Latest posts by Caroline Rangel (see all)
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I’ve been to Chile in 2012 and I fell in love with Santiago. The first thing you should do when travelling to Santiago is to choose a window seat. You don’t want to miss the Andes view from the plane!
Santiago is a very safe and modern city by South American standards. The public services seem to work (as supposed to not, I know, but in South America things are a bit different), clean streets, good public transportation, incredible wine and food, friendly locals and magnificent views of the Andes are everywhere in the city!
Santiago has lots of great restaurants and bohemian neighbourhoods. The city is a mix of historical buildings from the Spanish colonial period (the ones that resisted to the frequent earthquakes) and modern high rise buildings.
Chileans are usually honoured you’ve come so far to visit their country. They will tell you there isn’t much to see in the capital but I don’t agree, here is a list of the top 10 reasons to visit Santiago:
1. Cerro Metropolitano or Cerro San Cristobal
Towering over the city is the Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago’s second highest mountain and most famous park, with public pools, botanical gardens, hiking trails and breathtaking views of both the city and the Andean peaks (smog permitting).
The locals come to jog, bike and hike. I took the funicular to the hilltop (I had too much Pisco Sour at lunch), but if you prefer you can go by foot, it’s a 50-minute heart-pumping hike as I was told.
At the top you will find the Virgin Mary statue, charming gardens, handicraft and local food stalls and most important: the best view of Santiago!
From this spot you can see how spread out Santiago is, and admire the Andes Mountains in the background. It’s a very special place.
2. Bellavista Neighborhood
Bellavista is a bohemian area with nice restaurants, bars and clubs. If you find yourself feeling thirsty or hungry, head to this neighbourhood. You won’t regret!
Bellavista is also home to Pablo Neruda’s house La Chascona! Neruda was a Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet.
You have to visit Patio Bellavista, a huge courtyard filled with shops and great restaurants. I’ve had my best meal there.
3. Cerro Santa Lucia
Cerro San Cristobal has the better views but Cerro Santa Lucia is much prettier!
Santiago was founded right on this very spot, but nowadays Cerro Santa Lucia is known more as a scenic lookout.
It’s located at trendy Lastarria neighbourhood in central Santiago. You can also enjoy fantastic views of the Andes and the city, but even on a smoggy day the hill itself is worth a visit for its charming fountains and gorgeous gardens on every level up to the top.
4. City Center
Many historic and interesting attractions are located in the city center; you can discover all of them on foot, you’ll only need a street map.
Be careful with pickpockets, they tend to concentrate in this area, specially near Plaza de Armas. I haven’t experienced any issues but it’s always good to be cautious.
Plaza de Armas: Santiago’s central plaza and home to kilometer zero. The plaza is home to beautiful historic buildings such as the Central Post Office and, as in every Latin American capital, the main Cathedral: La Catedral Metropolitana.
Palacio de La Moneda (Coin Palace): La Moneda is Chile’s presidential office. The inner courtyards are generally open to the public. It’s not Buckingham Palace, but every two days at 10:00am you can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
This is one of Santiago’s postcards, and a place of great importance to Chile’s political history.
The socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown here by a coup d’état. He made his last speech at La Moneda:
After the speech, President Salvador Allende committed suicide. Dictator Augusto Pinochet assumed power, his Regime left over 3,000 dead or missing, tortured thousands of prisoners and forced 200,000 Chileans into exile. A monument honouring Allende stands in Plaza de la Constitución.
Paseo Ahumada and Paseo Estado: Two big commercial promenades, where you will find everything from exchange offices, supermarkets, the chilean department store Falabella and the traditional cafés com piernas.
Café com piernas means ‘coffee with legs’, it’s a coffee shop where the espressos are served by young women wearing short dresses and high heels. I’m not a fan.
Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art): The museum is located in a restored building, the old royal customs house. In my humble opinion, this is the most interesting museum of Santiago. The museum has a collection of thousands of pieces from pre-Columbian peoples who inhabited the Americas before the arrival of the Spanish. Very interesting!
Museu Nacional de Bellas Artes (Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts): This is a small but very nice art museum focusing on Latin American art. The museum is housed in the stately neoclassical Palacio de Bellas Artes, built as part of Chile’s centenary celebrations in 1910.
Mercado Central (Central Market): The Mercado Central has bright fish stalls and a big diversity of local fruits. On the market area there are some restaurants with the freshest fish in the country. It’s a great place to eat Centolla, the king crab of Chile.
5. Vinã Del Mar
Viña del Mar is often called Ciudad Jardín (Garden City) due to its many gardens and colourful boulevards lined with palm trees. It takes about an hour and a half between Santiago and Viña. The cheapest way to get to Viña is by bus.
I’ll give you two good reasons to visit Viña!
First, the pathway near the beach! You can walk along beautiful gardens and parks and even watch lazy sea lions on the rocks by the sea. Second, there’s an original Moai from Easter Island in front of the Fonck Museum. When will you have the chance to see a Moai in your life?
Valparaíso is a historical port city with UNESCO World Heritage status and it is a ‘must see’ for any trip to the coast of Chile. The city is Chile’s cultural capital, it’s a very diverse city, with a lot to offer… Full of energy and creativity. Just 1h30 away from Santiago.
I think of Valparaíso as a wonderful mess: chaotic traffic, steep slopes, colourful houses, a maze of sinuous streets, great graffiti, crumbling mansions and charming funiculars.
The upper part of town offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the city. Take an funicular up to the top of the cerro and then wander back down. You’ll be able to enjoy more of the sights that way.
There are tons of restaurants in Valparaíso! Ceviche and calamari… Hummmm! You can also visit La Sebastiana, one of the Pablo Neruda’s three houses in Chile.
7. Santiago Sunset
I loved seeing the snow-capped peaks of the Andes on almost all sites of Santiago. During my trip, I watched incredible sunsets from my hotel room.
The Andes transform a typical sunset in a very impressive and unique experience! The mountains become pink, the sky start turning orange, then purple and finally dark blue. The sun goes down slowly behind the Cordillera… I still miss it! I miss the sunset and the bottle of wine I used to have while watching it.
I definitely recommend a visit to one of the hotel rooftop bars or Cerro Santa Lucia or San Cristobal to enjoy the sunset.
Chile is known for a lot of things, but wine was at the top of my list. The country produces an impressive amount of varietals: Carménère, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc… Shall I continue?
I drink Chilean wine in Brazil, it’s quite popular in my country, but I was unaware of just how many vineyards there were in Chile and how many were so close to Santiago.
You can reach Viña Concha y Toro and Viñas Cousino Macul and Aquitania just by taking the subway or Viña Undurraga by a short taxi ride from the city center.
You can also head to Casablanca Valley between Santiago and Valparaíso for a day of wine tasting. Every winery offers a different experience so if you love wine, like me, try to visit at least two to get a good feel of the wine-making in Chile.
9. Pisco Sour
Pisco is a type of brandy, a spirit distilled from wine produced in Chile and Peru. Both countries make what they call pisco, and both claim to be the original producers actually they fight over pisco). Is it the same, is it different? I don’t care! I just wanted to taste it…
Pisco Sour is the most well-known pisco cocktail, prepared with: pisco, egg white, lime juice and simple syrup.
10. Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado is one of the best ski resorts in Chile, located high in the Andes Mountains.
I’ve been to Chile during summer, but I heard from friends, this is a great place for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
The ski season lasts from late June to early October.
To reach the Valle you need to face a 1h30 drive from Santiago and a narrow switchbacked road.
Santiago is very beautiful and I felt very safe there. I only have 3 remarks: the city has a problem with stray dogs and smog! You can clearly see the layer of smog in the skies. Ah! The water of Santiago doesn’t taste good, but is healthy. I drank it and haven’t gotten sick. I bought different brands of bottled water, but it had the same strange taste, I guess you have to get used to it.
Have you ever been to Santiago? Do you know a different reason? Tell me!