Chile has become a hub for many travelers planning to visit South America with its stunning natural landscapes, delicious wine, and local culture. The capital city of this diverse country, Santiago, has often been known as just a stop-over city on the way to explore all that Chile has to offer, but this thriving metropolitan city should not be overlooked.
At the foot of the Andes, Santiago is a city full of wonders: from its growing cultural scene to its natural incorporation in the city, there is something for your every desire. This plethora of choices can often leave travelers feeling overwhelmed. Our team of Chilean experts has compiled a list of their favorite places to see while in Santiago to help you narrow down your options.
Knowmad’s Favorite Things to do in Santiago
For HistoryFor the history buff out there, Santiago will not disappoint. Chile’s unique history through trials and triumphs make for a collection of museums and sites that will capture your attention. Contact Knowmad Adventures today to plan a tour of Santiago’s main attractions for your Chile trip and more.
- Plaza de Armas: The city center is a main hub in most South American cities. Santiago’s Plaza de Armas is no exception. With the Palacio La Moneda (the seat of the government), the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, and the Royal Palace, it is a perfect place to start in your exploration through the heart of Santiago. Here, depending on the day, you may be able to experience the traditional Chilean dance “Cueca” with its waltz like rhythm and lively style.
- Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos: Learn more about the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 – 1990 in this museum dedicated to commemorating the victims of this regime.
- Pre-Columbian museum: Not far from the Plaza de Armas, this museum exhibits the cultural history of South and Central America during the pre-columbian time period before european influence was brought to the continent. A Knowmad favorite!
For Culture Experience the day-to-day life of Santiago exploring throughout its unique barrios filled with a mix of modern and classic styles.
- Barrio Lastarria: In this historical neighborhood one can find a wide range of shops and some of the best restaurants in Santiago.
- Barrio Bellavista: Wander through the magical streets of the eclectic artist neighborhood experiencing the unique street art, cafes, live music, and bohemian vibe.
- La Chascona: Beloved poet and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda’s home and museum in the Bellavista neighborhood named after his lovers abundant, red hair, contains some of his incredible collections. If you are traveling to the other parts of Chile you can also find Neruda’s houses in Valparaiso and Isla Negra.
For Foodies Santiago’s food scene has drastically improved over the past few years with the influx of immigrants into this hub city. Whether you want to try traditional Chilean cuisine or enhance your palate with delectable food from their neighbor, Peru, there is something for everyone.
- Emporio de la Rosa: This famous ice cream parlor is one of the top parlors in the world. Be sure to visit for your ice cream fix during the day as it tends to close before dinner time.
- Terremoto drink: Made with Pipeño (a sweet fermented wine), pineapple ice-cream, and grenadine, this delicious drink is a favorite in Santiago. Experience the best terremoto in town at the famous La Piojera a small, local, cultural bar near the Plaza de Armas.
- Mercados: Visit the many marketplaces (mercados) throughout Santiago. The Mercado Central is a unique treat with its colorful, bustling ambiance and delicious fresh seafood. La Vega Central is the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Chile. Filled with colors, you will find a different experience than in the USA. Contact Knowmad today to find out how you can explore the markets – getting to know the local culture – and take a cooking class with a skilled chef.
For Nature Santiago has a unique mix of city and nature. Blurring the boundaries between, you can experience nature whilst in the depths of the city.
- Parque Forestal: Walk through the gorgeous gardens and trails escaping the crowds in the “Central Park” of Santiago. Within the park you will also find the National Museum of Fine Arts, open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
- Parque Metropolitano: A stroll through the expansive park Parque Metropolitano, and its adjoining Parque Bicentenario, is a refreshing taste of nature within the city.
- Cerro Pochoco: A good medium-difficulty half day hike just outside of the city. This hike is a nice welcome to the Andes with a well-marked trail and beautiful views. To arrive, ask a taxi in the city to take you to the parking lot where the trailhead starts.
For A View Santiago is known for its stunning location. With the Andes mountain range as a backdrop to the city, there is no lack of amazing views.
- Cerro San Cristobal: At 300 meters (985 feet) above the city skyline, you will have a great view of Santiago with a backdrop of Andes mountains. You can choose to walk the approximately hour walk to the top or take the cable car, enjoying the views along the way.
- Cerro Santa Lucia: Take the quick hike up this unique hill with a small castle and Japanese garden at the top. Make sure to be careful when it rains as the steps can get slippery when wet.
- Sky Costanera: Go to the top of the tallest building in Latin America, Gran Torre Santiago. Here there is an observatory where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree views of the city.
With so much to offer you will never be at a loss for things to do while in this hub city. If you have more time in Central Chile be sure to check out our recommendations for what to do with 3 days in the area.
Amanda is an Operations Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to crafting specialized custom, private trips to South America. Amanda has a passion for South America having lived in both Argentina and Peru. She loves to experience new cultures and travel with a pair of fresh eyes. Read Amanda’s biography and others to learn more about the Knowmad team.