Every year at the beginning of August the city of Medellín celebrates Feria de Las Flores. The first flower festival took place in May 1957, and included a parade that represented the end of slavery. The festival was later moved to August in order to celebrate the independence of Antioquia.
These days the festival includes a whole host of events from concerts to beauty pageants. One of the most significant events is the silletas parade, in which huge flower arrangements are carried on the backs of flower farmers. This parade is a reflection of the end of slavery, as flowers are being carried, rather than people.
I was lucky enough to arrive in Medellín before Feria de Las Flores. The 2017 festival began 10 days after my arrival and was a perfect way to begin my year studying here. The hardest part of the festival was deciding what to do as there were so many options. I ended up choosing a few events and making the absolute most of them.
Music is a huge part of Colombian culture and every festival and celebration manages to involve it in some way. Although named the flower festival, Feria de las Flores also includes many concerts. In fact, each day there were multiple concerts in different parts of the city, many of which were free. I ended up going to a couple of the concerts.
The first concert I went to took place at Plaza Gardel, right by Medellíns small airport. It featured artists such as Manuel Medrano, who is a really popular Colombian singer, although I had no idea about this at the time! I hadn’t initially planned on going, but as is typical here a friend suggested it and I decided I may as well give it a try. If you’re in Medellín during Feria de las Flores I highly recommend going to one of the concerts. It doesn’t matter if you know the artists, Colombians are so friendly and welcoming you’ll have a great time.
The following day I headed out to another concert, but instead of watching as part of the crowd I ended up at the apartment of another student at my university. The apartment has a balcony that is right over the park where the concert was taking place. It was a totally different atmosphere, in many ways more relaxed. I love that I was able to enjoy the music in a completely different way this time.
Although music and partying is a significant part of the festival and my own experiences here in the city I made sure that I also participated in other events. One of the most fun of these turned out to be a dog parade. Anyone was welcome to bring their pets along for a 3.5 km walk. I was absolutely amazed at how many people showed up with their dogs. We even saw two cats! When you walk through the city you are surrounded by so many things. People trying to sell you water, the smell of food and the sound of music playing. It is an amazing experience and being able to enjoy it with so many other people was really incredible.
Ciudad del Rio is in the industrial district of Medellín. Once the site of abandoned warehouses it is now host to Medellín’s museum of modern art. I headed out there twice during Feria de las Flores, once to enjoy the stalls and the second time to party. If you’re looking for a relaxed environment where you can buy a drink, listen to music and chill out with your friends then you should definitely go here during the festival.
Finally, I visited the Jardín Botánico to see some of the beautiful silletas that were part of the festival. You had to pay a small fee to enter but it was well worth it. The garden itself is beautiful regardless, but with the addition of the silletas it was absolutely incredible. I spent several hours there with a friend, walking around and looking at the flowers and checking out what people were selling on the stalls.
Feria de las Flores is what you make of it. You can either fill your week with events, or like me plan on visiting a few around your existing schedule. It is a perfect way to see more of the city, meet new people and fall in love with Colombia and its culture.