Santiago is a stop on almost every tourist’s Chile itinerary, not least because the country’s unique geography necessitates flights and stopovers for all but the long-term traveller. There’s plenty to explore in this safe and easy to navigate capital city and here’s what you should not miss.
24 Hours in Santiago Chile
Begin in Barrio Bellavista; make time to wander its streets and admire the murals that adorn many of the walls in this arty neighbourhood. Take the funicular up Cerro San Cristóbal. The ride takes you past the city zoo; if you’re interested in visiting, do so on the ascent as the funicular doesn’t stop on the way back down.
At the top, you’ll see a statue of the Virgin Mary which has been there for over a hundred years. If you’re observant, you’ll have seen the plaque in one of the funicular cars to commemorate the then Pope John Paul II who held mass at the statue back in 1987. Even if you’re not religious, the views from the top are worth the diversion.
On the way out, pick up a free city map from one of the tourist board guys who are keen you know where to head next. Buy a single ride ticket and take the metro to Cal y Canto. Watch your possessions, but head into the Mercado Central. This ironwork fish market is one of Santiago’s iconic sights and quite literally a feast for the senses. Once you’ve sniffed out a decent spot, and my advice is to follow the locals to the smaller places on the edges of the market, stay for lunch in one of the market’s many restaurants.
Take a stroll after your meal into the historic centre of the city. Head south to the Plaza de Armas. It’s here that you’ll find the city’s cathedral and opposite, a glass office building in which it’s reflected to the delight of photographers.
The square is always a good spot for people watching, but when you can bear to drag yourself away, walk around the corner onto Merced Street to check out the Casa Colorada, a colonial home now used as a museum chronicling the city’s history. A few blocks to the south west, you’ll soon arrive at the Santiago Stock Exchange and La Moneda, once the presidential palace and now her workplace. Stroll east, via a small detour to the cobbled streets Londres and Paris, to Cerro Santa Lucia, where you can reward yourself with an ice cream after climbing the cobbles past the manicured gardens for another view of the city.
As you might well expect from a capital city, there are many popular dining options. Try the upscale neighborhoods of Providencia and Los Condes, nicknamed Sanhattan, in particular the excellent La Biferia which is known for its steak. Alternatively, head for Peruvian Astrid y Gaston for fine dining and a taste of what’s over the border. If your tastes are a little more casual, then the university district of Bellavista, back where we started, is the place to go. Pavement cafes, bars and restaurants cluster along Pio Nono and the surrounding streets and the atmosphere is always buzzing.
If you’re planning to spend more than 24 hours in Santiago Chile, there are plenty of Santiago accommodation options in the city.