The Chilean capital Santiago – or in full: Santiago de Chile – is probably one of your stops on your travel itinerary for Chile. It may not be a city where you want to stay around for weeks, but make sure you plan at least two days for Santiago and an extra day to visit the coastal city of Valporaíso on a day trip. These are the 10 things that you should not miss!
#1 Go to the market
One of Santiago’s highlights is a visit to the market. Well known is Mercado Central, the fish market in the city where you can also have some lunch. Much more fun, in my opinion, is a visit to the fruit and vegetable market La Vega, where you can wander endlessly and buy some food to taste. If you like to have lunch at a market, we recommend eating here with the locals at one of the stands.
#2 The metro
Santiago is huge, but with the extensive metro network, you can easily travel to any destination. Make sure you stop at Universidad de Chile Metro Station, one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world according to the Huffington Post. The huge wall painting “Memoria Visual de Una Nación” from the 90s can be seen in this metro station. It shows the history of the country, divided into a wall with the past and one with the future.
#3 Join one or two free walking tours
My visit to Santiago was a great success due to the great fun I had during free walking tours around town. I highly recommend the Tours 4 Tips tours. I participated in both of their tours in Santiago. During the highlight tour, we visited all major sights, including the Plaza de Armas with the presidential palace and where we were told about the turbulent history of the country. The other tour that is offered in Santiago is “Santiago Offbeat”. We visited both the fruit and fish market where we tasted a lot of local food. The end point was the cemetery where we the Chilean culture around death was explained to us. Very interesting and absolutely a must during your visit to the Chilean capital!
#4 A view from the top
From the Parque Metropolitano on San Cristóbal Hill, you have a great view of the city. You can walk up, but the hilltop is more suited to visitors by the cable car than hikers. From the Bellavista district, a cable car runs up the hill to the Terraza Bellavista, near the top. Take a picnic in the park and enjoy the view.
#5 Relax in one of the parks
In a busy city like Santiago, you may need a place to rest, such as the park on the San Cristóbal Hill with its fantastic view of the city and the Parque Forestal in the center. This second park is close to the De Bellas Artes museum and to Emporio la Rosa, where you can get the best ice cream in town according to the locals. The elongated park is, therefore, the perfect place to sit down in the sun with ice cream for a moment.
#6 The cemetery
That may sound a bit sinister, but the Cementerio General is actually a beautiful place to visit. It is a mini city in itself with many white tombs and smaller graves. I visited the cemetery at the end of a guided free walking tour and this was where the Chilean culture surrounding death was explained to us. A well-known grave is that of former President Salvador Allende
#7 Sleep, eat and drink in the Bellas Arte, Lastarria and Bellaviste barrio’s
Lastarria and Bellas Artes – the border between the two are somewhat vague – are most conveniently located, close to all major highlights such as the Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central. Just across the river to the north, you’ll find the hip Bellavista neighbourhood where locals drink their pisco sours and cocktails at the weekends. So book a place to sleep in one of these neighbourhoods and immerse yourself in local life. You can find the best sleeping places in all price categories in this blog!
#8 The street art
Chile is known for its graffiti art, so don’t forget to look up while walking the Santiago streets. The Bellavista district, in particular, is known for its street art. In particular, take a look at the colourful art in Calle Dardignac & Loreto and the Museo a Cielo Abierto.
#9 A day trip Valparaíso
You can easily visit the coastal town of Valpo on a day trip from Santiago. A must! The hilly town has a maze of narrow streets and old, creaking cable cars up the mountains. In Valparaíso, you will not visit a specific highlight but just wander through streets well-known for its graffiti art of famous artists. The entire town has therefore been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
#10 And participate in a free walking tour there too
The best way to explore the harbour town, learn about street art and get to know the local culture is a free walking tour here as well. Tours 4 Tips offers three (!) different tours in Valpo. The street art tour will lead you past the best known and most beautiful graffiti art in the city and is therefore, in our opinion, the top choice.