I recently went to Santiago, Chile for the weekend from Mendoza, Argentina. From Mendoza, it was an easy and beautiful bus ride through the mountains and many backpackers make this trip (but be careful if you are traveling in the winter because the border is often closed). The travel time changes depending on how busy the border is but my trip was 8 hours there and only 6.5 hours on the way back thanks to the fact that I took a night bus.
I spent roughly two and a half days in Santiago and I felt like it was a pretty good amount of time to see the city. If you are wanting to visit the mountains or the vineyards around Santiago you may want more time.
After arriving Friday afternoon, I decided to walk through Balmaceda Park to the Plaza de Armas (the main square in Santiago). After walking for several hours I went back to my hostel for an Asado (another name for a BBQ).
Travel Tip: I stayed at the Aji Hostel. Rooms were only $12 USD per night and it was nice. The location was great because you could walk to the center pretty easily, the neighborhood was safe, and it was right along the main metro line.
On Saturday, I started the day by heading to the Bellavista Neighborhood. This area is the most artistic area of Santiago and it had some great murals. I really enjoyed just walking around and taking pictures! After exploring Bellavista, I hiked up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal. I definitely recommend making this hike (also if you would prefer not to walk to the top you can take the funicular for ~$2000 Chilean Pesos). The hike up took around one hour and I definitely recommend bringing water although there are also water fountains along the way. After the hike, I went to Pablo Neruda’s house (also in the Bellavista neighborhood). His house was absolutely beautiful and unique plus it was a great way to learn some Spanish history. For those who don’t know, Pablo Neruda was a Nobel Prize winning poet from Chile. He was also politically active and was ambassador to France.
On Saturday afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the cheaper prices in Chile (at least compared to Argentina) and went to the mall called Costanera Center. The mall is HUGE and you can definitely find anything you might need. Saturday evening, I went back to the Bellavista neighborhood with some friends from the hostel. We went to a great restaurant called Abtao Restobar. They have some good craft beers as well as pizza and sandwiches (not very Chilean I know but still very good).
Travel Tip: If you are looking to save some money but don’t want to cook, most of the convenient stores sell empanadas that are pretty good and they are cheap. This ended up being my lunch choice both Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday, I went with some people from the hostel to Castilla Hidalgo (a small hill in the center of Santiago). Afterwards, we went for a coffee at 3841 Coffee Roasters (the best coffee I’ve had in Chile or Argentina-the coffee is brewed in house) followed by empanadas at Bella Pizza (also serves pizza). Both of these places were REALLY GOOD and I would definitely recommend then to anyone traveling to Santiago. Afterwards we went to the Bellas Artes Museum which I’m sorry to say was not very impressive and I easily could’ve skipped it. Luckily it was free.
At 3pm I did a free (tips only) walking tour that left from the front of the Bellas Artes Museum. It was a great tour and we saw the Plaza Armas, Palacio de la Moneda, and Centro Gabriela Mistral. During the tour they also told us some Chilean history about the coup they had in 1973. I thought this was a great way to learn some of the history of the country and now I find myself wanting to learn more! Sunday evening, I went to dinner at an outdoor market called Jardin Mallinkrodt that was an assortment of foods trucks. The atmosphere was really neat and the nice part was the tables served food from all the food trucks so your group didn’t have to agree on a certain one. If you decide to go here, I recommend getting there early because it tends to be crowded and have a wait on nice days.
Overall, I thought Santiago was a great city. Being able to see the snow capped mountains in the distance was definitely a plus. However, the smog was a little bit of a bummer. For anyone visiting, I hope these recommendations help and I’d love to hear your thoughts!