If you’re heading to Chile to see its beautiful deserts, mountains, and beaches, you’ll likely be making a stop in Santiago on your way. Although you may be tempted to pass through without leaving the airport, there are a ton of things to do in Santiago, Chile. With grungy, bustling nightlife, historic museums, and views for miles, it’s worth taking a few days and to explore the Chilean capital.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a guide of our favorite places in Santiago. From neighborhood food markets to the highest tower in South America, here’s your comprehensive weekend guide for things to do in Santiago, Chile.
Table of Contents
Where to Stay in Santiago, Chile
Located near the city center, Lastarria is a charming neighborhood to walk around. With its proximity to the Museo de Bellas Artes and Santa Lucia Hill, it’s a very central area to stay in. In this vicinity, Hotel Altiplanico Bellas Artes comes highly recommended by other travelers, and Hostal Providencia is a great budget-friendly alternative.
In its grungy, hippie, colorful glory, Bellavista is to Santiago as Austin is to Texas. With its bars, restaurants, and cheeky street art, it’s a very lively place to stay in the heart of Santiago, and there are always people out and about. Bellavista is also home to one of the three houses that famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once inhabited. Bonus points for the fact that it’s so close to the Cerro de San Cristóbal, which boasts one of the most beautiful views in the city. Many travelers recommend Loreto Hotel as a wonderful and affordable place to stay in Bellavista. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper, try Hostal Forestal.
How to Get Around in Santiago, Chile
Santiago has a very well-built metro system that spans most of the areas of the city that you’d want to go. Each ride costs 620 CLP and will take you basically anywhere in the city that you would want to go.
Within the past few years, Uber has arrived in Santiago and comes at a very reasonable price. You can call an Uber anywhere in the city center with the Uber app. Simply input your start and end destination and the rest is history.
Despite being a city full of drivers, Santiago is a fairly walkable city, especially if you’re staying in the central area. The last time I went, I simply wandered around by foot most of the time. It’s the best way to enjoy the lively charm and beautiful colors of the city.
When to Visit Santiago, Chile
With fairly mild climates year-round, any time is a good time to visit Chile. However, the best time to visit Santiago is from September-November or from March to May. June-August marks the winter season in Santiago, so if you’re hoping to do some skiing in the nearby mountains, this is the best time to visit. Summer, which occurs from December-February, can be a bit more expensive since this is the high tourist season.
Things to Do in Santiago, Chile
If you only have a weekend in Santiago, you probably can’t do everything. Below, we’ve listed out a few of our favorite highlights and hidden gems to help you pick and choose the best things to do in Santiago, Chile.
Santiago Highlights – The Iconic Sights
Take a Ride in Cerro de San Cristóbal and Parque Metropolitano
This iconic hill overlooks the entire city, and has a white statue of the Virgin Mary at the top. You can take a funicular car up the side of this hill for 2,000-2,600 CLP, and from there, you can walk to the very top and admire the jaw-dropping views of the city and the surrounding mountains. In the surrounding Parque Metropolitano, visitors can find over 700 hectares of green space, the city zoo, and a separate cable car system (teleférico) for even more city views.
Tour La Chascona
Famed, Pulitzer prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda had three homes in Chile, one of which is located in Santiago. La Chascona, his Santiago home, is a sampling of the mind of this great literary icon. Located in Bellavista, it’s a wonderful respite from the bustle of the neighborhood. Here, you can learn about this man’s fascinating history.
People Watch in the Plaza de Armas
Like most Latin American cities, there’s a massive town center called the Plaza de Armas that you can explore. Stake out a park bench, grab a newspaper, and watch the world go by in the heart of Santiago.
Seek the Views in Sky Costanera
As the tallest skyscraper in South America and one of the highest in the world, you can bet that the Sky Costanera lookout point has the best views in the city. With 360-degree windows, you can see the entire city, the hills, and the mountains. It’s a bit of a steep price, but if you enjoy city views I highly recommend it.
Santiago Hidden Gems
Take a Free Walking Tour
This wouldn’t be a guide on our site if I didn’t include the free walking tour option! These tours leave from the front of the Catedral at 10 AM and 3 PM every day and last for ~4 hours. These are great if you’re wondering how to prioritize all of the things to do in Santiago, Chile. All you have to do is tip the guide at the end!
Peruse Mercado Central and La Vega Central
For some of the city’s best people watching, head to the Mercado Central. This is a gigantic municipal market that has everything, from fruits to meats to seafood eats. If you’re looking for a market that’s a bit more laid-back, try La Vega Central, located just across the bridge from the Mercado Central. Here, instead of a perfectly manicured market with a decent number of tourists, you’ll find local food stalls and friendly neighbors doing their weekly grocery shopping.
Explore Parque General O’Higgins
This is a huge park in the middle of the city, where you’ll often find locals cooking barbeque or hanging out with friends. There are a few nice hiking trails to explore, in addition to Fantasilandia, the largest amusement park in Chile. In September, this is where the Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day celebrations) happen.
Wander the Neighborhoods
Take a walk through Lastarria, grab a pisco sour in Providencia, or listen to live music in Bellavista. If you’re looking for a more ‘off-the-beaten-path’ vibe, try taking an Uber out to Vitacura for shopping, local restaurants, and a quiet place to wander.
Climb the Cerro de Santa Lucia
You might think that between Cerro de San Cristobal and the Sky Costanera lookout, the shorter Cerro de Santa Lucia pales in comparison. However, this small park is by far the most beautiful, with its curvy, garden-laden paths leading up to yet another stunning city viewpoint.
Take a Day Trip
If you’re ready for a new scene but still want to base yourself in Santiago, there are plenty of day trips to try from Santiago. Located in the middle of wine country, take a tour out to several vineyards. If you’re looking for something more naturally beautiful, head out to the Andes. If the beach is your thing, take a bus out to Viña del Mar.
Additional Tips and Resources
- Tired of the city? Here’s a list of day trips from Santiago that you can take.
- Chile as a whole is a stunning place. Here’s some inspiration for some other areas of the country to explore.
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Featured image by aloboslife (Flickr)