Santiago is a gift that keeps on giving. Like any good capital city, it’s set in a stunning location, with the towering snow-capped Andes on one side and the Chilean Coastal Range on the other. In the heart of the city, Santiago’s diverse neighbourhoods, each with their own individual flair, provide exciting and surprising discoveries at every turn. Despite its vibrant culture, flourishing arts scene, beautiful parklands, excellent museums, energetic nightlife and multitude of outdoor adventures, this rapidly growing modern city has managed to retain its friendly small-town charm.
The top-notch museums in Santiago are definitely worth taking time to explore. Must-sees include the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and, for the romantics, La Chascona, the home of world-famous poet Pablo Neruda. In the bustling centre of Santiago take a walk to the top of Santa Lucia Hill where you’ll find majestic buildings, an historic castle, cascading fountains, and, on a clear day, gorgeous views over the city.
Other architectural highlights include the San Francisco Church, the grand Municipal Theatre and the charming colonial Casa Colorada, which now houses the Museum of Santiago. Santiago is perfectly placed near a number of celebrated wineries so be sure to make time in your itinerary to join a wine tour and spend a day exploring the rolling Chilean countryside.
Eat and Drink
Eat your way through Santiago and have a blast while you’re at it. This modern city is continuing to gain momentum as a diverse foodie destination, so you’ll find international and ethnic cuisine without a hassle. The hip neighbourhood of Bellavista is the place to sample a bit of everything from Chile and around the world, while the upscale neighbourhood of Vitacura, with its BordeRio restaurant complex, has plenty of fine dining eateries.
Take a seat in one of the many picadas (diners) throughout the city for a cheap and cheerful Chilean lunch. Local specialties to look out for include caldillo de congrio, a fragrant fish stew, and pastel de choclo, a baked pie filled with minced beef, onions, spices, olives and boiled egg and covered with mashed corn.
When in South America, the alcoholic drink of choice is pisco sour. Try it at the trendy bars located around Barrio Brasil and Bellavista and the bar-meets-restaurant establishments in Providencia. If you want to hit the clubs, keep in mind that locals don’t get the party started until after midnight before heading home to bed at 6am.
Where to Stay
Where you choose to stay in Santiago all depends on the vibe you’re after and how long you intend on staying. For quick and convenient access to museums, sights and restaurants, the downtown area of El Centro is the place to be. For greenery and elegance, hotels in Providencia cater to a sophisticated crowd, while affluent Las Condes boasts luxury high-rise hotels. Night owls will enjoy staying in the Bellavista and Barrios Lastarria districts.
Santiago has plenty of flash malls where you can shop for fashion and lifestyle products under the one roof. Key shopping areas include Las Condes and Providencia. If you’re looking for designer boutiques to rival Rodeo Drive, head to Avenida Alonso de Cordova in Vitacura.
For local jewellery, Chilean woollen sweaters and traditional handicrafts, take a wander through the city’s galerias (shopping arcades) and markets, with top picks including Patio Bellavista, Pueblito de los Dominicos and Feria Artesanal Santa Lucia.
Santiago Like a Local
Shop like the locals do every day at the Central Market, which is the main fresh seafood market of Santiago. You can eat on-site in one of the many restaurants but don’t fall for the expensive touristy offerings – look to where the locals are lunching. Nearby, Vega Central and Vega Chica offer an authentic market experience where you can browse for fresh produce, cheese and eggs.