Santiago is the capital of Chile, situated between the beautiful coastal town of Valpo and the Andes Mountains. It’s the kind of city that you could see yourself moving to after just a few hours of being there, too. It’s the largest city in Chile, but it feels welcoming and familiar thanks to the folks who live there. We crammed our visit to Santiago into just a weekend, and the only thing I’d change about our trip was to spend a bit more time in this beautiful city. But like us, most people want to focus their time in this region on Valparaiso, so if you find yourself with just a few days in Santiago, here are some recommendations to make the most of your time there!
- Pueblito Los Dominicos (Los Dominicos Market): located east of Santiago lies the beautiful Peublito Los Dominicos, which is home to a beautiful crafts market, Centro Artesenal Los Dominicos). It’s about a 25-30 minute subway ride from Lastarria neighborhood, at the very end of the line (just take the L1 to the Los Dominicos stop). The setting itself is beautiful, and the shops are more-so converted rooms from a monastery instead of typical market stalls. You could easily spend the day here. There is a huge range when it comes to both prices and items for sale, so even if you’re in a group with different tastes, there will be something to suit everyone. There are also places to eat in a large courtyard if you need to take a lunch break. I’d recommend spending about 2-3 hours walking around so you aren’t rushed!
- Tours4Tips Walking Tour: we found this amazing group while we were in Valparaiso earlier in the week and decided to do their walking tour of Santiago as well. They offer two different tours: 1) the Santiago Highlights Tour (Museo Bellas Artes, GAM, La Moneda, and the Plaza de Armas) and 2) Santiago Offbeat (Esmerelda Neighborhood, Mercado Central and La Vega/La Vega Chica, General Cemetery, and ending at a bar to try some typical Chilean snacks and drinks). We opted for the Santiago Offbeat tour and absolutely loved it. Both tours are about 3 hours long, and at the end of the tour, your payment is whatever you choose/whatever you feel the tour was worth. Trust me, you’ll have a blast – we each paid about $20 USD and would have happily paid more. The tours are offered daily at 10am and 3pm, so I’d recommend signing up a day or two before through the website to secure your spot and make sure you get the tour you are most interested in doing.
- Mercado Central and La Vega/La Vega Chica: if you’re a fan of markets, these are a must, and all three are situated within easy walking distance of each other. Grab a Sopapilla from a street vendor outside of La Vega. These Chilean-style treats are essentially pumpkin-spiced fried dough, and are an absolute must try! The famous phrase that accompanies La Vega is “Despues de Dios esta La Vega” (essentially that God comes first and then comes La Vega). The vendors at the market pride themselves on their diversity of goods at a very reasonable price and the fact they’ve never had to resort to any kind of marketing to bring in customers. Everything is super fresh, and you can find foods from all over South America there.
- Cementario General: this is one of the largest cemeteries in Latin America, with over 2 million people buried inside, including Salvador Allende (who was originally buried in Viña del Mar but later exhumed and moved here). There’s also a memorial to all those who disappeared during the political unrest following Allende’s death, during the reign of Augusto Pinochet. The mausoleums are stunning architectural entities and absolutely worth a visit while in Santiago. Just remember to grab a water (it gets hot in the Santiago sun!) or use the restroom before entering the Cemetery, and wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be walking for a while!
- Cerro San Cristobal houses Santiago’s largest public park (Parque Metropolitano), and the top of the hill is the second highest point in the city, which makes it the perfect viewpoint to look out over the town. The hill is also home to the Chilean National Zoo, a Japanese Garden, multiple pools, a sanctuary, and am amphitheater. You can get to the top by walking or car, but I’d recommend taking the funicular for a bit more unique of an experience (it’ll run you about $3-4 USD for a return trip during the week, and a little more on the weekends).
- La Moneda was built as a coin mint, which it served as for about 15 years before becoming the Presidential residence. It’s no longer the official residence, but it does serve as the center for all Presidential activities in Chile. No need to go inside (I’m not even sure if you can to be honest), but it’s worth a visit outside, and there are plenty of other places nearby that make a walk past it easy.
- Have dinner at BORAGó (recently ranked No. 27 in the world)! Chef Guzman focuses on sourcing his ingredients from the indigenous Mapuche people – everything is uber fresh as his team travels constantly to get the best of the best ingredients from all over Chile. We did the tasting menu and beverage pairing, which cost us roughly $100 USD at the time we went.
- Explore the popular neighborhoods! Santa Lucia, Lastarria, Bellavista, and Barrio Paris-Lóndres are all fun neighborhoods to get lost wandering the streets.
You could easily spend a week exploring all over Santiago, but it’s absolutely doable to still see the major sites and experience the best of the local culture in just a weekend.
Have you been to Santiago? What are your favorite places to go when in town?