Most visitors skip Santiago and head directly to other destinations throughout the country but I want to suggest that you try and stay at least 2 days so you can get a taste of what this vibrant capital city has to offer. You won’t be disappointed!
Santiago Metropolitan Region has more than 7 million people living and has a lot to offer to native santiaguinos, regional Chileans, and visitors alike. This surprising city is filled with options for all the interests whether you’re here on business or just for a pit stop before exploring the other wonders of Chile. Each neighborhood has its own charm that makes it unique yet finds a way to stay connected to show off the city.
A great way to explore is to do a free walking tour. There are several options of free tours in Santiago. I will tell you that they are quite long (4-5 hours) and can be very informative.
My Preference? Getting lost and wandering around the different neighborhoods throughout the city is the best way to really see what Santiago is about. People are generally pretty open to talk about their neighborhood and tell you a little bit of its history.
I know that many of you passing through don’t have 6 years to explore this city like I did, so the big question is: How do you pick which areas to explore over others? First I want you to check out my post about the 5 things you must do in Santiago and work from there. If you have more time, then explore this blog series for more in-depth information about the different areas of Santiago.
This post will be the first of many posts that will discuss the best of Santiago; the areas that I love most and feel that showcase each area of Santiago and connect it as the great metropolitan city that it is.
I want to start with the heart of the city, Santiago Centro or in English: Downtown Santiago. This is the area that most people will want to visit and will spend a lot of time in. There are so many beautiful buildings, churches, and small streets that make this the heart of Santiago. Every time I come to visit this area, I find something new. These are my personal favorites:
This beautiful building is the home of the offices of the President. The building has been around since 1784 and was originally used to produce coins for the country. The name La Moneda, which means coin in Spanish, has just stuck around to this day even though it hasn’t produced any since the 1920’s.
Every two days you can check out the traditional ceremony of changing of the guards. There is also a cultural center on the lower levels of La Moneda that is a must-see if you are into museums. My favorite part of visiting this area is the huge Chilean flag on the main street of Alameda del libertador BenardoO’higgins. The flag has been there since 2010 to celebrate the bicentennial of Chile. This huge flag is 27 meters long and 18 meters wide (88 x59 FT). yea…its HUGE!
I would suggest you cross the street and walk down Paseo Bulnes, which is a pedestrian street and ends at Almagro park. It’s really beautiful to see the downtown area. Every time I am around this area, I always make time to walk this way.
This is one of the cutest neighborhoods that I just recently discovered during my last trip to Chile. Right behind the San Francisco Church, this neighborhood was developed in 1923 and has a taste of old Europe hidden in Santiago’s downtown area. The cobble stone streets are very photographic, especially where the streets Paris and Londres meet.
Today the area’s buildings hold political parties offices and also has several hotels, hostels, shops and places to grab a cold beer and an affordable lunch. At the address Londres 38, you will find a former Jail and torture facility during the Pinochet regime. I enjoyed a Quimera, a Santiago craft beer at one of the lunch spots during my walk through. Very refreshing.
Barrio Nueva York
Another area near La Moneda and Calle Londres is the Barrio Nueva York, also known as Barrio La Bolsa. This place is filled with history in such a tiny space. The Agustinas Convent owned the area until they sold an area of it to the Club de la Union, a gentlemen’s club who original purpose was to unify men despite their political differences in 1912.
Later, several buildings were constructed and are considered as one of the firsts skyscrapers in Santiago such as The Santiago Stock Exchange, Former World Hotel Building, and the Ariztía Building
I’m sure that you’ve already heard about this one. It’s probably one of the most tourist-y places in Santiago.
Cerro Santa Lucia sits right along side, which is a beautiful hill in the city center and said to be the focal point of the creation of Santiago and definitely a must-do because it’s really breathtaking! This neighborhood has a hipster feel to it filled with historic monuments, cultural museums, fantastic restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors. If you have time, walk up Santa Lucia for a great view of the city.
One of my favorite spots here is the Theater called “El Biografo”. Back in the 80’s this theater was used as an art exhibit and a place for directors to showcase their work. Then it was transformed into one of the most important theaters in Chile. Today, the theater still shows independent film. It’s definitely worth stopping by to enjoy a quick bite at their coffee shop.
Barrio Bellas Artes and Parque Forrestal
Now I wanted to put these two together because I think you can easily spend a whole afternoon walking and exploring this area. There is so much to do. This area is near Barrio Lastarrias and is filled with restaurants, coffee shops, small boutique shops, art academies, hotels, and the most important is the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts.
And the best part. It’s free! Always
Once you’re done with the Museum, you can cut through the Parque Forrestal. This urban park sits along the side the Mapocho River and its great for having a quite moment under the trees. Grab your lunch and picnic blanket and you’ll find so many people doing the same thing. If you’re not around there during lunch, grab an ice cream at Emporio de las Rosas, which offers unique flavors that are absolutely delicious. My favorite is Lucuma.
As you stroll through the park going north, you will find several statues spread throughout the landscape. Most of them are gifts from other countries. You’ll find your way crossing the Mapocho River and going into Bellavista.
I know I left out a bunch of great places in the downtown area, but this is just a start. Other honorable mentions for the downtown area are: Plaza de Armas, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Museo Pre-Colombiano, visit the bar The Clinic, shop the craft fair in front of Santa Lucia. What are some of your favorite places downtown?
Hang tight for The best of Santiago Part 2 as I reveal my favorite places of a different area of town. Which way do you think I’m headed?
Remember when you give good, you get good.