A Guide to the 2023 Christmas Lights in Medellín
Everyone is talking about the Christmas Lights in Medellin and don’t know where and how to see them? This practical guide will provide Context, a How To Guide including where to get off, a customized map, suggested rutes and Safety tips (don’t skip that last part) to enjoy them! here it goes:
Context: Christmas lights in Medellín
Medellín is known for its charismatic locals, who love to celebrate every special occasion. And Christmas is no different. Each year in early December, the streets of Medellín start to light up as the air fills with the sound of upbeat music and the smell of buñuelos and natilla. (Don’t know wha those are? take our Laureles Food Tour)
Christmas is the perfect season to visit Medellín. You’ll be able to enjoy new traditions, taste different treats and learn about how locals celebrate this time of the year. But one of the most special things of the season is the city’s public Christmas light displays, known as Alumbrados Navideños.
Although the first Christmas light in Medellin was installed in 1851, it wasn’t until 1955 that it became a traditional seasonal event. Since then, each December, the city lights up from 6 pm till midnight, with different designs that vary depending on the chosen themes. While decorations in countries in Europe and North America revolve around Santa and gifts, Medellin’s light displays include animals, plants, cultural characters and many more.
Medellin Christmas Lights Display 2023 (Nov 30th to Jan 14th)
Building on the immense success of the 2022 holiday lights, which featured designs from Disney’s movie “Encanto,” this year 2023, the main light display along the city’s river will be a tribute to the 100 years of Disnay, and thus will feature their most famous characters including Dumbo, Cinderella, The Lion King, Bambi, Minnie Mouse, and Mickey Mouse. Yeah I know, it’s kind of weird. But ey, why not?
In other parts of the city, the lights will represent traditional symbols and festive designs, creating a unique blend of Christmas spirit and Colombian cultural expressions.
How to Get to the Christmas Lights
There are basically three ways to enjoy the christmas lights:
- Visiting one place at a time on your own. This is the most common way to do it and below we give the details to do it on your own.
- Taking a Chiva Bus. This is very common between groups of friends who know each other well to party within the bus. If you are a solo traveler or a couple, this can be a quite an awkward experience.
- Taking a night bike tour: Definetely the most convenient and unique experience. You can ask for more information here , for several years in a row they have been running an outstanding e-bike tour at night to show you the best of the christamas lights in one night. FYI, it’s the dry season already, so dont be afraid of getting wet.
Visiting the christmas lights on your own
Parques del Rio christmas lights
- Context: This is the main location for this year; it is going to be very crowded but will definitely be the best location for pictures.
- How to do it: The idea is for people to start walking at the Metro station Industriales. It is prety straight forward, just follow the lights. Still in the map above we have highlighted the walking route you are supposed to take.
- Pin: Parques del Río Medellín
- Tip: Go early evening or late at night to avoid the crowds (6pm or 10pm).
Pueblito Paisa christmas lights
- Context: This is a hill located in the middle of the city, which allows you to get a lovely 360 degrees view of the city. Moreover, it is very close to Parques del Rio, allowing you to see the lights from above.
- How to do it: There are three ways to get there, one is taking a car up to the top (where share the pin below), and once you are there it is pretty stright forward the walk you have to take. Another way is to get off at Industriales metro station and walk from there. The last one is to go after seeing the lights at Parques del Rio. We have shared the route on the map above, it the green one, it’s around 20-25 minutes walk (1.5km).
- Pin: Pueblito Paisa
La Playa Avenue christmas lights
- Context: This is a main street in the city center. Many years ago, when I was a child, this was the main location for the Christmas lights. Now the crowds go to Parques del Rio, meaning that at La Playa Avenue, things might be easier to move around. The trade off is that the lights are not as impressive as in Parques del Rio.
- How to do it: They are meant for people to start at Teatro Pablo Tobon Uribe and walk West until Parque Berrio metro staton. If you want to go by metro, you can of course do it backwards. We have shared the route on the map above.
- Pin: Teatro Pablo Tobon Uribe
- Tip: If going by metro, do it after the rush hour (7:30pm 8:00pm). You can also do it after the afternoon session of our Walking Tour
Parque de Envigado christmas lights
- Context: Technically speaking, Envigado is not Medellin; it is a different municipality bordering Medellin to the South. It’s where I grew up, so I have to recognize my bias. It’s worth visiting if you want to get out of the tourist bubble, plus it has less of a big-city vibe and more of a family-oriented, town vibe.
- How to do it: There are several ways. Getting off at Envigado metro station and then walking for 15min (route on the map). Other option is to take a car to the main square (link shared below) and then walk around and enjoy the town-vibes.
- Pin: Parque Principal Envigado Marceliano Vélez Barreneche
- Tips: Have dinner at “Calle de la Buena Mesa”. It’s a street with restaurants and bars, including my favorite Barrio Sur and from there walk southwards towards the main square. Totally safe walk. Or you can visit my cousin’s liquor store “Correa Liquors” and drink the allegedly best micheladas in town.
Parque de Sabaneta christmas lights
- Context: Like Envigado, Sabaneta is a different municipality too. It borders Envigado to the South and it also has this special vibe of a little town within a city. It’s cozy and very energetic in terms of traditional party places (fondas). Totally off-the-beaten-path and not that far away.
- How to do it: Same as in Envigado, either you go by metro to Sabaneta station and then walk for 10 minutes or just take a car to the place linked below.
- Pin: Sabaneta Main Square
- Tip: Sabaneta is tiny and safe, walk around the souther corner of the main square to see the lights but also to have a cultural immersion and see how Colombians like to party in the Fondas. Our favorite place for Sancocho (see our post on local food) is located there so you can go in the late afternoon to have a late lunch and then see the lights, it’s called El Viejo John.
Some of these locations can be visited on the same night. For example, Parque de Envigado and Parque de Sabaneta are a 20-minute cab ride apart. And Parques del Río and El Pueblito Paisa are a 25-minute walk apart or a 10-minute cab ride.
If you want to enjoy this experience, we invite you to take a look at this map and to visit the following places:
- Unfortunately during 2023 the pickpocketing has rised to unseen levels in the city. Please don´t take your passport anywhere, a copy is enough. Try using pants or pockets with zippers and use your common sense: In super crowded areas, keep your valuables close to you.
- All metro stations are about 10 minutes walk from where the lights start.
- We recommend you get there early (6 pm) or rather late (10 pm), as these places tend to get crowded, especially over the weekends. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can go on the 24th or 31st of december, as most families gather at home to celebrate. The most croweded is definetely Parques del Rio and Parque Norte, the others are not that bad during the week.
- Traffic at night in Medellín around the Christmas season can get a little bit tricky. We suggest you take the Metro if you go early, after 8pm, traffic should be better.
- Parks, squares and streets around the Christmas lights are generally safe, but you must take care of your belongings in crowded spaces.
- Don’t plan to have dinner at these locations. You’ll find different options for snacks, but it’s basic street food and might not be the best option for dinner.
We hope you can enjoy it and let us know what you think, you can tag us on your pictures @realcitytours