When people think of travel to Colombia, few think of the leafy streets and progressive architecture of Medellin, nor the stunning colonial streets of Cartagena, the buzzing streets of Cali or the cosmopolitan Bogota. Inevitably, most people will think these cities look something like this:
In reality life for most expats and tourists in Colombia is unrecognizable from what people may think. Living or even traveling in one of Colombia’s cities is a cultural awakening and, if you get to visit more than one, you’ll soon realize just how unique each city is. Here we’ve listed 5 of Colombia’s major cities, and how we perceive each one.
Bogota is by far Colombia’s most cosmopolitan and international city. A city of many faces, it’s a place you can never truly exhaust. Bogota, unlike other cities, isn’t defined by a particular penchant for any style of music or food, rather it’s a city where you can get everything and hear anything. Eating out in restaurants and going for coffees is popular, giving the city a very European feel at times, and the wealth of galleries and museums also helps this image. Bogota is a city that doesn’t stop. It’s big, international, and it’s busy.
Medellin is Colombia’s renaissance city. Once the murder capital of the world, it transformed itself into one of the most progressive cities in South America. Notable for its perfect climate (mostly sunny and warm), Medellin is a great city to wander around in and boasts a great deal of parks. Medellin’s cultural scene is great, too, with a good selection of galleries and museums. Less busy than Bogota, it doesn’t have the same feeling of being the centre of activity, and for many that’s a major draw. It’s a big city, but, thanks to the cleanliness and the friendliness of the people, retains a certain sense of being a town.
Cartagena is Colombia’s tourism capital. Its atmosphere is vastly different to anywhere else in the country. For many, Cartagena will feel less like a city and more like an open-air museum. Lined with beautiful architecture and alive with history, its one of the essential travel destinations in the country. Cartagena is a completely relaxed destination and nights out usually revolve around a little salsa and a few drinks watching the sunset, rather than the non-stop party found in a city like Bogota. Cartagena is an enchanting city made for people who love to meander, relax and enjoy the sun.
Also on the Caribbean coast, Barranquilla is an industrial port that was chaotically planned and, as a result, not the most beautiful city in the country. Nonetheless, there’s nice architecture to be found and the real attraction is the city’s culture. People are extremely friendly, relaxed and enjoy to party. Barranquilla is a great city to get to know the coastal people of Colombia, who are vastly different to those from Bogota and Medellin. On top of everything, it’s one of the best places for food, too. Barranquilla’s major draw comes every year in February: The Barranquilla Carnival. It’s second only to Brazil’s infamous carnival, and considered the best festival in Colombia.
Cali, like Barranquilla, isn’t the prettiest city in the world but has numerous other draws to make it a place well worth visiting. Cali’s major selling point is that it’s Colombia’s capital for salsa. The city really breathes salsa music and dancing, and is therefore an important insight into Colombia’s culture. Nights out are centered on dancing and, although you won’t be able to match the locals, you should try to pick up a little salsa before you go. Though industrial, there are plenty of areas of green and a great collections of museums in Cali.