We spent nearly two months in Santiago and came to love it more with every day that passed. There are certainly more than only 33 things to love about Chile’s capital, but we wanted to share the 33 most memorable things that made Santiago so special for us:
1 Santiago’s subway art
We mentioned this in our Polaroid of the week series and there’s a good reason we’re bringing it up again here. Santiago’s subway stations each have their own art throughout – murals, sculptures, paintings and contemporary design.
2 Work out machines
We took back our health and wellness in our Santiago condo, but even without the spacious three-bedroom housesit, staying fit would have been possible on the many workout machines found throughout the city’s green spaces.
Seeing stray dogs in the streets is always heartbreaking, no matter where we travel. Santiago was one of the few places where we didn’t immediately want to rescue them all Not only are they well-fed and treated so nicely by people who pet them and give them love, but the city even provides them with doghouses in the parks.
This typical Chilean drink might be too sweet for some, but I found it refreshing after hiking up to Cerro San Cristobal for an hour in the sweltering summer heat. Mote con Huesillo is a strange drink that consists of dried peaches and cooked wheat in sweet tea which is not drunk but eaten with a spoon.
Santiago’s Cementerio General turned out to be one of the most impressive cemeteries we have ever visited. Filled with grand mausoleums, ornate graves, obelisks and statues, it is one of South America’s largest cemeteries with nearly 2 million burials – including President Salvador Allende’s massive family mausoleum.
We loved seeing mountains on almost all sides around Santiago. Not sure if it is because both of us are from flat places, but seeing the snow-capped peaks of the Andes never got old.
We have talked about these quirky coffee shops in detail already – read all about them here.
The Lastarria neighborhood is without a doubt one of Santiago’s prettiest neighborhoods: grand, beautifully restored buildings mixed with colonial charm with restaurants and cafes spilling out on the sidewalks. We loved wandering through the streets here, especially during our Foto Ruta photography Tour, which allowed us to zoom in on the little details throughout the neighborhood.
There are two public swimming pools in Parque Metropolitano that have some of the best vistas of Santiago: Piscina Antilen and Piscina Tupahue. You can hike to the latter one from the Cerro San Cristobal viewpoint and be rewarded with a refreshing experience!
10 Le Fournil
This French bakery and restaurant is by far our favorite eatery in Santiago. Admittedly not exactly Chilean cuisine, Le Fournil set out to bake the best bread in Chile and we say, Mission Accomplished – the breads, pastries and full breakfasts are to die for.
11 La Piojera on a Friday night
This famous ‘fleahouse’ is the perfect introduction to Chilean drinking culture. The bar is known for its notorious terremotos, which means earthquakes, which are half liter cups filled with Pipeño (a sweet fermented wine), pineapple ice cream and Fernet (a strong herbal liquor). Headaches are guaranteed on Saturday mornings, but the Friday night atmosphere packed with locals provides a true South American experience.
We were surprised how many churches there are in Santiago, and there is such a variety of different styles: colonial churches dating back to the 18th century, neo-renaissance, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur-inspired Basilica de Sacramentinos, neo-gothic and baroque architecture. Even though the external weren’t always remarkable, the interiors were always stunning.
Buenos Aires has an amazing street art scene, and coming from there to Santiago, we weren’t sure how this capital would compare. Even though the city has such a different vibe, street art here is gorgeous, intelligent and everywhere! The best neighborhood to spot the most street art is Bellavista.
Even though most of the phone booths are understandably out of order, they make gorgeous little spots to take cover from the rain around the city.
This traditional 19th century barber shop is still up and running, as retro as it is functional, and the restaurant of the same name right next store pays tribute with antique memorabilia that fits with the barber shop theme.
We loved the pop-up stalls on the side of the roads during the summer months selling fresh watermelons. If you don’t want to carry an entire watermelon, you can just get fresh cut-up pieces.
In contrast to boring steel and glass blocks of financial districts around the world, Santiago takes serious pride in expressing their booming economy and optimistic future through its architecture. The country’s best architects have been called upon to create such unique skyscrapers, office towers and downtown hotels.
We mentioned it before – Santiago is not exactly filled with tourist attractions, but there are three different free walking tour companies in the city that operate entirely on a tipping basis and let you choose between a total of five different walking tours! Santiago might not have as many tourists as other South American destinations, but the ones that come and visit can get a great tour with only few people and an insightful local guide. Nobody should miss going on one, as we suggest in our quick guide to Santiago.
19 The traditional pharmacies
Where can you still find pharmacies like this nowadays?!
Visit the fish market at Mercado Central in the morning when the trucks with the day’s catch and witness an intense commotion, or wait to dine on fresh seafood in the cute restaurants right in the market later in the day.
We loved the public sculptures so much that we decided they deserved their own post – take a look at some of our favorite pieces in Santiago here.
This park have free sun chairs and umbrellas, wide green spaces, flamingos swimming in the pond and is one of the most fun outdoor spaces in the city. By far our favorite park, we spent many afternoons here with the puppies in our care, and which is why we recommend heading here if you want to go beyond central Santiago.
While Cerro Santa Lucia, the other famous Santiago viewpoint, might be considered the prettier one, San Cristobal has the better views. From here you see how spread out Santiago is, and with the Andes in the background, we always felt like we were in such a special place.
When we heard about the second-hand stores on Bandera Street, we didn’t think all that much of it but stopped by anyway. What we found was loads of stores selling quality clothes, leather jackets, business suits, handbags and shoes – all of which fit non-Latina body shapes!
25 Pizza machines in the subway stations
We are not sure about the quality of these pizzas (yeah we are, it’s probably not that good!), but just having the option to throw money in the slot, click on the toppings that you want and hold a steaming pizza in your hands three minutes later is probably amazing after a night out.
We were ooh-ing and aah-ing almost every night when the sun set and the sky started to turn orange, purple and finally dark blue. We highly recommend to visit one of the many hotel rooftop bars or the Cerro Santa Lucia or San Cristobal lookouts if skies are clear.
Even though there are plenty of big supermarkets well stocked with fruits and vegetables, the city is filled with fresh fruit and veg, from the main market, La Vega, and simple fruit and vegetable vendors selling their produce from their own personal carts around town.
Santiago has surprisingly many bike lanes, called ciclovias, which are usually lined with trees, have space for joggers as well and run for miles across the city.
29 Strawberries in January
We were lucky enough to be in town for strawberry season, and when it hit, it seemed like there were strawberries for sale everywhere in town, for as little as $1 per kilo! The strawberries are all natural and taste like strawberries of old, how they are supposed to taste. We devoured so, so many kilos.
Bellavista is the place to be on a Saturday night – the bars, pubs and clubs around Pio Nono street are bursting with cheap booze deals. We loved the atmosphere especially on warm summer nights when most of the parties spilled out onto the streets.
31 El Huerto – the best vegetarian restaurant in Santiago
While Buenos Aires turned out to be a paradise for vegetarians, in Santiago it was harder to come by decent vegetarian food. Luckily we made our way to El Huerto (which is nowhere near anything we wanted to visit), as it turned out to be our favorite vegetarian restaurant in town.
The contrast between the typical colonial houses, and the glass towers in Providencia and traditional German half-timbered houses show Santiago society’s many sides.
Sure you could just enjoy a rest on a park bench, but why not combine that with a lower body workout?! We love these little foot pedals you find in front of many benches throughout the city – and took advantage whenever we could. Have you been to Santiago? What are your favorite things about the city? Share in the comments below…