Santiago de Chile is our readers favorite city. Finally, we had the time to find out the reasons why. The Chilean capital was our starting point for our 20-day tour around Chile. We agreed with everything we had heard about this city. Right from the beginning already out of the plane Santiago is breathtaking when you can see the beautiful mountains of the Andes which warmly welcome the visitors. Santiago is exciting for every tourist: it is a beautiful city, modern, organized, safe and full of attractions. Also in its surroundings, there are famous Chilean tourist destinations, which you can visit as a day-trip. We did a 6-day-itinerary in Santiago and its surrounding areas, which I am sharing with you here. But the suggestions are also helpful for those who have less time, for example just 4 days.
The truth is that Santiago was a fascinating destination for us. In the sense that every time we planned to go there (since our honeymoon 7 years ago), it didn’t work out in the end. But finally, everything went well and it was worth insisting on getting to know the city, which became one of my favorites in South America (if it wouldn’t be that cold, I would live there easily!).
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Before starting with the detailed itinerary, let’s begin with some useful information:
– For those who have a frequent flying program, there are many promotions to go to Santiago. We got the stretch from Natal, Brasil for 12,000 miles.
– There isn’t a preferable side on the plane for the best view to see the mountains Andes on arrival in Santiago, but check-in early to get a seat at the window (if you have to choose maybe it’s best to get the left side window if you are coming in from the North).
– When you are arriving at the airport, there are several options to get to the city center. The most economical way is by bus, which gets you to Santiago’s center, a bus terminal or to one of the main subway stations. We paid 1,700 pesos per person and got off at Pajaritos station and from there we took a subway to our metro station.
The companies that offer this service are Turbus and Centropuerto.
– The most popular accommodation options are usually in the Center (Centro). But if you you’re your time searching, you might find good hostels for a cheap price in better suburbs like Providencia and Bella Vista. The most important thing is to be close to a metro station as you will be able to get to know the whole city from there.
We stayed for 6 days in a private room in an apartment in Providencia. It was very well located between the metro stations Salvador and Baquedano, close to the district Bellavista. That made it a lot easier to get to know the city during the day and enjoy the evening with ease. The room had a balcony with a beautiful view of Balmaceda Park, Cerro San Cristobal, the Andes and you could also see Costanera Center. In the apartment, we could use the kitchen, the living room and even the washing machine.
On the way back from our Chilean car trip to the South, we spent another night in Santiago at Aji Hostel, in a private room as well. The hostel is also very well located in Providencia. Our private room was very spacious and comfortable, within the standards of a hostel. However, Julie was in a dorm room with 5 other people and had her worst experience about a tiny stinky old bathroom, she ever had during her 8 months traveling.
– The best way to get around Santiago is by metro and on foot. The subway fares vary according to the time of the day: low ($ 610, bajo), medium ($ 660, valle) and high ($ 740, punta). You can buy a card for $ 1,550 (you don’t get the money back) or buy single tickets, on which we decided on.
The metro’s opening hours depend on the season, but it usually runs from Monday to Friday until 11:00 p.m., Saturdays until 11:30 p.m., and Sundays and holidays until 10:30 p.m.
– Officially, Uber isn’t allowed in the city, but it is working there and is usually safer than a taxi.
– Santiago is pretty expensive. Don’t make a mistake as € 1 is worth more than $ 750 CLP. However, the city offers many free attractions.
– Chile doesn’t have a free health system and medical care can be very expensive there. So, it is necessary to have your own health insurance before entering the country.
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If you didn’t arrive the night before, you probably won’t have a full first day in the city. For example, our flight arrived at 1:30 p.m. and until we got to the apartment and settled in, we only started the tour at around 3:30 p.m.
As we lived in Providencia, very close to the district Bellavista, we started in this famous neighborhood and I believe this is a great way to get to know Santiago.
Bellavista is a district with a very cultural atmosphere, with colorful big houses, graffiti, handicrafts markets, many restaurants and bars with tables on the sidewalks. It is great to stroll around in the late afternoon and enjoy the evening. Santiago has a different division than the one we are used to. There exist districts and communes. Bellavista is a district which is in parts in the commune of Providencia and, another one in the Center. So for example, don’t be surprised when some places that are in Bellavista, have an address “Providencia”.
In the streets Constitución and Dardignac are a lot of good bars and restaurants, including one of the favorite ones of the Brazilians: “Like Water for Chocolate”. Also in this block, you can find Pátio Bellavista, an open-air mall with many restaurants, bars and some small shops.
The Patio is very beautiful and has options for all kind of tastes, in addition to housing large franchises such as Starbucks, 100 Montaditos, Domino’s Pizza, etc.
We ate at 100 Montaditos, which is a Spanish franchise that I love. Afterwards we had wine at La Casa in El Aire. But I have the feeling that everything inside the Courtyard is much more expensive than in the restaurants located outside on the same street.
Sunday to Tuesday, from 10 am to 02 am
Wednesday from 10 am to 3 pm
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, from 10 am to 04 am
In Bellavista is also the home of the writer and Nobel Prize winner, Pablo Neruda. La Chascona is nearly at the bottom of Cerro San Cristóbal and runs as a museum house now.
The name of the house is a homage of Neruda to his partner Matilde Urrutia. In the indigenous language Quechua, La Chascona means “The disheveled one”. In 1953 when the house was constructed, Neruda and Matilde had a secret romance, because the writer was still married. The writer only lived with Matilde in this house two years later, after his separation.
Like all the houses of Neruda, La Chascona is very picturesque, with very peculiar furniture and objects which the writer collected. The house was built with views of the Andes and the city.
The place is so interesting that it is worth a visit even for those who aren’t interested in the Neruda’s work.
Address: Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago.
March to December – Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm
January and February – Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 7 pm
Closed on Mondays
Admission: $ 7,000 CLP
$ 2,500 Students CLP, also with an international student ID (ISIC)
https://fundacionneruda.org/en/museums-houses/la-chascona-museum-house/ (website in English)
Visiting the district Bellavista isn’t complete until you climbed the hill Cerro San Cristóbal. You can get up there by walking or by cable car. We took the cable car in the late afternoon to watch the sunset from the top.
On Cerro San Cristóbal is a Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady of Conception. The image of this Saint is on top of the hill. It also has a very cute little park and a zoo (which I wouldn’t recommend to visit as I am against this kind of attractions). However, the main attraction of Cerro San Cristóbal is the view of Santiago and the Andes. San Cristóbal is the second highest point in the city, at an altitude of 880 m and with its 280 meters high (from base to top). In contrast, the Sky Costanera lookout where you pay an entrance fee of $ 10,000 CLP is 300 meters high.
If you are lucky and get a clean day (unfortunately, Santiago is one of the most polluted capitals in the world), you can see well the Andes and the snowy peaks.
Address: Pio Nono Funicular Station
Opening hours: 10 am – 6:45 pm
Return trip – $ 2,000 CLP adults / 1,500 CLP children and seniors
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Day 2 – Downtown
With more energy after a good night sleep, the second day is more convenient to explore the city centre.
Beginn your tour at Plaza de Armas, where you can find the Cathedral (built between 1748 and 1800), the “Edificio de la Municipalidad de Santiago” (Santiago City Hall), the building of “Correo Central” (a post office built in 1882 with the style of French architecture), the monastery “Al Pueblo Indígena” by Enrique Villalobos and the National Historical Museum (free entrance).
I recommend to visit the Museum, which can be visited in about 1 hour. It shows the history of Chile, even beginning prehistorical. The museum has collections of popular arts, crafts, clothing, archeology, furniture, coins and medals, books and documents, weapons etc. One of the pieces at the museum is the flag on which Chile’s independence was sworn.
National Historical Museum
Address: Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
On one side of Plaza de Armas you can go to Paseo Ahumada, a pedestrian street, which is one of the busiest shopping streets in Santiago. There you will find several shops, sellers on the street or banks. At Calle Augustinas, one of the perpendicular streets, are several exchange offices, where you probably will find the best quotation to exchange Euros, Real or Dollars.
Following Paseo Ahumada, entering to the right in Augustinas, you will arrive at Plaza de la Constitución and Palacio de la Moneda (Palace), which is home to the Chilean president, which got its name because at the beginning it worked as a mint.
The Palace was the scene of one of the darkest moments of Chile’s recent history, having been bombarded by airplanes and cannons on September 11, 1973 as a coup d’etat that brought Pinochet to power, and also inside of it where the president at the time Salvador Allende died (as official history, he would have committed suicide).
The exchange of the guards takes place in front of the palace irregularly at 10 am during the week and at 11 am on weekends. See the 2017 calendar: http://nosnochile.com.br/troca-de-guarda-no-chile-calendario-2017/
Palacio de la Moneda offers free guided tours in English and Spanish, but it is necessary to book in advance here: https://visitasguiadas.presidencia.cl/ (website in English)
Two blocks before Palace of La Moneda you can find Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, one of the most important ones in Santiago.
Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
Address: Bandera 361, Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm (entrance is recommended until 5:30 pm)
Admission: $ 4,500 CLP adults. Students with an ID: $ 2,000 CLP. Free entry for children under 10 years.
Free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
http://www.precolombino.cl/en/ (website in English)
From La Moneda Palace it is just a short walk of about 10 minutes to the beautiful church of San Francisco. The baroque church was built between 1575 and 1895 and is, along with the convent, the oldest architectural monument in Chile.
Before there was the convent, today it hosts the Museum of Colonial Art of San Francisco.
Museum of Colonial Art of San Francisco
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 09h30 to 13 h and from 15 h to 18 h
Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm
Admission: $ 1,000 CLP adults. Students and Seniors – $ 500 CLP
http://museosanfrancisco.com/en/ (website in English)
What was in the early days the courtyards and gardens of the convent, was changed in the 1920’s to the district called Paris-London, which are actually two streets. The facade of the San Francisco church is on Calle London, which is divided by Calle Paris. It is a very quiet and charming piece of Santiago. In the two streets there are some hotels and restaurants.
Leaving the Paris-London suburb, in less than 10 minutes walking along Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, the main one of Santiago, you will arrive at Cerro Santa Lucía, which I also recommend visiting in a late afternoon to close the second day of the itinerary.
The walk up to Cerro Santa Lucía takes you on a pleasant walk, first stopping at the beautiful Neptune Fountain (Fuente Neptuno), following the Circular Garden, then the Plaza Caupolicán Park, the Sepulcher of Benjamin Vicunã Mackenna (Chilean politician and historian), the lookout before arriving at Castillo Hidalgo.
Although much lower than San Cristóbal, at 629 meters above sea level and a height of 69 meters, Cerro Santa Lucía also has a 360 degree view of Santiago, the Andes and Cerro San Cristobal as well.
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Day 3 – Human Rights Museum, Normal Farm Park (Quinta Normal Park), Central Market
One of the most interesting and important things we visited in Santiago was the Museum of Rememberance and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos).
The museum is “a space designed to give visibility to the human right violations committed by the Chilean State between 1973 and 1990 (the time of the military dictatorship) in order to dignify the victims and their families, stimulate reflection and debate on the importance of respect and tolerance so that these things will never be repeated “(excerpt from “About the Museum” on the official website).
Despite the heavy theme, I consider this the most important visit, precisely because it allows reflection on these issues, at a time when we see the term “human rights” being so trivialized and distorted and we also have absurde people asking for the return of dictatorship in Brazil. By the way, I think that Brazil would need a museum like this. I am amazed how dictatorships in South American countries have ended just recently and people already forget the damage they have caused.
It isn’t allowed to take pictures or videos inside the museum. But the collections and exhibitions are interactively very well organized, so that the visitors won’t just reflect but it is also creating emotions. I found it very difficult to read the reports, to see the photos and the human beings (behind the names and numbers), victims of the Chilean military dictatorship and the families that were destroyed.
The visit is free and I recommend to plan at least with 2 hours to see everything with time.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Address: Avenida Matucana 501, Santiago
Underground Station Quinta Normal
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm
Daylight saving time in January and February, from 10 am to 8 pm
The Human Rights Museum is located in front of Quinta Normal Park, a huge green park, a lake with pedal boats, an “invernadero” and several museums: National Museum of Natural History of Chile, Museum of Science and Technology, Railway Museum of Santiago, Museum of Contemporary Art. You can spend an entire afternoon there, visiting the museums of your choice. Some have free admission. We visited Natural History Museum, which is very interesting, especially for those traveling with children.
The park is closed on Mondays.
National Museum of Natural History of Chile
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 17h30 pm
Sundays and public holidays, from 11 am to 17h30 pm
Closed on Mondays
Museum of Science and Technology (MUCYTEC)
Opening hours: March to December – Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5:15 pm; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 11 am to 5:15 pm
January and February, Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6:15 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 am to 6:15 pm
Admission: $ 800 CLP adults. $ 650 CLP children and $ 400 CLP seniors.
Railway Museum of Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5:50 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 11 am to 6:50 pm
Admission: $ 800 CLP adults. $ 500 CLP children and students, and $ 400 CLP seniors
Museum of Contemporary Art
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm
Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm
Closed on Mondays and holidays
Depending on what you want to visit, the tour in Quinta Normal Park can take a long time, as I said, one whole afternoon or all morning. After that we went by subway to the Central Market of Santiago. Well, the Santiago market is a bit different from other cities. There are more restaurants and kiosks, specializing in fish and seafood dishes. For example, if you are looking for stalls with fruits, you will find them on the street in front of the market.
We visited the market, but ended up not eating there. Well, I found the harassment of the salesmen a little annoying (I know it’s normal in a market, but I’m not obliged!). As I’m a vegetarian, I didn’t find many options. But I’ve heard good things from some people who ate at the market restaurants and I think for those who like fish and seafood, it’s worth the trip.
The Market is a few blocks from Plaza de Armas, so in case it is more convenient for you, you can visit it the day you are strolling around downtown.
If you have still time left, you can take advantage of visiting one of Santiago’s many parks, such as Bicentennial Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t had time to visit.
For those who like amusement parks you can find one in Parque O`Higgins: Fantasilandia (https://www.fantasilandia.cl/).
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Day 4 – Conha Y Toro Winery, Costanera Center, Sculpture Park Museum (Parque de las Esculturas)
One of the many attractions in the surroundings of Santiago are the wineries. The two most famous ones are Concha y Toro and Santa Rita.
We decided to visit Concha y Toro and went on our own, taking the subway and buses. It was very easy to get there and we paid practically half the price of what we would have paid if we had gone on a tour of a travel agency. It is necessary to plan 4 hours to include the trip to the winery in the itinerary.
It is important to schedule the visit in advance, to guarantee the desired time (they have tours in English, Spanish and Portuguese) so that you don’t have to wait so long.
Concha y Toro
Address: Virginia Subercaseaux 210, Pirque
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5:10 pm
How to get there: https://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/how-to-get-to-the-winery/ (website in English)
Admission: $ 12,000 CLP (Tour & Wine Experience, including tasting).
https://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/?lang=en_us (website in English)
After our tour to the winery, we spent the afternoon to visit Costanera Center, the famous shopping mall in Santiago, which operates in a modern architecture building that is already part of the city’s landscape. In fact, the building is huge and the mall is only located in one part. The building itself functions as a business center with several offices. That’s also where Sky Costanera is, which I’ve already mentioned above.
The mall is very big, with shops on various floors, famous brands, food courts, a cinema and supermarkets. As we don’t enjoy shopping so much, but love food (haha!), we went for lunch to Emporio La Rosa and had one of the famous ice creams there. According to the menu, La Rosa is one of the best ice cream shops in the world. I don’t know who created this ranking but the ice cream is really good! =)
Address: Avenida Andres Bello, 2425, Providencia
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to 10 pm (the larger stores run from 11 am to 9 pm)
http://mall.costaneracenter.cl/index.php?lang=en (website in English)
Costanera Center is located in a very modern and chic area of Providencia. Enjoy this city park. In front of the building, there is Parque de las Esculturas (Sculpture Park), a very beautiful park, next to Mapocho River. As its name suggests, it houses several sculptures. It’s great to rest there after a busy day. From here you have a beautiful view of the Andes, the Costanera Center and other modern buildings in Providencia as well.
For the evening, we were taken by a friend of friends, who is from Santiago (thank you, José) to a nice bar, Liguria, more frequented by Chileans than by tourists. They have 3 restaurants in Providencia and we went to the one on Av Providencia. The price is pretty high, but the ambiance is great and the food very tasty. The best of all there is the attendant. The waiters are super attentive and fun. The bar operates on a continuous schedule from early in the morning until dawn.
Av. Providencia 1353, Providencia
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Day 5 – Tour Valle Nevado
On our penultimate day in Santiago, we took the tour to Valle Nevado. This is definitely a tour where it is worth it to hire an agency. It doesn’t compensate in any way to go on your own, because it would be necessary to rent a car and the road has a multitude of curves that can be very dangerous for those who aren’t used to drive there, especially during snow season.
At the time we did the tour, it wasn’t snow season yet. Therefore, we did the tour which is called by most of the agencies “Panoramic Andes” which includes the trip to Valle Nevado ski station and a stop at Farellones station.
We did the tour with the agency Somos Tour, which I didn’t know before. But I booked with the Brazilian Amanda, who was very helpful at Plaza de Armas (several agencies approach tourists there).
The tour lasts between 8 and 9 hours and it’s quite tiring. So, you’ll probably do just that one tour on this day. Even out of season, it’s worth the trip because the scenery is very beautiful. When we went in early May, there was snow only on the mountain peaks, but at the end of the month, the station was opened, almost a month in advance of the planned date (usually it opens in mid-June). The price of the tour varies according to the season.
The tour offered by the agency was very good, with a comfortable van, in good condition and the guide Alex was very friendly and explained everything very well.
The recommendation is to go with enough clothes, because the station is at 3,100 m altitude and even though it isn’t snowy season yet, it was damn cold. For those who tend to get sick with the road curves (when you start counting, there are more than 60 tight corners), the tip is to pick the front seat next to the driver.
hhttp://www.somostour.cl/ (website in English)
Amanda – +56 9 4488 4249
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Day 6 – Return trip Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
To end our first trip in Santiago, we made a very traditional return trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, coastal cities that are approximately 1h30 away from Santiago. We organized everything on our own and we also spent about three times less than if we would have gone with an agency. It is very easy to get there and I will explain everything in another post.
Unfortunately, it rained a lot on that day and it was not possible to visit everything we would have wanted. But, I recommend to anyone who wants get back to Santiago at the same day: leave early enough to enjoy both places. For those who have more time, I recommend spending a night in Valparaiso or Vinã del Mar. Therefore, you can enjoy to get to know everything with more time.
In Valparaiso, we visited another house of Pablo Neruda, “La Sebastiana”, which I even liked more than the house of Santiago.
With this itinerary, I believe we took advantage of our first visit in Santiago. The only place I planned to visit but in the end we hadn’t enough time was Cajón del Maipo. I am very sad about that, especially because I later heard that it had snowed there and it looked so beautiful.
Several agencies do the Cajón tour, like Somos Tour itself, but it is also possible to go on your own.
Stay tuned as in the next few days, the detailed posts of the tours to Concha y Toro, Valle Nevado, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar will be posted on the blog.
In case you already know Santiago, please leave your tips in the comments! =)
* This article was originally written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa. Translation by Juliane Boll.
Você pode ler este post em português aqui: