Santiago is the capital of Chile and the South American nation’s largest city. Resting at the foothills of the Andes and hugged by outstanding vineyards, Santiago has become a booming tourist hotspot for travelers seeking outdoor adventure, fine dining paired with wine tasting, and outstanding museums.
Kuoda’s team of expert travel designers have selected the following top things to do in Santiago, Chile —including tourist attractions and hidden gems— for you to consider on your upcoming journey.
Stand in the center of it all at Plaza de Armas
The centerpiece of the capital’s original layout, the Plaza de Armas (main square) of Santiago was established in 1541 when Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city. Today, the palm-covered square, filled with talented street performers, continues to be the heart of Santiago.
Full of architectural treasures, the plaza is well worth a visit to admire famous monuments such as the Governer’s Palace, currently home to the city’s main post office as well as the Museo Histórico Nacional (National History Museum). A few paces away sits the 18th century neoclassical Metropolitan Cathedral.
Barrio Bellavista, Santiago’s Bohemian Quarter
As if an outdoor museum, the colorful Bellavista neighborhood is a display of peculiar architectural styles, traditional handicrafts and contemporary clothing shops, as well as cultural centers with galleries and theaters.
Located between the Mapocho River and Cerro San Cristobal, Barrio Bellavista has a bohemian vibe that lures all types of travelers. Don’t miss the weekly outdoor market held on Calle Pío Nono for unique trinkets or the outdoor complex Patio Bellavista for drinks and upscale shops.
Step into Pablo Neruda’s La Chascona Museum House
Accompanied by an English audio guide, take a tour of an incredibly unique mid-20th-century house built by the Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda, for his lover-turned-wife Matilde “La Choscana” Urrutia. An intimate interior ambient includes a portrait of Matilde painted by Diego Rivera, a stocked bar and library, the couple’s original chinaware, a collection of carved African wood and many more pieces of Neruda’s life.
Reserve at least an hour to admire the eclectic home of the Nobel Prize Laureate. Afterward, head to Cerro San Cristobal, just a short walk from La Chascona. Consider watching the 1995 film, Il Postino: The Postman, prior to your visit as it will shed light on Neruda and the house.
Hike Cerro San Cristóbal for a panorama of Santiago
Standing at over 2,800 feet, Cerro San Cristobal is located in one of the most famous urban parks in Chile, Parque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Park). Located in the center of Santiago, a zoo and wine museum await at the halfway point for those who opt to walk or jog up the hill (a 90-minute journey).
Whether you opt to break a sweat and go by foot or prefer to cut time by riding the funicular, the views from the summit across Santiago to the Andes go unparalleled. Don’t forget to visit one of the many food vendors at the top for the traditional drink mote con huesillo: dried peaches cooked in water and sugar then chilled and served with a scoop of golden barley.
Take a history lesson at Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
The Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is often recognized as one of the best art museums in all of Latin America. Located one block away from the Plaza de Armas in the Historic Center of Santiago, the cultural space houses an extensive collection of ceramics, sculptures and textiles that derive from Mesoamerica, the Amazon, Andes and more.
The permanent exhibit also displays artifacts from the Inca and Aztec empires, though the real showstoppers are the ancient mummies from the South American culture of Chinchorro. These mummies were found in northern Chile and predate those of Egypt!
Go wine tasting in the vineyards of Maipo Valley
Roughly 50 kilometers southeast of Santiago lay the abundant vineyards of Maipo Valley. Over 7,000 acres of vineyards are spread across this region, with the majority producing the slightly fruity and extremely decadent Cabernet Sauvignon (the most famous wine of this region).
Boasting lush gardens and ancient cellars, the Concha y Toro Winery is a standout for its picturesque setting (as well as its wine!). Enjoy a tour of the grounds with an English-speaking guide followed by a wine tasting paired with cheese. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of your favorite variety to bring home and relive your visit!
Big views atop little Cerro Santa Lucia
One of the best attractions in Santiago on a sunny day is a stroll up the Santa Lucia hill. Time seems to stand still atop this well-manicured park, located on the eastern edge of downtown Santiago. The hike up Santa Lucia’s steep stone steps is arduous, but the 230-foot hill is far smaller than Cerro San Cristóbal. That said, the views are just as impressive.
Visitors are rewarded with incredible photo-ops and a peaceful atmosphere where history and nature combine. Give yourself at least a few hours to walk around and eventually sit by the large fountain or one of the terraces to take it all in.
How to get to Santiago (and around)
Arriving in Santiago, Chile is easy for global travelers as the capital city is home to the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL). From the airport, the city center is a 30-minute ride by private transfer or taxi. It is easy to move within a barrio (neighborhood) on foot however Santiago is a large city, so an efficient and safe mode of transportation from one barrio to another is by taxi (just opt for one that has a yellow top to avoid getting scammed).
Explore Santiago while reducing your carbon footprint with Kuoda
If you plan your trip with Kuoda, rest assured that you’re working with a company that cares. Besides carefully selecting who we work with on every customized trip, we’re a carbon-neutral company, which means we’ve reduced our carbon footprint to zero. We’ve accomplished this through a combination of efficiency measures in-house as well as supporting external emission reduction products.
So, when you’re ready for your next luxury vacation, and you want to do it in an environmentally friendly way, be sure to contact us to start planning your customized trip to Chile’s capital city, Santiago.