With its massive coast line, the Andes Mountains, and its vast picturesque dessert, Chile is commonly perceived as an ‘out-doors person’s playground’. Often over-looked by travelers is Chile’s cultural hub, a busy and bustling city offering visitors a destination full of class. The capital, Santiago, is a location that truly has something for everybody, including fabulous dining, beautiful hikes, the arts and more. Expedia.ca asked me to share 8 of my favorite ways to enjoy charming Santiago de Chile.
1. Climb Cerro St. Lucia
Escape the chaos of the city by exploring Cerro Santa Lucia, a beautifully maintained park in the historic center. Famous for being the location where Pedro de Valdivia conquered Santiago, the park is full of manicured paths with steep stone stair cases. Following these will bring you upon stunning terraces and eventually to the mirador. The mirador provides sweeping views of both the city and the Andes Mountains. Walking around Cerro Santa Lucia feels as if you are exploring a medieval castle in the middle of a South American city.
2. Dine in Patio Bellavista
From the outside, Patio Bellavista looks like normal Santiago architecture, but find an entrance and you will be exposed to a block of restaurants and bars complete with connecting outdoor patios. The food is great, the ambiance is better, and after dinner you can head straight to a bar or even experience some entertainment in this open-air foodie paradise.
3. Get Ice cream at Emporio La Rosa
Did you know that Santiago is home to one of the best ice cream shops in the world?! Stop at Emporio la Rosa, grab a fancy ice crème and enjoy the terrace situated next to beautiful Parque Forestal. Mint-Basil-Lemon is my personal favorite.
4. Explore Parque Forestal and Museums
Parque Forestal follows the Malpocho River and is the perfect place to go for a walk in Santiago. See the people of Santiago enjoying the beautiful weather, grab ice cream from a local vendor or pop into the ‘Museo de Arte Contemporaneo’ or the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes’ which are within the park itself. This is my favourite location for just hanging out in Santiago.
5. La Vega Market
One of the best parts of any South American destination is its markets and Santiago happens to have one of the best. Just north of the Malpocho river and across from upscale neighborhood Bellas Artes is Santiago’s central market. Here you can find literally anything from fruits and vegetables, to toiletries to spices… you name it, and they have it.
6. Cerro San Cristobal
One of the most intriguing features of Santiago is the mini-mountains that rise within the cityscape. Cerro San Cristobal is accessible by foot so grab your shoes and enjoy this 45 minute hike to the top of the hill where you will find not only a zoo, but a swimming pool and giant Statue of the Virgin Mary. If you are not feeling up for the hike…don’t worry, there is also a cable car that makes this 300m journey.
7. Barrio Lastarria
This cute neighborhood is the Bohemian center of Santiago. Packed full of mid-to-high end restaurants, artisanal cafes and trendy bars, this area is a modern day hipsters dream.
8. Wine Tasting
Do Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sound familiar? It is argued that Chile produces some of the best wines in the world. Grab a wine tour and take a trip down the ‘Ruta del Vino’ tasting and learning about the various wines produced in the surrounding valleys.
Location, location, location; places to visit near Santiago
One of the best parts about choosing Santiago as a destination is that it is central to so many fabulous, adventurous and culturally enriching alternate locations. You can hop on a bus and in less than 2 hours be surfing the waves and enjoying the night life of Valparaiso or skiing in Farellones. If you are up for a longer journey then the resort town La Serrena awaits you. You can also show your more adventurous side by heading south to Pucon to indulge in hiking, hot springs and Volcan Villarrica. Puerto Montt is also a day’s ride from Santiago if you are interested in sailing the fjords on the Navimag. The key to Santiago is that travel possibilities are endless in this busy and bustling cultural hub of Chile. So why not plan to visit!