Having just returned from 3 months travelling, I am feeling the pinch economically. Thanks to my productivity and desperation to get back into a routine (and of course to earn money for the next trip!), I found myself a freelancing job working with a Start Up called Trip Happy, a very useful website for travellers as it focuses on areas of the city, where you want to stay and has links to the most popular places to stay. My first city guide was for Santiago, which was a blessing, as I have been jotting down some of my favourite places since I moved here in August… but never actually found the time to compose into a readable article! So here are some of my tit bits, I hope it is useful!
Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile may not be the cultural hotspot of South America, however, Chile does make up for what it’s lacking with beautiful landscapes, from the San Pedro de Atacama desert in the North to Patagonia in the South. Santiago is also perfectly located between the Andes Mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, for sports enthusiasts, you could be skiing all morning and surfing in the afternoon, as they are just an hour either side of the Chilean capital. Within an hour you can also reach many vineyards and the stunning Cajón del Maipo. September hosts the ‘Fiestas Patrias’, Chilean Independence day, where celebrations extend all week, showcasing the best of Chilean culture. Each neighborhood will have a ‘fonda’ where boys and girls, men and women will dance the cueca in traditional costume, eat asado (and of course, empanadas) and drink the famed ‘terremoto’, so-called because you can’t feel your legs after a few!
At a glance…
Bellavista – for the party animals (Be careful at night, pickpockets pray on drunken revelers)
Lastarria & Bellas Artes – central, more expensive, perfect for families & couples.
Centro Historico – historical sights, in particular Plaza de Armas.
Barrio Brasil – students & artists live here. Discover the old Santiago, untouched.
Barrio Italia – artistic area and charming neighborhood but not very central.
Providencia – more residential, in between the center and Las Condes, home to students & families.
Las Condes – more expensive & further away from the center, although there is the metro.
The Bellavista neighborhood is found underneath Cerro San Cristobal, you can take the funicular, or if you’re feeling more energetic, there’s both a cycle path and a footpath, from here you can overlook Santiago that stretches out for miles. On your way down, check in at Pablo Neruda’s house, the famous Chilean poet, before heading to taste some Chilean traditional dishes in one of the many restaurants on Calle Constitución, Pastel del Choclo and Charquicán are the Chilean favourites. If you are looking for international cuisine, Patio Bellavista will cater for your every need. At night, Pio Nono thumps out reggaeton, this area of Bellavista is laden with bars. For a quieter drink, head to The Clinic on Constitución. If you are more of a techno fan, both Club Mamba and MICROclub may be better suited. While La Feria is renowned as Santiago’s best electronic music club, they list their events on their Facebook page.
You will also spot many street food vendors around Bellavista as there are many universities in the area, they sell empanadas (‘pino’ is the most popular, made with diced meat, onion, an olive, raisins and a piece of hard-boiled egg), choripan (a chorizo hot dog), churrascuro (a beef sandwich) and sopaipilla (deep fried bread made with pumpkin and flour). Chileans love adding some spice, so look out for ají (chili) or pebre (chili, chopped onion and tomatoes, coriander and chives).
If you’re an absolute foodie, you can also take the ‘Food Tasting and Markets, Including Lunch’ Tour, where you will visit La Vega, there you can buy a handful of avocados (palta) for $1,000! Mercado Central, over the river, is great for fresh fish, they also have a cluster of restaurants in the market where you can enjoy the catch of the day.
Hostel H Rado is perfect for backpackers that aren’t on a tight budget, boasting a large terrace with a BBQ.
Party Animals, Backpackers, Foodies, Drinkers, good location to visit the tourist sights.
Pickpockets take advantage of tourists and drunk people, watch out! Near Pio Nono can be noisy.
The pleasant streets of Lastarria are lined with restaurants, cafes and bars in French Neo-Classical buildings. If you are a wine connoisseur you absolutely must go to BocaNariz, they do say Chilean red wine is the best! The glamourous Singular Hotel has a outdoor terrace where you can enjoy cocktails and nibbles as the sun goes down over Cerro San Cristobal. Just around the corner is Emporio La Rosa, where you will find the best ice-cream in Santiago, the flavours won’t let you down. Climbing Santa Lucia Hill is a must, in Winter (May-September) you can see the snow-capped mountains that create the perfect backdrop to the city’s skyscrapers. Unfortunately, the skyscrapers aren’t particularly picturesque, but as Chile is prone to earthquakes, there is a strict building code that they must all comply by. Behind the Santa Lucia Hill is the ‘Feria Artesanal’, here you can buy jumpers and socks made from Alpaca wool, Silver and Lapis Lazuli, Chilean leather belts and many tourist trinkets. Be sure to find a Indio Pícaro, they make great presents!
As Lastarria is centrally located, you can easily take one of the walking tours around the city, seeing the Centro Historico which includes, Plaza des Armas, La Moneda, Bellas Artes Museum and the Pre-Columbian Art Museum.
Foodies, Families, Couples, Good central location.
Expensive, can be noisy & busy.
The focal point of Santiago’s Centro Historico is the Plaza de Armas, founded by conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in 1541. Here you will find the Correos de Chile (Central Post Office) and the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), both of which have eye catching facades. The Cathedral’s interior is just as impressive as the exterior, so don’t skip it! There will normally be a cluster of people in Plaza de Armas, listening to the local comedians, who usually like to ridicule people, especially foreigners. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings as the pickpockets take advantage of tourists here. Take a walk along Paseo Ahumada, the bustling pedestrianised high street. If you spot Cafe Haiti, this is one of the famed ‘cafe con piernas’, this chain of cafes feature leggy waitresses wearing skimpy outfits serving beverages to businessmen.
Once you reach Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins, you are just a short walk from the beautiful neoclassical La Moneda, the presidential palace. You can watch the changing of the guards on even days in January, April, May, August, November and December, and on odd days for the other months of the year. The Centro Cultural La Moneda is well worth visiting, hosting interesting cultural and visual exhibitions, sometimes the host food and well-being ‘ferias’ (fairs) here as well. Most people visiting Santiago don’t tend to stay in the Centro Historico, so it is advised to look for accommodation in other neighborhoods.
Plaza Brasil is the centre of this neighbourhood, in the daytime children play among the sculptures in the park, while at night, the young cluster here to drink before moving on to find a ‘carrete’ (party in Chilean). From there, wander the streets and enjoy the once fabulous neo-gothic and neoclassic houses that, over the years have been neglected and become a street art gallery. These houses now act as apartments, studios or art galleries, such as Lira Bar Galeria.
While you are in the area, you must head to Plaza Concha y Toro, originally owned by the Concha y Toro family who are now well-known for their vineyards. If you want to spoil yourself, then have some seafood at Zuly restaurant.
To learn more about the history of Chile, you must visit The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, located in Quinta Normal. Although it is very sobering, it takes you through the history of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Villa Grimaldi was used as one of the torture centers, and on Calle Londres 38/40 (in Downtown) there is another former torture center and jail.
South of Barrio Brasil and a little off the beaten track is the Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Air Museum), found in San Miguel, you can enjoy huge murals that cover whole buildings, created as part of a social and cultural project in 2009, as an attempt to revitalize their neighborhood with a splash of color.
A little run down
This ‘barrio’ is the design and foodie hub (Italian for a reason), with many little courtyards, each with interior design shops, boutique fashions shops, local crafts, quaint coffee shops and independent restaurants each shining their charisma. The main hits are Ruca Bar, where on Thursday’s you can get 1 Luca (1,000$) G&T’s, The Jazz Corner and the celiac-friendly Bar Italia.
If you walk to the end of Avenida Italia, there are antique furniture stores that spill out onto the streets, with vintage wooden desks, chairs and household objects. The area wouldn’t live up to it’s name if it didn’t have a handful of Italian cafes, the favourites are Café de la Candelaria, Cafe Sindicato and Café Triciclo.
Wine Connoisseurs, Coffee Junkies, Jazz Enthusiasts, Antique Hunters, Foodies & Designers.
I can’t think of any? (It’s a tube ride away from the center)
The meeting point between the historical center, the artistic neighborhoods and the classy Las Condes. If you take one of the side streets off Avenida Providencia you are bound to find some treasures, in particular Orrego Luco, which is lined with bars and restaurants. Colon and Bustamente are laden with cafes and restaurants as well. Providencia spans quite a large area, so it depends what you’re looking for, students tend to congregate on Wednesday evenings around Manuel Montt for Miercoles Po’, the popular student night, while during on more relaxed weekdays Los Leones and Pedro de Valdivia are popular as they have many bars and restaurants.
With 2,653 miles of coastline, Chile has an abundance of seafood and Santiaguinos absolutely love sushi, you can find a restaurant on virtually every corner. NUI sushi is a popular chain that has 4 restaurants in Providencia.
Shopping, Going Out, Location (if you’re happy not being in the center)
Some areas are primarily residential.
The Costanera Center, by Tobalaba metro, is a 6 floor shopping center, which draws in tourists from all over South America, primarily Argentina, as the clothes and electrical goods are a lot cheaper. The shops range from boutique Chilean designers to large Chilean department stores, such as Paris, Falabella and Ripley as well as international stores H&M, Topshop, Zara and Hugo Boss. Here, you can also visit Sky Costanera, which is the tallest building in South America boasting 360° at 300m. It is advised to go before the sun sets, so that you can see Santiago in daylight, as well as at nighttime and witness the magnificent sunset over the city that sprawls out as far as the eye can see.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat nearby, Tiramisu is a local favorite. Opposite is the W Hotel, on Sunday’s, they host a magnificent Sunday bottomless brunch, with an array of meat, fish, salads and desserts that will have you salivating! There is also a rooftop bar, travelers looking for sophistication may want to check when the international electronic student parties are.
Near to Manquehue metro you will find Parque Araucano shopping center, where shoppers can find high range glitzy shops. While hikers will enjoy climbing Cerro Manquehue, the sunsets from the top really are sublime.
Foodies, Families, Couples, Shopaholics, Safety conscious.
Expensive, Need to get the metro into Centro.
If you delve deep enough into Santiago, you can find many a hidden gems, from quirky art galleries, cultural and historical exhibitions that showcase the craft and handiwork of the indigenous Mapuche as well as many culinary delights that cater for the large expat community. What’s more, US magazine Saveur named Santiago the ‘Next Great Food City’ as they toy with Chilean culture and the sparse and fertile land that can harvest a wide range of crops, due to the diversity in the country.