Colombia’s buzzy second city has a delightful year-round climate, striking architecture and great public art
Proclaimed as the world’s most innovative city in 2013 due to its recent advances in education, public transport and social development, Medellin is a proudly independent city which has transformed itself from the drugs and murder capital of the world into a thriving industrial and financial centre.
Often known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to its pleasant year-round climate, Medellin is of particular interest to lovers of art and architecture, has a buzzy nightlife and an annual flower festival that draws visitors from far and wide. The inhabitants of this thoroughly modern city display a remarkable sense of civic pride and are genuinely warm and friendly.
Medellin was the birthplace of the revered artist Fernando Botero, whose witty, disproportionate figurative style is immediately recognisable.
The Plaza de las Esculturas (also widely referred to as Plaza Botero) is a large public space in the city centre, where 23 Botero Bronze sculptures are on permanent public display, creating an amazing outdoor exhibit. The plaza is located between two famous buildings – the art deco Museum of Antioquia, which houses a further spectacular collection of Botero’s paintings, and the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture – built in a striking and florid Gothic style.
Triumph of urban planning
Winning the Most Innovative City of the Year award in 2013 was no mean feat: 200 cities including Tel Aviv and New York were nominated. It is not hard to see why: the Civic authorities have developed a whole raft of social inclusion schemes to improve the quality of life of the poorer citizens. These have been hugely successful, including new libraries, cultural centres, public art spaces, parks and a public transport system that now reaches previously inaccessible communities up steep hillsides. The numerous chairlifts, cable cars and a giant 1,260 foot electric escalator up to Communa 13 prove the point.
Take a ride on the efficient metro public transport system and then transfer to the ‘teleferico’ (cable car) for a dramatic ride up to Santo Domingo Savio – one of the poorer hillside ‘barrios’. Here the striking new Biblioteca España (Spain Library) comprises three massive non-symmetric buildings posing as gigantic black rocks on the hillside! Inside are a mass of informational resources for Medellín’s poorer citizens. Rather than books per se, the main focus is a myriad of programs, resources and services dedicated to the education of people of all ages.
The city’s biggest annual fiesta is the Flower Festival,which is held every year in August. Regional traditions are amplified with fairground rides, parades, exhibitions, music and dancing. A traditional highlight is the ‘Silleteras’ parade, where flower-decorated wooden chairs are carried through the streets of the city on the backs of the local farmers. It is a fun-filled and colourful week and is a major draw for visitors. If you are planning to go to Colombia in August we would recommend a visit.
Read more about Medellin in Financial Times’ postcard from Medellin
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