The very first stop on our sabbatical was Chile. While we spent a week in Patagonia, we spent another 3 weeks in Santiago. We got the chance to really explore the city and learn about the culture during our time. We stayed in a quaint Airbnb in the residential area of Providencia for our 3 weeks. Although Santiago is 250 square-miles with over 5 million people, I’ve narrowed down the best 10 things to do in the city. When you visit, you don’t want to miss these top 10 things to do and see in Santiago, Chile.
1. Go on a walking tour
We love free walking tours for multiple reasons and we try to do them in every city. We do walking tours because they are budget-friendly and allow you to get good exercise for the day while learning the inside scoop directly from a local. In Chile, we found Tours4Tips to be phenomenal! They even have a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor. Our guide walked us through a lot of these sites in Santiago on the 3-hour tour although we visited them multiple times during our stay. As an extra tip, if you know (or kinda know) Spanish, the tours in Spanish are often way less crowded. The tours are daily at 3 pm and begin at the front entrance of Museo Bellas Artes.
2. Visit Santa Lucia Hill
Reaching 69-meters tall, Santa Lucia Hill is a gorgeous park among the hustle and bustle of the city although it feels peaceful. The walk to the top is not very difficult and there are staircases that help in the climb. To climb to the top takes about 20 minutes and there is a breath-taking view at the top. Below are two pictures that demonstrate how lovely this park is. You don’t want to miss it.
3. Picnic at Parque Forestal
Parque Forestal is a must-do in Santiago and it’s hard to miss. It’s a park in the middle of Santiago that stretches 9km. A lot of people use the park for jogging and working out. In fact, there are several outdoor workout stations in the park. The park begins at Plaza Italia and goes until Estación Mapocho. You’ll find small groups and couples cuddled under a shady tree during any hour during the day. However, at night you do not want to visit for safety concerns. Also, at night the couples go from cuddling to a more rated- X scene.
4. People-Watch in Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas served as the city center when the city was first founded. The most notable building surrounding the plaza is a cathedral from the early times. Because this is the city center, you can expect a lot of foot traffic in this particular square. While the tour groups do pass through the square and into the cathedral, you can catch locals on their way to work or running daily activities. We spent an hour just watching people pass. I believe you learn a lot about a place by watching the people go by. If you enjoy people-watching, this is the best place to do it in Santiago.
5. Visit the Sky Costanera
For an indoor view of the city from the tallest building in South America, head to Sky Costanera. On the top floor, there is a 360-degree view of the city. You’ll experience the best views of Santiago on the 62nd-floor wander. It is open from 10 am to 9 pm daily and costs CLP 5.000. While this attraction isn’t budget-friendly, it is really amazing to see a bird’s eye view of the city.
6. Party in Bella Vista
Bella Vista is a small neighborhood close to Providencia, where we stayed. This is the best place to enjoy the nightlife in Santiago. There are bars, outdoor eateries, and dancing clubs. Each place has street art that depicts the essence of the venue. For example, below is a picture of a reggae club in Bella Vista as shown by the colors and Bob Marley. Interestingly, this neighborhood is half tourists and half locals. It’s worth trying a beer or a pisco sour.
7. Try the local dishes and form your own opinion
Cautiously, I”ll say that I didn’t particularly like the food in Santiago. They have several local dishes to try such as empanadas, pastel de choclo, mote con huesillos, and completos (hotdogs). I found them all lacking in flavor and needing something extra. Pictured below is me trying “mote con huesillos” which is similar to a kind of grain with peach juice and fresh peaches. While the peach juice was sweet and refreshing the grains weren’t tasty. I say all of this to say try the food and decide for yourself and let me know in the comments if I am missing something. I even asked our guide for food recommendations and he suggested Peruvian food instead of Chilean.
8. Hike up Cerro San Cristobal
Cerro San Cristobal is another viewpoint overlooking Santiago. If you prefer a more difficult hike with a beautiful summit, this one is for you. However, there is also a funicular that takes you to the summit if that’s more of your speed. The park including the hill is 722 hectares making it the largest park in Santiago. While its nothing close to the peaks in Patagonia, we had a beautiful view from our Airbnb apartment to watch the sunset with the city and hill view all in one.
9. Visit the Mercado Central
Admittedly, Mercado Central is pretty touristy but you’re a tourist so it’s ok. Right? I think so. It’s a really big market with fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. While there are locals who patronize those stalls, the restaurants are very touristy. I wouldn’t recommend eating them. It’s a good place to observe the hustle of the street.
10. Enjoy the street art near Bella Arts Station
The murals were created with a message as with most art. During the dictatorships in Chile, murals were banned because they represented a political statement. This piece was later commissioned by the government. During our tour, we spent some time dissecting this mural. Leave me a comment below on something that stands out to you.
BONUS: Additional Things to Do Near Santiago
As an extra special bonus, I’ve included short trips from Santiago. The best are Valparaiso/ Vina del Mar and Mendoza, Argentina. While Mendoza isn’t exactly a day trip, its easily a weekend trip. The bus takes 8 hours each way but the views are unmatched. The best thing about Mendoza is the wine and steak. This was the best Malbec and steak I’ve ever had in my life. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are two cities less than 20 minutes apart on the coast of Chile. The street art in Valparaiso is adorable like the famous “We are not hippies. We are happies” mural.
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