La Serena, located halfway up Chile’s coastline, is a popular tourist destination for both Chileans and foreigners. Its main attraction is its beaches, so it can get busy during the summer months, but it is also full of neo-colonial architecture to explore at any time of the year. We look at 10 of the city’s best restaurants, from fresh seafood to classic burgers.
Restaurant, Chilean, South American
Lighthouse in La Serena | Ⓒ Mariano Mantel/Flickr
Daniela II is a restaurant popular with locals that serves traditional Chilean food. La Serena’s location on the coast means that the seafood is fresh and good quality, and Daniela II is most well known for its simple but tasty and generous seafood portions. The service is warm and friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed and cordial. It is also in a superb location on one of the city’s main roads, which leads to the beach and La Serena’s famous lighthouse.
Ayawasi is one of the city’s few vegetarian restaurants. Not only is it vegetarian, but it is also organic and has gluten-free options. It serves tasty homemade dishes including salads, sandwiches with fresh bread, and soup. To go with the authentic dishes is a good drinks menu, especially the local artisan beer. The restaurant has an attractive and green outside courtyard where diners can catch some sun, or in the evenings see some live music instead. It also serves homemade cakes so is a great spot for a coffee break.
Ciudad Capital serves a great range of different sandwiches and burgers to cater to all tastes. Their hamburger patties are handmade, served in a delicious bun and stuffed with other tasty fillings such as blue cheese, prawns, and even grilled apples. Also available are a range of sides, chicken sandwiches, and a vegetarian selection. The restaurant has a rustic and cosy interior, as well as great customer service, which makes for a great experience all round. The outside seating on the terrace is more atmospheric than inside.
La Serena’s beach | Ⓒ Krzysztof Ulaczyk/WikiCommons
This restaurant serves classic Chilean dishes in a great location right at the heart of La Serena, in a renovated casona (mansion). It is composed of several smaller rooms which all look out onto an inner courtyard, with a signature giant palm tree at the centre. It serves a variety of meat and seafood dishes as well as sandwiches, and is also a great place to stop for a coffee break. The restaurant often hosts live music nights and also has business conference facilities.
Cevicheria Jack Fish is another delicious seafood restaurant, which specialises in ceviche, a traditional dish made from raw fish cured in citrus juices. It is a tiny restaurant, there’s only about six tables, which means that the service is excellent and very personable, and the owner often waits on tables himself. The portions of ceviche are large and can be shared between two people, or the menu also offers sushi if visitors would rather order a few smaller dishes to share around the table. Jack Fish is a fantastic independent establishment that really looks after its customers.
Cardamomo is located right on the beachfront, and so unsurprisingly serves delicious fresh seafood dishes. There are plenty of tables on a deck that is right on the sand for great views of the ocean, or there are tables inside, but still right on the beach when the doors have been opened up. The interior design is simple but clean and modern, and the menu includes a selection of local beers as well as a huge range of dishes, from falafel to sushi to pizza. The location and beach atmosphere make this a great spot for a slow and relaxing meal. Av del Mar 4000, La Serena, Chile
Casona Del 900
Restaurant, Steakhouse, $$$
La Serena’s beach | Ⓒ Juan Benavente Baghetti/Flickr
If fish is not to everyone’s taste, Casona del 900 offers a classic Argentinian barbecue, or parrilla, for those who much prefer straightforward meat. Located on La Serena’s main avenue, it is in a renovated colonial-style beer factory with atmospheric high ceilings and rustic wooden beams. There are a number of dining rooms, each with a slightly different feel or character, but all balance the charm and history of the building as well as staying contemporary. Huge windows allow plenty of light into the main dining room, while the smaller rooms are more cosy.
Tololo Beach is a fun beachside restaurant with a sophisticated but family-friendly atmosphere. The interior is modern and comfortable, with huge windows looking out onto the ocean, as well as an outside deck ideal for enjoying a coffee break. It serves mainly seafood (although it is also famous for its steak), and the portions are very generous, and they also have a good dessert menu if diners are still not satisfied. The restaurant has a good wine and beer selection, and is a lovely spot to watch the sunset on La Serena’s beach.
Al Andalus calls itself a tetería, which means somewhere that serves tea. Not only is it a traditional Middle-Eastern tearoom, but also a halal restaurant serving delicious main courses. Its teas include various blends of green, black and red tea and also rooibos, while the food includes tasty pitas and soups. As well as the food being halal, much of it is vegetarian or vegan. The interior definitely has a Middle-Eastern feel to it, but is also not overdone and is comfortable and sleek. A calm and relaxing atmosphere with tempting flavours and aromas.
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For those wanting a lighter meal than what many restaurants offer, Lighthouse Coffee Shop is just the place. It serves coffee from several different countries across the world including Indonesia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua, as well as a tempting menu of sandwiches and bagels. The typical coffee shop-style interior is welcoming and friendly, as is the service. It is also well located near La Serena’a main square, Plaza de Armas, making it a great spot for a restful lunch or dinner after touring the city.