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Santiago, Chile’s capital city, nestled between the Andes and the coastal range, has long been overlooked in favor of older, bigger or more well-known capital cities in South America. But between a burgeoning food scene at every price point, new architecture and design, loads of free art, and excellent hotel options in a range of prices, all of that is turning around. Santiago is no longer a stopover on your way to someplace else, and is finally coming into its own.

On the food front, there are Chilean specialties, like the giant, fork-mandatory chacarero sandwich, with minute steak (or turkey) and cooked gRead More
reen beans with or without ají (spice) and avocado, or the hearty stew of porotos granados, a homey potage of beans, corn, and squash. Hit up the Vega for super traditional eats, like cazuela (a meat soup with corn and potatoes) or Tirso de Molina for a mix of offers, including loads of Peruvian, Colombian, and Venezuelan food. There’s also a healthy food truck culture, though these strangely are stationary, and parked in the “pocket plazas” sprinkled around town. Put small-batch, locally roasted coffee on your list and you won’t be sorry or try out one of the artisanal ice cream shops in Bellavista, Lastarria, El Golf, or beyond. Local flavors include lúcuma (eggfruit), miel de ulmo (a kind of honey), and peras al vino (cooked pears with wine).

For art, visit one of the many well-known museums, like Bellas Artes or the MAC (for contemporary art) or hit up some of the farther-flung galleries around town, with a concentration around Alonso de Córdoba up in El Golf, and a few more downtown. Public art is alive and well in Santiago, and there’s a lot of street art in Bellavista as well as an open-air mural museum in San Miguel. Free art abounds, so keep your eyes peeled for annual events like Hecho en Casa and Santiago a Mil, when installations and performances fill the streets. Or visit Barrio Italia for a quick primer on Santiago design.

Architecture is a whole separate entity in Santiago, and whatever you’re into, this city’s got it. From the brutalist architecture of the CEPAL building in Vitacura, to the fanciful and otherworldly Bahá'í Temple in Peñalolén, there is something for every taste. Don’t skip the three remaining corners of cobblestone neighborhoods in and near downtown at Lastarria, Concha y Toro, and Paris-Londres. For older school architecture, head down to Barrio Brasil and Barrio Yungay, and to see Santiago’s version of the Manhattan skyline, head to “Sanhattan” as the area surrounding the El Golf metro in Las Condes is frequently called.

If you want to get an actual physical overview of Santiago, there are two great options: The first is to go up Cerro San Cristóbal, the larger of two hills that overlooks the city, which you may summit by taxi, funicular, cable car, on foot or by bike, after which tradition dictates you should drink a mote con huesillo, a sweetened peach punch with reconstituted peaches and cooked wheat kernels, and visit the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción; the second lookout is at the new observation deck in the Costanera Sky Tower, 300 meters above the ground in the disproportionately tall glassed-in tower that peeps up out of Providencia and whose bottom five floors house a mall.

Santiago has a wide variety of neighborhoods to check out and plenty of art, architecture, food, coffee, and ice cream to keep you fueled. Come nighttime be sure to check out local signature cocktails, small-label Chilean wines you can’t find at home before you head out for a night on the town.

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Santiaguinos tend to abandon their city every summer during the school holidays that run from the end of December to early March. February is...Read More

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