Santa Fe de Antioquia, a pueblo located approximately an hour northwest of Medellín, is renowned for its stunning colonial architecture–some of the best preserved in all of Colombia.
Santa Fe is a popular destination for both paisas and foreigners looking for a break from city life for the weekend of even just the day, and was also named one of the Five Best Pueblos Around Medellín on this very website.
After being asked time after time by paisa after paisa if I’d been to Santa Fe de Antioquia, I finally made a day trip out to this famous little pueblo with my girlfriend and two of her friends on a recent Sunday afternoon.
We ended up driving out there but, of course, you could also take one of the numerous buses that make the trip, and for less than the tunnel toll.
Completed in 2006, the Tunel de Occidente connects Medellín and Santa Fe de Antioquia by the longest tunnel in all of South America.
The completion of the tunnel reduced the distance to the pueblo from 74km to 52km and cut approximately an hour off of the travel time, and thus further cementing its appeal as an ideal day trip getaway.
In addition to being well-known for its colonial architecture, Santa Fe de Antioquia is also known for being considerably hotter than Medellín, as it is located some 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) lower in elevation and is situated in a valley between the Rio Cauca and the Rio Tonuzco.
Santa Fe served as the capital of Antioquia from 1584 until 1826 when the capital was moved to Medellín.
The town retains the feel and character of a centuries old pueblo, with narrow cobblestone streets, a gorgeous plaza that serve as the social center of town, whitewashed buildings and lovely churches.
It is reminiscent of other popular colonial towns in Colombia such as Barichara and Villa de Leyva.
There is no need for a hectic to-do list or sightseeing schedule while visiting. Indeed, the point of venturing out to the pueblos is to slow down and relax. It’s nice to just wander the streets, taking in the scenery and watching life unfold in the plaza.
We walked around the town square, admiring the beautiful architecture and timeless feel of the city before eventually growing wary of the unrelenting heat and settling down at a restaurant along the plaza for some delicious and refreshing jugos naturales.
The Catedral de Santa Fe de Antioquia is the centerpiece of the main plaza, Plaza Bolivar, but don’t forget to venture around the corner to the baroque-style church of Iglesia Santa Barbara, and the beautiful adjacent park and garden.
There are numerous restaurants surrounding the main plaza and I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a typical Colombian dish, though for something different we decided to venture into a Uruguayan restaurant, Fuego, down the street.
The food was quite delicious and unbeknownst to us at the time, is actually the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor.
Following our late lunch we decided to drive out the Puente de Occidente, the old bridge over the Rio Cauca, which is situated a few kilometers out-of-town.
Alternatively, it’s easy to hire a motochiva (tuk tuk) from the main plaza to drive you out there.
The Puente de Occidente was built at the end of the 19th century and is considered Colombia’s first civil engineering works as well as one of the most important civil engineering works of its time.
Upon its completion in 1895, the Puente de Occidente was the third longest bridge in the world and the longest in South America at approximately 300m long.
The bridge is a definitely a sight to behold as the traffic alternates from one side to the other across this one-lane bridge, towering over the muddy and roiling Rio Cauca below. The bridge was declared a National Monument in 1978.
Santa Fe de Antioquia offers a nice escape from the city and I can certainly see why it is such a popular day trip getaway for the locals.
If you’re looking for a glimpse into the old colonial pueblos of Colombia’s past, a quick and easy weekend escape or even just looking for some sun and heat, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia.