Jan 30

Bogota Vs. Medellin (Decisions, decisions, pt.3)

There are some rivalries in history that eclipse trifling matters such as War, Religion, Independence and History; where issues such as Right and Left, Suppression and Liberty, Governments and Control are forgotten. Mere incidentals in the face of the bigger picture; the bigger issues.

We’re talking important questions like:

Who is better dressed?!

Who has the warmer people?!

Who has the nicer food?!

Who has the better transportation system?!

Who has the better nightlife?!

Who has the richer culture?!

Who has Juanes?!

Yup, these are the kinds of things that keep Rolos (people from Bogota) and Paisas (people from Medellin) snarling at eachother from their respective sides of Colombia. Consult any internet forum with the question ‘should I vacation in Medellin or Bogota’ and you’re almost guaranteed to find a local or two joining in the debate, extolling their city as the best choice in the country. Paisas, they say, are much warmer than Rolos. Bogota, they say, has the best nightlife in the country.

Plaza Bolivar, Bogota
Plaza Bolivar, Bogota

So what’s the truth? If you have to visit one of the two, which do you go to?

Like most locational rivalries, the two parties involved here are far more similar than either side would care to admit. Both are rapidly cities with vibrant cultures that are spurred on by a restless, progressive youth keen to see their city take its rightful place on the world map. Both are rich in history, with a wealth of museums, galleries and churches for you to explore. Both boast an unforgettable nightlife that rocks the city at the weekend. Both suffer rain far more than you might like.

Architecture in Medellin
Architecture in Medellin

Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that each traveller will likely prefer one to the other. With that said, here’s a little about each city to help you make up your mind.

Medellin

A Botero sculpture in Medellin
A Botero sculpture in Medellin

Medellin is Colombia’s second largest city and the country’s shining example of how it is making huge strides into a brighter future. Once the murder capital of the world, it now moves to a beat dictated by progressive industrialism and its hard-working, hard-partying locals.

Medellin, moreso than Bogota, is a green city with a modern look about it. There are green areas near to where you’re likely to spend your time (El Poblado), and thanks to the warmer weather you’re far more likely to be able to enjoy these spaces than in Bogota.

Dancing at the Feria de Las Flores, Medellin
Dancing at the Feria de Las Flores, Medellin

As far as your night out goes, going out in Medellin offers a good selection of restaurants, bars and clubs. They’re largely situated around the same area and aren’t generally ‘happening’ until the weekend, but still great fun.

Pueblito Paisa, Medellin
Pueblito Paisa, Medellin

Paisas are famous for their warmth and generosity and you’re unlikely to leave without agreeing that they’re some of the nicest people you’ve come across. The downside of the culture? Medellin is one of the plastic-surgery capitals of the world and, as you might expect from a city with that title, things can be a little superficial and people rarely dress in a way that diverts from the norm.

View of Medellin
View of Medellin

Still, Medellin’s weather and warm people make it an unforgettable experience. Any traveller coming to Colombia with a few days to spend in a city will love Medellin and see it as somewhat of a paradise. No doubt this is why so many of them end up living there.

Bogota

Over the rooftops of La Candelaria, Bogota
Over the rooftops of La Candelaria, Bogota

Not as immediately beautiful as Medellin, Bogota still has areas of unexpected beauty, such as Usaquen, Parque Chico and La Candelaria. It’s in these areas that, unlike in modern Medellin, you get a real sense of the history of the city.

Walking down the street in Bogota
Walking down the street in Bogota

Bogota, as you might expect from a South American capital, is extremely busy and choked with traffic. The size of the city can seem overwhelming but, with a little patience, the city eventually unveils itself to be one of the most culturally rich cities in Latin America.

Moreso than in Medellin, in Bogota you can find hidden cafes, bars, restaurants, bookshops and much more throughout the entire city. Nights out are far more varied since there are various areas of the city to visit. The same can be said about the cuisine, which isn’t lacking in Medellin but can be found in abundance in Bogota. From the excellent international quality found at Zona G to the tucked-away bohemia of La Macarena, it’s really all here if you know where to look.

As far as the people go, while it’s true that Paisas are warmer, it’s still rare to find an unpleasant Rolo and they themselves are less concerned with looks and superficialities. Styles in Bogota vary greatly depending on where in the city you are.

The mountains surrounding Bogota
The mountains surrounding Bogota

If you travel to Bogota in just two or three days and you’ll find yourself with a great deal to do but, unlike Medellin, you probably won’t be thinking the place is a paradise. However, dig deeper, speak to locals, and you’ll find an endless amount of things to do and see. And one of the most exciting cities in South America.

Paul

9 thoughts on “Bogota Vs. Medellin (Decisions, decisions, pt.3)

  1. Andrés on

    Medellin no questions asked, it’s not even a fair competition.
    Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but still, even though I love Bogotá, its best attraction is the highway towards Medellín.

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Haha, a definite Medellin fan! Opinion seems to be pretty much 50/50, but it’s great to see so much love for either city.

      Reply

      Iván on

      No doubt Bogotá has greater appeal in the arts and culture

      Medellin is innovative and transportation is better, but certainly Bogotá has many activities, more places of interest (bars, restaurants, museums) and is much safer.

      I love Bogota, Medellin is interesting but Bogota is a metropolis that the more you discover more you fall for that city.

      Reply

        Paul Fowler on

        Got to agree with your sentiments here, Ivan. I love both cities but for me Bogotá edges it purely with the amount of art and culture in the city.

        Reply
  2. Karo on

    So, now you just made it that much harder for me to decide which one to settle down in, lol! I’d originally thought Medellin but now not so sure. I lived in So Cal and am not much into ‘plastic people’ so to speak. Can you comment on which has a more vibrant arts scene? Thanks for the info!

    Reply

      Paul on

      Hmm, that’s a tough one. Medellín is always growing and the art scene is booming, but Bogotá has a long standing history of being the centre of art in the country. The galleries and museums are great in Bogotá, and although a suitable art scene might be harder to discover (since there are so many), you might find them more rewarding.

      Reply
  3. Brice on

    I love that picture of the El Perro! Medellin to me feels like an overgrown town. Which in many ways can be good (the friendliness, and greater ease of movement are two reasons.) I did love exploring Bogota, but I still the the weather of Medellin gives it the edge.

    Reply
  4. Jessica on

    Bogotaaa toda la vida I totally agree with Susan.. Como extraño mi Bogota!! extraño el cli ma de allá, el centro! Quiero regresar pronto a mi país pero especialmente a mi Bogota!

    Reply
  5. susan on

    Bogota! Definitely Bogota! I didn’t expect it when I went there but I loooooooved the atmosphere in Bogota. There is so much art everywhere, it’s creative, free, alive, genuine, lovely restaurants and bars. Medellin felt superficial to me.

    Reply

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