It’s easy to pick up a guide book and select the popular tourist sights and attractions of any desired city. But sometimes, to get to the real heart and soul of your destination, it’s better to dig a little deeper. When in Santiago, avoid the typical tourist traps and do as the Chileans do. Experience the place like a local and find out what this blossoming South American city is really all about.
From theater to film screenings, indigenous language workshops to dance recitals, there’s always something interesting happening at GAM, the Gabriela Mistral center for arts and culture. The center brings in both national and international acts for affordable performances, right in the center of the city. The free Museum of Popular American Art is also held underground in the main GAM building. Meanwhile, the cultural center is ripe for people-watching. You could fill up a whole afternoon sipping on a latte at GAM’s café and looking out at the practicing performers and schoolchildren.
GAM, Av. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 227, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2566 5500
Named after Chilean musician Fernando Báez Parra, nephew of famed Chilean poet Nicanor Parra, this gritty Bellavista venue is where to find a great party and live Chilean bands. Put on your dancing shoes and don’t forget to bring cash to buy yourself a piscola (cola and pisco) mixed drink — a Chilean tradition. To check out the bands ahead of time, the venue’s Facebook page stays up to date.
March in a student protest
Walk a mile in the shoes of Chile’s student protestors. Since 2011, Chilean students have been organizing protests demanding structural improvements to the heavily-criticized education system. Education is a major political issue in Chile, where the difference in schooling between the rich and poor is stark. Learn more about the cause, and if you feel emboldened to join these guys in the streets, don’t be shy. Protests are generally very safe and open, though it is recommended to avoid the tail of any march and to leave once you’re done marching. Minor isolated violence tends to break out between local police and small groups of hooded protestors.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Even though this eccentric bookstore and gallery doesn’t take up much space, it can keep you entertained for hours. Founded by a group of local journalists, illustrators and designers, Plop! is where ideas, art and storytelling collide. Check their calendar to see if any events or workshops will be held while you’re in town, or just pop in on a lazy afternoon while wandering through the Lastarria neighborhood.
With offbeat décor and a fascinating history, Rincón de las Canallas is one of Santiago’s best kept secrets. During the oppressive days of the dictatorship, when there were strict rules about group meet-ups, restaurant owner Don Victor Painemal decided he would open his restaurant doors, providing a safe space for people to eat and share with one another. Though the original restaurant was burned down by the authorities, the community the place had created lived on and encouraged Painemal to open up another restaurant, the building standing today.
Rincón de las Canallas, Tarapacá 810, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2632 5491
Stroll down the streets of Barrio Italia
This beautiful up-and-coming neighborhood hasn’t yet attracted the masses and manages to maintain a genuinely relaxing vibe. Barrio Italia’s quiet, shaded houses have slowly morphed into trendy shops, cafés and bars, though it’s still surrounded by an overwhelmingly residential area. Walking through Barrio Italia, you’re bound to stumble on something interesting, or a fun place to grab a bite or a drink.
Take the yellow metro line to the Franklin stop and wander around Persa Bío Bío’s giant warehouses, or galpones, filled with oddities, records, old clothing, furniture, instruments and more. In addition to the shopping, this place fills up with some interesting characters and you can even catch live music on the streets.
This rooftop restaurant in the Bellavista neighborhood is perfect if you’re looking for a meal with a view. The serene patio is heated during the winter, so it’s open for business year-round. The top-notch international menu is fairly diverse and is changing constantly, though you can enjoy this place just as much sipping on one of their delicious cocktails. Do make sure to make a reservation via email beforehand, as the restaurant accommodates a small number of people at any given time.
Shop and explore Patronato
This shopping neighborhood offers some of the thriftiest deals in town for clothes, jewelry, shoes and more. Invest some time walking up and down the streets and scouring through different stores. You’ll be surprised what kind of cute duds turn up when you look hard enough. When you’re done shopping, stick around to try one of the neighborhood’s many Korean restaurants. The bibim bap at Sukine is a real treat, while Chicken Story serves up the city’s best Korean Fried Chicken.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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