Santiago was our first destination in South America and I was so excited to set foot on a new continent. First impressions were immediate: the Spanish language was overwhelming, stray dogs were roaming the streets and a slightly desert, run-down feel made me feel as though I was very far from home. Santiago is a very leafy city. Lots of the streets are lined with big trees, definitely adding some beauty.
We jumped on an airport bus into the city (1900 pesos) and caught a metro to our hostel. I hadn’t needed to be street smart in a while so I think I was super high alert and therefore suspicious of virtually everyone.
Our hostel was in a prime location and our room was super spacious – it even had a balcony (for VIP views of the riots). We had four nights in Santiago and when the riots kicked in on our third night, it basically ended any further exploration of the city. We still managed to do some cool stuff though, including:
Climbing Cerro San Cristóbal. It took us about two hours in total, walking both ways. There is a funicular from the bottom in Barrio Bellavista which was a popular route up. The peak gave us some really cool views of the city (with a dousing of smog) and the iconic statue at the top is visible from basically everywhere else in the city.
Plaza del Armas: a thriving ambient square packed with foreigners and locals alike. On one side of the plaza was the Metropolitan Cathedral: a beautifully maintained building that is free to enter and easy to lose yourself in – it was very peaceful and not as populated.
Also nearby is the palace (Palacio de La Moneda) and the Mercado Central – a covered market of souvenirs, seafood and a few restaurants. It wasn’t quite what I expected but well worth a visit if you’re walking past anyway, as we were.
Santa Lucia Hill: a much simpler climb than the Cerro San Cristóbal, decent views were still to be scored. The real highlight though was the rocky formation that was actually once a castle at the top. There was also a church and plenty of park benches to relax. It was a very interesting and a beautiful area to explore.
Bellavista: just across the river from our hostel, Barrio Bellavista is most well known for being the night life area. There are lots of bars and restaurants, as well as plentiful street art and shrubbery. There are stacks of people so it feels very safe to just walk around and enjoy. One of the nicer neighbourhoods of Santiago I believe.
Another area that is meant to be really nice is Providencia, although sadly we didn’t make it here. It is home to the Costanera Centre, South America’s tallest building as well as lots of boutique shops and cafes.
The activity that Andy and I both had been been really excited to do was the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Not only is it free, it’s meant to be a really touching showcase of Chile’s history. We had reserved this and Providencia for our last day in Santiago (they were both quite far from our hostel so we were going to use the metro to get between) but unfortunately missed out on both.
Other common activities in Santiago include day trips to surrounding wineries and vineyards as well as a day trip to the nearby Valparaiso. We did the latter (separate post) but ran out of time to do the former. We were disappointed that we couldn’t see more of Santiago as four nights somewhere usually feels like quite a bit, but we were so restricted in our movements due to the riots that we just couldn’t. I can’t imagine that we care enough to make a return trip, especially not while all this chaos is going on!