21 Things to Do in Santiago (Before My 21st)

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In honour of my birthday month, I’ve set myself a bucket list of things to do in Santiago before I turn 21 and leave this deceivingly underrated capital city. It’s easy to take it for granted when everyone’s so keen to escape the urban bubble to travel around the rest of Chile, but Santiago itself is a top tourist destination and has many hidden treasures, some of which I have yet to discover…

Here’s to making the most of Santiago:

1. Hike up Cerro San Cristóbal (or take the funicular if you’re feeling lazy) for a magnificent panorama of the city at sunset. Santiago is at its clearest just after it rains when the smog begins to subside.

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…marginally missed sunset

2. Wander the streets of Barrio Lastarria and its trendy eateries and quaint boutiques. Pop into Hogs for salchipapas or a completo, to Buffalo Waffles for a savoury waffle or a strawberry and nutella-topped sweet-treat, Wonderland Café for an elaborate brunch or to the upmarket Bocanáriz for an acclaimed wining & dining experience.

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10 out of 10 would recommend

3. Check out Barrio Bellavista, a colourful bohemian neighbourhood with exuberant bars and vibrant street art on every corner. If you fancy something classier, go for drinks in Patio Bellavista. Extra points if you order a terremoto, Chile’s national white wine-based cocktail. Continue the night at one of Bellavista’s many nightclubs.

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On the hunt for a terremoto

4. Take a visit to the Costanera Centre, the tallest building in South America. Not only is it a shopping centre with shops similar to those you’ll find back home (think H&M, Forever 21, Zara and even Topshop), Sky Costanera on the top floor has a 360-degree view of the Andes encircling the city.

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Towering over the city at 300 metres

5. Explore the cute cafés, restaurants and artisan boutiques of Barrio Italia. A firm favourite is Café de la Candelaria, which offers a three-course meal and a juice for just 4900 CLP (just over a fiver!)

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Café de la Candelaria

6. Climb up Santa Lucía, a park in the heart of bustling Santiago. The hill is crowned by the remains of an old fort and an alternative view to Cerro San Cristóbal.

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Serenity amidst the madness of Santiago

7. Tempt your taste buds at Emporio La Rosa, one of the world’s top 25 ice cream parlours. Even though I don’t like ice cream (sacrilege, I know), it admittedly has some exciting flavour combinations like mint raspberry and banana & manjar.

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A safe bet: cookies & cream

8. Go on a double date with your bestie. Perfect location: Plaza Ñuñoa, a lively square located away from the city centre which is surrounded by sophisticated restaurants and bars, such as The Clinic.

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Fancy

9. Explore your arty side in Museo de Bellas Artes and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, two free museums housed in one extravagant building in Parque Forestal.

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Inside the MAC

10. Visit the Templo Bahá’í de Sudamérica. To get there, take the metro to Grecia on line 4 and then hop on micro no. 507- you’re not a true santiaguino until you’ve been packed like sardines into a micro bus amongst the locals.

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The only Bahá’í temple in South America

11. Learn about Chile’s indigenous tribes in Museo de Arte Precolombino, which is just around the corner from the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas.

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Mapuche burial statues

12. Become a wine connoisseur at one of Santiago’s nearby vineyards. Viña Undurraga is the easiest to get to on public transport, but Viña Concha y Toro, and Viña Santa Rita are also well-known destinations, not far from Santiago.

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A pleasant Friday afternoon at Viña Undurraga

13. Picnic by the lake in Parque Quinta Normal or have a go on the pedalos, or visit one of its museums. It compares to Madrid’s Parque del Retiro, but much much smaller!

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Museo Nacional de Historia Natural

 

14. Spend the day hiking up a once-active volcano, Cerro Manquehue. The last part of the ascent is quite steep and can be a bit of scramble, so be prepared for a workout!

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Nice clear day for a hike

15. Brush up on recent history at Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, which commemorates the victims of human rights violations during Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1973-1990. Also take a visit to Londres 38, in Barrio París-Londres, a building used by Pinochet’s secret police to interrogate and torture opponents of the military regime.

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 “my son was tortured here”

16. Source some fresh veg at La Vega, Santiago’s wonderfully hectic market teeming with locals shopping for the cheapest, locally-grown produce in the city. This expansive market also has restaurants serving traditional Chilean dishes at a very reasonable price!

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One of La Vega’s loyal customers

17. See a foreign film at Cinema El Biógrafo in Barrio Lastarria. Cheapest on Mondays- Wednesdays.

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Vamos al cine

18. Embrace your inner poet and visit Pablo Neruda’s quirky home, La Chascona. The Chilean Nobel laureate has three houses to visit in Chile (the other two are in Valparaíso and Isla Negra), each one matching Neruda’s vivid personality in its eccentric architectural design.

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Hidden in the heart of Bellavista

19. Head downtown to the Museo a Cielo Abierto in San Miguel, a rundown area that used striking street art to give the dilapidated buildings a much-needed makeover.

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A welcome pep talk

20. Take a tour of the Cementerio GeneralSantiago’s lavish and sprawling cemetery. There is an array of designs, including some ornate mausoleums which are as big as houses.

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Santiago’s Cemetery

21. Buy tickets for a Reggaeton concert, because why not? If you’re a fan of ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi, which skyrocketed to international levels of fame thanks to Justin Bieber’s remix, reggaeton might just be the music genre you’ve been missing out on all your life. I’ve already got my tickets to see Nicky Jam and J Balvin on 1st  July. Delightful.

So there’s my list of must-see things to do in Santiago! Let me know if I’ve missed anything crucial off the list 🙂

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