THE BLOG
07/31/2013 07:38 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2013

A Beginner's Guide to Visiting Medellín - How to Spend a Long Weekend

As I've mentioned before, Colombia is bathing in a new wave of media attention that's finally shining a positive light on a country that, according to Time Magazine, went "from nearly failed state to emerging global player - in less than a decade."

To get up to speed on Colombia's transformation, check out "The New Colombia 2013."

The star of the story is Medellín, once one of the most dangerous cities on Earth, but in 2013 was named "Innovative City of the Year" by the Wall Street Journal, Citibank and the Urban Land Institute.

Seeing recent articles titled "Goodbye gangland" or "Medellín, Colombia: reinventing the world's most dangerous city," you realize the best headline for pageviews isn't the best for portraying the city's amazing tourism potential.

With the world's best weather (80 degrees Fahrenheit every day), great restaurants, tons of art/culture and amazing nightlife, it should be on any curious traveler's bucket list.

There's too much to do, and too many facets to explore, but to get you started, here's a long weekend's worth of adventure.

Be warned, you'll want to stay longer.

Find a hotel, hostel, or apartment in El Poblado -- there are options for everyone's budget. It is probably the nicest part of the city, as well as the most international -- so it is easier to get around if you don't speak Spanish -- and is a great launching point.

On Thursday, check out the 3 Cordilleras brewery tour offered from 5:30 to 9 p.m. where you'll find a eclectic mix of both Colombians and foreigners. First there is a tour of the brewery, then you can try an assortment of artisanal beers at their onsite pub.

For live salsa music, hop in a taxi and head to El Eslabón Prendido in El Centro.

For something more laid-back, the most consistent local hotspot is El Social, a little corner store/bar a few blocks from Parque Lleras. It's busy any day of the week and overflowing onto the street on weekends from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. as people share drinks, snacks and stories.

On Friday, I'd start the day with a hearty American breakfast at The Flip Flop Sandwich Shop and have a coffee at Pergamino Café.

Spend the day in El Centro visiting:
Plaza Botero -- a plaza filled with some of Fernando Botero's most famous sculptures
Museo de Antioquia -- an art museum in front of Plaza Botero
Parque Explora -- an aquarium and planetarium with additional temporary exhibits
Jardín Botánico - a botanical garden, great to just wander around, but don't miss the Orquideorama or the butterfly house

For lunch, go to Café del Bosque for good local food or, if you want to splurge, go to In Situ. Both are inside the Jardín Botánico.

Friday night, have dinner at Carmen, probably the city's best restaurant and hands down my favorite. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but my favorite dish is the Korean taco appetizer. The place is usually full, so call ahead to make a reservation.

After Carmen, head to Río Sur, a shopping center with a bunch of restaurants, bars and clubs. For a trendy lounge, go to Sinko Bar and, if you're looking to go dancing, you could go to Sixttina for a mix of reggaeton and electronic music or right next door is Kukaramakara with live Latin music (salsa, merengue, reggaeton, etc.)

Spend Saturday at Parque Arví, a beautiful park just outside of Medellín.

On your way back from the park stop by the Santo Domingo neighborhood to see the Biblioteca Espana (Spanish library). Santo Domingo used to be a very dangerous neighborhood in Medellín, but with the addition of the library and access to public transportation (cable cars and escalators), the area is much improved and has become a can't miss tourist spot.

To get to both from El Poblado take the metro to Acevedo and then take the cable car all the way to the top for Parque Arví and to Santo Domingo for Biblioteca España.

On Saturday night, have pizza and a pitcher of sangria at Café Zorba. If you're looking to go out after dinner, go bar-hopping around Parque Lleras. A few of my favorite bars in the area are Berlín, La Octava, Tinto Tintero and El Guapo.

Also, Medellín has lots of shot bars. Try one of the flaming shots at either Chupitos or Shupa Shots. Limit yourself to one or two. These local concoctions are fun, but might not pass FDA regulations.

On Sunday, head to Avenida El Poblado before 1 p.m. for ciclovía where half of the avenue is shut down so you can walk, jog or ride a bike. You can rent bicycles along the street near both Parque de El Poblado and San Fernando Plaza.

After getting a little bit of a workout at ciclovía, head to Sabaneta, a suburb south of Medellín. The area around Parque de Sabaneta is very quaint and, on Sunday, lots of people will be there for a late lunch. There are many good Colombian restaurants, but I recommend visiting El Viejo John.

Since moving to Medellín early this year, I have been exploring many of the city's neighborhoods and suburbs, so keep an eye out for other articles very soon.

Enjoy the city of eternal spring!

This is Medellin!