For the longest time Chile’s capital city of Santiago sat overlooked, hidden in the shadows of the snowcapped Andean Cordillera—set against the likes of Buenos Aires or Rio de Janiero. For most visitors, Santiago was just a convenient entry point to the country, a stopping point en route to Easter Island, Patagonia, or the Atacama Desert. But as Chile has emerged into the global tourism spotlight, Santiago is finally getting recognized for the bustling, vibrant metropolis that it is.

Home to over 5.5 million people, this vast, sprawling metropolis was first founded in 1541 and has been the country’s capital ever since. Historic barrios of classical buildings along leafy, European-style boulevards sit next to gleaming skyscrapers and modern buildings, evidence of the city’s booming tech and start-up scene. The center of Chilean politics since its founding, Santiago has seen some of the most important moments in Chilean history. With charming, walkable neighborhoods, easy mass transit, a growing food scene, and dynamic art and culture institutions and movements, Santiago is just waiting to surprise you as you’ll discover in this Extraordinary Guide to Santiago, Chile. 

Tight shot of the Santiago, Chile's stock exchange building.
Santiago Stock Exchange building. Image by diegograndi from Getty Images

Not-to-be-missed Experiences Around Santiago

Santiago is a truly cosmopolitan city, with a bit of something for everyone. If you enjoy wandering around engaging, creative neighborhoods admiring street art, Santiago has art-filled barrios like Bellavista that are full of colorful buildings, vibrant murals, social justice-centered street art, and bars where counter-culture creatives hang out. If you prefer to spend your time in a new city immersing yourself in curated history and culture, Santiago’s many museums are stocked with art and antiquities. Food lovers will find themselves hopping all over town to try everything from internationally renowned restaurants to local hole-in-the-wall favorites. It’s impossible to truly discover Santiago in just one trip, but these experiences will help you scratch the surface of this grand city. 

Sunlight hitting a colorful row of houses in the Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago Chile.
Colorful houses in Santiago’s Bellavista neighborhood. Image by Daboost

Visit exceptional museums full of art and culture

Santiago is home to numerous world-class museums worth exploring during your visit. Housed in an elegant Neoclassical and Baroque Revival palace, the National Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of works from Chilean and international artists. But one can’t-miss museum is the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. Its focus is the preservation and display of artifacts and art from pre-Columbian indigenous societies around Chile and Central and South America. This includes the Maya and Aztec people. Ceramics, statues, weavings, jewelry, and clothing are just some of the items in its impressive collection, displayed in educational, insightful exhibits. 

Over exposure shot of tourism walking around Plaza Las Armas square in Santiago Chile.
Plaza Las Armas square in Santiago, Chile. Image by Lindrik from Getty Images

Get the best view of the city from Cerro San Cristobal 

Crowned with a towering statue of the Virgin Mary, Cerro San Cristol is a giant hill and urban park jutting up out of central Santiago. As Santiago’s biggest urban park, its forested slopes are home to walking and cycling routes, a Japanese garden, a botanical garden, and two public swimming pools. The top of the hill has a wide terrace with sweeping views of the city and Andes Mountains. You can get to the summit of Cerro San Cristol either on the historic funicular railway or a teleférico cable car. Advance tickets can be purchased online to avoid any long lines, which is especially helpful during high season. While many tourists head to the panoramic viewing deck at the top of the glossy Sky Costanera tower, South America’s tallest skyscraper at 62 stories, the view from Cerro San Cristobal is far better because it includes the sleek pinnacle of Sky Costanera itself. The size and scale of the Andean Cordillera behind Santiago is also something to behold. 

Cityscape of Santiago, Chile featuring the Sky Costanera Tower—South America’s tallest skyscraper. Image by komyvgory for Getty Images

Visit Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home

Along with his poetry, Pablo Neruda is known for his whimsical, eccentric homes. While two of his three homes are located along the Chilean coast, his Santiago home, nestled against the lower slopes of Cerro San Cristobal in the Bellavista neighborhood, evokes his love for the sea through its art and maritime-themed decor. Named La Chascona after his mistress Matilde Urrutia, the house is open for self-guided tours that wind through the different rooms, courtyards, and passages. The audio guide includes information about Neruda’s life, his work, and the different artwork and knick-knacks you’ll encounter.

Learn about the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship

On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinchoet overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in a violent coup. What followed was nearly 20 years of military dictatorship under his leadership, with detainments, torture and interrogation in secret facilities, and the killing of at least 3,000 people. Many disappeared and have never been found. To this day, many Chilean families still don’t have answers as to what happened to their loved ones. Because of this, the dictatorship is still an open wound for Chileans, especially since it only just ended in 1990. While learning about a brutal dictatorship is never easy, it’s part of our responsibility as travelers and humans to educate ourselves on a country’s history. You can visit key sites from the dictatorship around Santiago like Villa Grimaldi, an infamous interrogation and torture center, but the best place to start is at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Located in the Yungay neighborhood, this sombre testament to the legacy of the dictatorship features heart-wrenching exhibits and testimony documenting Pinochet’s reign from start to finish. 

Close up of an open market sign displaying the cost of the artichokes that sit under it.
Fresh artichokes at The Central La Vega Market in Santiago. Image by rbuchber from Getty Images

Load up on local handicrafts or fresh food at local markets

Santiago is home to a wide variety of shopping experiences. While you can seek out modern brands and stores at major malls like the Costanera Center and Alto Las Condes, you’ll connect more with Chilean culture and people at local markets. You can dive into the dizzying melee of La Vega and Mercado Central. Both located inside giant buildings with winding corridors between stalls and booths, you’ll find fresh seafood, produce, and unique Chilean and South American fruits and ingredients like chirimoya. These green fruits have a similar shape as apples, with flavor that tastes like a blend of pineapple and banana. They’re a popular flavor at Chilean ice cream parlors. 

At Mercado Central, you can also dine at casual, sit-down restaurants like Donde Augusto directly in the market. It’s always fun to purchase dishes featuring santolla, the gigantic king crab fished from the waters of Patagonia.

If it’s something artistic you’re looking for, head to Pueblito Los Domínicos. Located on the fringes of Santiago against the Andean foothills, this charming complex of nearly 200 artisan stalls sells all sorts of local handicrafts and artwork such as jewelry made with lapis luzli gemstones from the Coquimbo region. The market, which started out as an artist commune, is located within the grounds of a Dominican monastery. 

Soak up sweeping views from the Baháʼí Temple

If you’re planning to head to the outskirts of town to shop at Los Dominicos, head up to the Santiago Baháʼí House of Worship. Sitting under the shadow of the Andes, the temple offers an elevated view looking down onto the grid of the city. At night, the lit-up streets and houses are especially mesmerizing. But the temple is also worth seeing for its majestic architectural beauty. Looking like a furled-up flower with its nine curving ‘sails’ or petals, the swirling, domed structure of the temple has won several architecture awards. As is true of all temples for the Baháʼí faith, which teaches that all religions have worth and all peoples should be united, the temple is open to all regardless of religion. 

Our favorite neighborhoods

An over exposed image of cars lights passing a city corner in the Lastarria neighborhood of Santiago Chile
Lastarria neighborhood in Santiago, Chile. Image by Diegograndi from Getty Images

When staying in a sprawling city like Santiago, location is everything. That’s why most of Santiago’s top boutique hotels are located in the heart of one of the city’s trendiest boroughs. With cobblestone streets and historic buildings, the bohemian Lastarria neighborhood is one of Santiago’s best neighborhoods to stay in, being centrally located with access to urban parks, museums, shopping, and dining. Highly walkable and full of street art and murals, this hip district is rife with wine bars, cute shops, and some of Santiago’s coolest restaurants. 

Bordering the neighborhood to the north is Parque Forestal, a lovely park following the banks of the Mapocho River. You can pass through the park to reach the edgy Bellavista neighborhood and Cerro San Cristobal. You can also pop into the National Museum of Fine Arts. Lastarria is also bordered to the southwest by Cerro Santa Lucia, the hilltop of which offers an elevated view of the area and the slopes of which are covered in walking paths and historic monuments. Lastarria’s central location is also close to other must-visit neighborhoods and attractions like the National Library, National Theater, Barrio Paris-Londres, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art, and La Moneda Palace.

A statue of the Virgin Mary among palm tree on top of Cerro San Cristobal
Virgin Mary statue on top of Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago, Chile. Image by flocu from Getty Images

As a hub for creatives, you’ll find art everywhere in Lastarria from street markets and galleries to cultural centers like the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center. It’s also one of the best shopping and dining neighborhoods. You can browse record stores and find locally-made goods at independent shops before diving into the world of Chilean wine at Bocanáriz, Santiago’s premier wine bar and dining on traditional Chilean dishes in the eclectic Liguria restaurant.

All this and more are just steps from these top hotels that offer unparalleled hospitality experiences in the heart of Santiago…

Colorful barrio of Bellavista in Santiago, Chile
Colorful barrio of Bellavista in Santiago, Chile. Image by Ester Orgaz from Getty Images

Where to Stay + Sleep

The Singular Santiago

The upscale Singular chain’s Santiago location is just steps from Parque Forestal and its views of the Mapocho River, Cerro San Cristobal, and the Andes. Housed in an elegant brick building on the edge of Lastarria, this luxurious outfit offers a classic, romantic setting for your Santiago stay. Its 62 rooms—ranging from twin size to suite—feature warm-toned, classic décor with contemporary touches. With sweeping views of the city and mountains, the rooftop pool is reason enough to stay here, but guests enjoy plenty of other luxury amenities like a rejuvenating spa and fitness center. Guests can also sip on refreshing pisco sours while looking out over the city at the rooftop bar. On the ground floor, the romantic, in-house restaurant serves European-style dishes made with Chilean ingredients like guanaco from Patagonia. The location can’t be beat, either. In addition to Parque Forestal, the heart of Lastarria with its art markets, restaurants, bars, and shops is just steps away. Can’t get enough of this spot? Visit their sister hotel on the shores of Last Hope Sound in remote Patagonia.

The front exterior of Hotel Magnolia.
Hotel Magnolia borders Santiago’s Lastarria and Bellas Artes neighborhoods. Image courtesy of Hotel Magnolia

Hotel Magnolia 

Located right on the border between the Lastarria and Bellas Artes neighborhoods, the refined, 40-room Hotel Magnolia blends heritage with modern luxury. The hotel is located inside a restored Spanish Colonial mansion dating from 1929, the building’s historic Art Deco touches are complemented by sleek, minimalist room design. The rooftop terrace has enviable views of Cerro Santa Lucia and the city, best enjoyed with one of their signature cocktails or a dish from their seasonally-influenced food menu. The hotel also includes a gym and luxe in-room amenities like a mini bar and curated toiletries. Staying at Hotel Magnolia offers the best of both worlds. Both Lastarria and Bellas Artes are just minutes away, each offering museums, dining, shopping, and people-watching.

The exterior of Hotel Cumbres Lastarria
 Hip, design-forward hotel Hotel Cumbres Lastarria is located right in the heart of Lastarria. Image by Hotel Cumbres

Hotel Cumbres Lastarria

What do you get when you combine a 4,000-mile coastline giving an entire country access to fresh seafood, endemic fruits and vegetables, and a blended culinary heritage made up of foodways from Indigenous people like the Mapuche who use corn, squash, and other vegetables in traditional foods like doughy sopaipillas, Spain, Germany, and other countries? An extraordinary cuisine just waiting to be experienced.

If your tastes tend more toward hip, design-forward hotels, Hotel Cumbres Lastarria will be right up your alley. Located right in the heart of Lastarria, the facade is a bold white block cut through with geometric lines and shapes. The contemporary theme is continued inside the 70-odd rooms with the use of glass dividers and modern furniture. But the focal point is undoubtedly the giant headboards behind the bed. Spanning nearly an entire wall, the headboards feature reprints of artwork housed at the nearby Museum of Fine Arts. Depicting historic scenes like Spanish conquistadors, the use of historic works of art creates a striking contrast between past and present. Along with its eye-catching focus on design, Cumbres Lastarria also has its own in-house fine dining establishment and amenities like a fitness center and room service. With a glass wall allowing for an infinity pool-esque look over the street below, the rooftop swimming pool is one of the hotel’s best features. While swimming or sipping on a cocktail, you can soak up views of the Andes Mountains, the Lastarria neighborhood, and Sky Costanera, the tallest skyscraper in South America at 62 stories with a top-floor viewing deck that’s popular with visitors.

Where to Eat + Drink

Tight shot of an open face raw meat sandwich on a wooden board with limes, small bowls of chopped onion, sauce, and raw meat surrounding the sandwhich.
Raw meat sandwiches (aka crudo valdiviano) a typical Chilean meal. Image by Larisa Bilnova from Getty Images

Set against culinary heavy-hitters elsewhere on the continent like Brazil and Argentina, Chilean food has taken some time to find its way into the spotlight. But once you have an asado al palo, a lamb that’s butterflied over an open fire and cooked until juicy and tender, in Patagonia or eat ceviche made from seafood pulled from the ocean hours before, you can’t go back. Santiago’s dining scene is a great intro to Chilean cuisine in all its glory, from casual sandwich joints to upscale fine dining establishments.

Boragó

It would be hard to travel the entire length of Chile from north to south in a single day, but you can at Boragó, where the multi-course tasting menu uses endemic ingredients from every corner of the country. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Boragó put Chilean fine dining on the map. While Chile boasts of a multicultural cuisine grounded in fresh, local ingredients and culinary influences from Spain, Germany, and local indigenous groups, it wasn’t taken seriously by the food world for the longest time. By centering the conversation on the incredible diversity of Chilean ingredients, chef Rodolfo Guzmán’s country-spanning tasting menus finally got the world’s attention. The seasonal ingredients, which range from Atacama flowers to Patagonian lamb, are either foraged or grown by Guzman and his team, or provided by the network of foragers, fishermen, farmers, and other providers Boragó works with all over Chile. With this locavore mindset, Boragó has also been heralded for its sustainability.

A beautiful display of three dishes served at Borago restaurant in Santiago, Chile.
Try one of chef Rodolfo Guzmán’s country-spanning tasting menus at Boragó. Image courtesy of Boragó

Chipe Libre—Républica Independiente del Pisco

From neighborhood wine bars to winery tasting rooms just outside the city, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Chilean wine during your stay in Santiago. But what about Chile’s other signature libation? Made from distilled grapes, pisco is Chile’s own homegrown spirit. While you will try it plenty in the famous pisco sour cocktails, there aren’t many places to sample through a flight of different piscos or learn more about this spirit and its creation. But Chipe Libre in the buzzy Lastarria barrio is one of the few places. In addition to pisco-centric cocktails, organized pisco flights give you a chance to taste the subtle differences between different distilling styles or regions. The pisco bar has the largest selection in the country, so you’re in good hands to begin your pisco education. A hearty, flavorful food menu of Chilean classics like ceviche and empanadas both complement the drinks and fill you up to ward off any hint of a hangover. 

At Chipe Libre in the buzzy Lastarria barrio you can taste Chile’s signature libation—pisco. Image courtesy of Chipe Libre

Bocanariz

This moody, craft-driven Vitacura bar has been named one of the best bars in the world for multiple years, so an aperitif or nightcap here is a must. As the name suggests, variations on the iconic Negroni cocktail anchor the bar menu, riffing on the classic by swapping out spirits or playing with flavor and presentation.  One must-try is the Patagonian Negroni, prepared with a gin-like Chilean distillate called Trakal. If Negronis aren’t your thing, don’t worry: the bartenders can whip up any number of other classic cocktails or house specialties. 

Located right next door to Chipe Libre in central Lastarria, Bocanariz is the wine bar to go to in Santiago. Not only is the atmosphere swanky and sophisticated, but their collection of over 400 different wines from around Chile is one of the most comprehensive around. For newcomers to the Chilean wine world, it’s a wonderful place to dip your toes into the realm of Carmenere or Cabernet Sauvignon. For those intimately acquainted with Chilean wine, you can try smaller vineyards, vintages, and types such as Naranjo orange wine. A great place to start is with a tasting flight, organized into different categories like “White Wines of Chile” or “From the Sea to The Andes” which shows how even a few miles of difference between the mountains and coast impacts the wine. Tens of wines are available by the glass, with hundreds more by the bottle. You can pair your wine with a nice grazing board of cheese and charcuterie, or opt for more filling entrees like risotto or fish of the day. 

Three wine glasses setup for a wine tasting at Bocanariz wine bar.
In central Lastarria, Bocanariz is the wine bar to go to in Santiago. Image by Bocanariz

Bar Liguria

With several locations around the city, this colorful Chilean-style bistro is a popular place for locals and visitors alike to dine on traditional dishes. From homestyle meals to elevated takes on street food, this is a great place to try some of the country’s most beloved dishes. Chileans love a good sandwich, so here you’ll find giant helpings of the country’s favorite sandwiches like barros luco, which features savory strips of beef covered in melty cheese. Seafood dishes like oysters with parmesan, savory empanadas, and hearty stews are other menu mainstays. Liguria is equal parts bistro and bar, with a robust drinks menu featuring everything from local craft beer to cocktails. The setting is also fabulous, with tiled floors and walls covered in Chilean-themed memorabilia.

Siete Negronis

This moody, craft-driven Vitacura bar has been named one of the best bars in the world for multiple years, so an aperitif or nightcap here is a must. As the name suggests, variations on the iconic Negroni cocktail anchor the bar menu, riffing on the classic by swapping out spirits or playing with flavor and presentation.  One must-try is the Patagonian Negroni, prepared with a gin-like Chilean distillate called Trakal. If Negronis aren’t your thing, don’t worry: the bartenders can whip up any number of other classic cocktails or house specialties.

A close up of the Siete Negronis logo  sign on the window of Siete Negronis Bar.
Siete Negronis Bar has been named as one of the best bars in the world for multiple years. Image courtesy of Siete Negronis

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