Santiago, Chile has recently been ranked on New York Times top places to travel.
Praised for the exploding culinary, music and arts scene, and the access to the top Chile ski resorts, the capital city of over 5 million inhabitants has changed tremendously since our first visit in 1997.
Constantly over shadowed by Argentina’s Buenos Aires and Brazil’s Sao Paulo, Santiago is truly worth a visit.
When we travel through Chile, we like spending 2-3 days wandering Santiago, taking pictures, absorbing the culture and sampling the scores of new cafes, restaurants and nearby vineyards.
Santiago’s Explosive Tourism Boom
A decade ago it was next to impossible to find good coffee (unless you are a Nescafe fan). Discovering a quality restaurant, well that was a bit of a mission.
Today, there are hundreds of outstanding delis and high scale bistros scattered from downtown Santiago, and the trendy neighborhoods of Bellavista, Providencia, Nunoa and of course the upscale Las Condes.
However, it should be noted that Santiago is not for everyone. It’s a large and noisy city and the smog can be brutal, especially in the winter months June to September.
But if you are lucky enough to be in Santiago after a rain storm, which cleans the air providing epic views of the towering snow covered Andes, it’s hard to beat.
The views from Santa Lucia, where the city was founded in 1541 are amazing. Few cities in the world access the quality skiing Chile has to offer, just over 30 miles from Santiago’s airport.
Rough Guide Reader’s Award: Coolest City
The readers of the Rough Guide have spoken when it comes to the coolest city in the world, and Santiago, Chile made the list as runner-up in 2017!
Second only to Osaka, Japan, the voters believe that Santiago is no longer just a home-base for exploring the remote areas of the country, as it is now a world-class destination itself. Visitors will love the diversity of restaurants and nightlife, the flourishing cultural scene that is continuously expanding as well as the many historic attractions and museums within the city itself.
For most of the PowderQuest team, Santiago is a great destination after riding the nearby Santiago ski resorts of Portillo, Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado.
Here are some of our favorite places in or just outside of downtown Santiago to grab a drink, something to eat and watch the city vibe.
The coffee shops on José Victorino Lastarría and Rosal behind Cerro Santa Lucia: Watch the sunset from one of the bridges on the Mapocho River then wander these streets. Good coffee, teas, boutique shops, open air markets, music and art.
Mercado Central: At lunch this building is as much as a cultural experience as it is an amazing place to sample Chile’s seafood, in the heart of downtown, freshly caught from the cold Pacific, just 70 miles away. We suggest the seafood soup called paila marina. Delicious with lots of lemon and a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.
Plaza de Armas: Don’t miss the nearby Plaza de Armas for more international culture and a great spot to take pictures and video.
Liguria Bar: several hip locations serving Chilean-Italian dishes and a great place to grab a drink with Chile’s bohemian scene.
What to order? We recommend ordering the osso bucco and a bottle of Carmenere. This place is popular with the locals so expect a wait and a lot of noise.
Etniko: Sushi, Chilean and Asian cuisine. Located in the trendy Bella Vista neighborhood. While easy to miss as the door is always closed, just ring the bell to get in.
What to order? Don’t miss the salmon con leche de tigre.
Sangucheria La Gloria: Looking for a delicious sandwich? This Peruvian eatery with 5 locations through Santiago (and expanding) is one of our go to stops.
It’s Not All About The Food
Now that you’ve fueled up on local cuisine and cafe it’s time to get out and explore Santiago’s surroundings.
Araucano Park for familes: When you’re lucky with a spring-like day in Santiago, head to the upscale Las Condes neighboorhood and spend the day around the park. (Walking distance from the Manquehue metro stop) Outdoor playgrounds, shaded groves, bird sanctuary, stylish restaurants, food trucks and the not to be missed Kidzania for families with children.
El Colorado Ski Resort: The closest ski area to Santiago and well worth it for the snow. If you know where you are going, this often over looked destination has some of the best lift accessed “slackcountry” terrain in Chile. Learn more >
Cerro San Cristobal: From the zoo in the neighboorhood Bella Vista, take the cable car to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to kick off a walking adventure east towards the Andes. The moderate walk provides stellar views of most of Santiago and the three main ski resorts. You will eventually end up in Providencia where you can grab a well deserved micro-brew at one of the many local pubs and bars in this bustling area of town.