Nestled amongst the snow-capped Andean mountains, Chile’s capital of Santiago is often underappreciated compared to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Santiago has both a laid-back and party-loving atmosphere. Add in the many nearby wine regions and the gloriously over-the-top food, and you can see why Santiago is a great place to visit. Here are top 5 things you can’t miss while you’re there!
1. Shop at the markets
Santiago has many great markets, which are great places to buy food or souvenirs – but even just hanging out and enjoying the ‘vibe’ is a great way to spend an afternoon. Two of our favorites are the Santa Lucia Market, which sells different souvenirs and handicrafts that will make you popular with your buddies back home, or the La Vega Central Market that sells mouthwateringly delicious fresh and cooked food. Beware of the hot peppers!
2. Plaza de Armas
One of Chile’s most central and important squares, the Plaza de Arms had lost a bit of its pizazz until the Government decided to restore it to most of its former glory. Today, it is a great place to visit with cafes, souvenir stalls, and street performers trying everything from the Chilean dance cueca to some questionable miming. There’s also a beautiful Cathedral located on the square, which you are welcome to visit as long as Mass is not underway.
3. Climb San Cristobal Hill
Santiago is a beautiful city, especially if taken in from up high, where you can really appreciate the beautiful mountains around it. Most agree that the best views in the city are from atop San Cristobal Hill – although perhaps steer away from that topic with locals after a few beers. At any rate, it is a beautiful view and there’s also a statue of the Virgin Mary as well as a zoo at the top. Definitely worth a climb, although expect some lactic – it’s pretty steep!
4. La Chascona
Chileans are very proud of their Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, and have turned his offbeat and quirky house into a shrine of types. There are many tours of his Santiago based house (as well as his other 2 properties, if you can’t get enough of Neruda), and they are full of interesting tidbits about his life and works. Definitely well worth checking out, even if you don’t consider yourself a poetry buff. Be sure to bring a camera to snap some cool shots of the interesting architecture.
5. Eat Chilean Food at Barrio Lastarria
If you’re on a diet, be prepared to abandon it the second you pass through customs at Santiago airport. Chilean food is delicious, but they sure go heavy on the meat and carbohydrates (not that we’re complaining). One of the best barrios to enjoy Chilean food is at Barrio Lastarria, a stylish neighborhood that has many great cafes and wine bars, as well as, of course, Chilean restaurants.