Contemporary, fast paced and surrounded by the Andean peaks, Santiago has old world European charm mixed in with modern day conveniences. It’s a fairly safe city; less gritty than Buenos Aires but with more smog which often obscures the mountain views. The main city center is divided into several neighbourhoods or barrios, each with their own distinct ambiance and sights to explore. You’ll want to give yourself lots of time to soak up all that Santiago has to offer. Below are three of the main barrios you’ll want to check out, with more coming in the next post.
As in many South American cities, the city is spread out around the central Plaza De Armas which features a wide open square surrounded by historical buildings including the National History Museum, the official post office, government buildings and a handy tourist information center with free walking maps of the city. From here pedestrian walkways branch out into shopping streets lined with vendors, food stalls and street performers. Most of Santiago’s main attractions are within walking distance of the Plaza or an easy subway ride away. Be sure to avoid rush hour on the subway lines if you can or risk being squeezed in like sardines. Many of the cities museums and art galleries are free on Sundays and then closed on Mondays, so be sure to keep this in mind when planning your trip.
Centered around Santa Lucia hill, Barrio Lastarria offers posh cafes, trendy art galleries and ritzy wine bars. It’s the perfect place to rest your feet and enjoy a cup of café con leche while people watching. Once you’ve gotten your caffeine fix head up the winding stair cases to the top of Santa Lucia where 360 degree views of the city awaits. The park offers a quiet reprise from the city with beautiful fountains, stone works and plenty of benches to relax and enjoy the view. It’s also a favourite make out spot for couples, so be warned you will see lots of smooching around here.
After a day of walking the city, kick back with live music and happy hour specials all night long at happening Bellavista. Just a short taxi ride away from the center, this indoor/outdoor patio bar neighbourhood is the place for drinks in the city. From fine dining to chilled out pubs, there are dozens of different bars and restaurants here to suit you. By daylight it’s a nice place for lunch. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me for any night shots – mixing valuables and night life is never recommended.
Jen’s Overall Recommendation: Santiago is a great city to explore, safe and easy to get around. There is lots to see and do so leave yourself lots of time!