From the luscious green pathways of Laureles to the vibrant nightlife of Poblado, there’s no scarcity of captivating and charming neighborhoods to explore in Medellin. The Prado area of El Centro is no different.
Although it’s safe to say the cat’s out of the bag about the gem that is Medellin, some of the city’s downtown neighborhoods are still flying under the radar.
Prado is truly a diamond in the rough. Its decadent architecture, national heritage sites, and authentic Colombian culture make it one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
The Prado neighborhood tour is a great introduction to the barrio. Here’s the low down on the walking adventure and all the best things to do in one of Medellin’s most cultural barrios.
El Prado Neighborhood
The area was founded in 1926 by some of the city’s wealthiest residents. They fell in love with the European architecture and colonial buildings they had seen on their travels.
Incorporating leafy avenues and majestic townhouses into the urban planning, they were able to finance development and transform the area. As a result, Prado became an awe-inspiring neighborhood, as the city had never seen such architecture.
However, the industrial revolution saw thousands of Colombians migrate to the inner city. As affluent residents began to move to more peaceful areas, it quickly transformed into downtown Medellin, and many social problems started to arise.
Today Prado is a part of the central La Candelaria neighborhood. It’s not as affluent but still has the fantastic colonial-inspired buildings. Prado was officially marked as a heritage conservation sector in 2009. The city council acknowledged 261 of the area’s buildings as heritage properties under the Heritage Protection Plan.
The Walking Tour
The best and safest way to experience Prado is to take a walking tour. There are plenty of downtown neighborhood tours of El Centro, but not too many venture into the nearby Prado. This is where Alejandro and his Prado group tour comes in!
He is a knowledgeable local and bilingual tour guide. His walking tour will take you through the enchanting streets of Prado, explaining its rich history as you go. You’ll get an excellent overview of the area as you’re whizzed around all the hot spots.
The group tours last around 2 hours and cost $30,000 pesos. Although, you can request a private tour for $40,000 pesos. For more information, contact Alejandro through his Instagram.
There are many notable places to explore in Prado, from museums to parks and theatres. And the tour takes you through all of them!
The old buildings, many of which are over 100 years old, paint a vivid picture of early 20th-century Medellin. Here are some of the places you can expect to visit with Alejo:
The Abandoned Mansions of Prado
Hundreds of the grand houses built by the wealthy industrialists of the 1920s are still standing today. Although many have been abandoned or fallen into a derelict state, other buildings have been occupied for various uses.
Alejandro will guide you through the area, stopping at uniquely designed houses and telling fascinating stories of how they came to be and their former inhabitants.
It’s a bit surreal to see a mini, old-time Europe right in the middle of downtown Medellin. Here, many streets look like places I would find in my hometown of London!
El Palacio Egipcio
Built in 1928 by Eygpt enthusiast Fernando Estrada, the Egyptian palace is still an architectural gem of Medellin.
The building is a spectacle to look at. You feel like you’ve been transported to a different country and back in time as you approach the structure. Its tall pillars and columns covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics look a little out of place in the Medellin metropolis!
However, at nearly 100 years old, the pink granite plinths of Palacio Egipcio tell of a rich history. Estrada and his 14 children would bring back artifacts from trips to Eygpt, many of which you can see today at the site.
The palace was sold shortly after the owner’s death in the 1950s. It subsequently went through many phases before becoming the museum it is today.
Now, you can wander around its grounds and marvel at the incredible architecture, old artifacts, and Eygptian paintings.
They also hold various Eygptian exhibitions, musical events, and workshops.
Palacio de Bellas Artes or The Palace of Fine Art, is as grand as it sounds! Its art deco design stands out among the surrounding architecture. The building has an octagonal centerpiece that rotates on the sides to form the auditorium.
Not only is the design fabulous, but it’s also one of the best places in the country to study anything art related. Iconic Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero can vouch for that! He once studied at the Palace of Fine Arts along with many other famous artists.
The Beethoven orchestra room may have been the birthplace of the Anthem National Anthem, as composer Oreste Sindici used it as his workstation! The institute has commemorated the historic event with a bust of the musical genius.
Today The Palace of Fine Art holds music events, exhibitions, talks, and seminars, all for free!
The Prado theatre is one of the most eye-catching buildings you’ll see on the tour, mainly due to its classical European design and bright colors. The palladian-style facade of the building is painted a pastel yellow and electric blue, while the ceilings within are decorated with gold foil.
Not only does it make for a perfect photo opportunity today, but it was also a wonder in its time. In 1919 it was given the title of ‘The most beautiful facade of Medellín’ by the city council!
While the theatre was once a popular host to plays, poetry nights, and comedies, today it serves as a museum and home to the organization Aguila Descalza (or ‘Barefoot Eagle’). They are dedicated to promoting cultural activities within the city.
Events include artistic workshops, poetry recitals, seminars, and exhibitions.
After getting some fruit snacks from one of the street vendors, Alejandro will lead the group to the nearby green area. Prado Park offers a refreshing break from all the walking.
Unlike much of the surrounding area, the park’s construction is pretty new. It’s part of the government’s bid to revitalize the neighborhood and return it to its former glory. As Prado has been in a state of disarray for decades, this new addition is welcomed by the residents.
So, in true Prado style, innovation is once again at the forefront of urban planning. 80% of the park’s construction uses recycled materials, and most of its vegetation is of South American origin.
Here locals skate, ride, run, work out, and have picnics. With surveillance, well-groomed green areas, and paths for walking, it’s a relaxing place to be in.
Tour guide Alejandro has a fun, upbeat energy and knows absolutely everything about the neighborhood!
I enjoyed exploring a new area and didn’t even know some of the places we visited existed. I would love to come back and spend an afternoon wandering around the halls of The Egyptian Palace or attending an event at the Prado theatre.
How to Get To Prado
The meeting point for the walking tour is at Prado metro station, which is in the El Centro neighborhood. Alejandro will give you the exact details of the meet-up when you book the tour with him.
The best way to get to Prado station is via metro line A. There can be quite a lot of traffic when going into El Centro, so taking a Uber may take you twice as long as a metro journey.
Prado Safety Tips
As the affluent residents moved out of the area and the mansions fell into ruin, the surrounding area would transform into a downtown. The subsequent years saw increased crime, prostitution, and drug addiction problems.
Although the revival of the area has improved the crime rate, it’s still necessary to take some safety precautions.
Alejandro’s tour is great because you can explore the area safely with a fun group. However, I’ve compiled some extra tips to ensure everything runs smoothly:
Hanging out in the neighborhood after 6 pm isn’t recommended
Avoid wearing jewelry or expensive items
You can bring your phone for pictures but don’t walk around with it out
If you end up being in the area after dark, take an Uber home rather than walk to the station.
Enjoy Fascinating Architecture and Discover the Story Behind Medellin’s Most Interesting Neighborhood
Prado is a refreshing change from the usual tourist activities of Medellin. Here you can uncover a history still unknown to many outsiders and experience some European architecture without ever having to step foot on the continent!
I recommend booking a tour with Alejandro and exploring this spellbinding corner of La Candalaria.
Looking for more fun activities in Medellin? Subscribe to our Newsletter and access our free Medellin traveler guide + receive 15% off for future bookings with our hotels and rentals!