Medellín in Colombia, once the infamous personal fiefdom of Pablo Escobar and know as one of the worlds most dangerous cities, has undergone a truly radical change in the past two decade.
While Medellín is still a little rough around the edges in places, today it has developed a reputation for innovation, social awareness, gastronomy and above all, being one of the most progressive cities in Latin America. Anywhere you go on the Gringo Trail in South America, people whisper of this fabulous city, it’s wild parties, its beautiful people and how electrifying the atmosphere is!
Being the second biggest city in Colombia, Medellín is a hub of LGBT life in Colombia (well – tied with the Gay Bogotá scene), and you will find here queer life out on full display – more so than many of the more conservative countries in Latin America (or indeed areas of North America and Europe), which many travellers find extremely liberating.
While Medellín was not always so accepting of LGBT culture, in large part due to it’s strong Catholic heritage, today – much like the rest of Colombia – this friendly city is embracing diversity, welcoming citizens and travellers alike with open arms as part of Medellín’s rich and colourful social tapestry.
This supportive attitude culminates yearly in the annual Medellín Pride celebrations in June when, in stark contrast to North American Prides, the entire community marches claiming the steets for unapologetically Latin experience with an day of fiesta and celebration.
Medellín, a city transformed, sucks you in and invites you to stay much longer than you plan. With all-night parties, beautiful green spaces, diverse neighbourhoods and a booming gastronomical scene Medellín should be top of the list for any gay travellers in Colombia!
Gay Medellín Guide: The Essential Guide To Gay Travel In Medellín Colombia 2018
In this article we will cover...
Gay-friendly Attractions in Medellín
Being such a queer-friendly city, many of the attractions in Medellín gay travellers will want to see are the top attractions in Medellín anyway. All travellers in Medellín should take caution in less-developed areas with valuables and take taxi’s or ride share apps (especially if you do not speak Spanish) at night – and always listen to local advice when exploring.
In Medellín you will quickly find the centre of gay life is in trendy Poblado around the Parque Lleras, but of course there are many, many other places you should explore in the city. If you are looking to meet other LGBT travellers and supporters it is very popular to hike the Hills of Three Crosses (Cerro de Las Tres Cruces) on a Sunday or enjoy picnic’s at the Park Ciudad del Rio on weekends.
There is also an event on at the roof-fop bar of The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel on the last Sunday of every month which is extremely popular amongst both the local and expat Medellín LGBT community.
Gay travellers in Medellín should take special care in less developed areas in terms of public displays of affection where many residents may be less exposed to LGBT culture and may hold conservative attitudes…Though any reaction is more likely to be curious than outrage. Overall Medellín is very safe, especially compared to other Latin American cities, and a common-sense approach to travel will general ensure you have no issues exploring this beautiful and diverse city.
- Pablo Escobar Tour – Get an insider’s look at the life of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar during this 4- to 5-hour private excursion in Medellin. Learn the true stories behind this mythical figure from a local expert, visiting key locations like Monaco Building where the war with the Cali and Medellin cartels started, the house where he was murdered on the roof, and the cemetery where he’s buried, plus much more. Morbid? Perhaps – but Dark Tourism is a growing movement for a reason!
- Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour – Explore the San Javier and Las Independencias neighborhoods in Comuna 13, previously one of the most dangerous areas of Medellin, now a place full of art and flow. There you will walk led by one of the community leaders who will take you through what happened and share his/her personal experiences and point of view. The place is known for being an outdoor art gallery with more than two hundred graffiti that speak about the history and culture of Medellin and Colombia. In addition, the neighborhood is a symbol of social transformation. In this tour you will know about Medellin’s commitment to move from being one of the most dangerous cities in the world to one of the most visited in South America: transformation works and social projects. If you are one of those who like to go further in the places you visit, know the real story and share with the community, this tour is perfect for you.
- Tasty Town Medellín Food Tours – A unique way to experience Medellín is with a local and your stomach, and Taste Town offers off the beaten track tours so you can really discover the heart-and-soul of Colombian food (while making recommendations for the best new restaurants opening in Medellín). They also offer an fun cooking class and tours to a local coffee farm which is something any caffeine addict should do at least once in Colombia.
- Museum of Antioquia – For art lovers a visit to this famous museum is a absolute must. Also known as the the Botero Museum filled with works by one of the most famous modern artist alive today – though the actually Botero Museum is another reason to also check out the Bogota Gay scene).
- Medellin Social Innovation Tour – Come on our tour and discover what makes Antioquia’s capital a city of innovation and why, in 2013, Medellín was recognized as “The World’s Most Innovative City of the Year”, beating New York and Tel Aviv. Have a look at impressive buildings, enjoy the cable car ride and get to experience some of the innovative social and urbanism strategies that have brought positive change.
- Horseback Riding in Medellin – Discover the beautiful natural surroundings of Medellin with a roughly 3-hour horseback ride. Your trained guides will customize your route to suit your interests and experience level. All routes provide incredible views and a safe, enjoyable experience. Mid-day rides come with the option of a traditional lunch of Fiambre, a favorite dish of local farmers.
- Medellín Museums Tour – Delve into Medellin’s rich cultural heritage on a half-day tour of the city’s best museums. Alongside your knowledgeable guide, you’ll learn about Medellin’s radical transformation — from a perilously dangerous city to a thriving metropolis — and visit the San Pedro Cemetery Museum and the Museum of Antioquia. See pieces by Fernando Botero in the Museum of Modern Art, and admire the Gothic architecture and exotic gardens of the Castillo Museum.
- Medellín Paragliding – Soar over the spectacular scenery of Medellin on an exhilarating 4-hour paragliding excursion. Glide smoothly over dramatic valleys, rushing rivers and rugged mountains with an experienced professional instructor. Feel your adrenaline levels surge as you float high above the stunning countryside, flying close to large birds as the wind rushes in your ears. Modern safety equipment and an informative orientation are provided to ensure safety and security.
- Jardín Day Trip -Jardin is often described as one of the most beautiful pueblos in all of Colombia and you can really get it all: coffee plantations, waterfalls, soaring mountains and all from the back of a horse. Now if only a hunky Colombian wrangler was also guaranteed.. Discover the lush vegetation and enticing aromas of Colombia’s renowned coffee plantation on a full-day coffee tour from Medellin. Learn about the life cycle of sustainable coffee beans; treat your taste buds to the smooth flavor of freshly ground Colombian coffee; and ride a cable car to a mountain’s summit to dine in an authentic Antioquian restaurant. Finally, visit one of the region’s most charming town’s to sip the aromatic hot beverage in the ambient main square.
- Guatapé – Who would have thought a rock would be one of the best day trips from Medellín, but yes – the rock of El Peñol in Guatapé and it’s bizarre staircase draws in massive crowded who come to see the view of the surreal lake landscape formed below thanks to a dam formation. Normally combined with lunch and a visit to the delightfully coloured Pueblo de Zócalos – you get to hit two of the best instagram spots in Colombia in only one day!
- Eje Cafetero Coffee Region – If you’re a coffee lover, exploring Colombia’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Eje Cafetero (coffee region) is a must. Travel between coffee plantations and rural fincas with ease on a 3-day tour of Eje Cafetero from Medellin, which includes meals, accommodation, and hotel pickup and drop-off. Explore the charming village Salento, trek through Cocora Valley, ride over the historic city of Manizales in a cable car, and stay overnight in a traditional coffee farm.
Gay-friendly Dining in Medellín
As previously mentioned, Medellín has a very gay-friendly vibe and with so many places to explore (and a booming foodie scene) there is no need to limit yourself. Below is a few of the more popular, trendy places that have opened – and one institution everyone must visit – that you should try to visit, perhaps as a warm-up for the crazy gay nightlife in Medellín…
- Carmen ($$$$) in Poblado – An elegant modernist interior serving up contemporary South American fine dining – what more could you want? You can’t go part the Cartagena inspired plantain-crusted fish with coconut rice risotto. Delicious!
- Kabuki Cocina ($$) in Poblado – Thousands of people can’t be wrong, this is a top choice in Poblado. An innovative Peruvian and Japanese fusion food, a central location and whimsical fairy lights makes this an unforgettable dining experience.
- Hato Viejo ($$) in Centro – The place to go to try traditional Medellín dishes in a festive atmosphere. Waiters play their part, they have generous portions of Bandeja paisa (a must-try) and it’s central location makes it a great place to break while exploring downtown Medellín.
- Cafe Zorba ($$$) in Poblado – A trendy vegetarian cafe with plenty of indoor and out-door seating on the edge of President Park. Great for people watching, through the real delight is their pizza’s, salads and desserts!
- Cariñito Mio Café ($$$) in Cuidad del Rio – A casual cafe popular with locals. They serve great coffee and pastries in a colourful and cheery environment. Perfect for a digital nomad or simply striking up a conversation.
A city the size of Medellín has plenty more to explore!
We advise getting a full guidebook if you are staying for more than a night or two. It probably won’t have any information on Gay Medellín – that’s what we are here for – but it will have useful tips and an exhaustive list of the best attractions across Colombia to assist you on your fabulous adventure!
Gay Events In Medellín
A few of the biggest event on the Gay Medellín calendar each year – However in this city, the party never stops so whenever you choose to come, you can guarantee there will be some must-attend event going on. Gay Medellín just doesn’t stop!
- Colombia’s Fashion Week – One of Medellín’s biggest annual events held annually in July where over 50,000 people fly from all over the world to attend what is said to be Latin America’s finest display of fashion. Plenty of new faces, interesting people and event on over this week as models, designers and industry insiders come to work and play.
- Banana Splitter (every other month) – A inclusive gay nightlife organization who host legendary parties all over town. Costumes, light and sound create a unique experience where Medellín’s gay subculture is on full display
- Medellín Pride in July – Crazy, wild, unforgettable. In true Latin style every July the streets are over-run in Medellín as sexy boys and girls take over in a show of culture, solidarity and equality.AnA inclusive event where everyone takes part, there are no bystanders here and you will be whipped away in the atmosphere of it all. An event to plan any gay travel to Medellín around!
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Medellín
In Medellín you would be hard pressed to find a major hotel which had any issues with gay guests – especially in the swanky neighborhoods of El Poblado and Envigado (South-East) or Laureles (West and South of downtown – but some hotels are more popular with queer travelers and have great reputations. due to their location and inclusive environment or vibe, which are features here.
Each hotel and area offer something very specific, so be sure to choose the right style and location to meet your needs. Prices are cheap compared to North American and European hotels (thought quickly rising) and standards are high – so it’s a great place to splurge! Of course, there are also hundred’s more hotel and hostel options in Medellín if none of these suit your desired budget, facilities or area!
Even choosing where to stay in Medellín is overwhelming, but luckily tourist accommodation is centred around two areas: The upscale El Poblado / Zone Rosa neighbourhood with trendy bars, clubs and plenty of green spaces (and is safe to walk at all times of day or night), and the middle class neighbourhoods of Laureles, Estadio and Suramericana across the river which are more authentic with more locals, salsa clubs and cheaper prices.
Accommodation in the downtown or Prado neighborhood are not recommended as while they are beautiful to explore with caution during the day, at night are very seedy and best avoided.
- The Charlee Hotel ☆☆☆☆☆ – Located in Poblado on the Parque Lleras (the center of gay life in Medellín) this luxurious hotel offers rotating art installations, plush rooms with a mix of Balinese and European charm (it works!) and terrace rooms with incredible views over the city. Don’t forget the rooftop cocktail bar, outdoor pool, and gym with hot-tub. With design-studded areas and a staff that will make you feel unique in every moment, The Charlee seeks to go much further than the traditional hotel concept, to transform it’s guests and visitors lifestyles by offering them the highest standard of service. Here the art is the protagonist of every space: paintings, sculptures, and photographs on every floor of the hotel create a modern atmosphere and take part in this exclusive overture. The Charlee Hotel is the best 5-star boutique offering in town, and our favorite gay hotel in Medellín by far (even if it is open to all!)
- NH Collection Royal ☆☆☆☆☆ – An up-scale spa hotel chain set back in a quiet corner of Poblado, this hotel offers city views, minimalist stylings, and a tropical outdoor pool. Close to the best mall in Medellín (the Santa Fe Mall) with plenty of dining options either on-site or nearby!
- Viaggio Medellín Grand Select ☆☆☆☆ – Loft and apartment living in Poblado, the Viaggo is perfect for a longer stay, with huge rooms and great outdoor public terraces. Sleek and white, this gay-friendly hotel in Medellín is extremely popular, in large part to its city views and luxurious in-room free standing bathtubs!
- Hotel Intercontinental Medellín ☆☆☆☆ – Escape to tropical tranquility at this gay-popular luxury hotel with understated rooms, sophisticated decor, and a huge outdoor pool. The hotel’s landscape also offers breathtaking views of the city and its surrounding mountains with upscale amenities including a gym, tennis court, full-service spa, and relaxed bar/restaurant. One of the most affordable Intercontinental hotels we have stayed at, why not splurge a little on upgraded club level rooms to access the luxe lounge with perks such as free drinks and daily breakfast.
- Medellin Marriott Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – Unwind in style at this world-renown LGBT friendly hotel chain. Situated in the heart of El Poblado, the city’s Financial and Fashion District, you can find comfort and style here wherever you go from the plush mattresses and modern rooms to the artisan cocktails at Bar Nau, their in-house luxury spa or outdoor pool boasting sprawling city views. Utterly fabulous darling!
- Obo Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – A clean, modern and high rated hotel offering everything you need – with an excellent location and affordable price tag. The hotel has a hot tub and sauna, guests can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant, there are stunning mountain views from the sundeck and the beds are exceptionally comfortable and huge. What more could you ask for really…
- Inntu Hotel ☆☆☆ – A budget-friendly spa hotel in the up-and-coming Laureles neighborhood, the Inntu Hotel offers clean, well-designed rooms with a splash of luxury in the interior swimming pool complex. Hypermodern – this hotel offers elegance on a budget in a unique location.
- Hotel Vivre ☆☆☆ – A great option in the local Suraamericana neighborhood, close to plenty of restaurants and bars. Clean and basic, this is the hotel for those who want consistency and no surprises.
- Tu Hotel Roma Medellin ☆☆☆ – Ok, so the central Prado neighborhood is not the most ideal area to stay – but if you speak Spanish and are comfortable in Latin America the Tu Hotel Roma is the only gay hotel in Medellin specifically catering to gay, lesbian and trans travelers. Speaking Spanish is a must here but it is a basic hotel with an on-site security guard, kind staff and is only 5 minutes from the subway station.
- Rango Hostel Boutique ☆☆ – Newly opened in Poblado, this modern hostel with chic-eco design offers dorms and private rooms at pretty low prices. Great for meeting other LGBT travelers in Medellín and those on a budget.
Gay Bars and Gay Clubs in Medellín
Anyone who knows anything about Latin America knows they love to party here, and Medellín leads the continent with it’s nightlife.
New clubs and events are taking place consistently here so it pays to ask around when you arrive (hotel staff are a good bet) but at the moment here are the most popular nightlife spots and gay clubs in Medellín for travellers and locals. Things will get crazy – but just go with it. Just don’t forget your common sense.
- Zero Nightclub By Purple Bar – A crowd favourite just one block from Parque Lleras, Zero Nightclub plays a mixture of reggaeton, recent hits, R&B, and electronica well into the night. Drag shows throughout the week – and a healthy mix of expats and locals, though come early if you want to avoid a cover charge most nights.
- BarChiquita – The hippest new-gay bar in Medellín, located in Poblado. Modern decor, kitschy art, killer cocktails and the freedom to be exactly who you are. What more can you want?
- Viva Discotek – One of the biggest gay bars in Medellín, and the most famous – Viva’s dance floor can hold over 1,000 people and blasts mostly reggaeton and electronica with a dash of salsa in the more intimate second dance floor. Popular with locals of all types, check their Facebook page in advance to see the many themed parties they host.
- Vintrash – A modern bar focussed on upcycling and ambience. Music here focuses on Latin, indie and electronic music – and their is a restaurant downstairs which gets good reviews. Very popular with the LGBT community in Medellín but by no means exclusive.
- La Cantina de Javi – A gay dive bar in the centre of the city, the booze is cheap, the atmosphere distinctly cantina like and it’s happening here on weekends from Wednesday til Sunday. Make sure to take a ride-share app directly here and back, but for an authentic taste of gay Medellín life.
- Donde Aquellos – A famous institution in Pobaldo frequented by the LGBT community in Medellín. With chic design, a great outdoor space and delicious cocktails this is more a place to meet and share a drink before hitting some of the more steamy dance-floors in Medellín.
- Wake Up Entertainment – Not a physical space but a entertainment group that is famed for it’s international DJs and all night-raging parties in industrial spaces. More LGBT friendly than exclusive, but there is something for everyone at this not-to-be-missed fiesta!
Gay Saunas and Bathhouses in Medellín
Unlike some more Western countries, saunas and bathhouses in Medellín are still all the rage. Here are the biggest, with a reputation for being friendly to foreign travellers.
Be aware that prostitution is legal in Colombia only in designated tolerance zones. Rent boys are common in sauna’s here, but at your own risk. It is not advised to visit Medellín’s Calle del Pecado (The Street of Sin) no matter what you here – It is extremely dangerous with drug dealers and pimps, and police will likely harass any foreigner found in or around this area.
- Barbacoas Bathhouse – Located in the seedy/gay party area of Barbacoas is this hidden Medellín bathhouse. Clean, cheap and plenty of fun to be had – this is full of hot Colombian men, with none of the posings.
- Club de Tobi – Medellín’s most famous bathhouse, which is popular with tourists. A chic atmosphere, beautiful pool and plenty of lounging areas – Though it may be too sophisticated as the action is more subdued here.
- Sauna Club 55 – Modern and new, Sauna Club 55 is a good mix between sophisticated and full of action. The only downside here is the 9 pm closing time…But good for mid-afternoon fix.
- Olympo Club – A clean establishment with a respectable clientele with excellent staff. Good action, but the organized parties tend to lack any atmosphere.
- Spartacus Sauna Medellin – A quiet place in Medellin City Centre. Facilities include a wet sauna, Turkish baths,“relaxing” massages, dark rooms and video rooms.
- Hammam Club Turco Y Sauna – A quiet place with sauna, solarium and bar. Open every day.
- La Caverna Medellin – A unsafe sauna only mentioned so you know to avoid. Prostitution and illicit drug consumed onsite draws a lot of crime and police attention to guests.
Gay sauna or not, in any sexual encounter, please take adequate precautions. No matter what your intentions are in while traveling, you should bring your own condoms and lube to play it safe. Take home a hot guy or a hot memory, not an STD.
Besides, you never know what other fun surprises your trip might have in store for you...