The political, cultural, commercial and national capital of Chile, Santiago has a lot of cards in hand as well as hidden up its sleeve. Don’t be too quick to label it smoggy, dirty and loud – Santiago may be all those things, but if you keep playing the game it will surprise you with a royal flush of culture and excitement that’ll have you throwing around Chilean pesos like Monopoly money!
Santiago is littered with revealing historical buildings, including the Iglesia de San Francisco, dating back to the early days of Spanish settlement, and Teatro Municipal, a glorious concert hall indicative of the peak of Santiago’s power in the region. Once-heavily congested, Santiago Centro is now a pedestrian-friendly promenading haven, with its conservativeness offset by the artsy bohemian Barrio Brasil district. And if you haven’t called Santiago’s bluff already, check out Bellavista’s mouthwatering restaurant scene…
Santiago's Top 10
10. Estacion Mapocho This former train station has played host to some of the world’s biggest acts.
5. Plaza de Armas The main city square is home to some of Santiago’s most famous monuments.
9. Cerro Santa Lucia For the best view of Santiago, venture to the top of this hill.
4. Vina Undurraga A very old and very beautiful vineyard that produces some of Chile’s finest booze.
8. Cementerio General One of the largest cemeteries in Chile, and the resting place of some of the country’s most influential writers, actors and politicians.
3. Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino An enormous collection of Chilean artefacts and exhibits details the lives of natives before the Spanish arrived.
7. Casablanca Valley A rich wine-growing region famous for its potent reds.
2. Cerro San Cristobal This activity-packed hill has become synonymous with the city. It’s well worth the climb or, if you’re lazy, the funicular ride.
6. La Moneda The presidential palace’s exhibition hall details the history of the country and its often ill-fated leaders.
1. La Chascano Designed and lived in by Chilean idol and brilliant man of words, Pablo Neruda.
- Museum of Memory and Human Rights – This recently opened museum recounts the horrors of the Pinochet regime.
- La Chascona (Pablo Neruda's Home) – Explore one of the three homes owned by famed writer Pablo Neruda.
- General Cemetery (Cementerio General) – Some of the most illustrious people in Chilean history have been laid to rest here.
- Plaza de Armas – All destinations are measured from this central Santiago location, where the governor's mansion is located.
- National Museum of History – Exhibits on display take visitors through the history of Chile.
Santiago Art & Culture
- Galeria del Mundo Andino – This former art centre is now a gallery featuring the work of local artisans.
- Museum of Pre-Columbian Art – Peruse this large collection of art and artefacts from the times before the Europeans.
- Ralli Museum – Visit this museum to see the displays of modern Latin American art.
- Museo de Artes Visuales – Another contemporary art museum with collections by Manuel Santa Cruz and Hugo Yuconi.
- Museo Interactive Mirador – This Santiago museum will delight children for hours while they engage in the interactive displays.
- Los Dominicos Handicraft Village – This large area features local arts and crafts, as well as some specialty shops.
- Bio-Bio Market – This is an open-air market that sells fresh food, clothing and musical instruments.
- Central Market (Mercado Central) – You can enjoy the sounds of street musicians while you shop this fresh market known for its seafood.
- Alto Los Condes – This popular mall is known for its upmarket boutique stores and quality merchandise.
- La Vega Central – This Santiago flea market has a wide variety of locally produced wares for sale.
Gay & Lesbian Santiago
- Club Ignorancia – One of the largest gay bars in Santiago.
- Vox Populi – A gay bar and restaurant in the city.
- Mascara – This is a lesbian bar and disco.
- Amor del Bueno – This is another lesbian-centred bar in Santiago.
- Thelonius – A gay-friendly jazz club with the best music in the city.
- Parque O'Higgins – This very large park has playgrounds and gardens and a venue for concerts.
- San Cristobal Hill – At the top of this hill are the most spectacular views of the city.
- AndoAndes – This ecotourism company will lead you on a tour that focuses on the natural beauty and ecosystem of Chile.
- Casablanca Valley – In addition to being a grape-growing area, the winery offers regular tastings.
- Santiago On Bike – This company offers bike rentals and also tours of the city.
- Skiing is a popular sport, and La Parva Ski Village is the Andes version of the Swiss Alps.
- Watch football and cheer for the Santiago team, Colo Colo, one of the most successful teams in Chile.
- Bicycling is both for sport and the commute, and the longest bike trail is America Vespuccio Road.
- Rowing and canoeing is done at either Laguna Caren or Aculeo.
- Horseback riding is also a popular sport, especially when the Chilean Rodeo is in town.
The best of the international and Chilean jazz scene join together for Providencia International Jazz Festival in January, one of the best open-air jazz festivals in the world.
March to May sees a full season of concerts by the world-famous Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra for Concerts at Teatro Municipal.
For the Feast Day of the Virgen del Carmen in July, Chileans gather outside Santiago to undertake folkloric rites of passage – ending in dancing and feasting in true Chilean fashion.
The best in Chilean art, film and music come together in September for the Festival of Legends to pay tribute to the native legends of the indigenous Mapuche people
The streets are filled with music during October’s Columbus Day. The parade has locals donning traditional and period clothing
When To Go
December to March is by far the busiest time of year, as Chileans are taking holidays and tourists are drawn to the summer warmth.
Santiago is beautiful in October and November, when pleasant breezes keep the heat down.
Trekking and other outdoor activities aren’t recommended in the unpredictable winter weather.
Buses are reliable and routes stop by most major attractions.
The metro is the quickest way to get around Santiago. Stations are well maintained and often play host to rotating art exhibitions.
Walking is a great way to discover the city. To avoid looking too obviously ‘gringo’, have a map handy, but not open at all times.
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