Chile Travel: Best things to do and places to see in Santiago
A cosmopolitan metropolis, backed by the majestic Andes, vivacious and cultured, Santiago is where the soul of over 40 percent of Chileans resides. With its energetic neighborhoods, coupled with art galleries, dramatic hills, booming nightlife and historical museums, Santiago is one of that handful of destinations with a truly urban and worldly zest.
Connect with our travel experts who will help you plan your Santiago experience with the requisite insider experience needed. Browse through trip ideas for Chile, as well as other highlights of the country, and see how you can make this wonderful capital city a big part of your itinerary.
If you are unsure of things to do while in Santiago, here is our list of main highlights.
Climb the San Cristobal Hill
Soaring almost 3,000 feet up from the metropolitan park in the spirited neighborhood of Bellavista, St. Christopher Hill (Cerro San Cristobal), offers some breathtaking vistas of Santiago and rightfully happens to be one of the premier highlights of the city. However, accessing the top of the hill demands an hour of moderate hiking.
For those who want to avoid such an exhausting climb, can alternatively take a funicular, which stops at different levels of the hill.
As you reach the summit, you are welcomed by a shimmering 70-foot white statue of the Virgin Mary. Rejuvenate yourself by the unrivaled vistas of the city below, best viewed on a bright, clear day, making it a must-visit sight while in the city.
Shop and eat at Mercado Central
Located in the heart of the city, Santiago’s Central Market, also called Mercado Central is where any seafood aficionado can get a worthy fix for their apetite. A historical landmark, Mercado Central is set beneath a wrought-iron ceiling erected in 1872, thus portraying a distinct turn-of-the-century architecture.
Ranked by the National Geographic as the fifth best market in the world, Mercado Central is where you walk amidst the bustle and come across rarities of giant squids, sea urchins, and barnacles. Even if someone is not a seafood fanatic, Santiago’s Central Market will satisfy anyone’s palate with its vast array of fruits, spices, and vegetables.
Walk into the lively neighborhood of Bellavista
One of Santiago’s most vibrant neighborhoods, Bellavista showcases superbly extravagant graffiti-lined streets that are bound to turn your head at every corner.
Attracting a healthy number of the artsy crowd, Bellavista is best explored by taking a street art tour and stopping off at many of its stunning cafes.
Home to the country’s celebrated poet Pablo Neruda’s mansion, La Chascona, Bellavista boasts a creative and artistic aura along with its contemporary boutiques, which definitely puts it up among the favorites among locals and travelers alike.
Enjoy the bustle of Plaza de Armas
Considered as a premier historical landmark of Santiago, the Plaza de Armas is peppered with palm trees and hosts some of the most fascinating architectural treasures and historical museums of the city. Among the abundance of display in the Plaza, one cannot miss the sheer beauty of the Metropolitan Cathedral, along with the former governor’s palace, which has now been turned into city’s main post office and a museum, exhibiting a vast collection of Chile’s history from the pre-conquest period to the 20th century.
Another not to be missed sight of this square is the monument dedicated to Chile’s conqueror and the city’s founder, Pedro de Valdivia. On most days, the Plaza is filled up with comedians, photographers, artists and performers all day long, adding much delight to any visitor’s entertainment.
Plaza de Armas is simply a perfect retreat for any historical buff or for someone looking to immerse in the city’s culture.
Wine tasting at Maipo Valley
Of all the things Chile is admired for, wine certainly tops the list. Oenophiles from across the world need no introduction of the exquisiteness of Chilean wines, but most of them are hardly aware of how many vineyards are close to Santiago. Located less than an hour’s drive from the capital city, Maipo Valley is well known for their robust flavorful reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.
Editorial copyrights: Concha y Toro
One of the most acclaimed wineries in the region is the Concha y Toro, which offers its guests innovative wines paired with delicious Chilean cuisine, along with tours of its vineyards.
Visit Pablo Neruda’s home
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For poetry and literature devotees, no trip to Santiago would be complete without visiting La Chascona in the Bellavista locale, one of the three homes of Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Named “La Chascona”, which means Woman with Tousled Hair, characterizes Neruda’s third wife, Mathilde, known for her red, wavy braids.
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This converted museum today houses the rarest collection of the renowned poet’s personal possession. Make sure to take the advantage of the audio guide, providing you insights about the mansion’s background and Neruda’s life in here.
Located just an hour away from Santiago lies the country’s most beloved ski retreat of Portillo. Dating back to 1930, a bunch of winter sports enthusiast started constructing a ski area nearby the Laguna del Inca, thus drawing skiers from almost every corner of the world. However, it was in 1966, when Portillo came into the limelight for hosting the Alpine World Ski Championship, after which its popularity exponentially increased, ultimately taking it into the list of favorites among the skiers.
Boasting around 1,235 skiable acres, along with 19 runs, skiing the Portillo is an adventure in itself, and a perfect day escape from the urban chaos of Santiago.
Visit the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of pre-Columbian art)
Editorial copyrights: Matthew Ernest
Given the enormous compilation of top-notch museums in Santiago, it is quite unanimous that this remains the pride and joy of the city. The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of pre-Colombian art) hosts a wide assortment of artefacts from a civilization which has completely vanished. The museum of pre-Columbian art exhibits the sculptures, pottery and monuments from Mesoamerica, Amazon and the Andes region.
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The key highlights, however, include the Chinchorro mummies and treasures from Inca and Aztec empires.
Editorial copyrights: Matthew Ernest
This incredible museum is truly worth every penny of its entry price (which goes toward its maintenance). Interestingly, one can get free access to the museum on Sundays.