Looking for tips on what to see and do in Santiago Chile?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Emily from Don’t Call Me Gringa who first came to Santiago in 2005 as a study abroad student.
She has been there for almost 6 years in total, and has lived in Santiago full-time since September 2007.
Emily shares with us her insider tips on what to do in Santiago for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Why visit Santiago?
Santiago’s gotten a lot of attention in the press lately, and it’s because it’s a city that’s really coming into its own. We’ve got great museums and cultural events, delicious food, local crafts and of course, plenty of wine.
Chile is a gorgeous country with a huge variety of landscapes, and Santiago is the jumping off point to all that, whether you’re thinking deserts, glaciers or even Easter Island.
What to Do in Santiago
I love markets, so I send everyone to Mercado Central, the fish market, and La Vega, the fruit and vegetable market.
You will find tourists, but these are also working markets where santiaguinos do their shopping. If you’re interested in politics, the human rights museum Museo de la Memoria is a must-see.
On a clear day, take the funicular up San Cristóbal hill to enjoy the view – it’s the one with the Virgin Mary statue you can see from all over the city on top.
For souvenir shopping, head up to Pueblito Los Dominicos, an artisan village in the foothills of the Andes, or use generosity as an excuse to go wine tasting at Concha y Toro, Santa Carolina or Cousiño Macul and pick up a bottle for someone else as well as yourself.
Best Neighbourhoods to explore in Santiago
The Bellas Arte neighborhood is full of bars and cafés that make for perfect people watching.
Nearby Bellavista has some great restaurants and good nightlife.
To get off the beaten path a bit, head to Barrio Yungay, stopping at restaurant Boulevard Lavaud to pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour of the picturesque neighborhood.
Where to Eat in Santiago
I wouldn’t have believed it back in 2005, but it’s true: today Santiago has some great food.
Thanks to an influx of Peruvian immigrants, pretty much any Peruvian restaurant here is authentic and delicious.
If you’re ready for something different, head to the Patronato neighborhood for cuisine from kebabs to Korean served up by recent immigrants.
Chilean food is hearty, and my favorite place for a nice meal is Ana María in the República neighborhood.
Just as much a staple of the Chilean diet and easier on the budget, Chilean sandwiches from Dominó are giant, greasy and covered in avocado.
Where to Drink in Santiago
Along the street Tobalaba, just south of the metro of the same name, you’ll find a variety of bars.
Moloko is hip with a great cocktail list, but I still say Ecléctico has the best mango sour in Santiago.
Downtown, Bar The Clinic serves up drinks with a side of satire.
Best Area for a Night on the Town in Santiago
Bellavista has lots of bars and discos – remember, don’t call it a nightclub unless you’re looking for a strip joint! There are also some good clubs and bars around the street Orrego Luco in Providencia.
Where to Stay in Santiago
Budget places to stay in Santiago
My favorite hostel in Santiago is Andes Hostel – great location, and friends have loved it.
High end places to stay in Santiago
On the other end of the price spectrum, The Aubrey and Le Reve are boutique hotels that get rave reviews.
For more places to stay in Santiago choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancellation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.
Markets & Shopping in Santiago
I love both La Vega, the fruit and vegetable market, and Mercado Central, the fish market. Mercado Central is a great lunch stop, but make sure to eat around the edges rather than in the center – same food, lower prices!
For crafts, don’t miss Pueblito Los Dominicos. The setting is peaceful, the artists themselves are there to talk to you, and while the prices can be a bit higher, quality is ensured.
Festivals & events in Santiago
Chile’s major holiday is called Fiestas Patrias or el dieciocho, the independence day-related national holiday surrounding September 18th. It’s a week-long party featuring outdoor festivals called fondas where you’ll find food, drink, entertainment and games.
All that plus the start of spring means everyone in the country’s in a great mood and ready to celebrate!
Getting around Santiago
Public transportation in Santiago is efficient and modern. The metro is easy for tourists to use, and the bus system which gets you everywhere isn’t too hard to figure out.
Finding free WiFi in Santiago
Starbucks has taken over here just like it has everywhere else, and it’s always a good WiFi spot. Some metro stations also have WiFi, but personally I’d rather be sipping a coffee on a sidewalk than checking my email underground.
Best time to visit Santiago
If you can come in September and catch some of the dieciocho celebrations, do it.
Winter is grey and smoggy, so I wouldn’t suggest coming in June or July, and if you don’t like heat, you want to avoid January and February.
March-May and August-December are great.
Favorite Side Trip from Santiago
It’s got to be wine tasting – whether in the Colchagua Valley to the south or Casablanca Valley on the way to the coast.
A close second would be heading to Valparaíso to enjoy the ocean breeze and great colors.
Getting there & away
TACA is usually the cheapest air option from the US, although LAN/American and Delta offer better schedules. If you’re in the northeastern US, check out Air Canada – they have some great deals.
A popular route for people traveling South America is to take the bus from Mendoza, Argentina, which gives you great views as you cross the Andes.
Best insiders tip for travel to Santiago
Make sure you try plenty of pisco sours, which are similar to margaritas but with pisco, a grape-based brandy, instead of tequila.
Pisco is only made in the 4th region of Chile and part of Peru, and for both countries the question of who it really belongs to is a matter of national pride and argument. Chilean or Peruvian, pisco sours are delicious!
I Love Santiago because …
It’s evolving! The city I live in now is not the city I came to 7 years ago, and experiencing the transformation is a lot of fun.
More South America Travel Tips
Plan Your Trip to Santiago
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Accommodation in Santiago
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Flights to Santiago
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Tours in Santiago
Car Rental in Santiago
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BIO – Emily is a Californian Brit living in Santiago with her Chilean husband and their former street dog. She shares her adventures in expat life and her travels at Don’t Call Me Gringa. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
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