Wine, shopping, and the Andes Mountains are some of the words that come to mind when we think of Santiago, but there are many things to do in Santiago. The Chilean capital has more to offer than that: museums, gastronomy, bike rides and beautiful neighborhoods to take a stroll through.
Visit the main attractions of this beautiful city and let yourself get carried away by its cultural side. Learn about the life and the work of Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, through visits to the houses where he lived, now turned into museums. One of them, La Chascona, located in the Bella Vista neighborhood, is an ideal trip to learn about Neruda’s past and his eccentric private life.
In the same neighborhood of Bella Vista, another place to visit is the San Cristóbal Hill, which is also the largest park in the city. The Funicular, the zoo, the cable car and the Virgen del Cerro (Virgin of the hill) are the main attractions of this park; also called the Metropolitan Park. You can go up by cable car or funicular to see the sunset at 860 meters of height and those who are more adventurous and in good physical shape; can even make the journey on foot to the top.
Touring the city center of Santiago is an unforgettable outing to learn about the history of this city. The beautiful white building of the Palácio de la Moneda, seat of the Government, is a good starting point. It was built in 1784 to make coins and is where its name comes from.
Those who want to visit the building on the inside must book their visit in advance through the following link: https://visitasguiadas.presidencia.cl. Another must-see is the Cultural Center La Moneda behind the palace which has several exhibition halls and an interesting store with Chilean handicrafts.
The next stop is the Plaza de Armas where the city was born. This popular square is surrounded by the cathedral, the post office, the National Historical Museum and the municipality. In addition to tourists, it is common to see people resting, playing chess or reading a book beneath a tree.
For those who want to enjoy shopping or walk a little more, the Paseo Ahumada is a pedestrian street with several shops and many street vendors with “mote con huesillo”, a typical sweet drink made with juice, pieces of peach and grains of wheat, delicious and recommended for those who have no qualms about experiencing local gastronomy during their travels ..
And speaking of experiencing, a typical place to have a seafood lunch in Santiago is the Mercado Central, located in the downtown of the historic center. All the ingredients that you will see on your plate are fresh since in the same market you buy top quality fish and seafood. One of the typical dishes here are the paila marina, the crab cakes and for those who do not travel with too limited a budget, we recommend trying the famous red crab or Chilean crab.
Museums in Santiago
Lovers of history and culture will find several interesting museums in Santiago. One of the most important is the Museum of Memory and Human Rights which has details of the sad history that took place during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Videos, photos, stories and a lot of emotion can be witnessed in the corridors of this beautiful museum that offers free admission. The Plaza de la Memoria is also located there.
A few meters away stands the Quinta Normal. A beautiful park surrounded by a beautiful lake and palm trees, also home to other museums such as the Natural History, the Railway Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Whoever enters this beautiful building of the Natural History Museum will be greeted by a huge and impressive whale skeleton. It’s a nice outing to do with children.
Street Art in Santiago
One of the neighborhoods with more graffiti and murals of the Chilean capital is Yungay. Its colorful streets give life to this region that for many years was a favorite place for Peruvian and Haitian immigrants.
This is one of the neighborhoods that offers more culture in the city and beautiful buildings bauhaus style and Artdecó. The contiguous neighborhood is called Brazil; and is also known for its great gastronomic and bars.
And for those who like to appreciate the city from above, a good plan is to visit the viewpoint of the Sky Costanera, the tallest building in Latin America. The view from the 62nd floor is incredible, especially at the end of the afternoon. If you visit during the winter, you can see the snow in the Andes Mountains that give rise to an unforgettable landscape.
The lookout is in the same building as the Shopping Costanera Center, a perfect place for those who would like to shop.
If you still have free days, take the opportunity to go on some trips outside of Santiago. A good option is wine tasting with a bicycle tour of the vineyards, all this only a few kilometers away from the center.
Those who prefer a little sea can visit Viña del Mar and Valparaiso in a single day. And for those who are looking to take long walks in the middle of nature, Cajón del Maipo is an incredible place.
Visiting Santiago during Summer or Winter?
Santiago is a destination that can be visited the entire year. During the summer temperatures do not exceed 30 ° C but because the sun heats up strongly in this region because of the hole in the ozone layer, it is very important to use sunscreen. This time of year is perfect to stroll around Santiago and to take advantage to visit a coastal city or the region with volcanoes like Pucón.
For travelers who prefer snow and cold, Santiago is the ideal destination because it has several ski resorts just a few kilometers away. The Colorado, La Parva, Valle Nevado and Portillo are the most famous. The ski season usually runs from June to October.
Author: Lucila Runnacles. Journalist and author of the blog Viagem Cult (in Portuguese)
Translated to English by Anna Englund