After spending 6 days in Santiago (I initially booked 4 nights but couldn’t leave that soon) I was genuinely sad to leave! For me it’s a highly underrated city!
These are some of the things I got up to in Santiago which made me love the city and if you’re going I recommend you do too!
There are 2 high points where you can view the city below. Firstly Santa Lucia Hill which has a beautiful building at the bottom and then steps leading to the top. From this point you see the main city a lot closer as it’s not that high but high enough for a mountain and and city view. Next is San Cristobal Hill, this hill can’t be missed (literally) it has a white Virgin Mary on top and although you can walk or cycle up the path, getting the funicular is what I would recommend, this takes you to the top and costs £2 for a return trip, after this there’s a few steps and you have complete views of the city, the Andes and as far as the eye can see!
Getting to know the city on a Walking tour.
There are a few walking tour companies but I went with ‘Tours 4 tips’ who were great! They promised an upbeat, knowledgable and fun tour and they gave it. The AM tour takes you to the markets where you understand the heart of the city and its people. Class structure is very prominent in Chile but the main market is where all classes mix as it gets the best produce and family’s take on the stalls generation after generation!
The PM tour gives you more history on the city especially about the presidents, it also takes you to the highlights like downtown, parliament, the financial area and to Santa Lucia hill (although not up it!). These guys also gave us some great tips on places to eat which takes me on to…
Enjoying the food!
As a vegetarian I struggled a bit in Argentina and Brazil but I found lots more options here. Tours 4 tips recommend some great places to eat in the markets. One of these was a Thai which I went to and it was amazing! Another good area to go is to the neighbourhood Bellavista, just a 2×2 blocks this neighbourhood used to be pretty run down but has since been done up and is full of trendy restaurants and bars.
I also found that going to the supermarket to get food for just one night for myself only was actually going to work out more than just eating out, so of course I had a yummy veggie dinner out instead.
Making friends with stray dogs.
When i first got to Santiago the amount of stray dogs really shocked me and initially upset me, especially seeing a lot of people with dogs and puppies on leads yet having so many stray dogs on the street. During one of my tours I mentioned it the guide and they said that the city loves the dogs and afterwards I noticed that actually they seem well fed and fairly well groomed. She said back before the city was so big it was common for families to have dogs, let them roam during the day and then they come back at night, since the city has developed so quickly this has made it harder so although these dogs don’t have a ‘home’ you’ll often see old ladies taking dog food to a park or the markets give leftovers to them at the end of the day, and that in the winter you see some stray dogs with costs on! The guide even added that after a night out the dogs hang around the club and if you make friends with one it will walk you to your door and bark at anyone who tried to come near you! This made me a lot happier and like the city even more!!
Chilling in the park like the locals!
Although a highly polluted city it actually has a lot of parks and green spaces, we noticed that during the afternoon/evening a lot of locals were just lying and sleeping in the park so to become one of the locals so did I! And if you have a significant other then PDAs seem totally the norm here (apparently it’s the Chilean way :/ ).
Taking a trip to Valparaiso.
Valparaiso is a city on the coast an hour and a half from Santiago and easy to get to by bus. While I was there I did another walking tour, also with tours 4 tips in the morning and again I’m really glad I did as its full of windy streets and hills. The city itself is built on 45 hills and apart from a few of these the rest are not happy when foreigners come into their neighbourhood so you don’t want to be walking around the wrong part on your own! This is when you stand a chance of being mugged.
It’s a very interesting city though and full of amazing street art and funky places to eat and drink. I only stayed for the morning and did the tour and then left but a full day or two could be spent there. That afternoon I got the public bus to Vina Del Mar as it’s only 15 minutes from Valparaiso, this city has a beach and it might have been because it was grey and cloudy but I really didn’t like it. It is very much a holiday town with lots of ugly built up apartments.
I stayed at Hostal Providencia which was in a great location and paid $9000CLP/£9.00 a night there.
I would definitely recommend staying in the city for at least 4 nights to really appreciate it. It’s not as expensive as the likes of Rio and Buenos Aires, it has a cheap and easy metro system and so much to do!
It’s my favourite place in South America so far, just look at that sunset!!