Nestled within the Andes Mountains, Santiago is an incredible mix of ancient tradition, European influence and architectural wonders. Read on to discover the top things to do in Santiago de Chile.
1. Soar to the top of San Cristóbal Hill
San Cristobal Hill makes just about every list of the top things to do in Santiago de Chile, and for good reason. From high up there, you’ll be treated to some incredible panoramic views of the city.
There’s an easy way and a hard way to get to the top of San Cristobal Hill. The easy way is hopping in the cable car, which is a nice scenic ride across the park. It’s open on Mondays from 1:30-5:30PM and Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30am to 5:30pm. Tickets cost about $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.
But you can always just hoof. The hike to reach the sanctuary dedicated to the Immaculate Conception takes about an hour. Outside, you’ll find a 22-meter statue of the Virgin Mary. In addition to the sanctuary, there’s also a Japanese Garden, and even a few pools that are open in the summertime.
Don’t forget to taste delicious mote con huesillos, a sugary and chilled Chilean drink made of peaches and husked wheat. There are some stalls selling it at the top of the hill.
2. Explore the city center
A big part of the history of Chile has been written at the vivid Plaza de Armas (Main Square) and its surrounding buildings. Walk around its array streets to find old buildings like the Santiago City Hall, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National History Musem, the Court Houses, and many others. Or just sit down, relax and take in the busy life of the city on the iconic Paseo Ahumada.
3. Hang out in Bellavista
Located between the Mapocho River and San Cristobal Hill, Bellavista is Santiago’s artsy, bohemian neighborhood and a fun place to hang out. In Bellavista you’ll find the wonderful La Chascona, once home to Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda. It’s now a museum that’s open to the public.
During the day, you can enjoy a stroll around the area admiring the street art, perusing the markets, and relaxing in one of the many cafes. Once the night falls, Bellavista really comes to life as locals and tourists flock to the countless restaurants, bars, and clubs. Quirky and colourful, Sarita Colonia is a highly recommended Peruvian restaurant with a vibrant cuisine and a eclectic rooftop terrace.
4. Climb Santa Lucía Hill
Santa Lucía Hill is located in the city centre just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas, and is a quiet place to spend the afternoon. There’s actually remarkable history behind this park. First of all, the hill is the remnant of a 15 million-year-old volcano. It was also here that the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city in 1541.
Upon entering the park, you’ll be greeted by the gorgeous Neptune Fountain. From there you can follow the trails and stone staircases until you reach the stunning viewpoint at the very top of the hill. If you visit on a clear day, you’ll get some fantastic views of the city and the surrounding Andes. Along the way, you’ll pass by the Castillo Hidalgo, which was built in 1816 to protect the city. The park is free to visit and is open every day from 9am to 7pm.
5. Walk the Lastarria neighbourhood
Lastarria is a heritage district in Central Santiago to just go for a stroll and pick from one of the many restaurants or cafés to eat at. Its cobblestone streets, bohemian hideaways and European architecture are nestled in between the downtown core and Providencia. Planning a meal and a meandering walk in Lastarria after a visit to the must-see Santa Lucian hill is highly recommended. Bocanáriz is an excellent wine bar and innovative restaurant located in the area.
6. Discover Santiago’s secret hipster haven
Beyond bustling Bellavista lies a lesser-known haven for design-lovers and antique hunters. That haven, settled by Italian immigrant craftsmen in the 19th century, is called Barrio Italia. Endowing a new reputation for itself, the stylish neighbourhood of Barrio Italia is Santiago’s new rising star – filled to the brim with trendy café’s, Instagram-worthy restaurants, and delightful local shops. Here, you’ll also have the opportunity to spot the Chilean hipster in its natural habitat.
7. Head to the top of Costanera Center
Rising high above the rest of the city is the Great Tower of Santiago, a pretty epic skyscraper within the Costanera Center complex. For one of the best, and certainly the highest, views in Latin America, go to the Sky viewpoint. Nearly 300 m tall, the observatory offers 360-degree views of the city below, as well as the surrounding mountains. Try to time your visit so you can watch the sunset and see the city light up. It’s definitely one of the coolest things to do in Santiago de Chile.
It’s open every day from 10 am to 10 pm with the last elevator rides going up at 9. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $15 for kids ages 4-12. It’s located right on the Mapocoho River.
8. Day Trip to Cajón del Maipó
While there are plenty of excellent things to do in Santiago de Chile, you definitely need to carve out some time for day trips out to the natural wonders that surround the city. A trip to Cajón del Maipó is a great choice for spending a day out in the Andes Mountains. This canyon is a beautiful place to visit with untouched scenery all around.
There are some trekking opportunities of varying difficulty, including one that brings you to a high-altitude reservoir 2,500 m above sea level. After a tough hike, there’s nothing better than soaking in some natural hot springs. Other activities available include horseback riding, ziplining, and whitewater rafting.