With about 5 million inhabitants, Santiago de Chile is one of the largest cities in South America. Situated in a basin at the foot of the Andes Cordillera and only 100 km from Argentina’s Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, the city fascinates with its contrasts: modern shopping malls behind glass alternate with colonial facades and forged iron arches.
The city’s central location allows for both skiing in the Andes and beach vacations on the Pacific coast, which Chileans often take advantage of. There is a pleasant climate comparable to the Mediterranean, with the seasons falling in the opposite direction to Europe. The people in Santiago are friendly, unobtrusive and curious.
Tip 1: Plaza de Armas
Not far from the Marcado Central, the Plaza de Armas forms the center of Santiago. The sophisticated square with its fountain, in which the city’s children seek cooling on hot days, its shady benches, where stressed businessmen eat their salad for lunch and relaxed pensioners read their newspaper, is the city’s stage.
On weekends, dance performances sometimes take place here. Anyone who wants to is invited to simply join in or be a silent observer of the scenery. Around the Plaza de Armas are the City Hall of Santiago, the headquarters of the Chilean Post Office and the National History Museum. Especially from the tower of the museum (admission is free, by the way) you have a beautiful view of the hustle and bustle on the Plaza de Armas.
Tip 2: Catedral Metropolitana
Construction of the Cathedral of Santiago began in 1748, after the previous building was destroyed by an earthquake. The neoclassical church was completed in 1800. The “Catedral Metropolitana” is the seat of the archbishop of Santiago de Chile.
The interior is quite dark, the small windows allow little light to fall into the lavishly decorated nave. The most important church in the country houses the relics of Santa Teresa de los Andes and the main altar, which was built in Munich and is well worth seeing.
Tip 3: Cerro San Cristóbal
If you want to look down on the huge city from above, you have to go to Cerro San Christóbal. The 880 meter high hill (300 meters above the city) is located in the middle of the city, more precisely in the Bellavista district and is part of the Parque Metropolitano. It is considered a recreation area and green lung in the often smoggy city.
At the top is a large statue representing the Virgin Mary. You can walk all the way up or take a funicular to just below the top. The area at the top is very spacious and beautifully landscaped. On wide steps or even benches you can enjoy the fantastic view in a very relaxed way.
Tip 4: Barrio Bellavista
Barrio Bellavista is where it all happens. This neighborhood of Santiago is the city’s artists’ district, where artists and intellectuals live, work and play. The most famous resident was and still is Pablo Neruda, whose house, La Chascona, is one of the top attractions in Santiago. It is the hippest place in town with restaurants, trendy boutiques and avant-garde galleries.
You can dance the night away after dark in one of the many discos. There are colorful old houses in the tree-lined streets of the barrio. On weekends, there is an arts and crafts market where art made from the semi-lead lapis lazuli is a popular purchase.
Tip 5: Mercado Central
Mercados are always something special in South America anyway. On them you get to know the real locals and you get a deep impression of the country and its people. The markets are bustling with activity and many smells are coming to the visitor, in addition to the many traders shouting in confusion.
Of course, it is the same in Santiago de Chile. If you want to buy cheap food there, you visit one of the many markets. The most famous are the Mercado la Vega and the Mercado Central. The Mercado Central is located north of the Plaza de Armas and can be easily reached on foot. Here you can buy vegetables, fruit, meat and fish at low prices. Just let yourself drift in the middle of the crowd and enjoy the numerous impressions. The best thing to do is to drink a fresh fruit juice or have lunch. Maybe you will also find a nice souvenir for friends or family.