Country Chile | Dates May 23-27 | Accommodation Hotel Galerias | Note: This post is a “travel guide” about things to do in Santiago Chile
I awoke at 4am for my flight to Santiago, to rejoin my sister and also my mom who was visiting. While waiting for their flight to land, I was approached no less than 38 times by would-be cab drivers. I was also approached by a man who asked if my name was Natalie and showed me a photo of what appeared to be a missing blonde girl. My sister bartered a cab price, and we went to the hotel. Always remaining vigilant we checked the beds, and to our utter horror spotted a small brown bug on the mattress below the 4-layered blankets. We couldn’t find any more evidence but better safe than sorry, so my sister headed to reception and explained, sheepishly, that her older sister was embarrassingly scared of heights and the view from our 12-story room made her ill – can we move?
Things to do in Santiago Chile
1. Scope Out Some Santiago Neighborhoods
Barrio Lastarria: What I would describe as the hipster neighborhood. Cute shops (vintage, records) lining the streets, vegan places, coffee. Chile’s version of the usual; everywhere is so different yet so much the same. There was also a great road with many good restaurants with outdoor seating.
Barrio Bellavista: Described as the “artsy” neighborhood, in many ways it was more upscale, boasting nicer restaurants and shops especially in Plaza Bellavista. This area also included a university and a massive bar street with clubs, loud music (even early) and tons of young people walking about.
Barrio Brazil: A more “traditional” part of the city, with older buildings, shops opening into the streets and goods for sale outside from fruit to toilet paper.
Plaza del Armas/Centro: Where we stayed, near the center of the city. Lots of historical buildings, large governmental buildings, national archive, post office, museums, and architecture. There was a typical pedestrian area lined with food and shops, closed off to traffic, too.
2. Scarf Down Some Santiago Snacks (& Meals)
Bar National: Maybe our best meal. A local soda fountain located right in the middle of downtown which has become so popular they opened additional locations. Lots of businessmen on their lunch break wearing aprons over their suits, eating large portions of traditional Chilean foods. Here we were introduced to the Pastel de Choclo, and had our first pisco sours.
El Carmelito: Located on the less-fancy side of Bellavista, this spot was very authentic and delicious. Old photos and marker drawings line the walls, an old wooden bar, and wrinkled menus. We had the vegetarian pastel, sarah had a pork and chicken,plus an amazing grilled goat cheese. We also tried the Escuito beer.
Galindo: My favorite meal. A local spot in Bellavista right off the main drag, less frills from the outside and inside. Extremely authentic cuisine, including the pastil, the beef and fries (whats it called?) and corn in the shells which our waiter nicely told us to try with sugar (delicious)! My sister ordered a huge pisco cola here, as well.
Chipe Libre: This is a bar dedicated entirely to pisco. Creative drinks, more varieties of pisco than I knew existed, and great information on the history of pisco for some learning.
El Diablito: We stumbled on this after failing to go to another bar, which was closed forever the telltale bars on the windows and ripped-off TripAdvisor sticker alerting us. Hole in the wall type spot, decorated with very random items on the walls. We tried the Vania here, which is a traditional drink with cocoa and cinnamon. We ate dairy although we’re both lactose intolerant. Backstreet Boy and other random american selections played in the background.
3. See Other Sights
Human Rights Museum: It was hard as I couldn’t read the signs, but egregious human rights violations need no translation. Exceptional museum, especially for the price (free).
Mercado Central: Seafood market located in an old train station, which seems to be a pretty common thing! We were accosted by dozens of servers beckoning us into various establishments as the scent of strong dead fish fills your nostrils. They were so aggressive I eventually just started stating “I am not hungry” and stuck to the outer stalls to photograph the dead fish, sea urchins and other things (even fins).
Fast Food Stalls Portal Fernández Concha: Dozens of fast food stalls serving primarily hot dogs loaded with tomatoes, mayo and other dressings. You approach, give a very small sum of cash, and get your hot dog in a small plastic red tray with a soda included, nestled among cones of napkins and additional condiments. Many people eating at the counters in the day!
Plaza de Armas: Main square, very large as the city is big. Here we saw a hooker in wait! She was approached by the police, as other people nearby bathed in the fountain.
Cerro de St, Lucia: A gate opens off the mains street to a beautiful old building in yellow, flanked by 2 spiraling staircases on both sides. Palm trees line this park, too, and a fountain shows itself once inside. You have to sign in (not sure why) and can then go up into the park, circling the hill to a couple of overlooks, a small brick castle-looking item, and a small chapel. Worth the walk and free! At this time i was also approached by a random man who wa sa french teacher and wanted to practice English.
Funiculaire/Viewpoint: we took an uber here, and our driver repeatedly missed the turns and then went the wrong way. The funiculaire up was steeper than expected. At top, some great views of the smoggy city (our lungs thick with smog), religious statues and a chapel, and various painted depictions of Jesus on crosses. Many a person used selfie sticks and attempted to photograph the sunset directly. A small girl with painted nails waved at the cars on the way down.
Plaza Bellavista: A fancy plaza with upscale restaurants and shops opening into a square area, and music on most nights. Aldo ice cream shops and cafes surrounding. We saw a girl singing versions of american songs; later we looked her up and realized she was from The Voice: Peru!
Dia del Patrimonio
Our last day we got lucky – it was the national day of patrimony meaning free activities around the city! We went into many historical buildings free, and got stickers and BALLOONS. I felt pure joy, more so than a child, holding my balloon all day as we explored the city. They had some old traditional games in the Plaza del Armas, a toy cart with music, and even a live band!
Pure Joy with Balloon
On our way home that night, we saw an amazing dance and music performance in the street. Girls with floral dresses in pink and blue, guys with yellow belts dancing alongside them. We stayed and even offered a tip when she came around with the pouch. This was one our of favorite cities – there is so much to do in Santiago Chile!