Two great cities, two great destinations to visit… we invite Daytours4u to instigate a Colombian showdown and help you decide which should go top of your itinerary.

Colombia’s two biggest cities happen to be fierce rivals. The climatically and culturally cool capital city of Bogotá and the innovative, modern metropolis of Medellín have a way of dividing locals and travellers alike.

The rivalry between the Rolos (people from Bogotá) and Paisas (people from Medellín), is similar to that between New York and Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo or Madrid and Barcelona.

Of course, both Bogotá and Medellín have plenty to offer the urban traveller. If you have time, definitely plan to travel to both cities to experience two different ways of life in Colombia. If you must choose between them, read on to see how these Colombian cities stack up.

Bogotá

The capital city of Colombia is a large, sprawling city, sitting at an altitude of 2,640 metres, making it the third highest capital in South America. Its inhabitants, called Rolos or Cachacos, have a perhaps unfair reputation of being cold since, like in any big city, people here are in a rush and less inclined to stop and have a chat. Despite this, travellers will find Rolos still have the characteristic Colombian friendliness.

Bogotá is Colombia’s capital city / Source: Tijs Zwinkels, Flickr, cc by-sa
Bogotá is Colombia’s capital city / Source: Tijs Zwinkels, Flickr, cc by-sa

The relative coolness of Rolos echoes the weather. The capital is characterised by its cool weather throughout the year, thanks to its location in the Andes. It can also be rather unpredictable during the day, with warm sunshine, followed by cold winds and rains in the space of a few hours. Layering is essential, as is a warm coat at night.

Bogotá is diverse, cosmopolitan, an international hub of commerce, and a thriving cultural centre in the country. You’ll find many people from all over the world who flock here for business, cultural and leisure interests. The city plays host to many important book, art and cultural festivals, such as the Ibero-American Theatre Festival, one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world. There is always something interesting to do in the city, and that’s not even mentioning Bogotá’s legendary nightlife.

The cobbled streets are full of history / Source: Diego F. Garcia P., Flickr, cc by
The cobbled streets are full of history / Source: Diego F. Garcia P., Flickr, cc by

Colombia’s rich history is best represented in the historic La Candelaria district. Here is where you’ll find the Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum, the National Museum (containing not only art, and historical artefacts, but also preserved Muisca mummies) and the Botero Museum, housing a great collection of Latin American art.

Of course, as the capital city, it is big, busy and chaotic. Expect it to be dirtier than other cities, with lots more traffic. Bogotá’s public transport network is called the Transmilenio, an extensive rapid bus transit system. Despite it’s large network, the Transmilenio is still chaotic, especially at peak hours. Luckily there is some reprieve from the madness on Sundays, when over 120km of major roads are closed to traffic, an event called Ciclovia, allowing cyclists, runners and skaters freedom to reclaim the streets.

Ciclovia is a weekly event on Sundays / Source: Saúl Ortega, Flickr, cc by-sa
Ciclovia is a weekly event on Sundays / Source: Saúl Ortega, Flickr, cc by-sa

Medellín

Medellín is known as the city of Eternal Spring for its year round warm weather. Its people, the Paisas, have a reputation for being extremely friendly and hospitable (and, according to many, the most beautiful women can be found here).

Medellin is famous for its innovative urban design / Source: Iván Erre Jota, Flickr, cc by-sa
Medellin is famous for its innovative urban design / Source: Iván Erre Jota, Flickr, cc by-sa

The city has managed to reinvent itself in recent years, shaking off its label as one of the world’s murder capitals and a narcotraffic battleground. Not only has the crime rate drastically dropped, but Medellín has become a centre of innovation and great community-centred design and urban planning.

It was voted one of the world’s most innovative cities thanks to examples of urban revival such as Colombia’s first Metro system, giant outdoor escalators transporting people up Comuna 13, and the Metro Cable connecting neighbourhoods with a gondola lift system. In addition to the transport system, there has been a focus on libraries and digital hubs through the building of cultural centres in communities.

Add to this the Paisas reputation for their entrepreneurial spirit, and you have a city that is thriving. Between the great climate, modern infrastructure and business-savvy culture, it’s no surprise that Medellíin is attracting large numbers of foreigners choosing to settle here to work.

Botero’s distinctive statues adorn Medellín / Source: Jorge Gobbi, Flickr, cc by
Botero’s distinctive statues adorn Medellín / Source: Jorge Gobbi, Flickr, cc by

For tourists, Medellín may not have the historical and ancient cultural draw card that Bogotá boasts, but it offers plenty of contemporary culture to soak in. Medellín is the hometown of Fernando Botero, arguably Colombia’s most famous artist and sculptor. His distinctive works can be found in the Antioquia Museum, with more sculptures placed outside on Botero Plaza for the public to freely enjoy.

Those looking for more greenery should head to the Botanical Gardens, with its collection of orchids housed in the architecturally impressive “Orchidiarium,” or to Parque Explora, an interactive science and technology museum, also housing an aquarium and a dinosaur exhibition. The city also hosts an annual flower festival, the Feria de las Flores.

To enjoy the nightlife, tourists should head to the hotspot of Parque Lleras, in the upscale neighbourhood of El Poblado. Here you’ll find a big concentration of bars and restaurants. While the city of Cali holds the title as Colombia’s salsa capital, Medellín still has plenty to offer eager salsa dancers, particularly on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Modern Medellin is an intriguing city to visit / Source: Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín, Flickr, cc by
Modern Medellin is an intriguing city to visit / Source: Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín, Flickr, cc by

Medellín and Bogotá are difficult to compare, with both offering a unique experience. When planning your travels in Colombia, try to include both in your itinerary so you can decide for yourself which one wins the epic rivalry, or simply fall in love with both. For great activities in tours in both Colombian cities, visit Colombia4u.

By: Nicole Eberhard, Content Editor for Daytours4u

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