Table of contents
- What is the Medellin Free Walking Tour?
- How to sign up for a Medellin walking tour
- Who are the Free Walking Tour guides?
- How to stay safe during the walking tour
- What to expect during the Free Walking Tour (where does it go?)
- Tipping the Free Walking Tour guide (“propina”)
- Tips for taking the Medellin Free Walking Tour
- More tour ideas for Medellin
One of the BEST things we did on our second trip to Medellin was to take the Free Walking Tour from Real City Tours.
There is no better way to learn about a big city than directly from a local, and this was true for our insightful and wortwhile experience walking on this tour with our group and guide.
Is the Medellin Free Walking Tour something you should book for your trip or getaway in Medellin, Colombia? Read on, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to put it on your list!
What is the Medellin Free Walking Tour?
The Medellin Free Walking Tour is the best way to see and experience Medellin, especially at the start of your trip. I think I just keep wishing we did it on our first trip to Medellin, rather than our second!
This walking tour is much like others, if you’ve done walking tours around the world. You probably know that if you take a free tour, it is expected to tip the guide at the end. At the bottom of this review, I comment on how to tip your guide (in cash).
The Medellin Free Walking Tour will hit all the most famous sights in Medellin’s downtown Centro area, and your local guide will tell stories, give you historical facts and answer questions. Truthfully, I never could’ve figured out Medellin’s Centro and how to see everything, and I speak advanced Spanish! The walking tour was awesome for packing in all those landmarks and more.
It’s no wonder that this walking tour has thousands of 5-star reviews on TripAdivsor!
How to sign up for a Medellin walking tour
Sign-ups start approximately 36 hours in advance before tour times. We were serious about this, and knew that we wanted to do an early Saturday tour. You can do your sign-up at the Real City Tours booking page.
Sign-ups start at 6:15pm for the tours that happen two calendar days later, so on Thursday night, we could sign up for any Saturday tour. Spots are first-come first-serve, and that’s to keep the groups intimate. It’s also safer for everyone to be in a small group, going through crowded areas of downtown Medellin Centro.
During high travel season, spots can fill up rather quickly. If you’re interested in taking the walking tour, sign up early! If you cannot attend, make sure to cancel your reservation to help out someone else if the tour is all booked.
Who are the Free Walking Tour guides?
Free Walking Tour guides are talented Colombian locals who are fluent in English, and of course, native in Spanish. They are helpful, passionate, well-spoken and all-around awesome. They want to help you understand the city of Medellin as well as the country of Colombia and they are typically able to answer any question you have.
Our guide Maribell was a phenomenal guide. Her theatrical background helped her explain the history of Medellin in a captivating way. She called the main players ‘actors’ and used clear hand motions to describe the timelines of the conflict, the war and the developments afterward. She answered all our questions about the Colombian identity, Medellin and its people, Medellin today and where to go for the best food or soccer matches.
How to stay safe during the walking tour
If you are staying in El Poblado or Laureles and haven’t been to Medellin’s “Centro” yet, the difference in these areas will be quite obvious. Even though you will be with a guide, keep in mind that as a foreigner, you might stand out, as a tourist with a nice camera or phone.
In order to avoid theft or scams, read our Medellin safety guide before your day out. (Don’t be alarmed, though! The threat of crime is quite low, especially when touring the sights with a guide.)
What to expect during the Free Walking Tour (where does it go?)
The Medellin Free Walking Tour took us through Medellin Centro. Here are a few of the memorable stops and what we learned.
Visit the Old Railway Station & Parque de las Luces
Our first stop was the Old railway station, and we learned that trains used to play a part in the Colombian economy. From there, we passed the Alpujarra administrative center, where we sat down for a history discussion, and then we crossed a major road to see the Park of Lights (Parque de las Luces).
This is a fascinating area that used to be a large city market. After a fire, the square fell into disarray and had some bad times. The city revamped it and created the tall installations that light up at night, giving the park its new name.
A stop in Botero Square
Botero Square is another memorable place, and it was here that we had a snack break and got to enjoy the wacky Botero sculptures! They’re popular with locals, too.
Fernando Botero is perhaps the most famous ‘paisa’ (name given to those who come from the Medellin region) artist, and his art is rather prevalent all over Colombia. His signature style reflects “unnatural proportions,” so his sculptures are humans and animals, and are worth seeing in this public collection of his works.
In Berrio Park, we saw local Medellin life and Maribell brought us to a circle of men who were playing guitar and singing. They played some tunes for us and we felt very welcomed.
See local Medellin street vendors
As we walked past the shopping arcades, we marveled at street vendors selling our favorite fruits: pitahayas (yellow dragon fruit), pineapples, papayas, bananas, small oranges and mangoes.
Parque San Antonio
The tour ended at San Antonio Park, where we listened to the striking story of the 1995 bomb that was placed under a Botero sculpture of a bird during a concert. The terrorist bombing resulted in the deaths of 20 innocent people.
Instead of removing the bird sculpture that was half blown apart by the explosion, the city kept the original and placed a new sculpture next to it. Together, they are a reminder of the past and hope for a peaceful future. This was an emotional story to hear from Maribell, and she told it very well.
Tipping the Free Walking Tour guide (“propina”)
At the end of the Real City Walking Tour, it is customary to tip the guide. All the guides are truly excellent, so it was a pleasure for us to tip our guide for her hard work. Recommended tips are between 20,000 and 40,000 pesos (between $5-10 USD).
While it may sound daunting to set aside 3-4 hours of your sightseeing time in Medellin, the Real City Walking Tour is both an efficient and meaningful way to spend your trip. We learned so much about Colombia and the city of Medellin through our guide and through seeing parts of Medellin we would not have visited on our own.
Tips for taking the Medellin Free Walking Tour
- You’ll be walking for a long time, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. See what I recommend in my travel shoes guide.
- Look at the weather forecast before you leave. Although Medellin’s weather can be very unpredictable at times, you might want to bring a travel-sized umbrella or a rain coat.
- Drink lots of water, especially if you take the tour during the summer, because it can be hot and humid. Don’t worry, though: you’ll have plenty of opportunities for bathroom breaks if needed.
- There are opportunities for snacks, but if you’re not feeling adventurous to eat street food, bring snacks of your own.
More tour ideas for Medellin
visit the free walking tour website from Real City tours to book this particular tour. For more ideas, there’s the Barrio Transformation Tour, and more tour ideas in our Medellin travel guide as well as our list of the best day trips from Medellin, some of which are half-day tour ideas.
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