Travel

Travel Spotlight… Santiago, Chile

A city for history buffs, art lovers, and foodies alike.

1 month Discovery Channel

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Santiago is a picturesque valley city with a number of distinct villages, each with a completely different flavour. There’s a lot of history, and a lot of national beauty, but Santiago is also a forward thinking, bustling city, and a key tourism hot spot to boot. If you have the time to explore, we recommend checking the following landmarks and entertainment options off your list.

QUICK TRAVEL TO DOS

See: Visit the house of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
Eat: Yungay is a beautiful village, and features a number of quaint eateries.
Drink: Take in the stunning view of the Andes over a glass of wine at Singular Hotel Rooftop Bar.
History: Walk the World Heritage listed Santiago de Compostela for a quick history tour.
Relax: Wander through the Parque Forestal.
Adventure: San Cristobal Hill is worth a hike if you have a few hours spare. If not, the large expanse contains parklands, pools, and a zoo.
Shopping: Visit the weekend markets in hipster neighbourhood, Barrio Lastarria.
Art & Culture: Quinta Normal is a lovely garden area, and home to the national history museum, the library, and a children’s art gallery.

FIRST STOP, CHECK IT OUT

As mentioned above, Santiago is a valley, which means if you really wanna see all of it at once, the best way to do so is to climb. Whether you choose to bike, hike, drive, or take the ascensor (lift), we recommend hitting the peak of the beautiful Cerro San Cristobal and taking in the entire view, framed by the Andes.

If you only have a lunchbreak to spare, and don’t want to head too far out of the centre of the city, why not climb the Cerro Santa Lucia? It’ll only take you ten to fifteen minutes to climb, and you’ll be rewarded with a mighty view of the busy city. The hill’s central position gives great panoramic views.

Finally, for a truly momentous view, head to the Sky Costanera, a 300 metre skyscraper with a viewing area. The building is the tallest in South America, and as such, is insanely popular – so you might want to book in advance if you really cannot miss out. One warning though: an overcast day can really destroy the view, so maybe take a raincheck if the weather doesn’t pan out.

HEAD TO THE MARKETS

Santiago enjoys a vibrant and varied food scene, and the very best place to take in the vast scope of Santiago’s culinary delights is to head to La Vega Central, a massive food court that contains 1,400 market stalls with local and imported produce in every conceivable form.

There are samples galore and plenty of places to take in a luxury lunch, plus you can stock up on your week’s groceries while there. There are guided tours too, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.

THEN HEAD OUT ON THE TOWN

There are two distinctive different ways to go for an authentically Chilean musical experience, and if you play your cards right, you can experience both in one evening. Kick off your night with hot live music and salsa dancing at Ile Habana, then head over to the classic Buenos Aires Tango Club and try your luck at the dance of love. Then, once you are too worn down to stand anymore, make your way to one of the world’s most legendary jazz clubs, Club de Jazz, and catch a late night show. Santiago has a thriving jazz scene, as well as a vibrant history — in fact Louis Armstrong used to frequently play the Club de Jazz, so you’ll be part of this genre’s rich history as soon as you walk through the door.

Real jazz fans should also check out Thelonious and The Jazz Corner for more swinging clubs.

GET SOME HISTORY IN YA

The Plaza de Armas is the historical centre of Santiago; the place where the city was first founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541. There is an official Heritage Route which starts at the colonial Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago — worth a wander around in its own right, just to marvel at the architecture — and takes tourists on a walking tour of the city’s bloody history. You’ll visit the breathtaking La Moneda Palace, and get a good sense of the area, but if you have time to kill, it’s really best to wander around alone and soak it all in.

History lovers will need to visit the Museo Historico Nacional which covers the entirety of Chilean history, and has an impressive clock tower to boot, while art buffs need to stop in at the Museo Chileno De Arte Precolombino.

Of course the Plaza is a bustling, lively place in its own right, so you don’t have to wallow in the past; check out the local market stalls, buy some art from local vendors, or just soak in the view of the Plaza from upstairs at the Museo Historico Nacional and watch the world go by.

BARRIO LASTARRIA

Barrio Lastarria is the cultural centre of Santiago, a historical cobble-stone town with a rush of theatres, small bars, restaurants, and galleries. Most weekends the streets are filled with various street performers or outdoor market places; it is a great place to sample some local beers, shop for some locally-produced artisan goods, go to CloseUP Chile to check some local art, then take in a local film.

Image | santiagochile.com

You’ll be knocking over a lot of culture in one hit, plus you’ll be doing it in the hippest area of the city. If you are lucky enough to get a clear night, head to the Singular Hotel Rooftop Bar and you’ll get a splendid view of the Andes as you sip cocktails.

If you’re still in the mood to wander historical streets, head to the nearby Yungay neighbourhood, which boasts a number of old bars and restaurants. The Cerveceria Nacional is a legendary beer barn, which has become the area’s top spot for boutique liquor.

GET ART AND ABOUT

One of the main things you’ll notice about Santiago is the over-abundance of street art. Cutesy murals rub shoulders with political protest pieces thanks to a diverse, ever-changing run of street artists — but true art fans will wanna head over to the Bellavista neighbourhood, which is the most “hipster” area of the city. Top to ground street murals cover the area, and small bars and eateries dot the streets.

Due to the lax legalities surrounding graffiti in the region, a thriving tourism trade has boomed from this colourful artform: street art tours run most days by foot, bus or bike – and there are even interactive tours which involve spray can classes with some of the local masters.

Posted by Nathan Jolly | Images from Shutterstock