Chile, the longest country in the world, is incredibly diverse topographically and culturally. There is so much to enjoy. The primary reason for my visit was a Global Village build with Habitat for Humanity in Santiago, but I was fortunate to be able to also visit the Atacama and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) while I was there.
Sites of Santiago – including Plaza de Armas and Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral
Most of my time in Santiago was spent volunteering on the worksite in Maipu. But we had a few days to explore this sprawling city. We also spent a day visiting Valparaiso and a winery in Casablanca. Here are my thoughts on a few sites and things not to miss!
Afternoon Chess Move – Plaza de Armas, Santiago
Paseo Bandera, Santiago
There is a free walking tour that meets daily at 10am in front of the Museo Bellas Artes, given by Tours4Tips (advance registration recommended). Wear comfortable shoes because you will indeed by walking for miles, and riding the subway, which is terrific in Santiago. We went to four major markets – the Central Market (seafood), Tirso de Moina (the immigrant market), La Vega Chica (meat) and La Vega Central (the largest and full of everything imaginable).
Museo Bellas Artes, Central Market, Tirso de Moina
Our tour finished in the public cemetery in Recoleta. At 210 acres it’s one of the largest cemeteries in all of Latin America. An interesting fact: some of the plots are rented. If you stop paying rent, the groundskeeper has the right to take the remains and put them into the mass grave, opening rental space for a new tenant! The cemetery also functions as a park, with so much public green space, it’s a quiet and peaceful place to walk.
Cemeterio de Santiago at Recoleta
[PRO TIP: If it’s your first time finding your way around the city, as it was mine, you might want to have a plan for where to go once the tour finishes. Take Uber, ride the subway again, or walk, as long as you know where you’re headed! We ended up in Lasterria for lunch but it took quite an effort to get there. We should’ve just taken an Uber.]
Barrio Lastarria is a bohemian neighborhood with plenty of shops, museums, cinemas, theater, restaurants and bars. This was my favorite place to wander. Check out the Museum of Visual Arts, stop for a flight of Chilean wine, there are over 300 wines, at Bocanariz. If its a quick bite your after, check out Buffalo Waffles [315 Merced].
A flight of sparkling wine at Bocanariz
Ride the red line subway train all the way to the end at Los Dominicos to visit the Pueblito Los Dominicos a market where many local artisans work and sell their wares. Prices are good, and so is quality, and you can have lunch in the market. It’s just a short walk through a pleasant park and next to the historic church — if you go on Sunday and time it right, you can catch a mass at the church.
Gorgeous alpaca sweaters and wraps at Taller Artesanal Papiteje
by Rene Deccarett (at loom) and Paula Garcia (standing with me)
It’s such a famous site in the city, but Cerro San Cristobol was a bit of a disappointment for me because all the views from the top are obstructed with cables or wires, trees or poles. Despite the smog, which often hangs over city like a wet blanket obscuring the view of the magnificent mountains, it’s difficult to get a good photo with all the other stuff in the way. The ride on the cable car and the funicular are, however, fun!
We had a fun and noteworthy meal at Peluqueria Francesa a few blocks off Plaza Brasil. The original building, a French hair salon opened in 1868, is still there, and, you can still get a haircut in barbershop chairs over 100 years old! The restaurant came later, with delicious French style food.
Fun before dinner at Peluqeria Francesa in Barrio Yungay
Order a michelada, a local favorite! The spicy beer and lime cocktail tastes better than it sounds. Buy some merkén in the market or grocery store to make micheladas for your friends back home.
Once a major port prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, this seaside city built on the hills has varied and colorful neighborhoods to explore, provided your legs and lungs are up for the climbs. Although there are only a handful of neighborhoods that attract tourists, the total number is estimated at 45.
Casa Stevenson, Valparaiso
We visited the port and Plaza Sotomayor, ascending into the hills via one of the city’s funiculars, dating to the late 19th century. We explored Cerro Alegre and Concepción eventually making our way to neighboring Cerro Bellavista, where you can see one of Pablo Neruda’s three homes, La Sebastiana.
It’s true that there’s a lot of street art to be admired, the cityscapes are both colorful and meaningful, therefore fun to photograph, because of it.
It’s hard to miss the white castle-like building on the hill that is Indomita Winery. You can taste up to three glasses of wine for a small fee and enjoy the view from your perch on their patio. It was a nice capstone on our adventure outside of Santiago.