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The capital and largest city of Chile, Santiago is a sophisticated and energetic metropolis set in a valley surrounded by the Andes to the east and Chilean Coastal Range to the west. With a growing economy, rejuvenated arts scene, and plenty of eccentricity to spare, this old-guard city is in the midst of a modern-day renaissance. During the day, find locals strolling the pedestrian malls or enjoying a picnic at a hillside park, while at night the city comes alive in its many sidewalk cafes and beer halls. Whether you want to lose yourself in one of Santiago’s spectacular museums, treat your taste buds to the authentic flavors of Chile, or enjoy outdoor activities in the mountains and valleys, there are plenty of things to do in this thriving destination.
Home to nearly 40 percent of the Chilean population, the metropolitan region of Santiago is a bustling area made up of many different barrios, each with their own unique flavor. These are the neighborhoods you simply can’t miss.
Bellavista — Nestled between Cerro San Cristobal to the north and the Mapocho River to the south, Bellavista is Santiago’s prime nightlife district, with restaurants, bars, and clubs to suit nearly any taste. Start your night here with dinner and then stay past 1 AM when the area is at its most vivacious. During the day, Bellavista quiets down to reveal a vibrant collection of street art. The district is also where you’ll find La Chascona, the former home of Pablo Neruda, which has now been turned into a museum.
Brasil — Developed for the wealthy in the 19 th and 20 th centuries, Brasil later fell on hard times, but the beautiful mansions have survived. Recently, in what is perhaps the most architecturally interesting part of the city, these old homes have been transformed into affordable apartments for the young and artsy. Thanks to this rapidly growing bohemian community, the district is where you’ll find lively hotspots for cheap eats and drinks, particularly on the streets surrounding Plaza Brasil.
El Centro — Santiago’s downtown is the historic heart of the city, where the area first evolved from a sleepy colonial town into a modern and prosperous capital. Centered around the 16 th -century Plaza de Armas, the district is full of charming fountains, impressive sculptures, and picturesque pedestrian walks. Here, find some of Santiago’s most important landmarks and institutions, including La Moneda Palace, the Municipal Theatre, the Alhambra Palace Museum, and the National Historical Museum.
Las Condes — In the northeastern part of the city is Las Condes, the center of Santiago’s business district. Along with modern high-rises, the neighborhood is home to many of the city’s best hotels, boutiques, galleries, and dining locations. Find an ever-growing selection of cutting-edge eateries on Nueva Costanera and high-end designer shopping along Alonso de Córdova.
Lastarria — Just to the east of El Centro, Lastarria is the artistic hub of Santiago, centered around the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Visual Arts, and the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center. At the district’s cafes, it’s common to find writers hunched over notebooks or painters taking a break with espresso. On the weekends, Lastarria turns into a street market of vintage fashions, antique decor, and secondhand books. Cerro Santa Lucia, perhaps the neighborhood’s most prominent feature, is a breathtaking park with a hilltop castle from the early 1800s.
Patronato — Directly to the west of Bellavista is the lively immigrant district of Patronato, boasting Asian grocers, Korean eateries, and Palestinian food outlets. Inexpensive clothing shops and street stalls line Calle Patronato, making it one of the most popular and spirited streets in the city.
Providencia — In between Lastarria and Las Condes lies the massive neighborhood of Providencia. Made up of its own smaller communities, the area offers something for everyone, from elegant parks like Balmaceda and Bustamante to the nightlife options on Santa Isabel and Manuel Montt. Thanks to its location between the artistic and traditional districts, the neighborhood serves as a meeting place for Santiago’s disparate populations. You won’t find many specific sights here, but you’d remiss not to visit for a drink.
Soak in sweeping views of Santiago from the peaks and lookouts of Cerro San Cristobal. From the station at the southwest foot of the park, board the cable car for a ride up to nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) above the city. Once at the top, you can also find a hilltop movie theater, public swimming pool, and traditional Japanese garden. Back near the station is the Chilean National Zoo, a 12-acre (4.8-ha) park featuring more than 150 native and exotic animals.
For Outdoor Adventurers
Sitting at the base of the Andes Mountains, Santiago is a haven for lovers of the outdoors, particularly in the cold weather months. If visiting between June and October, head to the world-class Valle Nevado ski resort—one of the largest in South America—located just 40 miles (64 km) east of El Centro. Here, you can enjoy fresh powder and a ski lesson with an expert while soaking in views of the snow-capped peaks.
For Art Aficionados
Dive into the colorful community of San Miguel, a one-time dump site recently revitalized by vibrant public art. With a local guide leading the way, scope out 40 large-scale murals packed into 8 small blocks as you explore the Open Sky Museum. If literature is more your speed, honor Pablo Neruda with a visit to the museum at La Chascona, or head out of town to see the poet’s whimsical home in seaside Isla Negra.
For Wine Lovers
Less than an hour south of Santiago, the Maipo Valley is one of the country’s most important wine regions. Uncork the secrets to Chilean wine as you spend a full day traveling between verdant vineyards. Visit 3 of the most renowned wineries in the valley and sample award-winning creations including cabernet, carmenere, and sauvignon blanc.
Discover the authentic flavors of Santiago on a guided food tour through districts like downtown and Patronato. Sample fresh produce and traditional Chilean bites at a few of the markets while gaining insight into the city’s culinary culture along the way. Your tour concludes in the bohemian neighborhood of Bellavista, where you’re treated to a mouthwatering meal in a beloved eatery.
For Night Owls
Get to know Santiago like a local by experiencing a night out in the lively neighborhoods at the heart of the city. Begin at a local bar near Plaza de Armas, where you learn how to order a cocktail in Spanish. Continue on to other popular venues, sampling exotics drinks such as a terremoto made with sweet wine and pineapple ice cream. Your evening ends with admission to one of the best salsa clubs in Santiago, where you can dance the night away until dawn.
There are plenty of unforgettable experiences in Santiago that the entire gang will enjoy. These are some of the most popular family friendly experiences in the area.
Some say the best things in life are free. Check out the following around Santiago:
Museo de Arte Popular Americano - Old or young, this gallery will spark your imagination and capture your attention.
Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center - Spend some time here and enjoy an insight into the arts and culture of the area.
Antilen Pool - Your swimsuit and a sense of fun are all you need for a whale of a time here.
National Archive - Architecture buff or not, prepare to be impressed by this landmark's modernistic design.
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile - Wander around this historic site and uncover a couple of secrets from yesteryear.
Santiago Town Square - Find out why both visitors and locals enjoy the character and charm of this place.
Lake Esmeralda - Close your eyes and take a deep breath — there's nothing like being near the water for some calm and relaxation.
Clinica Santa Maria - Pay a visit and discover the importance of this place to the community.
Basilica de la Merced - Get an understanding of the local religion at this sacred site.
San Cristobal Hill - You're certain to feel connected with Mother Nature at this beautiful spot.
Sculpture Park - Nurture your green thumb and enjoy admiring the beautiful and diverse plants on show.