Santiago is located at the central region of Chile, the heart of Chile’s political and cultural life – a third of Chile’s population lives in and around Santiago alone. Upon arrival at Santiago’s airport, you will notice that Chile is out to surprise you. The snow covered Andes mountains rise up high right behind the city giving you a notion of the natural wonders this land has to offer. The versatility of Santiago has no bounds: one can go hiking or skiing, or go surfing or kite surfing along the coast, taste the famous Chilean wines at one of the many vineyards, climb to the top of one of the 6000-m-high peaks or visit the houses of Chile’s poet laureate, Pablo Neruda.
Below is our list of the top 10 things to do during your stay in Santiago:
- Cerro San Cristóbal - There is no view of the entire city that compares to the panorama at the top of this hill. Take a ride up in the funicular from Bellavista and make sure you visit the statue at the peak. Arrive half an hour before sunset on a clear day and watch night fall over the city. You will be amazed.
- Plaza de Armas – This is the main pedestrian plaza of the city. There is a variety of street entertainment, art for sale, shops and restaurants. If you are interested in chess then this is the place for you as the chess club of Chile meets here during the day.
- Los Dominicos Handicraft Village Santiago – Situated in the municipality of Las Condes, in the mountains, this village has over 160 workshops and a country atmosphere. It is the historic colonial sector of the Dominicans. The craft village is a must see place for tourists as it represents a complete sample of local handicrafts with a traditional Chilean warm atmosphere.
- Jazz - There are 4 or 5 jazz clubs in Santiago, of which 3 are in Bellavista. The most famous is Club de Jazz, Santiago, located a short walk from Plaza Ñuñoa (open Thu-Sat). You can find live jazz on Wednesday through Saturday.
- La Chascona – Located here is one of the three homes of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The house is decorated with an incredible collection of anything you can imagine from all over the world and is also host to his Nobel Prize. There are rooms designed to create the feeling that you are on a ship, and there are some great views of the city. Neruda’s other two houses aren’t too far from Santiago (one in Valparaiso, the other is in Isla Negra) and all are worth seeing if you have time (there are tours that take you to all three if interested).
- GAM Center (Centro Gabriela Mistral) - is a meeting place for audiences and artists, interested in art and music. The opening ceremony for the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral was one of the most important events of the bicentennial celebrations in Chile. Inaugurated in the presence of the President with an extraordinary spectacle of light, the center is dedicated to the arts and the poetess of the Nobel prize-winner in 1945, from whom it takes its name.
- La Moneda - The courtyard of the Presidential house of Chile is very easy to enter and there are magnificent sculptures by Chilean artists worth seeing. Tours of the inside of the building need to be planned in advance. Be sure to toss a coin into the fountain and make a wish.
- Cerro Santa Lucia - Right in the center of Santiago, this hill will take 15-20 minutes to climb and will provide another great view of the city. There are various murals, statues, lookouts and ponds hidden all over the Cerro and various ways to get to the top.
- Fútbol - If you like sport, or even if you don’t, attending a Chilean league football game or seeing “La Roja”, Chile’s national selection, is an experience in itself. Crowds can get pretty noisy and excited, and I wouldn’t recommend sitting in “la barra” where the crowds chant and jump practically the entire game. The most popular teams are Universidad de Chile, Colo-Colo, and Universidad Catolica.
- Estacion Mapocho -This former train station, now transformed into a cultural center and concerts hall, is the perfect venue for shows and cultural events such as the international book fair, concerts and photographic exhibitions throughout the year.