SantiagoIn the heart of Chile, right in between Argentina and the South Pacific Ocean, lies the country's capital Santiago. Over a quarter of Chile's population call "The City of the Island Hills" their home. Located in a valley consisting of broad and fertile lands, surrounded by vineyards and mountains, Santiago offers a cosmopolitan and energetic city life that is inseparably attached to its beautiful natural setting. Immerse yourself in the city's cultural and musical energy that is reflected in colourful neighbourhoods and a reinvigorated art scene.
The CitySantiago, the capital and largest city of Chile, is located in a valley between the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coastal Cordillera. However, Santiago is not at all the typical Latin American city, tainted with clichés of chaotic metropolises and honking taxis. Rather, the capital of Chile is a mixture of old and new, modern mirror glass towers next to neoclassical cathedrals. Apart from the incredible hospitality of the Chileans, you will be looking for extremes here in vain. Even on your first visit to Santiago, the city will seem familiar to you, which will make you want to return again and again.
Do & See
As a travel destination, Santiago is often overlooked and misjudged as a layover on the journey to another city in Chile, another country in South America, or another international destination. However, its perfect location between the Andes and the ocean will give you endless opportunities to explore the surrounding nature while Santiago itself will enchant you with a unique mix of ancient tradition and modern influences. Here are some of the things you should not miss when visiting Santiago:
The cuisine of Chile is characterized by both the preparation methods of the Chilean Indigenous Mapuche culture as well as by the aromatic flavours of the fresh ingredients from land and sea. Stews (cazuelas), wood-fire bread (tortillas de rescoldo) and clams, often baked with parmesan cheese (machas a la parmesana), are just some of the regional specialities, along with classic empanadas, grain or corn-based dishes and tropical fruits. Santiago's cuisine stands out due to its diversity and the mix of modern and traditional dining options. A glass of wine from one of the nearby vineyards will perfectly complement your meal. Wherever you go in Santiago, you will have the opportunity to taste the country's specialities at restaurants and small eateries. Street vendors offer their delicacies at small stalls, their food is generally safe to eat and always delicious.
Even though many coffee bean varieties are grown in South America, there was no big coffee culture in Chile until only a few decades ago. The hot drink of choice is definitely tea, especially yerba mate – an infusion drink made from cut and dried leaves of the mate shrub. Mate was already popular before the colonization of South America. If coffee is served, you will often get it in small teacups, unlike larger serving sizes customary in Europe or America. In the 50s, a particular coffee house style has established itself in Chile, the Café con Piernas, "coffee with legs". In these coffee houses, waitresses work on platforms behind the bar in considerably short skirts. However, despite this questionable feature, these cafes are not uncomfortable or sleazy, but furnished elegantly and are located in the main pedestrian areas rather than in hidden side alleyways. No alcohol is served, instead, you will typically find great coffee from hefty espresso machines. Here is a selection of cafes you should not miss in Santiago:
Bars & Nightlife
Santiago's nightlife takes place mainly outside the historic city centre, in the downtown area. The Bellavista district, in particular, is known for its quirky bars, lively restaurants, and buzzing nightclubs. In the Barrio Brasil, you will have the opportunity to get to know the somewhat less-touristy side of Santiago's nightlife and find many smaller pubs and bars that are popular among the locals. Recently, the middle-class district of Ñuñoa has become increasingly popular among those who want to spend an evening away from the, perhaps, a bit too alternative Bellavista district. To complete the picture of what Santiago's nightlife is like, add a forward-looking music scene, a great interest in design, and a wide selection of craft beers to this colourful mix.
Many travel to Santiago just for the sake of shopping. Chile's capital offers well-known, major brands at competitive prices and is especially keen on design, especially interior design, clothing and electronic devices. There are several main shopping complexes in the city center, as well as small boutiques selling unique and handmade items. Los Dominicos Village is the perfect place to buy hand-crafted items and souvenirs for friends and family back home. Make sure to also check out Santiago's many markets for unique gifts and an authentic experience. Another insider tip is the bohemian district of Bellavista, where you will find Chilean jewelry made from the iconic Lapis Lazuli stone on the main street market.