Santiago was one of our favorite cities in South America; it’s extremely modern, has an easy public transportation system, and it has something for everyone. If you are heading further south into Patagonia and you forgot any major items, Santiago would be the best place to purchase any last-minute items.
We didn’t have too much time there, but we did maximize all of our days. We rented an AirBNB in the center of the city, so we could easily get everywhere either in a taxi or on the Metro. After spending so much time in Peru, Santiago felt relatively much more expensive, but prices there are comparable to that of the U.S. (or slightly cheaper).
Some of our Santiago favorites (in no real particular order):
1. Free Walking Tour: We go on free walking tours in any city that offers them, usually on our first day there. Free walking tours are the perfect way to get a feel for all the major historical and cultural areas of the city; tour guides are great resources for the best places to eat, drink, and go out, in addition to showing you all of the major landmarks. They offer tours in Santiago twice a day, at 10am and 3pm, so it’s super convenient. You can find more information here.
2. Santa Lucia: This was located close to where we were staying in the city, so we ended up coming here twice. It’s a free park with an old fort in the middle; you can climb up and get a nice view of Santiago, or bring a picnic here and enjoy the people watching.
3. Sky Constanera: This is the tallest building in all of Latin America. You can take the elevator 300 meters up into the sky and truly get a bird’s eye view of Santiago. In addition, it’s located next to a huge mall, so if you need a place to buy any of the comforts of home (including that fast food you might be craving), you can find it here.
4. Cerro San Cristobal: If you aren’t tired of the Santiago views after visiting Santa Lucia and the Sky Costanera, you can go to Cerro San Cristobal. It’s about a 45 minute hike to the top, and there is a large statue of the Virgin Mary. After you’ve worked up a sweat, there are pools available at the top as well (for a fee).
5. Emporio la Rosa: When we were there in the middle of November, it was hot. Really hot. That was our excuse for eating ice cream everyday (one time, we even had it twice in one day – oops). Emporio la Rosa was the best ice cream place we went to here. There was a good selection of flavors and an outdoor seating area at the one in the Bella Artes neighborhood.
6. Bellavista Neighborhood: Barrio Bellavista was our favorite in all of Santiago. It is the gathering place for Santiago’s bohemian culture, and it also has a wide variety of shops, bars, and restaurants, most with outdoor seating. Colorful buildings line the sidewalks, making it an enjoyable place to just go for a walk and soak up the atmosphere. If there’s a soccer game on that night, come early and grab a seat at the bar. The energy is contagious. And if it’s of any interest to you, one of Pablo Neruda’s houses is here.
7. Buffalo Waffles: We stumbled upon this spot, and it’s a gem. We want them to open up in the States (or maybe we should open one up at home…). They sell huge waffles filled with food, both sweet and savory. There are options for turkey, pastrami, ham, or a vegetarian waffles. If you’re feeling sweet, you can get the strawberry and chocolate filled waffle.
8. Drink a terremoto: Our free walking tour guide really sold us on the need to try these, even though they’re super touristy. You have to try one. Terremoto means earthquake in Spanish. Its main ingredients are pineapple ice cream and white wine, and then whatever else they feel like throwing in there – grenadine, mint, etc. You have to tread lightly when drinking terremotos, so after your first one, you can order an after-shock – a smaller version of the same thing. We were definitely skeptical at first, but we ended up really liking them; you have to give them a try when you’re passing through Santiago.