Chile’s capital and biggest metropolitan area in the middle of the country is located between the Andes and the sea. The city is huge but the truly interesting things to see are limited. However, there is a big culture and gastro scene. Two days are enough to see Santiago’s highlights, rather spend another day in Valparaiso, Valle de Maipo or in winter go skiing in the Valle Nevado.
Stay: Hotel Magnolia is located in the old centre of town, close to Plaza de Armas, Lastarria and Cerro Santa Lucia. It is a pretty townhouse-style hotel in a historic building. Also nice are hotel Luciano K and Hotel Cumbres.
Do: Because Santiago is so big and spread out it is nice to explore one neighborhood or Barrio at a time.
Lastarria might be a bit touristic but it’s quirky and offers a lot of restaurants and museums. José Victorino Lastarria is the main street where you find the huge, modern Centro Gabriela Mistral and the Museo de Artes Visuales for contemporary art, for example.
In Las Condes district you find Latinamerica’s largest building the Costanera Tower with a big, modern mall and the observatory with great views of Santiago and the Andes. The park of Cerro Santa Lucia is more in the heart of the city and also offers nice views, as well as the famous Cerro San Cristobal. The hill is Santiago’s biggest public park with its big Virgin Mary statue, the funicular, cable car and zoo.
The indoor market of La Vega Central is very interesting in the morning, when you can stroll through all sorts of vegetables, fish and flower stalls. You have to navigate through the touristic Mercado Central in a nice historic building and go across the street to find the Mercado de Flores and La Vega Central.
In Bellavista, you find all sorts of bars and nightlife on Pio Nono street, as well as the modern open air complex Patio Bellavista. Here you find small shops and bright restaurants.
Santiago has a wide range of interesting museums. The most popular and important one is the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos telling the story of Pinochet’s dictatorship and human rights violations between 1973 and 1990. Another interesting museum is the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, showing pieces of artists from all around the world who supported president Allende.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in a beautiful beaux-arts building shows old paintings by Chilean and Latin-American artists. Very beautiful is also the Museo de la Moda in Vitacura. They have small fashion exhibitions and you can also learn about the family who lived in this beautiful former asian-style family villa. Santiago also has numerous cultural centers like the Centro Gabriela Mistral and Nave in Barrio Brasil.
Blondie is a cool club with parties and indie concerts.
Shop: Barrio Italia, especially Avenida Italia is famous for its many small malls with independent fashion and jewelry shops, cafes and restaurants. Just stroll through the street and visit stores like La Plage and Morenaa. Another chic little mall is Galleria Lastarria in Lastarria where you find Kaikai, for example, a sweet stationary and book shop.
For authentic, artistic souvenirs from Chile go to Artesanias de Chile Fund. They have several shops in museums and the airport in Santiago where you find all kinds of beautiful traditional crafted things, directly supporting the producers.
Eat: In Lastarria simply stroll down José Victorino Lastarria and find all sorts of delicious restaurants, like Casa Lastarria, which also has a beautiful rooftop terrace. There is also the ice cream shop Heladeria Emporio La Rosa, the hipster wine bar BocaNariz and the restaurants Liguria and Chipe Libre.
In Barrio Brasil there are the historic pubs The Clinic and Santo Barrio.
In Barrio Italia CasaLuz is a very pretty, delightful restaurant with a cosy patio. The staff is very friendly and the Mediterranean-Chilean food is delicious, especially the chocolate truffle dessert. Also on Avenida Italia you find El Camino which serves good American BBQ and has a nice outdoor patio and the very delicious Siam Thai restaurant. The Cocktail Bar La Providenica serves very creative cocktails in a fun baroque-boudoir like setting.
Getting around: You can use the subway and bus system, but taxis and Uber (or Beat) work also very well and are reasonable priced. Within a Barrio you can walk and explore the small streets a bit more, but Santiago is huge and you need public transportation between the neighborhoods, you can’t work from Lastarria to Vitacura, for example.
Barrio Lastarria and Bellas Artes are right in the centre where you find Plaza de Armas, the market and many museums. Bohemian Bellavista including Providencia and Recoleta is famous for its many bars and nightlife and Barrio Italia and Brasil are student and hipster neighborhoods with bright cafes and shops. Vitacura and Las Condes in the east are where you find chic villas, luxurious shopping streets and malls.
Buying and using a national SIM card in Chile is relatively easy by now. Movistar is a big cellphone provider and its SIM cards can be bought at most kiosks, drug stores and mini-markets around every town. You might also get one at Santiago airport but there is only one small booth (Fotokina) and it is more expensive.
There are many more ideas and tips for travels in Chile!
Read about the amazing National Park Torres del Paine and the fantastic hiking route there, the W-Trek! You can also find out more about trips from Puerto Natales here. Or see the post about the northern part of Patagonia, the lake region and Chiloé here.
Also, find more tips for the southern desert and Andes region of San Pedro de Atacama and the El Tatio Geysers.