Santiago, the capital of Chile in South America, and its largest city, is best visited during the months of December, January and February. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you get to take a winter vacation while the Southern Hemisphere is in its summer!
This cosmopolitan city has everything you need: a walkable down town perfect for touring, plentiful dining and shopping options, and lots of museums, parks and tourist attractions. Spend a few days in town, before heading south to the lakes region or Patagonia. Here’s a look at a 5 day Santiago itinerary, and tips for planning your own visit to Santiago Chile!
Santiago Chile Itinerary
Here is an overview of our first five days in Santiago, Chile. After visiting Valpariso, the Lakes Region, Chiloe, and Patagonia, we did return for a few more days! As you can see, we really jammed in a lot into three of the days, so certainly you can spread the sights out a bit more!
- Overnight flight to Chile, recovery and welcome to Chile with a Pisco Sour!
- Downtown Plaza de Armas, Cafe Haiti, Cerro Santa Lucia, Palacio de Bellas Artes
- La Moneda, Precolombian Museum
- Providencia Street walking, Patio Bellavista, Cerro San Cristobal, La Chascona, Pueblo Los Dominicos
Scroll down to the bottom for links to all these places, plus recommendations for dining and shopping!
Further reading: Check out this post for a toddler friendly visit to Santiago.
Here’s how our visit went:
Santiago Day 1: Sleeping and Eating
Our flight to Santiago may be deserving of a letter to Copa, and not one of those good ones. Between a bathroom door that didn’t close, M being leaked on (literally, water on pants) and a couple meal screw-ups, it wasn’t one of those “pain-free” flights.
Nevertheless, we made it, and Cousin M1 picked us up in the early morning dawn. The rest of the day was spent sleeping and eating, then again….aaand, again.
Regardless, we did fit in: a coffee on the the balcony complete with buildings and mountains view, a short walk in the deceptively strong (ozone-protection-free) sun, and a meet with the rest of the family.
Santiago Day 2: Overview and Ice Cream
By the second day we felt rested enough to play tourist. We started in the Plaza de Armas, and didn’t get very far before heading to the famous Domino for a hot dog lunch followed by a “classy” raunchy coffee at Cafe Haiti.
From there we were ready to start our tour with an overview of the city from Cerro Santa Lucia. We took the elevator up and completed the stairs up for a panorama of the truly enormous city below.
From there we walked through a seemingly gentrified area full of cute coffee shops (and stopped for an ice cream) where we unexpectedly found ourselves in a new artsy Gabriela Mistral building where a tour was just starting!
Unfortunately for the guide, we quickly lost interest and left the ultra modern community building for a walk through Ruben Dario Park, where we ended our day in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (closed due to strike). Dinner was a birthday celebration with Cousin M1 and family…
Santiago Day 3: Shopping, and Shopping
Apparently we had over-extended ourselves on day 2 because by the next morning, all we felt like tackling was some shopping in Alto Las Condes.
The unexpected cold front passing over left us freezing in our summer t-shirts, so that a quick trip to the mall produced fruitful long-sleeved results. Aunt R met us and we went for lunch with Cousin M2 a little ways away.
The restaurant’s specialty is raw beef, and viewing plates of ground beef (read: raw hamburger meat on bread) was revolting enough, that we decided to pass on ordering it. A coffee with Cousin M3 and we continued our little shopping tour. We were impressed to discover that you can really find everything here (due to trade agreements and low customs).
Santiago Day 4: La Moneda
Our morning was the epitome of good touristing. As we exited the metro downtown, we were welcomed by the horns and yelling of a peaceful protest, an appropriate welcome to the governmental buildings.
We started in La Moneda with the cultural center where we were pleasantly surprised with an exhibition on basket-making and some local art.
We then headed to the PreColumbian museum that houses artifacts from all of Latin America with impressive explanations to boot. And there ended our touristing for the day, as we entered a family tour in full swing: lunch here, coffee there, another coffee there, dinner there and the day was over. Whew!
Although worth noting were a couple incredible cakes we’ve had so far: chocolate/peach jam/marzipan; bluberry/merangue; and several types with dulce de leche.
Santiago Day 5- The Strike Strikes Again:
Our third attempt at a museum day was an utter failure with the ongoing government workers strike. So we planned a walking tour.
We walked the length of Providencia street- a commercial and business area with wide sidewalks. It seemed that our luck had changed and we were finally provided with a warm sunny day to enjoy.
By lunchtime we had made it to Patio Bellavista, a touristy complex with lots of restaurants and artisanal shops. We continued all the way to the main entrance to Cerro San Cristobal, determined to end the walk with a nice view of the city. But alas, the park workers were on strike!!! No entrance for us!
Luckily, we found La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, nearby and had a nice informative tour. We ended our day with a visit to Pueblo Los Dominicos, a true artisanal craft market, with a wide variety of local arts.
Here are all the tips you need for touring in Santiago Chile!
Santiago Touring Tips
*Pick up a tourist map at the tourist information in Plaza de Armas
Museo PreColombino– great small museum with nice collection of indigenous artifacts from all of Latin America. Tues-Sun, 10-18.
La Moneda & museum– the government palace, in the underground museum are rotating temporary exhibitions.
Cerro Santa Lucia- hill close to downtown for a view of the city.
Providencia- a mixed use neighborhood that nice to walk through during the week. (around Valdivia metro stop, plus/minus 3 stops)
Tips for Dining in Santiago Chile
Cafe con Piernas- coffee with legs, half naked girls serve mediocre coffee, a raunchy must if you are a man. Women might want to try Cafe Haiti for a slightly less offending taste of the action. Various locations downtown.
Domino– hotdogs with lots of toppings, go during lunch time on a weekday in the Centro, or just anywhere; they are all over the place.
Tip y Tap– local chain with sandwiches (churasco) and some other stuff.
Tavelli- local chain, ice cream shop that also serves food. Lunch special is good, ice cream mediocre.
Emporio la Rosa- local chain, really great ice cream.
Shopping in Santiago
Pueblo Los Dominicos– artist village, for mostly affordable artisanal crafts