Santiago - A South American Metropolis

Thursday, 1 February 2018

It's so exciting to be here in South America and what a place to start! Across the next 4 months we will be travelling north, starting here in Santiago, Chile and ending in Ecuador, after having also explored Bolivia and Peru along the way.

We flew in to Santiago via Madrid with Iberia and it was, a great flight. We were more than pleased to not have to go through the  US as many flights to South America often do and from previous experience its not fun. Tasty food, a decent selection of films and constant free drinks made us all the more happy, but what made this flight stand out over any other was the exceptional view of the Andes we got flying across the Chilean Argentinian border. (Sorry no pictures! Wasn't sitting near the window unfortunately so you'll have to just take my word for it).

Leaving the airport turned out to be harder than expected as Lissa's bag got sniffed out by police dogs, for reasons we dont fully understand. After emptying the bag the border guards came to the conclusion that it was a packet of ginger biscuits that had been the problem and we were eventually waved through. We got to keep the biscuits so not all bad. We'd booked a night in a hostel already and had written down directions to get there from the airport, so after leaving we took a bus to the nearest metro station where we somehow managed to get a metro card with enough credit on, having to call upon Lissa's GCSE in Spanish and my beginner's Duolingo progress - something we'd soon realise would be a regular occurrence. (Hardly anyone speaks any English here!). We took the metro to Baquedano station, a 10 minute walk from our hostel and eventually managed to find our way there.

What followed was a packed full few days in a fantasic city and an unforgettable start to our trip. Through reading blogs and guidebooks before hand we got the general impression that Santiago was an alright city but nothing particulary special for travellers and tourists, but we were really pleasantly surprised and had such a great time.

Here's our top 10 activities to see in do in Chile's capital city:

1. Do a walking tour

Our hostel recommended we do a walking tour of the city, starting from Plaza de Armas, with the company FREE TOURS. We'd done them in the past before and have been really impressed so we turned up one afternoon and joined a group of other English speaking travellers. The tour was brilliant, taking us to both the cool new spots as well as the historic and important older areas of the city. Our guide knew so much and was good fun, making the hours fly by and teaching us so much about the country's fascinating past. In our opinion this is a great thing to do as soon as you get to a city, to get your bearings and its also a good way of making sure you're walking around the safer areas of a city if you're unsure.
(Tours run every day at 10am and 3pm and last roughly 3-4 hours with a small break in the middle. Tours run in English, Spanish and Portuguese. They start at Plaza de Armas. No booking required. Look for the guides wearing red t-shirts.)

2. Climb Cerro San Cristobal

This was probably my favourite thing that we did during our time here. If you walk through Bellavista, as you reach the end of Pio Nono street you'll find yourself at the bottom of a hill where there's a tourist information hut which can give you a map and tell you about the funicular and cable cars that operate on and around the hill. Take the walk up and the ride down for the most rewarding experience. Yes it's tiring but the views certainly make up for it!(Try to do it on a clear day for obvious reasons!)

3. Explore Bellavista

Bellavista is very much the 'cool' area of Santiago, boasting endless restaurants, bars and pubs/clubs, each more colourful than the other. Getting lost through the back streets of this neighbourhood should be on everyone's itinerary.

4. Take a stroll through Santiago's many parks

One of our favourite things about the city is how much green space it has and no better way to enjoy it than to walk around them with no agenda, simply stopping where and when you see something interesting.

5. Barrio Lastarria

One of the smaller and quieter neighbourhoods of Santiago, barrio Lastarria is made up of a few charming streets, where quaint cafes and restaurants meet exciting street performers and artists. Make sure to get an ice cream at Emporio La Rosa, ranked one of the best ice cream parlors in the world, with creative flavours such as rose petal, dark chocolate with pepper, Sauvignon Blanc and Earl Grey.

6. Museo de La Memoria y los Derechos Humanos

Most museums in Chile are free! This particular museum is definitely worth while and according to our tour guide the best in the city. Make sure to get a audio guide if you can't read Spanish well as the exhibitions are all in Spanish.

7. La Vega Market 

Recommended by our hostel to take a visit here, we found this a great place to buy fruit and veg on the cheap and get a feel of what seems more like local Chilean life.

8. National Museum of Contemporary Art

We stumbled upon the National Museum of Fine Arts when walking through Parque Forestel and had a look in - because why not! Although we weren't too fussed about the paintings and sculptures exhibited in there, we were much more interested by the contemporary art museum attached, at the other end of the building. Here you'll find lots of weird and wonderful art which will either leave you feeling a bit creeped out or thinking that you could easily create something just as good. Anyway, we enjoyed it for half an hour or so.

9. Cerro Santa Lucia

Although smaller and slightly less impressive than San Cristobal, getting to the top of this hill is certainly easier and will provide equally good views of the city!

10. London & Paris streets

This fancy area of the city is made up of small cobbled European style streets and countless cafes. Each building has its own unique European style making for a completely different feel to the rest of the city.

Where we stayed...

For those who are interested, we stayed at Castillo Surfista Hostel and we couldn't recommend it more. It was a large house, converted into a hostel with a decent kitchen and a nice dorm room. Great location & great price. You can find it here on hostelworld

What we spent...

Chile is one of the more expensive countries in South America and with Santiago being the capital city we expected to be spending lots when we were here. We did manage to keep costs down by cooking our own food as much as possible though. We spent an average of just over £25 each a day, including food, accommodation and activities, with about £10 each out of that spent on the hostel, so £15 on food and activities.

Hope this is useful!

Will & Melissa


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