Santiago, the amazing capital of Chile

 

Chile is a top travel destination. It is best known for the Carretera Austral, San Pedro de Atacama, and the colorful city of Valparaiso. Chile is one of the most attractive places for backpackers and tourists from around the globe, but what can one do in the capital?

Places you don't want to miss

With a population of almost 7 million people, Santiago is home to 174 heritage sites. Most of them can be found on Google Maps with just one click. Some of the most popular include the Chilean museum of pre-Columbian art, the Baha’i temple, Palacio de la Moneda, and La Chascona. Each has its own story and is always filled with visitors from around the globe. 

The Chilean museum of pre-Columbian art shows an amazing collection of pottery, vessels, totems, and textiles from pre-Columbian cultures. 

Templo Bahá'í de Sudamérica, pic by atthewindowseat

If you are a spiritual person you probably already know that one of the world’s 9 Baha’i temples is in Santiago. It provides a spectacular view of the city, as well as being an amazing place to connect with your inner-self. The temple has beautiful gardens and, on a winter afternoon, visitors can see how the light scapes the temple, providing a truly magical view. 

The Palacio de la Moneda is where Chile’s presidential offices are and, as one of the most important places in Chile, it holds decades of history. It’s usually open to the public and is close to many museums and tours. 

La Chascona holds a story worthy of a telenovela. It’s said that Pablo Neruda built it to spend time with his mistress, Matilde Urrutia, and that the place was named in honor of her curls (‘chascona’ is a Chilean way of saying ‘messy hair’). There are many audio tours available and a beautiful gift shop. 

And finally, if you are looking for a different experience, there are many places that most tourists would miss on a trip. The Santiago Paranormal is a tour of the city’s oldest and best known myths.You’ll learn about La Quintrala, the tué tué, and many other traditional stories that you won’t find in any history book. The tour costs 12,900 pesos and is about 2.5 hours long, and totally worth it.

Chilean cuisine

pic from karolinacs

Chile is known worldwide for its high quality wines, and even though these are unmissable, Chilean cuisine has much more to offer. Asados are an essential part of Chilean culture. These are barbecues where all kinds of meat are eaten. Longaniza, a type of sausage, or choripan (a longaniza inside a bun) and pebre: chopped tomatoes, onions, green pepper, and parsley, flavoured with some lemon juice, are almost always present,. But asados are not about eating, they are mostly about getting together with friends and/or family. Asados are about the conversations beside the fire while the meat cooks and about the preparation of side salads by a chatty group in the kitchen. They are about the kids in the swimming pool, in summer, waiting for the choripanes to be ready, and the dogs that run around waiting for some food to fall on the floor. Chilean asados go way beyond lunch and are one of the best weekend experiences you can have.

In the capital you can also stop to try the empanadas de pino: a pastry filled with meat, onions, half a hard boiled egg, an olive, and sometimes raisins. They are a must. If you are not a meat fan, and you prefer sea-food, you can always order an empanada de mariscos. 

One highly recommended restaurant is “La Punta”, and they also offer really good vegetarian options! 

If you know any Chileans you have probably heard them talk about the piscolas and pisco-sour. This alcoholic drink is a Chilean favorite. Piscola, usually drank at parties, is a mix of pisco and coca-cola, but be careful with the proportions! It’s recommended you make it with about 80% coca-cola the first time. And the pisco sour, usually drank at asados, is a mixture of pisco, lemon juice, ice, and sugar. It can be bought at the supermarket, where you’ll notice that there are many flavors of pisco-based cocktails similar to pisco-sour, but this one is the most common.

Celebrating in September

pic thanks to Jeff Hawe

During the month of September, Chile celebrates its independence. For the whole month you can go to fondas, fairs where you can eat Chilean food, play Chilean games, dance cueca, watch rodeos, and basically experience all of Chile’s culture in one place! Many parks set up fondas during September and they are filled with families and groups of friends. September is incredibly important for Chileans and, if you are lucky enough to come during this month, you’ll become obsessed with it too. It’s a month to celebrate the country, the people, the food, and yourself.

For the shopaholics, the biggest mall of South America

If you are more of a shopper, you can visit the Costanera Center, known as the biggest mall in South America. It has 7 floors, filled with a wide range of stores, but don’t be intimidated, each floor has a general theme so that you know which one to choose. There is a cinema on the top floor, sitting areas, and many restaurants. It’s usually crowded in the afternoons and on weekends but, if you have a free morning, it’s a great way to spend a few hours.

Being active in Santiago

Cerro Santa Lucía (a small hill that is adorned with wonderful facades, fountains and stairways), pic thanks to atravesdospixels

If you are an adventure lover, don’t worry, Santiago has got you covered. Go to the Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucía, Aguas San Ramón, or even to the Mallsport. Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucía are well known for being filled on Sundays by families and groups of friends. Aguas San Ramón is popular with hikers, and many groups of students go there with the scouts. There are many roads to take so you can choose how long you want to be walking for. And finally Mallsport is a great alternative to get some exercise in a different way. They have an air trail, a climbing wall, mini golf, a circuit for cycling and skating, and many activities for all ages.

Whatever you are looking for, Santiago has it. It doesn’t matter if you are a sporty person, an artist, a shopper, a foodie, or a paranormal fan, you’ll find something to enjoy in the capital.

 

Written by Josefa from Santiago