Medellin vs Cartagena

{The Ultimate Comparison}

medellin colombia

Medellin vs Cartagena

{The Ultimate Comparison}

Medellin vs Cartagena… it’s a valid comparison. I love both cities equally, and yet they both offer a completely different experience.

However, which one is better for you? Medellin or Cartagena?

In my opinion, your Colombia backpacking itinerary would not be complete without visiting both Cartagena and Medellin, but after reading this blog, you can decide that for yourself.

Keep reading our Medellin vs Cartagena comparison to find out which city is best for you to travel to!





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Medellin vs Cartagena: The Ultimate Breakdown

History | Medellin vs Cartagena

So in Cartagena, you’re literally surrounded by history everywhere you look.

It’s gorgeous.

The Old Town is a timeless maze surrounded by walls that were once used to fortify the city against impeding invasions.

Inside the walls, you will find cobblestone streets, historic churches, and stunning colorful architecture that boasts a rich history.

Outside the Old Town of Cartagena, the history excursions only continue, with historical attractions such as Castillo De San Felipe De Barajas and Convento De La Popa.

Related: The Best Things To Do In Cartagena Colombia

what to do in cartagena colombia


what to do in cartagena colombia


In Medellin, it’s more of a modern city, despite one of the most astoundingly historical places in all of Colombia being located here: Comuna 13.

Comuna 13 is an area in Medellin that was once the ‘murder capital of the world’ thanks to the Medellin Cartel that was run by Pablo Escobar.

I’ll let you read our Comuna 13 blog to get a deeper idea behind the tragic history, and I strongly urge everyone who is traveling to Medellin to do a Comuna 13 tour.

And don’t worry, it’s now a safer place to be and a very popular tourist attraction.

Guatape is another historical activity in Medellin despite not technically part of Medellin at all. However, it’s very close and something everyone should add to their itinerary.

It’s really easy to take day trips to destinations that do offer some history, such as Guatape day trip from Medellin.

Guatape is full of intriguing historical landmarks such as La Piedra Del Penol and one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions that you can explore and even play paintball in!

colombia medellin comuna 13


comuna 13 medellin colombia


la piedra del penol girls on top

Partying |Medellin vs Cartagena

It’s hard to choose a winner in the partying category simply because I love the partying in both Medellin and Cartagena.

Both destinations have many different options for bars and clubs, and both offer a wildly good time.

In Cartagena, the best bars and clubs are located in Getsemani and the Old Town. Some of our favorite bars in Cartagena include Eivissa and Café Havana.

In Medellin, the best area to party in is Parque Lleras which is located in the tourist area of El Poblado. Some of our favorite bars in Medellin include La Octava and Happy Buddha Hostel.

Related: Cartagena Nightlife Guide

Related: Medellin Nightlife Guide

where to party in cartagena colombia


cartagena old town colombia


cafe havana cartagena colombia


la octava ball pit bar

Restaurants |Medellin vs Cartagena

In terms of restaurants and dining out, both cities are full of different delicious options, however, I found Cartagena to have fewer choices than Medellin.

Cartagena is oversaturated with Italian restaurants, but Medellin has a never-ending variety of amazing food from both Colombia and internationally.

I feel as though it would be a sin to not mention the best empanada joint in the world, dead smakck in the middle of Cartagena.

It’s located on Calle 30 right next to Media Luna Hostel. Seriously, just go!!!!

getsemani cartagena 8

Weather |Medellin vs Cartagena

I personally love tropical warm weather, so in my eyes, Cartagena has the best weather. It’s literally always hot, and if it rains it lasts for 5 minutes before the sun is shining again.

It’s one of those places where you’ll need a pool at your accommodation so you can cool off during the day.

On the other hand, Medellin’s weather is a little bit cooler and not tropical, due to it being located further inland and at a higher altitude.

In Cartagena, the altitude is only at 2 meters above sea level, and the temperature is usually somewhere between 24°-31°C or 76°-88°F all year round. Whereas in Medellin, the altitude is higher at 1496 meters, with the temperature usually sitting somewhere between 17°-29°C or 63°-84°F all year round.

So as you can see, Medellin is a little cooler than Cartagena, but it’s not exactly cold either. In saying this, you’ll most likely need a light jacket and long pants for the nighttime.

Related: Best Time To Visit Colombia (Weather Guide)



where to stay in medellin colombia

Activities |Medellin vs Cartagena

When it comes to activities in Medellin vs Cartagena, they both tie equally.

Both Cartagena and Medellin have an infinite list of things to do, that you’ll never get bored.

However, a big difference here is the type of activities you can do. For example, in Cartagena, a lot of the daily activities include Caribbean beaches and exploring nearby islands, whereas Medellin’s activities have nothing to do with beaches seeing as it’s located inland.

Medellin is more about city exploring, daytrips, and nightlife.

Some of our favorite things to do in Cartagena include:

  • Islas Del Rosario
  • Explore the Old Town
  • Casa En El Agua

Related: The Best Things To Do In Cartagena





casa en el agua hostel


cartegena old town


cafe del mar cartagena

Some of our favorite things to do in Medellin include:

  • Comuna 13
  • Guatape Day Trip
  • Pablo Escobar Paintball Tour

Related: The Best Things To Do In El Poblado Medellin

medellin colombia


comuna 13 graffiti


el poblado medellin 2


la piedra drone shot


la piedra view from above

Safety | Medellin vs Cartagena

I felt pretty safe in the touristy area of Medellin called El Poblado even at night after the clubs had closed, but in saying that, I wouldn’t go venturing out of this area especially after dark.

The same goes for Cartagena, just stay near where there are a lot of people especially at night.

Colombia has a bad reputation for being unsafe, but it’s not all that bad if you stick to the busy or touristy areas and don’t go walking down dark alleyways (which goes for any country or city in the world).

happy buddha hostel


cartagena nightlife guide


Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the Best City in Colombia?

This is a question that will be different for everyone. I love both Cartagena and Medellin for different reasons.


Is Medellin worth visiting?

Absolutely!! This should not even be a question when planning your Colombia itinerary.

Medellin is hands down one of the best places in Colombia so definitely do not skip this city.

The same goes for Cartagena too.


Where should I stay in Cartagena?

The best areas to stay in Cartagena are either Getsemani or the Old Town. However, both areas are within 5-minutes walking distance from one another.

We stayed in Getsemani at both Mamallena Hostel and Media Luna Hostel during our stays in Cartagena (we went there twice), and we love both hostels.

Media Luna is busier and more of a party hostel (they have their own club), whereas Mamallena is quieter and smaller, but right across the road from Media Luna. So this is perfect if you want to party but also want some sleep.

Related: Where To Stay In Cartagena

getsemani cartagena 2


cartagena old town


media luna hostel cartagena

Where should I stay in Medellin?

The best area to stay in Medellin is El Poblado. It’s the main tourist spot of Medellin, it’s safe, and always busy.

El Poblado has the bulk of the nightlife, hostels, restaurants, and the metro nearby.

We stayed at Happy Buddha Hostel and also Casa Kiwi.

Happy Buddha is a party hostel and usually the first stop on a night out. Whereas, Casa Kiwi (which is one street away) is quieter and a little nicer, so if you value sleep but also want to be amongst the excitement and nightlife, then stay here.

Related: Where To Stay In Medellin

el poblado medellin 5


el poblado medellin 1

Is it safe to holiday in Colombia?

The short answer is yes!

If you’re contemplating not going to Colombia based on the horror stories you’ve heard (from people who have never even traveled there), then just stop listening to those people and book your tickets.

In saying that, don’t do anything silly. Don’t go walking down alleyways by yourself and stick to the busier areas.

It’s probably important to note that the whiter you are, the more you will stand out and attract attention. I recommend staying in a group to avoid possibly being targeted.

Though there is always the chance of being robbed anywhere you go, so just be smart about it and don’t show off your wealth. To be more specific, don’t wear too much sparkly jewelry, don’t flaunt your iPhone and MacBook around, and obviously don’t flaunt your cash in front of everyone.

guatape town


guatape town beautiful girl

Overall: Medellin vs Cartagena

I’d love to give you a straight-up answer to the question of what’s better out of Medellin or Cartagena, but I can’t!

I love them both.

Both Medellin and Cartagena cities are very different and very necessary in your Colombia itinerary, so my advice is to make time for both.

best things to do in cartagena blog


getsemani cartagena 9


where to stay in Medellin Colombia


graffiti in comuna trece


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Are We Missing Something?

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