Santiago is a city like no other. Sitting at the foot of the Andes, the Chilean capital combines unbelievable surroundings with the lively, bustling atmosphere of a fast-moving metropolis.
Where do you start with Santiago? It’s a beautiful mixture of Spanish history and Chilean creation, with traditional architecture and intriguing innovation on every corner. From its green spaces and historical buildings to the fabulous Chilean cuisine and unique atmosphere – the city is a haven of art, culture and delightful surroundings.
If you’re planning a trip to Chile, you’re probably wondering how to get the best out of its fantastic capital. Need a helping hand? Read on for our guide to Santiago’s must-see attractions, best places to eat and how to get around the city.
How to Get Around in Santiago
With its location by the Andes, Santiago is a dream destination for walking enthusiasts. That said, many people don’t want to spend hours navigating the city itself. Luckily, there are a few options when it comes to public transport, that can get you from A to B quickly, giving you more time to enjoy the best attractions.
Before 2006, buses were privately operated in Santiago. It meant that competing firms could raise prices without offering a great service. Fortunately, that ended when Transantiago was formed. It’s a public transport system that combines the bus and metro under government ownership. Transantiago buses cover over 11,000 bus stops, across 391 lines. It’s safe to say they’ll take you wherever you need to go.
Hop on the Metro
Also part of the Transantiago system, Santiago’s metro trains run over five lines, with a further two under construction. They provide a quick mode of transport for longer journeys – such as getting from one side of the city to the other – which could take a while by bus.
Paying on the Transantiago
To use either the bus or the metro, you need a “Tarjeta Bip!” card. It’s a contactless smart card, which can be used on the buses and metro trains for reduced fares. Buy one for $1,550 CLP – less than £2 – and add money to the card prior to journeys. At most, a single journey costs $750 CLP, with reductions on off-peak travel.
What’s great about Transantiago is that it allows an integrated fare on bus and metro services. This means you can use either, or both, for two hours after your first ‘bip’ with up to two transfers. It’s ideal for sightseeing as you can get to three different destinations with one fare, or make longer journeys with two changes at the same price.
Things to See and Do in Santiago
Whether you’re in Santiago for just a few hours, or a couple of weeks, there is so much to see and do. Here are our tips for what you should be getting up to in this amazing city.
Plaza de Armas
Santiago’s central square, Plaza de Armas, is a great place to visit at any time of the year. The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral stands at the side of the square, with over 100 Chilean palm trees around the fountain centrepiece. Often considered the heart of the city, Plaza de Armas also houses the Chilean National History Museum, with over 12,000 items across five departments.
La Moneda Palace
Head south from Plaza de Armas and you’ll find one of the most important buildings in Chile. La Moneda Palace is the Chilean president’s stately office, also housing her top three cabinet ministers. Opened in the early 19th century, the impressive building was designed by Italian, Joaquín Toesca, with pure neoclassical architecture. Guided tours are available all year round.
Just a few miles outside Santiago’s bustling centre, you’ll find the glorious San Cristobal hill. Rising 300 metres above the city, it provides a great vantage point for spectacular views as well as having its own beautiful surroundings. The 45-minute walk up is a challenge in the typical Chilean heat, but it’s something you certainly won’t regret. Alternatively, you can take the funicular from the National Zoo below.
Chilean National Zoo
Of course, we can’t forget the zoo itself. Conveniently located at the bottom of San Cristobal, the Chilean National Zoo covers nearly five hectares of land and is home to over 150 species. Rare and endangered animals are amongst the inhabitants, as well as a wide range of native Chilean species. Llamas, condors and Humboldt penguins give visitors an insight into Chile’s unique biodiversity, as well as Darwin’s frog – a rare species known for its unusual vocal sac production of tadpoles.
Where to Eat and Drink
Traditional Chilean food is widely available, absolutely delicious and incredibly affordable. Make sure to sample some of the city’s favourite dishes whilst you’re here.
Owned by esteemed chef Cristian Correa, Mulato is truly Chilean in every sense. It’s surrounded by independent stores on the traditional streets of Santiago, and set up with one core principle – to create authentic food using fresh ingredients from the local Santiago markets. Despite a simple foundation, the menu combines complex flavours to create exciting dishes that wow tourists and keep locals returning for more.
Chile is renowned worldwide for its wine. Spanish and French influences have led to a unique Chilean style, with the country now the fifth largest wine exporter in the world. Bocanáriz is a restaurant built on this tradition. Their menu features over 40 dishes, paired expertly with wine from their collection of nearly 400 varieties. With a story behind each wine, it truly is a viticultural experience.
Juan y Medio
If you want to dive into the Santiago atmosphere, try Juan y Medio. It’s loud, proud, authentic, and always full of locals. The warm, welcoming atmosphere is complemented by a variety of no-nonsense Chilean dishes and a range of local beers and cocktails to wash them down.
If it’s a bar you’re looking for, it doesn’t get better than Cervecería HBH. Simply translating to HBH Brewery, the relaxed bar provides you with the perfect place to unwind and enjoy its selection of home-brewed Chilean beers.
At Cruise1st, we have a range of South American Cruises perfect for exploring Santiago, the Chilean fjords and all the other magnificent areas around the continent. Take a look at our cruise deals online, or call our friendly team of cruise specialists on 0808 256 7010 today.