My name’s Rafael Acuna and I was born and raised in Venezuela. Welcome to my travel guide on the best places to visit in Santiago. I moved to Santiago, Chile in 2017 due to the ongoing critical situation in my country. I was looking for more opportunities and a better standard of living.
Just going back a bit, since graduating from high school, I jumped into a job but still couldn’t afford a camera. I decided to invest in my education which I think is the best thing a person can do. I got into university and studied Biology. Funny isn’t it? But I didn’t get the chance to graduate.
Life in Venezuela started to become unbearable and I wanted to leave. Around that time, I was also studying some languages such as German and French. My English was getting better and better as I did my entire course in English and also worked in the reception of some fantastic hotels.
Photography grew as a passion over time. Landscape photography relaxes me in a harmonious way but I’m also a cinephile. The fact that films and movies can tell entire stories and histories always seemed amazing to me.
The Pulsating City of Santiago
Santiago can be overwhelming at times. I guess it’s just the feeling of being in a “Big City”. The city is constantly growing and changing at an amazing speed. This allows you to evolve your way of thinking to never stop creating.
It’s also a lovely place to immerse in a mix of cultures. You can meet people from all over the world as Chile was ranked the number one “Adventure Tourism Destination” in the world. The capital is the entry point to that adventure. That’s one of the reasons why I love Santiago.
The surroundings of the capital are also incredible. You can visit the beach and some of the world’s best skiing spots on the same day. Nearby you can discover great trekking routes, hills and the Andean mountain range.
Travellers can enjoy a wonderful glass of Carmenere. This type of wine was thought to be lost in France after the phylloxera insect attacked the grapes. However, it was then rediscovered in Chile. There are plenty of prestigious wineries and vineyards just 30 minutes away from Santiago’s city centre.
Favourite Place: San Cristobal Hill
One of the best places to visit in Santiago is San Cristobal Hill. It’s full of trees and is situated centrally. You can walk up to the top and enjoy stunning views. Every single citizen or visitor can jump on the cable car and enjoy the sunsets. You never get tired of visiting San Cristobal!
Best Places to Visit in Santiago
There are so many amazing places to visit in Santiago which is why I recommend spending at least three days in the capital. The city is home to around 40% of all Chilean people which is an incredible fact when you think about it. Below are my top 10 best places to visit in Santiago.
1. Historic Barrio Lastarria Neighbourhood
This bohemian neighbourhood is a beautiful spot to enjoy short walks through the streets and to have lunch. Barrio Lastarria is located north of Avenida Liberador Bernado O’Higgins and is adjacent to other charming areas such as Bellas Artes. Cerro Santa Lucia is a must-do here.
2. Barrio Italia, Secret Hipster Hangout
I’m in love with this wonderful barrio. It started out as an artisan market and nowadays remains very much the same but there are more cafes, restaurants and galleries. Settled by Italians in the 19th century, Barrio Italia is one of the best places to visit in Santiago bursting with life.
3. Green Spaces of Santa Lucia Hill
Santa Lucia Hill is right in the heart of the city and has a long history. It was used as a war fort many years ago. Today you can enjoy a short walk up and a breathtaking view at the top. What I like about Santa Lucia Hill is that everytime I go there I have new experiences and shoot new perspectives.
4. San Cristobal Hill for the Best Views of Santiago
San Cristobal Hill is the largest green space in the city and offers visitors incredible views over the sprawling metropolis and mountains. It’s a great place to go to connect with nature and unplug for a while. The funicular takes you up and its cable car carries you between different sections.
5. Baha’i Temple in the Foothills of the Andes
Baha’i Temple is one of the best places to visit in Santiago. It was built by Canadian architectes for the Baha’i religious group. Set in the foothills of the Andes mountains, this unique building has amazing views over the capital city. This temple is a beautiful place to explore inside and out.
6. Colourful Pedestrian Promenade, Paseo Bandera
Paseo Bandera is a painted promenade which has vibrant colours, lots of movement and is perfect for walking. This area of the city was opened on December 21, 2017 and was designed by Chilean visual artist Dasic Fernandez. The colour extends across four blocks and three sections.
7. Sky Costanera, Highest Observatory
Sky Costanera has been a controversial building in Santiago ever since its conception as it has remained largely empty. Nevertheless, the views from the observatory at a height of 300 metres are impressive for those not scared of heights. Here you can enjoy 360 degree views of Santiago.
8. Main Square of Santiago, Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is the main square and beginning of it all. The city was founded around this antique and picturesque place. You will find that life here moves in a fast-paced fashion in every direction. I recommend visiting the nearby La Moneda, Plaza de la Ciudadania and Paseo Bulnes too.
9. Pueblito Los Dominicos Artisan Village
Los Dominicos is a village located in a residential community where you can try some of the best empanadas in Chile. The village also offers shopping such as handmade goods, leather clothes, jewellery, Mapuche silver and unique textiles. It’s one of the best places to visit in Santiago.
10. Museo a Cielo Abierto – San Miguel
There are many fantastic museums in Chile however this one in the San Miguel commune of Santiago takes the cake. In fact, it’s not actually a proper museum but an open-air museum. Take in the colourful buildings, murals and paintings of Museo a Cielo Abierto by walking.
Favourite Places to Photograph
When it comes to photography I love going to Barrio Italia. I like to shoot at places with many people and at places full of life – so this neighbourhood ticks those boxes. On the other hand, the peak at San Cristobal Hill called Gabriela Mistral is one of the best places to visit in Santiago too.
Rich Cuisine of Santiago
When in Santiago you will find a mix of all types of cuisine. Chilean dishes go from street food to world-class restaurants. For example: sopaipilla, empanada, pastel de choclo and chorrillana. You also have various options from other countries such as ceviche that the Peruvians love so much.
Some of the best restaurants are Mestizo and Chipe Libre. Both have a mixture of Chilean and Peruvian gastronomy. Bocanariz and Baco restaurants have fantastic wine options. I also recommend visiting Barrio Italia and taking a look for yourself to find some great places.
Where to Stay in Santiago
I recommend staying near the center of the city where the main tourist attractions are located. You could stay at hotels such as: Ismael Hotel, The Singular Santiago, Le Reve and plenty of Airbnb and apartment options.
My preference is to stay at Airbnb’s because there is more to enjoy that way. Some other exclusive places located away from the city are Vina VIK (a vineyard and luxurious hotel situated two hours from Santiago) and Casa Real Hotel which is part of the amazing Santa Rita vineyard.
Thanks for reading my guide on the best places to visit in Santiago. Enjoy your stay in one of the most pulsating cities in South America!