After spending three weeks in beautiful Buenos Aires and another couple weeks in Argentina wine country our thoughts of Santiago can best be summed up as “meh”. From the second our bus from Mendoza pulled into the station in Santiago we were shocked by how dirty and unwelcoming the city seemed. To be fair, bus stations are never that nice, but even after four days of exploring the city we still felt like Santiago left a little to be desired. That being said if you are doing a South America tour you will most certainly need to pass through Santiago so here are some of our highlights.
What to See in Santiago
Our first stop in Santiago after checking into our Airbnb was Patio Bellavista. This outdoor food plaza has something for everyone. Most restaurants were offering some sort of deal of the day and happy hour. It also seemed like it could be a fun spot to enjoy a little nightlife. We ate at a TexMex spot, Rosita, that was actually pretty good.
We also strolled around Barrio Bellavista. It was on the holiday so literally everything was closed but we got to admire the creative street art.
This is a great outdoor area that is pedestrian friendly. There are street vendors selling out of stalls, nice restaurants with hosts standing outside, and plenty of street performers to keep you entertained. This is probably the nicest area of Santiago that we found. The food in this area is a bit more pricey than what we like to pay but we found ourselves wandering Barrio Lastarria a lot.
La Vega Central and Markets in Santiago
Similar to the markets we were used to seeing in Guatemala this place has everything from fresh produce and bulk spices, clothes and everything in between. The market is HUGE and parts of it can be rather rough but if you dig you can find some great looking stuff. The prices are good and we ended up buying everything we needed to cook a great dinner at home. There are some stalls within and just outside of the market selling typical food for super reasonable prices. We ended up eating at a little spot just down the street and had a meal big enough for both of us to share for $5 including the drink!
We also visited some other markets while in Santiago. Mercado Central is a big market with souvenirs and seafood restaurants. There are also a lot of people with blankets on the side of the street selling clothes and knick-knacks.
Museums in Santiago
Museums are a great way to learn about local culture and their perspective on history. Usually Rachel and I try to go to a couple whenever we are in big cities. Also, a lot of the museums in Santiago are free which is great. Unfortunately, we were there on a holiday so they were not open.
Santa Lucia Hill
This green hill and fortress in the middle of the city is a welcomed relief from the surrounding dirty concrete. Our Airbnb had a great view of Santa Lucia Hill and we really enjoyed walking up to the top of the fort and getting a different perspective of the city. The fort area is kept super clean and entrance is free. Make sure to go in the morning or later in the afternoon as the park is closed after lunch for a few hours.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is a great traditional colonial square. There are museums, street performers, vendors and palm trees. We enjoyed watching a large chess competition that was going on and people watching.
Getting Around Santiago
Getting around Santiago is actually super easy. They have a subway which uses a card called Bip that can be preloaded. The subway is not as cheap as the one in Buenos Aires but it is pretty nice. Santiago also has Uber which is our preferred way to get around. There are also bikes to rent and taxis if you prefer to get ripped off.
Where to Stay in Santiago
There are about 1000 Airbnbs in Santiago that all look almost identical. We stayed in two apartments (see them here and here) while we were there and other than the view and bed the layouts were the same. The good news is they are fairly inexpensive, include kitchens and the wifi is generally good. We booked with Juan who owns a lot of the Airbnbs and does a great job. The best part is you don’t have to deal with complicated check-ins because the key is just left down in the lobby. We also got to see some beautiful sunsets from our Airbnb balcony.
Haven’t tried out Airbnb yet? Click here to get a $40 travel credit.
That being said Santiago felt safe and we ended up liking it more the second time we visited. (Big shout out to the US Embassy in Santiago for the new passports! Y’all are awesome).
Want more information to plan your trip to Santiago? Check out the Chile Lonely Planet here.
Stuck in Santiago,