Whether you’re here on business or planning a stop while visiting South America, Chile’s capital is all about views and trendy neighborhoods.
Surrounded by the Andes mountain range which divides Chile and Argentina and extends all the way to Antarctica, Santiago expanded until there was nowhere else to build but up. Neon pink sunrises coat the city each morning making for damn good views regardless of the city’s smog. Located in a highly seismic country second only to Japan, Santiago’s architecture is built to withstand earthquakes, so don’t worry about going up high to get a glimpse of this storied region. Today, the city is clean and modern with a vibrant arts culture. We visited Chile’s capital in search of its gasp-worthy views, tasty delicacies, best accommodations, and coolest neighborhoods.
Chile is a long journey from the U.S., but LATAM offers direct flights from JFK and LAX to Santiago (SCL), which takes about 11 hours. Your first day might just be resting for the days ahead.
Once you’ve settled in, get your bearings with a view from one of the tallest buildings in South America and an overview of the city’s history. While it officially lost its title as the continent’s tallest building, the Sky Constanera is still the title holder as tallest observatory, and it certainly has the best views. From here you can see Santiago from all angles, with free viewfinders throughout the space, and a guided tour (totally worth your time) explaining the history of Santiago and its expansion. Visitors come from all over to view Santiago from this height. It doesn’t have a ceiling and is open and exposed to all weather at all times, but its angled floors direct what little rainfall the city may experience into drains. Admission is $10 for kids and $15 for adults. To top off the experience, they offer complimentary glasses of champagne to visitors. Go in time to see the sunset.
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For dinner, head Mestizo, a beautifully-designed upscale restaurant at the edge of Bicentennial Park in Las Condes, with many seafood dishes including ceviche, oysters, and salmon tartare. The enormous, darkly-lit dining room has a rustic-contemporary feel.
At night, go for drinks in the college neighborhood of Bella Vista. Adorned with murals and graffiti, plus multi-colored buildings and various nooks to explore, Bella Vista is certainly calmer in the daytime and more easily navigable, but has an air of excitement at night. Go in groups or pairs to ensure safety, and wander around to find a spot that suits your fancy.
Have a hearty breakfast at the hotel, with detoxifying juices and yogurt with superfoods like goji berries and flax seeds, then take a car to the foothills of the Andes for a sunrise hike.
There are two hikes you can choose from: a hike to the top of a larger hill (Manquehue) takes about three hours, while a hike up the shorter hill (Manquehuito) can take 45 minutes to an hour depending on the hiker. You’ll spot many locals on your ascent. Hike through trees and shrubs, eventually reaching a rocky top with chains to help hoist you up. At the top of Manquehuito is a giant white wooden cross, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. In warmer months, wildlife like pumas may be spotted, but sadly the condors for which the city was once known have long migrated elsewhere.
Later, venture to the Bodegas Re winery (“re” indicating renewal and rebirth), about an hour from the city center. This boutique winery in the Casa Blanca region, 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, serves most of the wine they make to visitors on site—only about 30% of bottles are exported and available just in select restaurants. Their winemaking process is one of a kind: grapes are fermented in giant clay casks similar to Georgian qvevri. Here they actually climb inside the giant casks to extract the grape stems. The vineyards are not irrigated, but instead, the grapes age naturally which produces a richer flavor. Many of the wines here have mineral taste, being too close to the ocean, and they produce unique blends combining red and white grapes. Guests eat at a long table in the cellar (bring a sweater; a blanket will also be provided). Dishes might include mashed potatoes with homemade butter, veggies, and beef. Their rich desserts are paired with the artisanal fruit liqueur, also made on-site.
Head to Metropolitan Park, where you can rise up over the city in a cable car at Cerro San Cristóbal for about $5. Here you’ll see forests, mountainous ranges and the industrial parts of the city. It may be a short ride, but when you land you can wander around and shop for souvenirs, take in sights like the massive Virgin Mary sculpture, and enjoy a super-sweet regional drink comprised of a whole dehydrated peach and grains, before beginning your steep descent in a funicular.
Later, take the metro and explore the arty Lastarria neighborhood. The metro can be crowded, especially during rush hour, but it is clean, easy to navigate, and can take you up and down the entire city. Operating six lines, the trains opened here in the early ’90s, and are clean and organized–even when crowded, people are polite when getting off and on, and you won’t see anyone running up and down the stairs in frenzy, even if they have a train to catch.
You can easily while away the afternoon into the evening in Lastarria. Peruse the many boutiques and stores, like the Kind of Blue record store, and visit great museums like the massive arts and cultural center, GAM, named after poet laureate Gabriela Mistral. Street art and street vendors, and belly dancers with castanets performing at the intersection make up the scenery here. Before leaving be sure to try ice cream at Heladeria Emporio La Rosa, with flavors like rose and honey.
WHERE TO STAY
Located in Santiago’s financial district, El Golf, in the neighborhood of Las Condes, this brand-new design-forward hotel is the perfect combo of comfort and luxury. The surrounding area is both residential and business-oriented, populated by accountants and lawyers who will stop in at the hotel’s Chilean brasserie on their lunch breaks. Designed by the Enrique Concha & Co., a local design and architectural firm, you’ll find Chilean artwork throughout the lobby and elements of Mapuche culture, a library and workspace, a lap pool on the rooftop overlooking the city, and design-heavy guestrooms. The concierges are truly worth their salt in local knowledge—ask them where to eat and drink in Las Condes. There are nice touches found throughout the hotel that will make you feel welcome, like ultra-soft long cotton robes, organic bath products, warm service, and more.