Santiago City Guide
Santiago, the modern metropolis, is the capital and largest city of the Latin American nation, Chile. The city lies in the center of the Santiago Basin, a large bowl shaped valley featuring fertile lands surrounded by mountains. This beautiful place is situated at an elevation of 400-500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by Andes Mountains on the east and the Chilean Coastal Range on the west.
Santiago has a cityscape that features curious mix of towering skyscrapers standing cheek by jowl with Spanish style adobe bungalows and the 19th century European architectures. Santiago is not as exciting or well-known vacation destination like its other South American siblings. However, it has much to offer to the tourists with its impressive museums, colorful markets, green spaces, lively and quaint squares, modern hotels, top-notch restaurants and great shopping opportunities. Many tourists who visit Santiago tend to use it as a base for exploring the wineries, national parks and ski resorts of Chile.
Where to stay in Santiago
The question of where to stay in Santiago is largely decided by the size of your travel budget and your individual preferences. The city is laid out in a grid like pattern is very well connected by a sophisticated, extensive and inexpensive metro system.
El Centro or downtown Hotels
El Centro is the downtown area of Santiago. This area is an obvious accommodation choice for those visitors who like to be within close proximity to museums and historical attractions. This neighborhood area is rather gritty and polluted, and is equipped with a mix of luxury as well as cheap hotels.
Las Condes is an upscale residential neighborhood of Santiago and is home to two of the largest shopping centers in Chile – Parque Arauco and Alto Las Condes. Visitors who choose to stay in Las Condes need to take a 15-20 minute ride on the metro to access the downtown area of the city. You will be thrilled to know that the downtown area offers easy access to many ski-resorts in the Andes. If the focus of your Santiago vacation is skiing in the Andes, then perhaps a hotel in Las Condes maybe a right match for you.
The neighborhood of Providencia is situated between Las Condes and El Centro and offers good hotels along with tree-lined streets, shops and restaurants. The area of Providencia is a popular choice with visitors to Santiago.
Places to see in Santiago
Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas is the heartbeat of Santiago and a square holding much historical significance. This square, which is surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings including the 18th century Cathedral and the main post office, used to be the epicenter of administrative, commercial and social life of Santiago at the time it was founded in 1541. The square continues to enjoy this prominent position until today and features buskers and local artists at all times.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Santiago’s fine arts museum is the oldest arts museum in South America. The permanent collection at this museum, which resembles Parisian palace features artworks of regional and international artists along with extensive archives. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits that hail from the best schools of art from round the world.
Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art
The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art) offers displays covering 4,500 years and 80 pre-Colombian civilizations from South America. This museum is housed in the Royal Customs House and is a recommended attraction on any vacation in Santiago since it provides a valuable insight into the lives and cultures of the many ancient South American civilizations, the Incas, Mayans and the Aztecs amongst others.
Santiago’s animated and colorful Mercado Central is housed in wrought iron structure dating back to 1872. This market is primarily a produce and fish market, and is a popular attraction with the tourists visiting the city.
Cerro San Cristóbal
Cerro San Cristóbal is a hill located within the Parque Metropolitano in Santiago. This hill at a height of 860 meters (2752 feet) offers stunning views of the city and the Andes from its summit, which can be accessed via funicular, cable car or on foot via various densely forested walkways. The summit of the hill sports a 22 meter tall statue of the Virgin Mary, which was erected to commemorate the Papal visit of 1987 (the Pope held mass at this spot). Besides this statue, the summit also has a small zoo, picnic facilities and a swimming pool.
La Chascona, is the home of Chile’s famed author, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. This modern building is located in Santiago’s Bellavista neighborhood and is a popular tourist attraction as it offers an informative insight into the celebrated poet’s life. Exhibits at the site include artifacts brought back by Neruda from his international travels.
This man-made nature preserve lies along the Mapocho River in Santiago and offers visitors and residents a welcome respite from the constant hustle-bustle of the city. The Parque Forestal is a popular attraction in Santiago housing the Estacion Mapocho, a turn of the 20th century train station converted into an event space that hosts live concerts, cultural events and festivals all year round.
Best time to visit Santiago
Santiago is blessed with a climate, which can be described as Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer temperatures typically oscillate around 82F (28C), while winter temperatures average around 52F (11C). This amenable weather makes Santiago an ideal all-weather destination, which can be visited at any time during the year.
In fact, Fare Buzz often announces the best flight deals for Santiago as well as various other destinations. To receive advance information of these cheap air flights, you must make it a point to connect with Fare Buzz via social media on Twitter and Facebook.
Getting around in Santiago
Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, located 13 miles (21km) to the north west of the city, connects Santiago from different parts of the world well. This airport is served by a number of South American carriers along with major international airlines. Taxis and buses provide transport from the airport to the city center.
Santiago is equipped with an efficient and easy to use public transport system which comprises of the Metro, the Metro Bus, minibuses (micros) and colectivos (a form of communal taxi service which operates on fixed routes) and the suburban rail system. Taxis are easily available in the city and can be hired on the street or called to your hotel.
Most visitors to Santiago don’t prefer to rent a car for their stay in the Chilean capital as the traffic is often gridlocked in the city. Moreover, Santiago also has limited parking options even though parking at most hotels in the city is generally free of charge.
If you are planning to visit the ski resorts around Santiago, then you will perhaps need to rent a car during your stay in the city. Fare Buzz can be of a great help to you because it offers an assortment of affordable car rentals for Santiago, which can be booked via its regular booking platforms before you embark on your Santiago vacation.
Where to shop in Santiago
No destination is complete without shopping and Santiago is no different. Santiago offers a wealth of shopping options at its many malls, ferias de artesanía (artisan fairs), supermarkets and department stores.
Most visitors to Santiago wish to take home mementos of their trips in the form of souvenirs and novelty gifts. Traditional Chilean handcrafted wares fashioned out of stone, leather, wool, wood, which are often adorned with semi-precious stones are coveted as souvenirs by tourists. The best spots to shop for such wares are at the city’s many ferias de artesanía (artisan fairs) like Feria de Arte Indígena, Feria Santa Lucia, Patio Bella Vista and Publito Los Domincos (closed on Mondays).
Other locales for souvenir shopping in Santiago include establishments like Centro Cultural Palacio Le Moneda, Museo de Arte Precolombino and Galeria del Mundo Andino.
Santiago has not remained untouched by globalization and the Chilean capital has in recent times, witnessed a mushrooming of glitzy shopping centers and malls, like Alto Les Condes, Parque Arauco, Mall Panorámico and Mall del Centro. These malls offer a wide range of shopping, dining and entertainment options and are popular with locals and tourists alike.
If you enjoy rummaging through flea markets then you can’t afford to miss out on Santiago’s expansive flea market, the Persa Bio-Bio, which is set up along a street known as Bio-Bio on Saturdays and Sundays. On offer at the market are antiques, furniture and various other knick-knacks.
Where to eat in Santiago
Santiago’s exciting culinary landscape is populated with several noteworthy restaurants which cater to all budgets. Highly recommended eateries in the Chilean capital, include establishments like Astrid y Gastón (upscale Peruvian cuisine), Puerto Fuy (seafood), Puerto Calbuco (well-priced oysters), Osaka (fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines), Borago (molecular cuisine), Baco (bistro with a great wine list), Liguria (long-established bistro in Santiago), Fuenta Alemana (traditional Chilean cuisine) and Domino (the best place in Santiago to get a hot dog with all the trimmings).
Nightlife in Santiago
Salsa clubs, discotheques, bars, pubs and lounges feature on Santiago’s lively late-night scene. Current hotspots on Santiago’s ‘where to party’ list include hotspots like Club La Feria, Boomerang, Bunker Discotheque and Havana Salsa. For sampling great Pisco Sours and the best of Chilean wine, try bars like De La Ostia, La Piojera, Bocanáriz, Bar Liguria and Casa de Cena.