Planning a trip to Colombia and trying to decide which city, Medellin vs. Bogota, you should visit? Read on for all my thoughts on the subject!
I’m not going to lie: this post is DEFINITELY a hot take.
If you’re planning a visit to the South American country of Colombia, you’ve almost certainly considered the question: Medellin vs. Bogota, which one should I visit? On the surface, these cities are fairly similar – they’re big cities, cultural hubs for the country, consistent weather, surrounded by mountains, and offer a wide variety of attractions.
However, there’s definitely a lot more than just that to consider when deciding whether to visit Bogota or Medellin.
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All right, all right, I’ll cut to the chase. While tons of people on the internet say that Medellin is definitely the better city (and many travelers we met in Colombia said it was their favorite), I’m here with the hot take: for us, Bogota easily, EASILY won as our favorite of the two cities.
Medellin vs. Bogota: The Breakdown
To justify this decision, give context, give credit to Medellin in categories that it clearly wins, and describe what types of travelers would like each city better, I’m breaking down the pros/cons of Medellin vs. Bogota in each of the following categories: weather, cuisine, price, history, attractions, day trips, viewpoints, architecture, transportation, and safety.
In this category, I will concede that Medellin is the clear winner. With nice weather year round, it’s referred to as the city of eternal spring. Bogota is at a high elevation, and its highs year round are in the 60’s. It’s regularly overcast and rains frequently.
I did love the weather in Medellin, but the weather in Bogota, when it wasn’t raining, wasn’t that bad either. Matthew loves a mid-60’s day, so he actually really enjoyed the weather in Bogota. Of course, if you’re a heat worshipper, Bogota will not be your cup of tea.
Medellin vs. Bogota: Cuisine
Medellin generally has more traditional Colombian restaurants, while Bogota has a much more international food scene. However! We ate both traditional and international food in both cities! I think we did end up liking the food in Bogota more, but that may be partially influenced by the fact that I really like the ajiaco soup (a Bogota specialty), and that we did this awesome food tour there.
But overall, the food scene was fairly similar. Read all about the best foods to eat in Colombia here!
Winner: I’d give an edge to Bogota here, but Medellin really was good too
Medellin vs. Bogota: Prices
Prices in both cities were fairly comparable. Attractions, food, transit, and hotels were approximately the same price. Of course, where you stay and eat will impact your costs quite a bit. We ate out at low to moderately priced restaurants, and stayed in budget to mid-range accommodations (but not backpacker level, and not in hostels).
You can read the detailed breakdown of exactly what we spent during our 2 weeks in Colombia here!
Winner: A tie
For this category, I would say that each of the cities wins for different aspects.
Medellin has the very tragic yet also intriguing history of Comuna 13, violence by the drug lords and guerrillas, and the recent and developing history of overcoming those difficulties to make a thriving community. The history of the drug trade and Comuna 13 is tragic yet incredibly compelling, to say the least. Our tour of the Comuna was easily one of the best parts of our visit to Medellin.
However, I would say that La Candelaria (Old Town) of Bogota just feels more historic – the buildings and attractions are all clearly from colonial times. Combine that with Bogota being the seat of government, and Bogota felt more established and rooted. It had a clear identity while Medellin sometimes felt in flux.
Winner: Medellin wins for a specific site with a big history, but Bogota definitely wins as far as the historical nature of the city.
Bogota vs. Medellin: Culture and Attractions
In this category, Bogota is the CLEAR winner. Bogota’s old town of La Candelaria blows anything that Medellin has to offer out of the water. There are historic and interesting churches all over the city, world class museums, grand main squares and little plazas that are actually quite beautiful. We went to several museums and plazas in both cities and really did prefer the ones in Bogota.
While Bogota was an overall winner, Medellin does stand out for a few activities – namely, that we were able to go paragliding in the Andes outside of Medellin (so fun!). Also, if you want to go to a futbol game, Medellin undoubtedly has the best club in Colombia.
We love doing little day trips when we visit big cities, so I want to compare the day trips we did as part of this matchup. I will say, while we only did one daytrip from each city, there are a handful of interesting sites and pueblos to visit, so these are far from your only options.
From Medellin, we did a daytrip to Guatapé and from Bogota, we visited the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral. Both were great trips and we really loved both of them, but if I had to pick one, I would say I liked the day in Guatapé more. Both main attractions were similarly compelling, but the town of Guatapé was delightful and beat out Zipaquira.
Winner: Medellin, but Bogota’s not far behind
Medellin vs. Bogota: Viewpoints
One of our favorite things to do in any city is find the best viewpoints over the city.
In Bogota, the main spot for viewpoints is at Monserrate, where you take a cable car to the top of the mountain and then enjoy western-facing views over the entire city.
In Medellin, you have several different spots where you can enjoy some views, including from the top of Comuna 13, the Cerro el Volador park, Pueblito Paisa, the cable car to Parque Arvi, and the Mirador Las Palmas.
Be aware, Mirador Las Palmas is a great sunset spot, but is pretty far outside the city limits, so you’d for sure need to get a taxi and then have the taxi wait for you while you’re enjoying the sunset.
Winner: For me, Bogota wins for best sunset spot, but Matthew said he preferred the views over Medellin better.
Medellin vs. Bogota: Architecture
Both cities have an old town that is known as La Candelaria. We actually didn’t think that Medellin’s old town felt historic or charming, like, at all – though there were a few cute spots. In contrast, we loved La Candelaria in Bogota – it was colorful and cute, and many streets were cobblestoned.
Medellin felt more like a very generic downtown, glass storefronts, fast food restaurants, and non-descript buildings, whereas Bogota had unique buildings. This included buildings with balconies, buildings that had a distinctly upper-class European feel to them, design accents, colors, and just all around had a lot of character to them.
We also thought that overall, La Candelaria of Bogota felt cleaner than many of the spots in La Candelaria of Medellin.
Winner: Bogota, by a long shot
Public Transit in the City
Medellin has the vastly superior public transportation system, with the several metro lines cutting through the city. However, these metro lines are not nearly as well-developed as the metro in, say, London or Paris, in that the metro just doesn’t go everywhere in the city.
We stayed in an area of Laureles where it just didn’t make sense to take the metro, so we only took it a few times. If you are staying in El Poblado, the metro is more convenient to take.
Medellin also uses cable cars as part of their public transit system, connecting the neighborhoods on the hills around the city down to the main areas in the valley.
Bogota has a regular bus system and the TransMilenio bus system. The Transmilenio is marketed as a rapid bus transit system, and while it is faster than normal buses and has a great route connecting the neighborhoods from the north of the city with Candelaria, it’s also definitely no metro.
Both cities have an active taxi and ride-sharing economy. We felt that the metering system of Medellin taxis was more straight forward (we sometimes felt like the Bogota taxis made up the cost on the spot – and one for sure pulled a scam), but they also seemed less adept at navigating with us having to use our phone to help sometimes.
In both cities we recommend using an app like Cabify or InDriver when you can.
Medellin’s airport is 25 km away and can take 45 min-1 hour to get into town. Bogota’s airport is closer, at 15 km away, and takes anywhere from 20-30 minutes to arrive in town. Bogota is for sure more easily connected to their international airport.
Winner: Medellin. However, if you stay in La Candelaria in Bogota, you’ll be within walking distance to almost every site in the city. I would not recommend you stay Candelaria in Medellin, plus there are quite a few sites outside the city center.
We found that both cities felt similarly safe. There are areas that are safer and areas that are definitely spots to avoid. Petty crime happens in both cities, like many big cities. Medellin’s general grunginess did lend an air of “less safe” at times, and it did seem to have more homelessness.
Don’t stray too far off the tourist path in either city, be very careful with your things, don’t be on the streets late at night, and you should be fine.
Winner: A tie
Want a More Detailed Look at What to Do in Each City?
MEDELLIN: You can check out how to spend 3-4 days in Medellin, and read about the 9 great restaurants in Medellin. Of course, if you visit Medellin I’d highly recommend you do a day trip to Guatapé as well!
To Summarize: Medellin vs. Bogota and Which City You Should Visit
If you just go off who wins each category from the list above, it may seem that Bogota and Medellin are pretty closely tied. For us, though, we put a lot of value on places that have a lot of cultural and historical interest, and a charming and interesting city and old town. So, even though Medellin easily wins some categories, Bogota wins the categories that we care most about.
Why do most people like Medellin? Well, according to most people that we talked to, they said it was the pleasant weather, that the people are nicer, and that the nightlife is really good.
You’ll notice that we don’t have a section on nightlife in this post – we don’t drink, so bars and nightclubs aren’t generally our jam and are not a determining factor in if we like a place.
We also didn’t really notice a big difference in the friendliness of the people between the two cities sooooo 🤷♀️
If you’re a traveler that really likes the nightlife, clubs, and bars of a city, then Bogota still may be the better city for you! While the El Poblado neighborhood of Medellin is known for its nightlife, the Zona Rosa neighborhood in Bogota is also full of great restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Honestly, if you have at least 2 weeks in Colombia, I would still recommend you visit both cities, as they have different things to offer and there really are some great things to see and do in Medellin. We spent 15 days in Colombia and visited Medellin, Salento (including the Cocora Valley), Bogota, and Cartagena.
If you have less than 2 weeks, personally, Medellin would be the first city I would cut from the itinerary – we just liked Bogota, Salento, and Cartagena much more.
I hope that helps you plan your trip and make decisions about which city you should visit! Have a great trip to Colombia!
Check Out My Articles on Other Colombia Destinations:
14 Best Things to Do in Salento (A Travel Guide)
How to Get from Pereira to Salento
Where to Stay in Salento (3 Best Areas + Hotels)
A Detailed Guide To the Cocora Valley Hike in Colombia in 2022
How to Spend a Perfect 3 Days in Cartagena
How Much Does a Trip to Colombia Cost? Our Colombia Travel Budget