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15 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Comuna 13 in Medellin

15 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Comuna 13 in Medellin

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If you want to dive right into the heart of Medellin’s culture and history, a visit to Comuna 13 is a must. It was once one of the world’s most dangerous districts, but in the past few decades, it has transformed into an incredibly vibrant area that’s known for its amazing graffiti art and street performances.

Comuna 13 really is a testament to the creativity and resilience of its people. Visiting the area is not only an educational experience, it’s also one of the best experiences in Colombia! It was one of the highlights of our visit to Medellin.

It’s definitely best to read up on Comuna 13 before you go because it can be difficult to know where to go if you just dive in without any prior knowledge. That’s why we’ve compiled this complete guide to Medellin’s most fascinating comuna containing everything you need to know!

Don’t have time to read the full article? When visiting Medellin, a trip to Comuna 13 should definitely be on your list of things to do. Our personal favorite visit was on this Urban Transformation Tour, which is a great way to learn the troubling history and accompanying resilience of this area and see some of its most vibrant architecture.

1. About Comuna 13 in Medellin

Street art of stairs in Comuna 13, Medellin
A boy poses for a photo in Comuna 13, Medellin

Comuna 13 was once the epicenter of violence and criminal activity in Medellin, but rest assured that it’s now actually one of the safest places in the city. In fact, many of the best tours in Medellin include a stop here. This working-class neighborhood has become symbolic of Medellin’s transformation since the time when Pablo Escobar reigned supreme. Nowadays, it’s home to lots of art, culture, and an electric atmosphere.

A comuna is essentially a district located within a larger city in Colombia. Medellin is divided into 6 different zones, most of which contain several comunas. There are 16 comunas in total, each of which encompass many smaller neighborhoods, or barrios. Comuna 13 itself actually contains 12 different barrios.

It’s also worth noting that all of the comunas in Medellin have names as well as numbers, so Comuna 13 is also known as San Javier.

Comuna 13 covers 14.6 square kilometers (5.6 square miles) and is home to over 100,000 people, so it’s safe to say that this is a very densely populated area. In Colombia, people use the term “paisa” to refer to someone from the same area, so you’ll often hear the residents of Comuna 13 referred to this way. It basically means a local!

2. Why is Comuna 13 famous?

Medellin, Colombia
The escalators in Comuna 13!

Comuna 13 was once notorious for cartel-related violence. It was a poor neighborhood that was largely ignored by the city’s authorities for a long time, so there was no police presence there. At the same time, its location on the western hills of Medellin leading towards the San Juan Highway made it a very convenient route to use for trafficking guns, weapons, and cash.

Medellin was the home of Pablo Escobar, the world’s most notorious drug lord, and in the 1970s, Comuna 13 fell under the control of his cartel. Many innocent people in the area were caught up in, or killed due to, their criminal activities. In fact, by the late 80s, Comuna 13 had become known as one of the most dangerous places in the world.

For a lot of people, it’s a rush to visit this once-dangerous area and see the site of Escobar’s former stronghold. But nowadays, it’s gaining a much more positive reputation as a flourishing neighborhood that’s full of life, art, and culture. Comuna 13 is steeped in history and is a symbol of hope, strength, and social change. We also found that the locals here were very humble and determined to make their neighborhood a better place for all.

3. History of Comuna 13

A child in Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia
a narrow street in Comuna 13, Medellin

Okay, so Pablo Escobar is a big part of why Comuna 13 is so famous, but the truth is that the violence here started long before the Medellin Cartel moved in. We definitely recommend taking a tour and learning about the history of Comuna 13 from a paisa, but it’s good to get some background knowledge before you go, so we’ve done our best to summarize it here.

Although we love Comuna 13 and think it’s a fantastic place to visit, its dark history is important to acknowledge and understand.

1948-1958: La Violencia in Colombia

The story of Comuna 13 really starts with La Violencia, a 10-year civil war between the Colombian Conservative and Liberal parties. The vast majority of the fighting happened in rural areas and many people were forced to leave their homes and head to the cities.

Most of the people who fled the violence were very poor, and so they created informal settlements on the hills on the outskirts of Medellin. These settlements were illegal, and received no support from the city authorities.

The formation of a community

In fact, not only did the displaced citizens face a lack of support, the government would actually come in and tear their makeshift homes down, forcing the residents to rebuild over and over. People were forced to work together and use whatever they had to make homes for themselves, which created a strong sense of community. Their resilience eventually forced the government to give up, and so it was decided that Comuna 13 would be allowed to remain, but it would be unrecognized by police and receive no public services.

1970s – 1990s: Local Militia and the Medellin Cartel

Since Comuna 13 was essentially now being ignored by the Medellin authorities, guerilla groups from the countryside swept in and began to act as unofficial law enforcement. Paramilitary and guerilla groups capitalized on the desperate situation of the residents of Comuna 13 to recruit and arm people, leading to an increase in violence and crime.

The comuna’s hillside location also made it an ideal place to move weapons in and out of the city – a fact that did not go unnoticed by the Medellin Cartel. They soon began to use it as a base of operations, and similarly preyed on the impoverished situation of the area to recruit locals into their criminal enterprise. At this point, Comuna 13 was already a dangerous place to be, but things were made much worse by the influx of the cartel and the ensuing drug use and violence.

The Medellin Cartel ruled the area, but they didn’t exactly exist in harmony with the other gangs, paramilitaries, and guerillas who were also using Comuna 13 to their advantage. Different groups fought for control of the area, and it became a hotbed for extreme gang warfare, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to live. In addition to many desperate locals being dragged into Medellin’s underworld, countless innocent people were also caught in the crossfire of all the violence.

1993-2002: Vying for Control

You might be forgiven for thinking that the situation in Comuna 13 improved after the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993, but sadly this wasn’t the case. Escobar reigned supreme over the area, and after he died a power vacuum was created. Many gangs, cartels, and rebel groups fought for control over the area, and the violence actually worsened.

Paramilitary activity was rife in Comuna 13, and the violence wasn’t contained to the district. The reign of the Medellin Cartel had created huge social and political tensions in the city, and assassinations of government officials were a regular occurrence.

Street dancer performs in Comuna 13, Medellin
From dangerous place to thriving community!

Early 2000s: A controversial intervention

In 2002, Alvaro Uribe became the president of Colombia and his government decided to launch a violent offensive against Comuna 13 in order to eliminate rebel groups. 10 military operations took place, but the largest and most controversial was Operation Orion. The army, the police, the air force, and paramilitary groups conducted a four-day siege. Official figures vary dramatically about how many civilians were killed during this operation, but it’s widely acknowledged that there were many deaths and injuries.

While Operation Orion was successful in removing left-wing militia from Comuna 13, right-wing paramilitary groups remained and gained even more power. Killings, kidnappings, and displacements were common, and Comuna 13 was still a very dangerous place to be. Eventually, drug cartels also returned to the area, and gang violence continued.

Later 2000s: Youth rebellion and government investment

Sick and tired of the constant violence in Comuna 13, residents began to push back in a peaceful way. The community came together and young people in particular began to reject the gangs in favor of art, dance, and music. They started using graffiti to cover the damaged buildings and reclaim their streets, while expressing themselves through dance and music. Although this didn’t stop the gangs, it made it more difficult for them to find new recruits, and the city of Medellin began to take notice of the positive changes in Comuna 13.

Recognizing the community’s effort to exclude cartels from Comuna 13, the government began to invest in new infrastructure. Previously, the hillside district was isolated from many parts of Medellin, but they created a metro train and gondola line which connected Comuna 13 to the rest of the city. A few years later, they also added the now-famous escalators so that people didn’t need to climb up and down hundreds of steps just to access the cable car.

This improved access to the city opened up new job opportunities for residents, which further helped to reduce the cartels’ influence over the area. These investments, coupled with community initiatives to better the comuna, helped to transform Comuna 13 into the lively, vibrant, and safe neighborhood that it is today. It’s a true testament to the optimism and determination of the paisas of Comuna 13.

4. Where is Comuna 13 in Medellin?

Scenic view over Comuna 13 in Medellin
Comuna 13!

Comuna 13 is in Zone 4 of Medellin, on the western outskirts of the city. Since it’s located on a hillside, it offers amazing views over the entire city and makes a great day trip from Medellin!

It’s about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from El Poblado, which is the most popular place for travelers to stay in the city. The closest metro station is San Javier, which is a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute bus ride away from Comuna 13.

5. What are the best tours to Comuna 13 in Medellin?

A tour guide in Comuna 13 talks ato a group of tourists in Medellin, Colombia
A tour guide in Comuna 13 talks to a group of tourists in Medellin, Colombia

Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour and Street Food

Graffiti art and street food are two of the main attractions in Comuna 13, and this tour combines them both. You’ll visit the 20 de Julio neighborhood, which is the most graffitied barrio in the district, and learn all about the history and significance of the murals that you see. There will also be lots of chances to try local specialties along the way, like empanadas and patacones con hogao. You’ll also visit a mass grave site, where many victims of the violence were buried after they “disappeared”.

What really sets this tour apart for us, though, is how personal it is. The guides include their own personal experiences of Comuna 13 as they teach you about the area’s painful past, which gives you a much better understanding of what it was like to live here during the many violent decades and the more recent transformative era.

This tour meets at the San Javier station and will take you the rest of the way to La Comuna. It costs $20 USD for adults, $17.50 for seniors and teenagers, or $9.25 for kids aged 5-10 and can be easily booked online here. It lasts for around 3 hours, and then you’re free to stay in the area and explore further when the tour ends.

Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour

This street art tour meets in Poblado, the main tourist area, outside the entrance to the metro station, so it’s a convenient option if you’re staying in Poblado and aren’t used to the city’s transport system yet. Your guide will take you on the metro train and then on a cable car ride that will give you fantastic views of Medellin. After that, you’ll take another bus to Comuna 13 itself for a walking tour of the district’s graffiti murals.

Your guide will share the stories behind the artwork with you as you go, as well as lots of anecdotes about life in Medellin’s most interesting neighborhood. You’ll also have chances to chat with paisas and sample some snacks from local food stalls.

This tour costs $26 USD per person, including all of your transportation from El Poblado, and at the end you can choose to return to the meeting point with your guide or hang out in Comuna 13 a little longer and spend some time exploring by yourself. Tickets for this tour can be purchased online with Viator here!

Related Read: There’s also a fantastic Bogota Graffiti Tour you won’t want to miss if you’re traveling that way!

Pablo and Comuna 13 with Cable Car (Private Tour)

If you’re keen to learn more about the life of the world’s most famous drug lord and his influence on the city of Medellin, then this private tour will give you a fascinating insight into how Pablo Escobar and his cartel shaped the city during the 1970s and 80s.

As well as exploring Comuna 13 and riding on the cable car, you’ll also visit Escobar’s grave, a soccer field he built in the neighborhood he grew up in, and the house in the Los Olivos barrio where he died while fleeing across a rooftop.

Since this is a private tour, you’ll have lots of time to ask your guide questions about Escobar and the changes that were brought to Comuna 13 during his reign. The tour lasts for around 5 hours and the price per person varies depending on the size of your group. For example, for 2 people it would cost $85 USD each, while it costs $58 USD per person for a group of 7 or more. Hotel pickup and drop-off is included from anywhere in Medellin, so there’s no need to worry about navigating your way to Comuna 13 independently. If a private tour of Comuna 13 is the way you want to see the neighborhood, then book a spot here for when you’re in the city!

Street art on a wall in Comuna 13, Medellin
Street art on a wall in Comuna 13, Medellin

Private Pablo Escobar, Comuna 13 and Pueblito Paisa

This private tour offers you great insight into not only the life and criminal past of Pablo Escobar, but also takes you to Pueblito Paisa. This tourist village is a recreation of a traditional Antioquian Village and gives visitors a feel for what Colombia was like during the colonial era. You’ll also explore Comuna 13 and have time to enjoy its vibrant colors, rap music, and street food.

There’s also a visit to the house where Pablo Escobar died where your guide will weigh in on the debate about whether Escobar was in fact killed by the authorities, or whether he shot himself while being pursued, following through on his infamous promise that he would “rather have a grave in Colombia than a jail cell in the U.S.”

The final stop on your tour will be a visit to the cemetery where Escobar and other members of his family were buried. You’ll also see the grave of Griselda Blanco, or “the Godmother” of the Colombian drug trade, who is simultaneously rumored to have been Pablo Escobar’s original mentor, occasional lover, and deadly rival.

We always think that the best thing about private tours like this one is that you have the opportunity to customize your itinerary and ask lots of questions, so if you’re interested in Pablo Escobar and his reign over Medellin, then this would be a really fascinating way to spend a day in the city.

The tour lasts for 5 hours and the price gets slightly cheaper per person depending on how large your group is. It would cost $115 USD each for two people, $105 USD for 3-5 people, or $98 USD each for a group of 6 or more. The price also includes pickup from pretty much any hotel, hostel, or AirBnb in Poblado or Laureles. This private tour can be booked online with Viator so you can use the reserve now, pay later option.

Medellin’s Urban Transformation Tour with Comuna 13 and Metrocable

We think that this full-day tour is the best one to choose if you’re keen to learn about Medellin’s troubled history and incredible transformation, but are nervous about exploring the city by yourself. You’ll be picked up from your hotel in a taxi and taken to the meeting point, where your guide will help you to navigate the city’s public transport system.

In addition to exploring Comuna 13, you’ll also visit La Sierra in Comuna 8, which also began as an informal settlement for those fleeing the violence in the countryside and was ruled by a ruthless paramilitary group. Now, La Sierra is finally receiving investment in infrastructure to make it more accessible, as well as parks and green spaces.

The tour also includes a visit to the Memory House Museum where you can learn more about the history of conflict in Colombia through real testimonies, works of art, and rap songs. It’s a very interactive museum and we love that it tells stories of the conflict through the eyes of those who actually lived through it.

This tour price varies depending on how many people you book for with a cost of $119 USD per person for 2 people, but drops to $76 USD each for a group of 6. We think that it’s an amazing way to learn all about how the city of Medellin has achieved what once seemed impossible through its urban transformation in recent decades, so make sure you book a spot here before this tour fills up!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

6. How do you get to Comuna 13 from El Poblado?

Medellin Metro Train
Medellin Metro Train

It’s pretty easy to get from El Poblado to Comuna 13 on the metro. From El Poblado station, you’ll need to take Line A towards Niquia and stay on for 4 stops, until you reach San Antonio station. Then, change to Line B and stay on for 7 stops until you reach San Javier. San Antonio is the first station on Line B and San Javier is the last one, so you really can’t go wrong here!

You’ll need to buy a metro card before you travel, which you can easily purchase at the metro station kiosk. It costs 5000 Colombian pesos (COP) which is equal to about $1.05 USD for the card itself, and then you’ll need to add some credit. Each journey you take costs 2,750 COP ($0.58 USD), so if you top up about 27,500 COP ($5.80 USD) then you’ll be covered for 10 journeys.

From San Javier, it’s 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) to Comuna 13, or there’s a bus that goes from San Javier to Comuna 13 for 1,500 COP ($0.32) each way. You can pay for your fare with your metro card, or cash if you’re all out of credit. Of course, if you’re taking a tour that meets at San Javier then there’s no need to worry about this part!

7. Is it safe to visit Comuna 13?

A boy plays basketball in Comuna 13, Medellin

Yes, Comuna 13 is generally safe these days. People here are very welcoming and friendly, and as long as you take the same precautions as you would in any big city, then you should be fine!

Of course, given the area’s history, it’s understandable if you’re a bit nervous about visiting. If you’re concerned about safety, then we definitely recommend going on a tour. Most tours are led by paisas who know the area like the back of their hand, and there’s always safety in numbers.

And of course, it’s best to avoid going at night – but that’s true of lots of places in the world! If you go during the day as part of a tour, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Related Read: For more helpful info before your trip, check out our Colombia Travel Guide and South American travel safety tips!

8. When is the best time to visit Comuna 13?

Aerial Drone photo of comuna neighbourhood in Medellin, Colombia

You can have a great time in Comuna 13 at any time during the day, but we think it’s best to go in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. It can get pretty hot in Medellin, so you might not want to trek around a very hilly area during the hottest part of the day. The temperature will be much cooler and more comfortable in the morning!

9. Can you visit Comuna 13 without a tour?

A tour guide talks to a group of tourists in Comuna 13, Medellin
You learn so much on a tour!

Yes, you certainly can. We felt safe in Comuna 13 and wouldn’t say that it’s dangerous to go without a tour, but we still recommend it because it can be hard to know where to go otherwise.

It’s very densely populated with narrow, windy streets, lots of hidden corners, and it almost feels like the houses are on top of one another, so it can be quite hard to navigate without a guide! It’s best to do a tour first, and then hang around afterwards to explore on your own.

10. Top attractions in Comuna 13

A man does break dancing in Comuna 13, Medellin, Colombia
So cool to see!

Electric Stairs of Comuna 13

The escalators in Comuna 13 are famous! At first, it might not be obvious what’s so great about electric stairs, but they were actually a crucial part of Comuna 13’s transformation. Prior to their installation, it was very hard (and dangerous) for people to climb the steep hills, but now they provide an easy way for everyone to get in and out of the city. The electric stairs opened up a lot of new opportunities for the people of Comuna 13, so don’t take them for granted!

The street art

The murals in Comuna 13 are about so much more than pretty walls and Instagram opportunities. There’s graffiti on almost every possible surface here, and the art is as meaningful as it is vibrant. It depicts the history, transformation, and hopes of Comuna 13. Some of the best artists around here include Chota 13 and Yes Graff, who are both pretty well-known within the community – Chota 13 even has his own small gallery, Aroma de Barrio.

Street dancers

Street dance is also a huge part of what makes Comuna 13 so special. You’ll encounter many groups dancing as you walk around the area, and if you sit at a cafe for long enough a troupe will almost certainly pitch up and start performing.

You can also find the Black and White Group, one of the most famous dance groups from Comuna 13, at the top of Escalator 6 showing off their insane breakdancing abilities. You’re also likely to find lots of performers close to Casa Kolacho, a hip-hop center that teaches rapping and dancing to local children and young people. Just be aware, these groups will often pull audience members in to participate, so if you’re too shy to join in, stay closer to the back of the crowd.

View over the tiny houses that make up Comuna 13 in Medellin
View over the tiny houses that make up Comuna 13 in Medellin

The views

Since Comuna 13 is located on the western hills of Medellin, the views from here are epic. If you head to the very top of the electric stairs, you’ll have an incredible panoramic view of not only the colorful comuna, but the entire city of Medellin. It really is an amazing sight to see, and thanks to the escalators, there’s not even any climbing involved!

Restaurants, cafes, and shops

There are some awesome restaurants, cafes, and shops to explore in Comuna 13. You’ll find locals chowing down on seafood at Mi Palenque, or you can enjoy some grilled meat and a cold beer at Arrabal San Javier. And for some authentic, home-cooked food, head to deLIIZZIas and try the ceviche!

There’s also a blossoming cafe culture in Comuna 13. You can find amazing Colombian blends at Aroma de Barrio, which is street artist Chota 13’s very own gallery/cafe, or check out Café Exquisito Tienda, where you’ll find lots of locals sitting on plastic stools and getting their daily caffeine fix. But to be honest, it’s about more than the coffee – you’ll definitely want to sit down and people-watch for a while in this bustling, vibrant part of the city.

There are also a lot of souvenir shops and stalls around where you can buy prints or t-shirts featuring many of the best street art murals around. This is a great opportunity to find something unique, rather than a generic keyring or hat, and it’s a nice way to support local artists.

Art galleries

So in addition to the millions of murals on the streets, there are also some really cool galleries to go and check out while you’re in Comuna 13. We’ve already mentioned Chota 13’s Aroma de Barrio a couple of times, and Casa Kolacho also has its own gallery. There’s also 3C3D, which has incredible neon murals, and The Toy House is home to lots of graffitied sculptures, which range from Mickey Mouse to a giant gorilla.

11. How long do you need to visit Comuna 13?

Street in Comuna 13
Street in Comuna 13

Tours usually last around 3 to 4 hours, so you’ll need to add at least half a day in Comuna 13 to your Medellin itinerary. But it’s also likely that you’ll want to spend a few more hours exploring independently afterwards.

If you’re short on time, there are lots of combined tours available. Several of the tours that we mentioned earlier will take you to Comuna 13 and show you more of Medellin’s most famous sights in a single day.

Related Read: If you can, make time for a tour to Guatapé from Medellin. It’s known as the most colorful town in South America!

12. Tips for visiting Comuna 13

A basketball court and houses in Comuna 13, Medellin
Building in Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia

Bring cash

There are no ATMs in Comuna 13, so make sure that you bring plenty of cash with you. Trust us, you’re going to want to buy coffee, food, and probably some souvenirs. You’ll need Colombian pesos, not USD!

Don’t flash fancy things

Comuna 13 is definitely safe to visit, but as is the case in any big city, you still need to be careful. It’s not a good idea to flash fancy things that opportunistic thieves might be tempted to grab. Plus, it’s a bit insensitive to flaunt wealth in a poor neighborhood, so leave your Rolex at home.

Don’t yell out Pablo Escobar’s name

Pablo Escobar caused an incredible amount of damage to Medellin, and to Comuna 13 in particular. Paisas don’t like talking about Escobar, so don’t bring him up when chatting with locals. If you’re talking about him privately with your group, just remember not to yell out his name, because it’s a sensitive topic around and paisas understandably don’t want their home to be forever associated with his crimes.

There’s lots to eat and drink

You’re really spoiled for choice in terms of food and drink in Comuna 13, so arrive hungry! It’s a great place to sample lots of street food and Colombian coffee (which is among the best in the world), so bring your appetite and don’t eat a huge meal right before you arrive. The ice cream here is particularly good – in fact, Cremas Doña Consuelo is said to be the best in Medellin.

Related Read: You can follow this amazing coffee right to the source on one of these coffee tours from Medellin!

You can stay on and explore after your tour

Comuna 13 is safe to explore on your own, and while we think that a tour is the best way to get acquainted with the area, it’s also nice to stick around after and explore by yourself. There’s so much going on here that it’s pretty much impossible to get bored, so if you’ve got time, we definitely recommend spending a few more hours here wandering around, checking out the street art, and eating and drinking everything in sight!

Be sure to engage with the locals

The locals in Comuna 13 are very friendly and are happy to chat with tourists. In fact, you will probably find them to be even more open and welcoming than many locals in other parts of Medellin. It’s definitely worth taking the time to chat with the locals and hear their stories, as you’ll learn so much more about Comuna 13’s past and present by engaging with the people who live there.

13. Is visiting Comuna 13 suitable for families?

A local tour guide in Comuna 13 talks to a group of tourists
With a guide, yes!

Yes, it’s absolutely fine for families to visit Comuna 13. It’s not a dangerous place to bring children, and kids will love the colorful murals and street performances. It is always safest to visit with a tour, though, so definitely book one if you’re visiting with your family. The only thing to note is that Comuna 13 is definitely not stroller friendly because the streets are way too steep and narrow.

14. Is it ethical to visit Comuna 13?

Colorful houses in Comuna 13 in Medellin
Colorful houses in Comuna 13 in Medellin

Yes – this isn’t an exploitative human zoo situation. Paisas are very welcoming to tourists and are keen to show off how they have transformed the area. In fact, visiting Comuna 13 is actually a fantastic way to support the community because you’re providing opportunities for small businesses. There are no chains or large corporations here – just small, independent businesses, so your money goes right to the locals.

15. Is visiting Comuna 13 in Medellin worth it?

Electric Stairs of Comuna 13 (2)
Yes! Photo credit: Sunsinger Depositphotos

Yes! We honestly believe that it’s one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world and easily one of the best places to visit in Colombia.

It’s an absolute must-see place in Medellin and it was the best thing that we did in the city. There’s so much history, culture, and incredible art here that you really shouldn’t miss it!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Medellin

Bailey in the city of Medellin city free walking tour
The free walking tour is epic!
A view of the mountains on an ATV tour from Medellin, Colombia
Travel by ATV! Photo credit: Medellin Adventure Trails

While heading to Comuna 13 is one of the top experiences, there are so many other cool things to do in Medellin you won’t want to miss. I even moved here for six weeks after my first visit because I loved it so much!

Here are a few of the best activities in Medellin.

  • City tour – Get your bearings and explore Medellin with the help of a local guide. This walking tour with Real City is one of the best free walking tours I’ve done in Latin America! You’ll need to book online a day in advance and then you’re all set to see the highlights of downtown Medellin while learning some of the city’s history. Alternatively, this bike tour of Medellin helps you cover more ground with plenty of stops for photos as you explore back roads, quiet parks, and colorful neighborhoods.
  • Ride a cable car to Parque Arvi – There are cable cars around Medellin that double as a scenic way to see the city along with transportation. Hop on the cable car up to Parque Arvi where you’ll see the entire city from above. Once you’re at the park, get out and explore the amazing hiking trails. If you’re here on a weekend, don’t miss the farmers’ market!
  • Eat amazing food – There are flavors and styles galore, so get a taste of Medellin by joining a private food tour! You get to try traditional Colombian food and drinks as your guide helps you order at some of the best local spots. If you’re looking for a great meal on your own, the vegetarian pizza at Cafe Zorba’s is a personal favorite of mine!
  • Go on an adventure – While in Medellin, you can check off some activities from your bucket list! You can go paragliding to soar above the mountains surrounding the city, explore trails aboard an ATV where you’ll get some magnificent views of Medellin, or hit the water for a whitewater rafting experience where you can swim in a waterfall and check out a jungle canyon!
  • Explore El Poblado – This is one of the safest and most touristy areas in Medellin and it’s home to some of the best restaurants, bars, and shopping. In fact, your hotel might even be located here! Head to the local square of Parque Lleras for live music and dancing in the evenings!

Where to Stay in Medellin, Colombia

Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant
Photo credit: Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant

With Comuna 13 located in Medellin, chances are you’ll need a solid place to stay in this city so you can visit! And luckily, it’s one of the best places to see in all of South America.

However, picking the right area to stay in a big city can really affect your experience, and Medellin is no different. For most people, safety in Medellin is the most important factor when deciding where to stay.

Below are the best areas to stay in Medellin along with accommodation options for all budgets.

El Poblado

This vibrant upper-class neighborhood offers amazing nightlife, top restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, and a safe friendly atmosphere. The streets in El Poblado are safe to wander day and night providing you use some care when it’s really late.

This area is a perfect base to explore other parts of the city and the area I recommend staying in Medellin. It’s also the starting point for many of the best tours in Medellin and tours to Guatapé. Some places I recommend staying are:

Los Patios Hostel – A great budget option for backpackers. this hostel is famous in Medellin, and the place is beautiful. There’s a rooftop swimming pool, communal spaces, and a fun terrace. Rooms are themed according to different regions in the country which is a nice touch. While dorm beds aren’t the cheapest (starting at $30 USD), the reviews and standards are really good. You can also easily book on either or

14 Urban Hotel – This medium-budget hotel is stunning and perfectly located in El Poblado. The rooms are spacious and modern, the staff is friendly, and the price includes a delicious breakfast. Plus, this hotel can cost as little as $93 USD a night when booked in advance.

Café Hotel Medellín – Cafe Hotel is your typical hotel and comes with everything you’d expect from classic hotel brands such as Hilton. The location is a little up the hill from the main restaurant and bar area of El Poblado, but this makes it much more of a quiet stay. It has a beautiful view and a rooftop jacuzzi which is perfect for relaxing after a long tour! Rooms start from $120 USD a night.

For luxury travelers, Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant is easily the best choice. Not only is it still affordable (starting at $319 USD), but the hotel comes with a fantastic location, luxurious rooms, a swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, and fantastic views of the city. It’s beautifully decorated, and the quality of the service and on-site food is superb.


Laureles is another upmarket neighborhood that’s a great area for tourists to stay. This area is where the stadium in Medellin is located, and it’s very similar to El Poblado.

The reason I like Laureles is that it’s closer to downtown and more central so you don’t have to travel as far to visit many attractions in Medellin. Some places to stay in Laureles are:

The Wandering Paisa Backpackers Hostel is a top choice for backpackers in Laureles. It has a fantastic atmosphere perfect for meeting other travelers, a great location, and clean facilities. What more could you want? Plus, a bed in a shared dorm starts from just $11 USD a night. You can check availability and book on either or

Hotel Vivre – If you want a quiet and comfortable stay then Hotel Vivre will suit you. It’s right off the strip with lots of shops, bars, and restaurants nearby. The rooms here are modern and clean, and breakfast is included in the room rate (which begins at just $66 USD).

Thanks for reading!

Bailey in Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia
Thanks for reading!

If you’re in Medellin and considering a visit to Comuna 13, we say you should go for it! The history, incredible art, and welcoming locals in this neighborhood are absolutely worth seeing. And with so many tours to Comuna 13 from Medellin to join, it’s really easy to explore this part of the city with a guide or on your own.

Hopefully, all this info was helpful as you plan a visit to Medellin and Comuna 13! Make sure to have a peek at our other blogs about Colombia. Below, I’ve linked to a few related reads that might come in handy before your trip.

30 FUN Things to do in Bogota, Colombia + Complete Guide!

12 BEST Tours in Cartagena, Colombia

15 BEST Hikes in South America