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The New Face of Medellín

This former haven for Colombian drug lords is topping must-see lists

While the Pablo Escobar tours in Medellin, Colombia are fascinating, they can sully the city\’s much-improved reputation.
It’s hard to underestimate how much Medellín has changed in the past two decades. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was a city run by armed drug cartels. The streets were largely empty, with paisas (residents of Medellín) afraid to go out for fear of ending up in the crossfire of rival gangsters.

You wouldn’t know it today. Now, the sounds of salsa blare on the streets as locals gather at open-air restaurants and cafés. In the past twenty years, the city has added new museums and parks, introduced its metro and Metrocable (suspended gondola) systems, and installed works of pubic art, a requirement for any new buildings in the city. Nightlife not only exists now, it thrives, especially in the affluent El Poblado neighborhood.

To get a sense of how far the city has come, take a look back with one of the many Pablo Escobar tours. Visit the mansions, grave, and headquarters of the late cocaine kingpin who once held the city in the grips of terror.

Soccer has always been popular in Medellín, and Escobar was such a fan that he built stadiums in many of the city’s poor neighborhoods. He also purportedly issued death threats to players leading up to critical games. Today players are motivated by glory rather than fear and attending a soccer game is a thrilling way for a visitor to experience a favorite local pastime alongside paisas of all ages.

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