted with 23 sculptures of voluminous characters from Fernando Botero? The answer is: Only in Medellín. Botero is Colombia’s most beloved artist and in this totally free and open space, you can admire his larger-than-life sculptures, including a man on a horse (hombre a caballo), a cat (gato) and Adam and Eve (Adán y Eva). The Museo de Antioquia, Hotel Nutibara and Medellín’s metro border you in the square, making for that much more magical of a setting.

Take a self-guided walking tour of the very vivid graffiti art

For those seeking that next Insta-worthy snap, Medellín is heaven. In fact, you could make an entire day perusing some of its most renowned public art hotspots. The Comuna 13 / San Javier neighborhood – particularly near its Metrocable station and famous outdoor escalators - is absolutely loaded with vivid outdoor art depicting the barrio’s transformation, locals and everyday Colombian life. 

For street art lovers, additional pedestrian-friendly highlights include Carrera 43C in El Poblado near La Matriarca restaurant and the walls lining the Medellín Aquatic Complex near El Estadio Atanasio Girardot. There is also an Open Sky Gallery along the Ayacucho Tramway near the San José station, with an entire building painted with a 3D traditional chiva bus.

Peruse the wares at Mercados Campesinos

Each weekend, more than 20 of Medellín’s most popular parks are morphed into public, outdoor markets with vendors and goods galore. It's always free to look, but if you’re wanting to try some of the region’s most unique fruits (e.g., maracuyá, lulo and gulupa, among so many others) or snag some artisan made crafts, these markets are primed for perusing. You can feel good about your purchases, too - more than 600 rural-based families participate each week and benefit from the sales directly. Parks with regular markets include el Segundo Parque de Laureles, Ciudad del Río and La Foresta. Get shopping!

Walk among the wildflowers in Parque Arví

Parque Arví is tucked over the northwestern, mountainous edge of Medellín. Amid tons of park options throughout the valley, Parque Arví is arguably the most secluded and nature-focused option. Within its nearly 40,000-acre confines, you’ll find more than 50 walking trails, an outdoor market and seemingly endless wildflowers and butterflies in between. 

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Parque Arvi in Medellin, Colombia is a nature preserve and archeological site with trails to explore the grounds. © Diego Grandi / Shutterstock

Admission to the park is totally free but getting there won’t be. For the most scenic and affordable option, take the Metro to the Acevedo station, transfer to the Metrocable K Line toward Santo Domingo and then, in Santo Domingo, take the Metrocable L Line to Parque Arví. A roundtrip ride to Parque Arví will run approximately 25,000 pesos (or $7) and the views along the way are worth it.

Stroll through a mall

The malls in Medellín are more than just a hodgepodge of shops – they are cultural centers in their own regard. For holidays and major events, the common areas of Medellín’s most popular centro comerciales are morphed into playgrounds for kids, art installations and totally visual spectacles. An example: In 2021, for Medellín’s iconic flower festival (Feria de Las Flores), the Santafé mall installed a flower art piece composed of more than 180,000 flowers in its common area. In addition to Santafé, El Tesoro, Premium Plaza, Arkadia and Oviedo are among Medellín’s most popular shopping destinations.

Go to church

A predominantly Catholic country, you’ll find a towering church anchoring most major plazas and squares throughout Medellín. Your reason for visiting one may vary – perhaps you need to repent for partying too much in El Poblado the night before or you’d like to experience some of the city’s most dazzling architecture. For architectural masterpieces, hit the brown, white and exterior-art-draped Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Bello and the all-brick Catedral Basílica Metropolitana in the heart of El Centro. Both welcome visitors, but make sure to be quiet while church is in session.

Facade of the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Medellín, Colombia.
The Cathedral Basilica Metropolitan de Medellín is easily identified by its brick exterior and Romanesque details. © MarcPo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Talk to a paisa

Stunning mountain views, bumping nightlife and culinary morsels aside, Medellín’s notably warm and friendly people are what make the city so special. Wherever your Medellín adventure takes you, take a moment to pause and engage with a paisa (the name given to those from Medellín). For a more formal interaction, there are regular free language exchanges that connect paisas with foreigners, with the one at Noah Boutique Hostel being a local favorite.

Museo Casa de La Memoria

With decades-long, politically induced armed conflicts to its inner-city drug cartel clashes in recent decades, Medellín has endured heartache and loss on an incredible level. The Museo Casa de La Memoria looks at the city’s past through the lens of those that have been displaced as a result of Colombia’s conflicts and massacres. The free museum has three levels of exhibits, many of which zoom in on individual experiences of loss, survival and reflection. It is a very emotional experience and you’ll leave with that much greater of an appreciation for just how far Medellín has come.

Museo de Geociencias de la Universidad Nacional

Calling science lovers! For as much as Medellín has sprouted from its mountainous shell, there is a lot going on underground, too. This free museum has more than 10,000 fossils, rocks and minerals from throughout Colombia to explore. In 2021, the museum celebrated its 100th anniversary, so there is plenty of history to get acquainted with here, too.

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