a guide to Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile was everything I wanted South America as an experience to be. It was rich in culture and good food. The people were incredibly friendly. The city has history, both raw and recent {like the 1973 coup de'tat}. The streets were filled with music and painted in bright colours. The atmosphere of the city combined with everything listed above made it my favourite city on our South American journey {and that's a big call}! 

Here's my guide for Santiago, Chile! 

Where to stay?

Tash and I stayed at the Santiago Hostal. This hostel was one I would highly recommend to anyone looking to be centrally located in the city in a 'friends becoming family sharing meals and talking about philosophy' environment. There were two small puppies on the premises that were as clumsy-footed as they were cuddly. There is an outdoor patio up on the top floor that is sunny and perfect for a glass of wine after a long day of exploring. 

If you decide to stay somewhere else, I still highly suggest the Bellavista neighborhood. There was live music being played, cafes and bars open at any hour, colorful street art to photograph, shops available for picking up items you might require, and museums and art galleries to pop in! 

What and where to eat?

Ice cream at Emporio la Rosa!  Emporio la Rosa has been repeatedly named one of the Top 25 Ice Cream Parlors in the World, which says a lot. There are traditional as well as creative flavours on offer-- rose petal, pepper chocolate, cookie dough, etc. They also offer food and coffee, but Tash and I filled ourselves up with rich and delicious ice cream. If their light fare menu is anything like their ice cream, you will not be disappointed at all! 

Authentic Chilean dishes at Galindo!   Galindo was recommended to us multiple times by people from locals working at the hostel, our tour guide, and people in a local tour guide office. We were told the prices were reasonable for the amount of food you received and that it was very authentic. Galindo was one of the best meals we had the entire time we were in South America. Hands down. Without question. The atmosphere felt lively and the restaurant was filled with locals {always a good sign!}. There were vegetarian versions of meals available. As with any true South American restaurant, it was loud, loud, loud inside! 

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I do NAGHT recommend the cracker-cake-slice thingy {pictured below}! Tash picked it out, and though I ate it almost in its entirety, it was disgusting and dry and I almost choked like 12 times on the sawdust/caramel concoction {how yuck is the word concoction, though?} 

What to do?

Take the FREE walking tour of the city! The tour starts at the Plaza de Arms and ends in the Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago, coincidentally where our hostel was located. It's a 3-hour tour all across the city. Our guide was originally from Bolivia, but his English was impeccable. His knowledge of the city and insight into the culture was highly valuable. Your tour also takes you to try a pisco sour {not a fan}, a traditional South American cocktail {Peruvians and Chileans both claim it as their trademark}. 

Go to the Salsa show! The salsa show Tash and I attended takes 'local experience' to a whole new level. No one spoke English-- not the wait staff, not the ticket collector, NOT. ANY. ONE. Luckily, by that point in our journey, Tash used a few Spanish words she'd learned via her app and I summoned the power of gesturing as acquired in my TEFL training in Laos to communicate. Our tickets, which we booked advanced online, included a trip to a large food buffet at the front of the building {we weren't told this until we arrived}. Be warned that since there is no English spoken at the show you won't know when it ends or when intermission breaks are. Just go with the flow and relax! That's the Chilean way, after all. 

Walk up to the view point! Near the Santiago Hostal is the Santiago Zoo. If you walk around the back of the zoo, you'll see a city viewpoint. We wanted to go for sunset, but upon walking up to the top of the hill were told by various locals that it wasn't safe in the dark and that we should turn around. After the third person telling us to turn around, we took the hint and headed back. We've heard it's well worth the hike, just try and go during the daytime?! 

Learn about the life of one of the greatest romantics! Pablo Neruda is the pride of Chile. If you don't know who he is, give him a quick Google. Right around the corner from our hostel was one of Pablo Neruda's three houses, La Chascona. After visiting the poet's home and taking the self-guided English tour, I read 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair' and, let me tell you, it seriously is everything romance and heartbreak {try out I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You}. Purchase self-guided headsets at the door of the museum, no advance purchase or reservations necessary. 

Understand recent history at the Museum of Memory + Human Rights! This museum is dedicated to the victims of human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship between 1973 and 1990. Yeah, that recent. I've said before that dark tourism is something I feel deeply conflicted about, however, after studying the field of human rights, I have to say that this museum is a must. It is imperative to understand the impact this military regime had on Chilean culture. The museum is free, but it is all in Spanish. You may decide to purchase an English headset that will guide you through the museum {I did!}. No pictures are allowed inside, which is obviously a rule made out of respect. 

Drop in the National Museum of Chile! This museum is free to the public on specific days of the week, so plan ahead if you can. This is truly a museum for anthropologists! You'll get to see the evolution of everything from traditional dress to baskets and art. You can easily spend two hours in this museum walking from floor to floor. 

There is so much to see and do in Santiago. It's truly a city where all things modern and historic meet.

Go there. Now. Seriously.