Medellín MetroCable

Bogota vs. Medellin

Colombia’s chaotic capital city Bogotá and Medellín, the modern former hub of the drug lords that once held the country hostage, couldn’t be more different from one another.

I’m nonetheless going to attempt to compare them, which shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve read my articles comparing Madrid vs. Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro vs. São Paulo or Beijing vs. Shanghai — I love pitting apples and oranges against one another!

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Bogotá vs. Medellín Cityscape

I’m an aesthetics person first and foremost, so we’re going to start our little comparison by analyzing the way each of these cities looks. The reader’s digest version is that while Bogotá is more visually interesting than Medellín, it’s also dirtier and more chaotic.

The tourist hub of Bogotá is La Candelaria, which also happens to be the city’s historical center. Modern Medellín lacks a historical center, but its streets are wider, its buildings are better maintained and it is generally cleaner.

Medellín is greener, more lush and significantly warmer than Bogotá. While Medellín is known as Colombia’s “spring city” for its perennial good weather, Bogotá has a typically Andean climate: Windy, cloudy and mostly cold.

Bogotá vs. Medellín Attractions

Bogotá and Medellín are just as different when it comes to the attractions you find in and around them as they are from an aesthetic perspective.

Aside from strolling around La Candelaria, which is an experience in and of itself, Bogotá tourists flock to Monserrate, a hill that rises approximately two miles above the city and affords a stunning panorama. Bogotá is also home to a number of highly-regarded museums, including one dedicated to famed Colombian artist Fernando Boltero.

Medellín, on other other hand, has an entire park (Parque Berrio) dedicated to the unique works of Boltero, which depict all people as fat and round. Other popular tourist attractions in Medellín include the Medellín Botanical Garden, Plaza de las Luces and San Pedro Cemetery.

Both Bogotá and Medellín provide tourists with multiple day trip opportunities, too. While the most popular excursion from Bogotá is the stunning “Salt Cathedral” in the nearby town of Zipaquirá, Medellín tourists flock to idyllic Guatapé and its lake.


Transportation in Bogotá vs. Medellín

Medellín has a reputation as Colombia’s most-modern city, a title that largely owes itself to a sophisticated transportation infrastructure. Medellín is home to Colombia’s only metro system and an exhaustive network of cable cars that connect to it for free. This is not only cool, but provides affordable transportation to the vast majority of the city’s residents.

Bogotá, on the other hand, has only the Transmilenio to its credit. Although its name suggests that it too is a rail network of some kind, the Bogotá Transmilenio is little more than an overcrowded bus system. The Transmilenio is popular and widely-used, but is inferior to Medellín’s metro system in every way.

The one transportation area where Bogotá beats Medellín is in terms of air transport. Although the Bogotá airport is far from “nice” and its domestic terminal is more than a mile away from its international one, it is located within the city limits of Bogotá.

The “Medellín” airport, on the other hand, sits in the town of Rio Negro. Rio Negro is more than an hour away from central Medellín, which makes taking a flight to or from Medellín extremely inconvenient.

Safety in Bogotá vs. Safety in Medellín

I’m going to be honest: Neither Bogotá nor Medellín seemed particularly safe to me. Although I returned from Colombia having not so much as been pickpocketed, I frequently felt like my belongings (and, one or two times, my well-being) were in danger in both cities.

Indeed, Colombia is perhaps the only place in the world where the abundance of police leaves me feeling secure, rather than intimidated. This isn’t to say that Colombia’s police forces are particularly professional  — they love, for example, cajoling gringos — but if they weren’t there, I would feel extremely nervous walking around both Bogotá and Medellín, even in the middle of the day.

Overall, my opinion is that no trip to Colombia is complete without visiting both Bogotá and Medellín. While busy Bogotá provides travelers with a window into Colombia’s history, Medellín is an exciting glimpse into the modern future I hope is in store for the rest of Colombia.

About The Author

is the author of 795 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Shaun May 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

We also found the 2 cities to be Worlds apart. Medellin is fresh and modern with good transport and almost a Western city, yet Bogota is stuck in the past and grimy and dirty like a typical 2nd or 3rd World country.

Both do have thier unique charms however

Robert Schrader May 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm

This is very true, although the more I reflect on my experience in Bogotá, the more I think it’s oddly unrepresentative of Colombia as a whole — it seems more befitting of, like, Bolivia. Right?

William David Sarmiento January 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm

My dear Robert. You describes Colombia as it is in essence, congrats for that!!
Is normal that the foreign people fell that unsecurity felling even with three cabs around, but I invite to you to come again and Visit Antioquia as such, (Antioquia is the ”State” , Medellin the Capital City), inside of this wonderland you can find more than buildings and transport media, here is a natural park around the State rivers called ”Charcos” are so special and familiar BBQ’s on it.
If you want more info about it, you can write me, Im a touristical guide of Medellin and Antioquia
[email protected]

Robert Schrader January 5, 2013 at 7:47 am

I will definitely write you the next time I am in the area! Thanks for your kind comment!

gtalcstories January 31, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Its Fernando Botero not Boltero

PTMedellin May 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Hey there Medellin fans! I want to invite you all who already visited the city and enjoyed the best night life in the country to give me a little feedback in this form! also for those who want to visit Medellin and enjoy the best night life experience!

NZBOY November 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

Colombia is a beautiful and incredible country! The people are friendly and I would have to disagree a lot with the Author’s feelings of unsafety. I spent 2 months in Colombia – Medellin, hicamocha Canyon near San Gill, Playa Blanca and Parque Tayrona over everything else! 2-3 days max in Bogota is all that’s needed (Salt Cathedral, Gold & Bottero Museum and Mount Monseratte are the must do’s) Colombia doesn’t deserve it’s reputation based on it’s former history. Sure it’s not perfect yet, but I’m so passionate about Colombia and how amazing it is I’m even writting in the comments section on a blog – and I never do that!!!

Robert Schrader November 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

I appreciate your passion, but I don’t think it’s responsible to present Colombia as a bastion of safety – my experience suggests otherwise, at this point.

Trev December 3, 2015 at 4:41 am

I noticed that on the metro everyone wraps their arms around their bags on their lap suggesting purse snatching? When I arrived in Bogotá the police at the airport grabbed a cab for me and warned me to photograph the license and send it to a friend I suppose so that if I got kidnapped or was a victim of express kidnapping they’d know the cabbie responsible for it. Also I met up with an Internet friend who is immigrating to Canada and she told me people get murdered for cellphones and she also wanted me to swing my napsack around my front as she had a visiting friend who’s bag was opened and her wallet stolen. So I would concur with you.

Still loved the experience. The snob in me means I will only return to Medellin next time as it’s cleaner and has a better climate and public transport. Bogotá just felt more dangerous and dirty and the traffic is horrendous. You can spend a good chunk of your day in a cab.

I loved my stay in a b&b in Laureles. The Colombian people are really warm too and I wish their country a bright future.

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