My lovely sister Riley is studying abroad in Santiago, Chile for the semester. And although Anna and I hope to make it to South America on our big Round The World trip, we may run out of money before then. So, we decided to take advantage now, and fly down to Chile for a week to visit Riley! We spent four days exploring Santiago with her, trying out some of the best food (and wine) the city has to offer. Here are our recommendations for the best things to do and places to eat!
WHAT TO DO
One of the coolest things about Santiago is that it is totally surrounded by hills and mountains. Anywhere you turn there are peaks appearing out of the smog in the distance. Although most of the mountains are a drive outside of town, there is one large hill smack dab in the middle of the city. San Cristóbal Hill is part of Santiago Metropolitan Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world. There is a ton of things to do in the park, but the most popular option is hiking or taking the funicular up to the top of the hill to see the statue of the Virgin Mary and the incredible views of the city. Head up later in the day to catch the sunset and you will not be disappointed.
Compared to the much larger San Cristóbal Hill, Santa Lucía Hill might not be as impressive, but it certainly has its own appeal. Full of shaded gardens, sculpted fountains, hidden nooks, and topped by an old fortress, this park feels like another world... so much so that when my sister first stumbled across it one day she thought she had found a secret park that no one knew about, despite the fact it is one of the most popular sites in the city haha.
I went into this museum knowing very little about the political history of Chile and the terror of the Pinochet regime. The museum, which is dedicated to the victims of human rights violations in Chile, does an incredible job of explaining the events leading up to, during, and following that time . It's a very well done museum and a beautiful memorial.
These two museums stand back to back in Central Santiago. The Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a grand, historic building with a large, light-filled central atrium. Both museums contain great examples of Chilean and South American art. Nice way to spend a few hours while we digested all the delicious food we'd been eating!
Our two favorite neighborhoods that we saw in Santiago. Anna preferred Lastarria, which had more of a metropolitan vibe being right in the heart of downtown. Lots of little bars and restaurants with patio/sidewalk seating to sit and watch the world go by. Barrio Italia feels a little more residential and bohemian. Lots of antique shops and hidden courtyard cafes. The airbnb we stayed in was right around the corner from this neighborhood and we loved walking over in the morning to grab a coffee and an empanada.
6. Casa Boulder
When walking around Barrio Italia, I was very excited to stumble upon an adorable little climbing gym. I climb a couple times a week back home but rarely get the opportunity to do it while travelling. This gym was a great spot to get my climbing fix while in Chile. Although not a big gym, they have a ton of great routes and some little workout/training areas as well. Plus the woman working at the front desk was super friendly and didn't laugh at my attempt to say I wanted to rent climbing shoes and climbing chalk in Spanish.
WHAT TO EAT
Very cute cafe in Barrio Italia with great Breakfast and Lunch. You go through a doorway off Avenue Italia and down a little hallway that opens into a big covered courtyard full of natural light, foliage, and tiny cafe tables. This place is so good that my sister keeps coming back even after her purse was stolen here!
Famous sandwich shop near Lastarria serving up Lomitos, pork-filled sandwiches smothered with saurkraut, mayo, and tomato sauce. The place is a little confusing and intimidating when you first walk in. There are no tables, just bar stools and standing room only, and it is usually packed with tourists/locals alike all clamouring for their lunch. Just catch the attention of someone working behind the counter and order a LomitoClompleto and a beer. They are HUGE, so one sandwich was plenty for both Anna and I.
Huge popular bar and restaurant serving classic Chilean dishes and wine. There are three locations but the one in Providencia is the classic. It is always packed so you might have to wait for a table unless you show up on the earlier side. We had a massive meat and cheese plate and a couple bottles of wine, can't go wrong with that.
Upscale seafood restaurant inside a restored mansion. The dining room is filled with artifacts that the owner has brought back from his travels. The gigantic king crab is a popular choice but everything on the menu is solid. Don't miss the crazy tree trunk sinks in the restroom, or if you are in the men's room, the very strange penis cartoons.
Bustling Italian joint in the fancy, business district of Santiago. There are like a thousand tables inside and when it's busy, it gets packed, but somehow with the dim lighting and many rooms it still feels somewhat intimate. The menu has got a lot of great options on it but the pizza is definitely a winner.
A popular gelato chain that also serves handmade ice cream bars. I tried a scoop of Raspberry and Mint which I was pretty into, but Riley seemed far more partial to the bars.
WHERE TO STAY
So we only have one recommendation for where to stay in Santiago, and that is THIS AIRBNB. Its right next to Barrio Italia, its quiet, its beautiful, and the owners are super friendly and helpful. We honestly wanted to buy it and live there forever. The owners also own two other aparements in the same building which look equally great.