Whether you’re skiing at Valle Nevado or Portillo this summer, you’re going to be traveling through Chile’s bustling, colorful capital: Santiago. An interesting city that dates back to 1541, Santiago is a mixing pot of indigenous, Old World Spanish and contemporary cultures. Both seasoned globetrotters and first-time international travelers will find that Santiago and the nearby coastal cities provide an endless—yet easy to access—list of unique cultural attractions and experiences. Set aside at least two days to explore the capital city, wineries and coastal areas.
To help you capitalize on your time in Santiago, we tapped Mountain Travel Expert Laurel Ann Nelson to help identify the top things to do and experience.
Laurel Ann Nelson
Mountain Travel Expert Since 2012
Top things to do in Santiago
Matching the city’s cultural eclecticism, Santiago’s world-class exhibits span from tribal artifacts to memorials of Chile’s turbulent 20th century history. Here are a few don’t-miss Santiago museums:
- A collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts provides a glimpse into the past at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. Exhibits range from tribal pottery and Andean textiles to Mayan stone slabs.
- Contemporary history buffs will enjoy the opportunity to learn about what really happened in Chile’s Pinochet era, from 1973 to 1990, at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos.
- Dating back to 1572, the Museo del Arte Colonial de San Francisco doubles as a museum and monastery, and houses an impressive collection of religious art.
“Half- and full-day English-speaking guided trips are available,” says Laurel.
A visit to Santiago’s Mercado Central or La Vega Central will thrill foodies and photographers alike with gleaming piles of fresh fish and crustaceans atop mounds of sparkling ice. The whole experience will stimulate the senses as fishmongers, customers and chefs compete nosily for the best price. To sample the local seafood in a more relaxed environment, head to one of the city’s many eateries.
“Another great city experience is a culinary tour through one of Santiago’s large markets,” says Laurel.
Much like their Spanish forebears, Chileans enjoy late nights. Most don’t even head to the dance clubs until 1 a.m. You can expect a mix of Euro-inspired clubs, lounges and pubs with unique Latin flavor. Here are some of Santiago’s nightlife hot spots:
- Liguria Restaurant Bar, on Av. Providencia 1373, serves up authentic Chilean food and attracts an interesting mix of people.
- Club La Feria, on Constitucion 275, is Santiago’s hottest microclub. Accommodating 250 people, Club La Feria features the best local and international DJs.
- Etniko Restaurant Club, on Constitucion 172, features Asian-style food and drinks and an excellent house/techno DJ.
- Bar Constitucion, on Constitucion 61, is a popular spot for R&B, dance and electronic artists of the moment.
- Located in the Vitacura neighborhood, Lamu Lounge is a standout in a complex of great restaurants and clubs.
Top places to stay in Santiago
Grand Hyatt Santiago
Guests of the Grand Hyatt Santiago can enjoy convenience to top sights and transportation, and world-class amenities. Relax in a lagoon-style swimming pool with a waterfall, and rejuvenate at the Grand Hyatt’s three-story AKO Wellness & Spa—one of Chile’s best spas. The Grand Hyatt Santiago’s 310 rooms and suites are elegantly designed with modern décor, and feature the latest entertainment technology.
The Ritz-Carlton Santiago
This sophisticated retreat in the heart of El Golf, one of Santiago’s most prestigious neighborhoods, the Ritz-Carlton delivers unforgettable amenities and services, including spa services at the hotel’s rooftop 4,740-square-foot Health and Fitness Center.
Le Reve Hotel Boutique
Located in the heart of the Providencia neighborhood, Le Rêve Hotel Boutique features 31 well-appointment, French-inspired rooms and three suites spread out on four floors. Offering a stacked list of in-room and property-wide amenities, Le Rêve Hotel Boutique provides guests with world-class personal attention.
Atton El Bosque
Nestled on the outskirts of the Las Condes suburb, Atton El Bosque is conveniently located within walking distance of the Tobalaba subway station. Boasting more than 240 rooms ranging from king or queen rooms to junior suites, Atton El Bosque offers guests the full gamut of amenities and that make them feel at home.
Top places to eat in Santiago
Showcasing an impressive collection of Chilean wines, Bocanáriz is Santiago’s dining star for wine aficionados. Visitors looking to explore Chilean tapas will be pleased with the Bocanariz’ rich menu.
Combining Peruvian and Japanese flavors and cooking techniques, Osaka, located in Las Condes, is a Santiago dining experience not to be missed.
Peumayen Ancestral Food
Located on Constitución, Peumayen is a top-of-mind choice for those who want to learn about—and taste—traditional Chilean cuisine with a gourmet twist
Peruvian-style seafood is the gastronomic highlight at Vitacura’s La Mar, particularly the modern ceviches.
Top sights in Santiago
Cerro San Cristobal
Rising nearly 1,000 feet above Santiago, Cerro San Cristobal hill is a great place to get some exercise and understand the layout of the city. From the top of the hill, visitors can enjoy two pools, Tupahue and Antilén, and access the National Zoo of Chile.
“Panoramic views, including the white-capped Andes, can be seen from the top of the Cerro San Cristobal Funicular or by hiking 15 to 20 minutes to the Cerro Santa Lucia viewpoint, located right in the center,” says Laurel.
Boasting more than 4,000 trees, this peaceful urban oasis was named for Chile’s bicentennial and is located alongside the Río Mapocho. Many bike paths converge at the Parque Bicentario. Park visitors can enjoy inviting chaise lounges, sun umbrellas and state-of-the-art playground equipment for kids.
Santiago’s Cementerio General will exceed your expectations of a graveyard. Rather, it’s a beautiful city of headstones, mausoleums, catacombs, tombs and crypts—beautifully appointed by famous local sculptors. The names above the crypts read like a who’s who of Chilean history.
Since its founding in 1541, Santiago’s beating heart has been in the Plaza de Armas. A fountain sculpture of liberator Simón Bolívar is the plaza’s centerpiece. Parallel pedestrian areas, Paseo Ahumada and Paseo Estado, provide ideal access to the historic square, and Plaza Armas is typically crawling with locals, tourists, street performers and merchants.
Located adjacent to Plaza Armas, the exquisite, neoclassical Metropolitan Cathedral was constructed in 1748 and features an impressive collection of art.
Valparaiso, Viña del Mar + wine country
Santiago is just a two-hour drive from two beautiful coastal cities: Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.
Vaparaiso is a main port for Chile and located directly across from the famous Easter Island. Though the two coastal cities are only 20 minutes apart, they are very different experiences. Valparaíso is known for it’s colorful cottages that cover the hillsides, unique street art and charming pedestrian plazas for outdoor shopping. While there, visit the home of world-famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which has been converted into a museum. Viña del Mar features modern skyscrapers, but the city is renowned for its beautiful gardens and parks.
If you’ve been dying to sample some Chilean wine right from the source, here’s your chance. A trip to Valparaiso and/or Viña del Mar will put you within perfect striking distance to the Maipo Valley, the country’s oldest wine-growing region, and two of Chile’s most renowned wineries: Concha y Toro and Santa Rita. Reserve some time to explore the vineyards and taste the vintages unique to Chile’s climate.
“A full day and night should be set aside to properly experience these cities,” says Laurel. “It’s possible to combine either city trip with a detour to wine country.”
Stretch your ski season to South America this summer. While you’re in South America, don’t forget to tack on a couple days in Santiago. Start planning your ski trip by requesting a customized quote, or if you need more advice, speak with a Mountain Travel Expert at 800-610-8911.
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Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.