Five days exploring Colombia’s second city by public transport.
“The metro was the beginning of all the good stuff. It was like a bridge to a different world. We suddenly realised that things could change. It was the beginning of a revolution in Medellín”
This is how one Colombian guide explained the role that the Metro de Medellín, first opened in 1995, played in the city’s transformation from murder capital of the world to tourist destination.
A bridge to a different world
Back in the 1990s Medellín was still one of the most dangerous cities on earth. Many of the barrios were no-go areas run by paramilitaries; law enforcement officials were regularly assassinated, and residents were routinely murdered.
Today, civil society has been completely restored, crime rates have plummeted to levels lower than some American cities and the local economy has really taken off. Before COVID, tourism was booming and now, with the pandemic hopefully almost over, it seems sure to return quickly.
The rehabilitation of Medellín was down to many factors, but public transport was a critical part of it. Back in 1995 the Metro suddenly gave people the opportunity to travel out of their own barrios and mix with each other. It began to change the fabric and the mindset of the city.
The system, the only one of its kind in Colombia, is now a source of great civic pride and even features on graffiti in and around the barrios. Newspaper reports of its opening are included in the displays at the Museo Casa de la Memoria, the harrowing museum that tells the story of the urban conflict that swept the city in the 80s and 90s.
From modest beginnings the Metro has been transformed into a multi-modal operation with its own colour-coded route map. As well as two (mostly elevated) conventional rail lines (A, B), the formal network now encompasses electric buses (O), a tramway (T), bus rapid transit (1, 2, 3) and cable cars (H, J, K, L, M, P).
Conventional buses act as feeders to the main network, and in one barrio there is even a system of outdoor escalators in use. The whole thing combines to make travelling around Medellín safe, comfortable, fast and easy.
A fleeting glimpse
My own trip to Medellin in early March 2022 was a bit of a last-minute affair. It was also very brief, but it gave me an opportunity to meet up with a couple of old friends. For five days we travelled together in and around the city using its excellent public transportation.
Here are the some of the trips we made –
 “How Medellin went from murder capital to hipster holiday destination” Stanley Stuart, Daily Telegraph 4th January 2018