Nestled within Chile’s central valley, Santiago is a beautiful city to explore and take in the view, especially after it rains and the Andes mountains stand tall and brilliant in the distance. After decades of attracting tourists with the country’s stunning geographic diversity, Chile’s capital has grown into an emerging tourist destination all on its own and a great jumping off point for countrywide travels. Whether here for one night or one week, don’t let this South American city’s charms elude you. Culture Trip highlights here the must-see spots for travellers to Santiago.
This immaculate green park is ideal for a peaceful afternoon stroll. Located in the upscale Vitacura neighbourhood, Bicentenario Park is free and open to the public. The park features thousands of trees, sculptures and even a lake with flamingos.
From Aymara textiles to three-legged pigs from Pomaire, the Los Dominicos Village market offers a wide variety of traditional Chilean artisan goods, just outside the Los Dominicos metro station. Enjoy popping into the different artist shops and learn more about Chilean culture while perusing the wares on offer. Live musicians will sometimes emerge and play traditional Chilean tunes. Grab a chair and a coffee at one of the market eateries and enjoy.
Exploring the expansive La Vega Central produce market is a full-on sensory experience, offering diverse sights, sounds, flavours and textures. Try a traditional Peruvian pepper, buy a kilo of fresh strawberries or feast on some traditional Chilean cuisine at the market’s eating area.
Though similar to the Los Dominicos Village, the Santa Lucia Market is less about the ambiance and more about the inexpensive handicrafts and trinkets available for purchase. Located across the street from the Santa Lucia hill, this market is centrally located and excellent for buying small gifts for friends.
Find some of the freshest fish in the country at Santiago’s Central Market. Sit down at one of the local restaurants for a delicious dining experience or take home a fish to fry yourself if your accommodation is equipped with a kitchen.
Offering arguably the best view of Santiago, climb up the San Cristobal Hill on foot or pay to take the funicular. Atop the hill, pay respects to La Virgen and her sanctuary, which overlooks the city. Move on to the lookout area and take in the view while tasting the traditional Chilean drink mote con huesillos. The hill includes a city park, pool and a metropolitan zoo as well.
This gorgeous European-style neighborhood is home to some of the city’s best shops and restaurants in addition to an active street market. Try a wine flight at local wine bar Bocanáriz and learn about the pisco rivalry at the Chilean-Peruvian restaurant Chipe Libre. For coffee, dessert or a tasty meal, stop by top-rated nearby café and restaurant, Hibrido (formerly Colmado).
Once visited by Chilean President Arturo Alessandri Palma, this place seems anything but presidential. With a name that literally translates to ‘fleahouse’, calling La Piojera a dive bar would be generous. That doesn’t stop it from drawing in a fascinating array of international and Chilean travelers, however. Order the classic Chilean drink, the terremoto, which includes pineapple ice cream, pipeño white wine and your choice of either grenadine or Fernet.
This historic French barbershop has transformed over the last two centuries to become a stylish restaurant and cultural space, though limited barbershop services are still available. Enjoy a chic evening dinner at the Boulevard Lavaud Restaurant or stop by during the day for a cheese plate with wine.
Located in Santiago’s historic city center, Plaza de Armas has recently undergone renovations to restore some of its classic beauty. Be on the lookout for local street performers and artists and if mass isn’t going on, pop into the gorgeous Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, which faces the Plaza de Armas square.
Cerro Santa Lucia
A shorter climb than Cerro San Cristobal, getting atop this hill and park is a bit less strenuous and time-consuming. With remains of an old castle on top, the Santa Lucia hill is a charming setting for a peaceful afternoon picnic or early-evening stroll.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
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Located in Parque Forestal, the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts is free for visitors and offers a wonderful introduction to prominent Chilean and South American artists. The museum’s structure dates back to 1910 and is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.
Sharing the same building as the Fine Arts Museum, entrance to the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art is at the back side of the building inside Parque Forestal. The museum, which counts nearly 3,000 pieces in its permanent collection, is curated by the arts faculty of the University of Chile and features both national and international artists.
Learn about the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda through this in-depth tour of his Santiago home. Tours of Neruda’s houses in Valparaiso and Isla Negra are also available for all the poetry geeks out there.
Ride paddle boats, find some shade under a tree or and check out one of the museums in this laid-back park. The unique historic structures within this park are part of what make it quirky, fun to explore and ideal for snapping some photographs.
The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a free and new museum that helps both foreigners and locals better understand and process the horrors of Chile’s 17-year dictatorship, which ended in 1990. English-language audio tours are also available and can be purchased at the museum entrance.
Enjoy traditional cueca dancing and live folkloric music in addition to tasting local Chilean dishes. Reserve a table ahead of time to ensure a good view of the dance floor. El Huaso Enrique also offers cueca dance classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Filled with trendy rooftop restaurants and welcoming shops aimed at out-of-towners, Patio Bellavista is located at the heart of Chilean nightlife. This bustling tourist spot is a great first-night activity while adjusting to cultural differences and the local language.
Hear traditional Chilean cumbia music at this beloved Chilean music venue. A great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night out in Bellavista, La Peña del Nano Parra offers an authentic local experience. Entrance fees are cheap (usually under ten US dollars) and concert-goers can often catch multiple musical acts in one night.