Travel Notes

Santiago – Top 10 things to do in the coolest capital of South America

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After San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, we went straight to Santiago. This incredible city is by far my favourite in South America, so much that for a while I was seriously contemplating moving there for good.

This bustling city, so full of surprises and hidden gems has something for everybody, from art, to history, to adventure and also nightlife – it’s impossible not to love it!

With all its different neighbourhood, each with a specific personality and landmarks, it will take you a while to explore the capital of Chile. And for this reason, we spent here around 10 days in total, as we kept coming back to Santiago.

Top 10 things to see and do in Santiago

Take a free walking tour

Whenever I get a chance, the first thing I like to do in a new place is taking a walking tour. I find this to be the best way to get familiar with the place and decide from there what things I would like to learn more about. And it was no different for Santiago.

As for all big cities, there is a big choice of walking tours. The highlights of the one we took were Museo Bellas Artes, La Moneda, Plaza de Armas (which we then went back to), GAM, lots of parks and the modern neighbourhood of Lastarria, the best place to get food and drinks.

Visit Museo de La Memoria y Derechos Humanos

One of the most interesting experiences in Santiago for me, was visiting the Museo de La Memoria y Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights).

This museum is dedicated to raise awareness about the human rights violations during the civic-military regime led by Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990, to commemorate its victims and to stimulate a debate about respect and tolerance – all themes that couldn’t be more relevant in the present time too.

A person reading a wall sign

In addition to temporary exhibitions, the permanent exhibition will walk you through the history of the dictatorship, how the different categories of people in the society were affected by it, what happened after the dictatorship ended and what the situation is like in the present and – at the very entrance – how what happened in Chile was linked to what was happening at the time around the world.

Catch a show at the GAM

Corporación Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral – better know as GAM – is a cultural centre that offers drama, dance and music workshops and shows and promotes local and international art.

We discovered about this place while doing our walking tour and decided to go back to watch a dance show. There were several available while we were in Santiago, but we decided to watch “Malen”, a dance show about women and Mapuche culture, and it was amazing.

There are a lot of shows you can watch here, and prices are always around Ch$5,000 (Chilean pesos) – approximately €5.50 – and it’s an amazing way to spend a nice evening and get to know the local culture.

Visit la Chascona House

An iconic landmark in Santiago is La Chascona Museum House, a house that Pablo Neruda built in the Bellavista neighbourhood in the 50s for his secret lover, Matilde Urrutia, who he nicknamed Chascona because of her big red her.

Today, this house is a museum where you can find among other collections, paintings of Chilean and foreign artists from all times, African carved wood collection and objects from the Italian designer Piero Fornasetti, in addition to Neruda’s original dining room and furniture.

Admission id Ch$7,000 per person, which includes an audio guide.

La Chascona

Take a stroll through Cerro Santa Lucia

Cierro Santa Lucia is a park situated on a 70m high hill in the heart of Santiago from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city, take a walk through walkways, stairs, and passage ways and admire the beautiful statues and buildings, like the ruins of an ancient fort or the Neptune’s Statue.

The park is open between 7am and 9pm and really make sure you don’t miss it if you happen to be in Santiago.

Explore the supernatural

Santiago is famous for its ghost stories and supernatural activities, and whether you believe in this sort of things or not, if you are here, going on a haunted night time tour can be quite fun.

We took a night tour that brought us an abandoned hospital and then the main cemetery, while we heard about the story of these places and about the ghost stories around them. We also learnt about the Curse of the Llorona, the sould of a dead woman who looks for her dead children every nights and that, supposedly, you can hear cry very loudly in the cemetery.

Take a trip to the Central Market

The Mercado Central is best place to go to experience some daily scenes of both local people and tourists. You can go here to get something to eat or simply shop for fruits, herbs or whatever else you need.

The market is mainly famous for its great seafood, that is something that many people say you must try here. However, if you are a vegetarian, don’t worry! At Mercado Central you can also find a couple of places where you can have empanadas.

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Spend some time in Plaza de Armas and enjoy the live music

Plaza de Armas is main gathering spot in Santiago and the best spot for people watching.

Surrounding the square are famous landmarks, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, Royal Court Palace, and the Central Post Office, which you will learn about if you take the walking tour.

The square is full of palms and benches where you can just sit and relax and also enjoy some amazing live music by local groups, clown shows, or simply watch people dancing or playing chess games.

Go Museum hopping

Santiago is full of excellent museums and so you will find something for everybody. Like I said above, the Museo de La Memoria y Derechos Humanos was my favourite, but make sure you take some time to explore also other museums around the city.

Another great museum to visit is the Natural History Museum, located in the Royal Court Palace on Paza de Armas. Once inside, after admring the different exhibits, you can even climb the main tower from where you can enjoy a view of the Plaza from a different perspective.

Eat nice food and drink some pisco

Like I said here, Chilean food is underrated. Although like in most places in South America, traditional Chilean food isn’t really vegetarian friendly, you will still find plenty of vegetarian adaptation of typical dishes that are so worth trying.

So take your time to explore also the capital’s restaurants and bars, as well as try some street food, like the completo or empanadas.

And of course, try some pisco. There is an ongoing debate between Chile and Peru on who created pisco, so the best thing to do is to try it in both countries if you get a chance.

In Santiago, you can have pisco or the famous cocktail made from it pisco sour in every bar, as it’s definitely one of the most popular drinks here. One of the most famous spots to try this is Chipe Libre.

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2 Replies to “Santiago – Top 10 things to do in the coolest capital of South America”

  1. I enjoyed my time in Santiago. There is also La Moneda Palace, where some events took place, under the square there is a cultural centre, also useful to relax a bit.

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