Three days in Chile’s Capital City: Santiago
Santiago, the capital of Chile, has the Chile’s largest airport, making it the start or finish for most people’s visits to Chile. Like many, we had limited time before heading down to Patagonia and planned on spending three nights in Santiago. We spent a day and a half in Santiago and another day in Valparasio and Casablana during this time.
When I was trying to make a dinner reservation in advance and everything was closed, I just assumed it was because we were arriving on a Sunday. I figured we found find something once in town, but it turned out that it had nothing to do with it being a Sunday. Rather, we arrived on Election Day. Everything in Santiago was closed as Chileans headed to the polls for a compulsory vote to decide whether the 1980 constitution written during Pinochet’s dictatorship should be replaced (and the vote didn’t end up passing). Pretty important moment for Chile’s history, in that moment.
Given everything was closed, including the cable cars and funiculars, we decided to spend our afternoon walking up Cerro Cristobal to take in the sunset from the top of the hill. Cerro Cristobal is a mountain right in the middle of Santiago. It’s easily accessible by cable car and funicular normally. Given the elections, our only option was to walk up the hill. There are several hiking trails as well as a sidewalk alongside the road up the mountain. The mountain also has a bunch of parks, swimming pools and cafes, but all of this was closed so we just enjoyed the walk and the sunset views.
We then headed over to Bellavista, a neighbourhood full of restaurants and nightlife. It was mostly closed as well but we managed to find a restaurant, Palacio de Chorrilana to be open. We joined the handful of others and tried the famous Chilean Chorrilana, a dish of french fries topped with steak, sausage, onion and a fried egg.
Free Walking Tour
The following morning, we started our day with a free walking tour. This really gave us a good orientation of the city as well as an understanding of Chilean history. Plus our guide, Carlos really grounded us in the significance of the politics and cultural events, particularly relevant given the election the day before!
The tour started at Saint Francis Church and took us through several of the key buildings in the historical city center, including the stock exchange, La Moneda and Plaza de Armas. We got to see the different architectural styles and particularly gain an understanding of how much french influence the city had, not because the French invaded but because the Chileans were francophiles.
We then made our way to Mestizo, a fantastic open air restaurant in Parque Bicentenari. The atmosphere is wonderful and the food is delicious. We enjoyed a long Chilean lunch, then went for a walk through Barrio Italia, a cute Italian neighbourhood filled with restaurants, cafes and lots of little shops.
After taking a short rest at the hotel, we ventured back out for the evening. We started with a vist to the tallest building in Latin America, Sky Costanera. There is a view deck at the top to check out a panoramic view of the city. There is also a bar / restaurant there. We decided just to check out the views and then headed over to Zanzibar, a nearby restaurant for dinner.