Chile‘s capital Santiago doesn’t get half the attention it deserves when compared to neighbouring Argentina’s Buenos Aires or Brazil‘s party haven of Rio de Janeiro. However, with the towering peaks of the Andes, the indigenous culture and many valleys boasting some of the the world’s finest wine, there’s a whole host of reasons to visit – here are ten of the best.
It’s home to the finest Chilean wines
Just a short jaunt from the heart of Santiago, within an hour you can be among the vines of the some of the finest winemakers in the world, whether the well-known Concha Y Toro, the largest Latin American wine producer and the seventh largest in the world, or a smaller family-run vineyard or boutique, such as Viña Vik or Viña Matetic.
Shopping at Santa Lucia Artisan Fair is a joy
Birthday and Christmas presents for the family have never been so easy with a wide range of jumpers, socks and toys made from alpaca wool, stunning silver and lapis lazuli jewellry, and classic South American jumpers and ponchos. If you want something really traditional, why not pick up an ‘Indio Picaro’ traditional statuette?
You can ski the Andes in summer
Due to Santiago’s positioning in the Southern hemisphere and near to the Andes, you can enjoy world-class skiing in just over an hour from the capital city from July until October. Visit one of the three valleys, that consist of Valle Nevado, El Colorado or La Parva, or try Portillo a little further away, famous for its iconic yellow hotel and for being the oldest ski area in South America.
The pisco sours here are the best (just don’t tell Peru)
Deliberated for years, both the Chileans and Peruvians claim to be the proud creators of the pisco sour. You won’t struggle to find the delicious cocktail (check out the 7 best piscos bars in Santiago), though you can also find various twists on the classic sour- whether you add a touch of ginger or passion fruit, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be drinking them all night long.
You can discover the history of famous poet Pablo Neruda
The eccentric poet had stunning houses in Santiago, Valparaiso and Isla Negra with incredible views. You can walk through them, see where he got his inspiration from, and discover his idiosyncrasies. His most famous house is the one in Isla Negra, found on the coast, where you can check out his much-treasured ships and collector’s items.
Barrio Italia offers excellent antiques
Since the 1990s, the area’s antique stores have popped up all over, with Calle Caupolicán being the focal point. Dig deep to find some absolute treasures, from vintage typewriters, sewing machines, vinyls and furniture – it’s a dream come true for those who love collecting and refurbishing.
The street food is to die for
Chileans are extremely proud of their street food, and at most hours of the day and night you’ll be able to find something to eat on the street, from sopapillas (fried pastries), to completos (Chilean hot dogs) and empanadas, or one of the many food trucks. In addition, Mercado Mastica and Ñam Familiar are popular with foodies.
The Human Rights Museum is a must-visit
Although Santiago has a rather somber history, culturing yourself when abroad is absolutely essential. During the Pinochet regime, thousands went ‘missing’ and were never to be seen again. Many of these civilians were held in either Villa Grimaldi or in a torture house on Calle Londres 38, both of which you can also visit. Thus, the Human Rights Museum was dedicated to all those whose rights were violated.
You can watch the sunset from the tallest building in South America
The Costanera is a big feat, layered with six floors of fashion stores, restaurants and department stores and boasting many international names like Zara, H&M and Topshop. Once you’ve shopped to your heart’s content, take the lift up to the top floor where you can see the never-ending view over Santiago, with the Andes mountains presenting a jagged backdrop. Standing at 300 metres (984 feet), this is not an activity for those with vertigo!
Cajón del Maipo is made for lovers of the great outdoors
Outdoors enthusiasts love Cajón. Whether taking a leisurely stroll around Embalse el Yeso, trekking to the El Morado glacier, climbing one of the many peaks, skiing at Lagunillas, horse riding through the valleys, white-water rafting down the river Maipo or relaxing and taking it easy in either the Baños Morales or Termas Valle de Colina, there’s something for everyone.
The Magnificent Street Art
From the colourful houses of Bellavista, to the social project Museo a Cielo Abierto in San Miguel, the city has plenty of free art for you to view al fresco! Most of the time you will be caught by surprise, unintentionally stumbling upon great works, a splash of colour and an apparent artistic flair livening up a somewhat rather uninteresting street.