A harmonious blend of colonial architecture and glittering skyscrapers paired with a cosmopolitan energy like no other can only mean one thing; you’re in Santiago! Chile’s capital and largest city is both sophisticated and traditional; it draws you in with its South American charm and then takes you to the bar for a Terremoto (an aptly named cocktail that translates to ‘earthquake’).
Welcome to Santiago, it’s a little Chile down here!
Over 500-years of history ooze from Santiago’s colonial core, but Chile’s capital hasn’t always been a desirable travel destination. Earthquakes, dictatorships, and civil unrest have all put Santiago on the map for the wrong reasons. Today, thanks to a stable and growing economy, the city is a thriving metropolis with all the style of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. So, line your stomach with traditional Marraqueta bread and join me on an adventure in the Chilean capital!
Here’s a Pro Tip: the Chilean Peso (CLP) is roughly 100 CLP = £1.00 so that makes it very easy to determine the price of goods and services throughout Santiago! Just divide the CLP price by 100 for the price in Pounds!
Most travelers arrive in Santiago at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport. From here, buses depart to downtown Santiago (alight at Los Heroes metro station) every 10-minutes between the hours of 6am and 11:30pm. After that, buses depart every hour. To find the bus stop, head to exit no. 4 and purchase your ticket before boarding. A one-way tickets costs as little as £2, and the journey takes roughly 45-minutes.
As for exploring the city itself, Santiago’s streets are laid out in a grid formation, which makes exploring on foot easy! Alternatively, the city’s public transport system is reliable, and the Metro is particularly handy for exploring a little further afield. I’d avoid exploring by car or bus as rush hour in the city seems to last most of the day, and you’ll spend far too much time wistfully staring out of the window.
It’s sunset? Did someone say cocktail-o’clock?
Here’s Another Pro Tip: To use the metro, you must purchase a BIP Card for around 500CLP (£0.50) and then charge it with credit. Cards can be purchased at any counter or vending machine at any metro station. Fares depend on travel time, but a single ride tends to cost between 610 (£0.61) and 720 CLP (£0.72), so you won’t be breaking the bank.
Here’s some great things to see:
- Plaza de Armas – Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of Santiago, chose the Plaza de Armas as the heart of the city way back in 1541. The colonial architecture remains today, and you’ll find the Royal Court of Justice, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Governor’s Palace, all located in the square.
- Sky Costanera – To enjoy some of Santiago’s best views, head to the observation deck in the Costanera tower. Aim to arrive just before sunset, and you’ll witness the skies over the Andes turn different hues of pink and orange.
- San Cristobal Hill – For more panoramic views of the city, hike to the top of this spectacular hill. Named after a Spanish conquistador, San Cristobal hill rises 850 meters above sea level and takes around 1-hour to climb (if you haven’t been drinking terremeto’s the night before).
- Santiago Zoo – This unique city zoo is home to thousands of animals, representing 158 species, and sits at the base of San Cristobal Hill.
- La Moneda Palace – Soak up colonial history at this neoclassical palace, which houses the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. Italian architect Joaquin Toesca designed the building.
- Central Market – This bustling seafood market is the place to be at lunchtime! Explore the winding rows of stalls and watch vendors haggle with locals over the price of fish.
The centre of town is a bit square!
- Santa Lucia Hill – Turns out Santiago has its fair share of hills, and this one is just as impressive as the latter. Explore the park and gardens that make up this tranquil green space before climbing to the viewpoint at the top. On national holidays, the park comes alive with locals celebrating Chilean customs and traditions.
Chile’s gastronomy Is genuinely delightful, and Santiago doesn’t hold back on creating flavorsome dishes bursting with color. Check out my favorite restaurants below:
- Jose Ramon 277 – Chileans take their sandwich-making very seriously, and that’s certainly the case at this cosmopolitan cafe. Opt for the Italian steak sandwich and enjoy every bite, paired with a local craft beer.
- El Hoyo – There’s nothing I love more than a family-run restaurant, particularly when it has been passed down from generation to generation, and the walls are starting to crumble a little! This rustic restaurant makes incredible terremoto cocktails and serves authentic Chilean cuisine from abuela’s (grandma’s) recipe book.
If you like Pina Colada… order a Terremotos.
- Sarita Colonia Restaurant – Flavours from South America and Asia blend to create innovative dishes at this funky restaurant that sits in the city’s Bellavista neighbourhood. If you’re into dark and moody decor, quirky vibes, and unique dining experiences, this is the restaurant for you. The Peruvian Ceviche is a menu highlight.
Here’s a Pro Tip: For a cheap and cheesy souvenir (I expect nothing less from my souvenir shopping), head to Centro Artesanal Pueblito Los Dominicos. This local craft market is brimming with jewellery, clothing, and hand-carved decorations.
From bar crawls to wine tours, Santiago is bursting with evening entertainment! Check out my favourite cocktail bars, and classy rooftop establishments below:
- La Piojera – No trip to Santiago is complete without visiting the city’s most talked-about dive bar. At La Piojera, locals drink cheap beer while playing cards and knocking tunes out of a rusty accordion. Cheap and cheerful is all I’ll say!
- Bocanariz – Home to over 400 different Chilean wines, 50 of which are served by the glass, this lively wine bar makes for great evening entertainment.
- Red2One – If style and sophistication are on your evening checklist, make your way to the W Hotel’s rooftop bar. Leather couches, guest DJs, and spectacular views over the city combine for an evening of elegance.
Santiago has a range of boutique properties and luxury hotels to suit all budgets. Check out my top three accommodation options below:
- Casa Bueras Boutique – This boutique hotel sits in a renovated historic house and is just a short walk from Santiago’s best museums, galleries, and boutique stores. The outdoor swimming pool is the hotel’s selling point. Take a refreshing dip after a day exploring the city!
Sleep like royalty in a colonial mansion!
- The Aubery – 15 spacious rooms make up this boutique hotel, which sits in Santiago’s Bellavista neighbourhood. The property features an outdoor pool, onsite bar, and offers a complimentary breakfast service.
- Carmenere Hotel – Expect to enjoy rustic charm, modern comforts, and Chilean influences throughout your stay. Make sure you explore the hotel’s underground wine cellar too. My favourite is the eponymous Carmenere!
Santiago has all of the colonial charm of Latin America with the efficiency and convenience of a well-planned modern metropolis. You’ll love the merging of style and convenience!