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Chile Day 1: Walking Around Santiago


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Angie Pifer



Welcome to Chile, a vibrant and diverse country located on the western coast of South America. With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Chile offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. In this article, we will embark on a virtual journey through the charming capital city of Santiago, exploring its iconic landmarks, indulging in traditional cuisine, and immersing ourselves in the local culture.


As you stroll through the bustling streets of Santiago, you’ll be captivated by the juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and colonial architecture that tell the story of Chile’s fascinating history. The city is nestled between the majestic Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, providing a breathtaking backdrop to its vibrant urban landscape.


Santiago is the perfect starting point for any adventure in Chile, as it not only offers a plethora of exciting attractions within the city limits but also serves as a gateway to the country’s renowned wine regions, beautiful coastal towns, and stunning natural wonders.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, an outdoor adventurer, or simply seeking a unique cultural experience, Santiago has something to offer everyone. From exploring historic landmarks to indulging in exquisite cuisines and immersing yourself in the local arts scene, this cosmopolitan city is a treasure trove of possibilities.


Throughout this article, we will guide you through a day of exploration in Santiago, highlighting some of the must-see attractions and providing insights into the local experiences that await you.


So, put on your walking shoes, grab a map, and let’s embark on an unforgettable journey through the vibrant streets of Santiago, Chile!


Getting to Santiago

Getting to Santiago is fairly convenient, as the city is well-connected to international and domestic destinations. Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport serves as the primary gateway for travelers arriving by air. It is located about 15 kilometers northwest of the city center and is accessible via taxis, private transfers, or public transportation.


Many major international airlines offer direct flights to Santiago from cities around the world, making it easily accessible for travelers from different corners of the globe. Once you arrive at the airport, you can choose from various transportation options to reach your accommodation in the city.


If you prefer a hassle-free transfer, you can arrange for a private airport transfer in advance or hire a taxi from the official taxi ranks outside the airport. It is advisable to use only licensed taxis and ensure that the meter is running to avoid any scams or overcharging.


For a more budget-friendly option, you can take the Airport Express, a comfortable and efficient bus service that connects the airport to the city center. The buses run regularly, and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.


If you are coming from other parts of Chile, there are also excellent bus and train connections to Santiago. The city is well-served by long-distance buses that operate comprehensive networks throughout the country. The main bus terminal in Santiago, known as the Estación Central, is a major transportation hub with connections to various destinations.


If you prefer the comfort and convenience of train travel, you can take advantage of the national rail network in Chile. The Estación Central also serves as a railway station, offering train services to destinations such as Valparaíso and Chillán.


Once you have arrived in Santiago, you will find that getting around the city is relatively easy. The city’s public transportation system includes an extensive bus network and a modern metro system, making it convenient to explore different neighborhoods and attractions.


If you prefer to explore the city on foot, Santiago’s city center is relatively compact and pedestrian-friendly. Many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere and discover hidden gems along the way.


Now that you know how to get to Santiago and navigate the city, it’s time to dive into the unique experiences that await you in this vibrant South American capital.


Plaza de Armas

As the heart of Santiago, Plaza de Armas is a must-visit destination for any traveler exploring the city. This historic square dates back to 1541 when Santiago was founded by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia.


Surrounded by beautiful colonial architecture, Plaza de Armas offers a glimpse into Santiago’s rich history and cultural heritage. Take a leisurely stroll around the square and admire the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral, which is the centerpiece of the plaza. The cathedral, with its neoclassical facade and striking bell towers, is an architectural masterpiece that is worth exploring.


Within the plaza, you’ll find several other important buildings and landmarks. The Central Post Office, situated on the eastern side of the square, showcases stunning architecture and houses a museum where you can learn about the history of Chile’s postal service.


Another prominent feature of Plaza de Armas is the statue of Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of Santiago. This statue stands proudly in the center of the square and serves as a symbolic tribute to the city’s origins.


The plaza is also an excellent spot for people-watching. Grab a bench, relax, and observe the locals going about their daily lives. You’ll likely see street performers, artists, and vendors selling handicrafts and snacks.


If you visit Plaza de Armas on a Sunday, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the lively Feria Artesanal Santa Lucía, a vibrant open-air market where local artisans sell their crafts. This is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or unique handmade gifts.


As you wander around the plaza, be sure to pause and admire the beautiful gardens, fountains, and sculptures that add to the charm of this historic square. Take a moment to soak in the ambiance and imagine the events that have unfolded here over the centuries.


Plaza de Armas is not only a historical and cultural hub but also a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. It’s a great spot to experience the vibrant atmosphere of Santiago and connect with the city’s past.


From Plaza de Armas, we will continue our exploration of Santiago by venturing to another iconic destination: the Mercado Central.


Mercado Central

No visit to Santiago would be complete without a trip to the Mercado Central, a vibrant and bustling marketplace renowned for its fresh seafood and vibrant atmosphere. Located in the heart of the city, this historic market is a true food lover’s paradise.


As you step inside the Mercado Central, you’ll immediately be greeted by a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells. The market is housed in a beautiful wrought-iron building, adorned with intricate details and colorful stained glass windows, adding to its charm and uniqueness.


Once inside, you’ll find a bustling scene of seafood vendors, each showcasing an array of the freshest catches of the day. From succulent salmon and delicate sea bass to giant shrimp and mouthwatering ceviche, the Mercado Central offers a wide variety of seafood options to satisfy any palate.


Whether you’re a seafood lover or simply curious about Chile’s culinary delights, take your time to explore the stalls and interact with the friendly vendors. They are always happy to share their knowledge and give recommendations based on your preferences. You can even have your seafood cooked on the spot and enjoy a mouthwatering meal right at the market.


In addition to the seafood, the Mercado Central is also home to several restaurants where you can indulge in traditional Chilean dishes. From hearty seafood stews like the famous “cazuela de mariscos” to traditional empanadas filled with a variety of ingredients, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.


As you savor the flavors of Chilean cuisine, take a moment to soak in the lively ambiance of the market. The Mercado Central is a popular gathering place for both locals and tourists alike, creating a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. You’ll hear the sounds of chatter, clinking glasses, and the occasional street musician adding to the lively atmosphere.


While the market is primarily known for its seafood, you’ll also find a variety of other products such as fruits, vegetables, spices, and handicrafts. It’s a great place to pick up some locally-made souvenirs or ingredients to create your own Chilean-inspired dishes at home.


The Mercado Central is not just a place to shop and eat; it’s an experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and culinary scene. With its vibrant atmosphere and delicious offerings, a visit to the Mercado Central is a true feast for the senses.


After indulging in the flavors of the market, it’s time to continue our exploration of Santiago. Next on our itinerary is the enchanting Cerro Santa Lucia.


Cerro Santa Lucia

Perched atop a hill in the heart of Santiago, Cerro Santa Lucia is a picturesque urban park that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. A true oasis in the midst of the bustling metropolis, this enchanting park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike.


As you ascend the winding pathways of Cerro Santa Lucia, you’ll be captivated by its lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and tranquil water features. The park is meticulously landscaped, with beautifully manicured gardens and hidden nooks waiting to be discovered.


One of the highlights of Cerro Santa Lucia is the Castillo Hidalgo, a majestic fortress-like structure that stands proudly atop the hill. Built in 1818, the castle offers a glimpse into Santiago’s colonial past and provides an impressive backdrop for the park’s stunning landscape.


Make your way through the park’s winding trails and staircases, stopping to admire the various viewpoints along the way. As you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views of Santiago. From the towering skyscrapers of the business district to the sprawling neighborhoods and the majestic Andes Mountains in the distance, the vistas from Cerro Santa Lucia are truly awe-inspiring.


Take a moment to soak in the tranquility of the park, finding a peaceful spot to sit and enjoy the scenery. You’ll often find visitors picnicking or simply basking in the beauty of their surroundings. The park is also home to sculptures, monuments, and historical plaques that provide insight into the city’s rich past.


For history buffs, a visit to Cerro Santa Lucia also offers a chance to explore the park’s historical significance. It was on this hill that Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of Santiago, first laid eyes on the fertile lands that would become the city. Plaques and markers throughout the park tell the story of its importance in Chilean history.


Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the city or an opportunity to immerse yourself in Chilean history, Cerro Santa Lucia offers a serene and captivating experience for visitors of all ages. The combination of natural beauty, historical significance, and stunning views make it a top attraction in Santiago.


After descending from Cerro Santa Lucia, it’s time to refuel with a delicious lunch at a local eatery. A taste of authentic Chilean cuisine awaits you!


Lunch at a Local Eatery

After a morning of exploration and taking in the sights in Santiago, it’s time to refuel and indulge in the flavors of Chilean cuisine. The city is dotted with numerous local eateries and restaurants, offering a wide range of culinary delights that will satisfy your taste buds.


When it comes to choosing a place for lunch, consider seeking out a local eatery to truly experience the authentic flavors of Chile. These establishments often serve traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations, using fresh, local ingredients that reflect the country’s unique culinary heritage.


One classic Chilean dish that should not be missed is the iconic “empanadas.” These savory pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients, such as beef, cheese, or seafood, and baked to golden perfection. Pair your empanada with a refreshing pisco sour, Chile’s national cocktail made from grape brandy, lime juice, sugar, and egg white.


If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the mouthwatering “cazuela de mariscos,” a hearty seafood stew made with a variety of shellfish, fish, and vegetables. This comforting and flavorsome dish showcases the abundance of fresh seafood that Chile is known for.


For a taste of Chilean street food, look for a “sangucheria” or sandwich shop, where you can sample the famous “choripan.” This delicious sandwich consists of a grilled chorizo sausage served on a crusty roll and topped with salsa and other condiments. It’s a favorite among locals and a satisfying choice for a quick lunch.


Another popular option is “lomito,” a hearty sandwich made with tender slices of beef or pork, topped with ingredients such as avocado, salsa, and mayonnaise. This substantial and flavorful sandwich is sure to leave you satisfied and ready to continue exploring the city.


When choosing a local eatery, consider asking for recommendations from locals or hotel staff who can steer you toward hidden gems that offer an authentic experience. Venturing away from the tourist areas will often lead you to lesser-known establishments that serve delicious food at affordable prices.


During your lunch break, take your time to savor the flavors and appreciate the culinary traditions of Chile. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the eatery, strike up conversations with the friendly staff, and perhaps even learn a few Spanish phrases along the way.


After a satisfying meal, you’ll be ready to continue your exploration of Santiago. The city has many more attractions and experiences in store, so buckle up and get ready for the next adventure!


La Moneda Palace

One of the most iconic landmarks in Santiago, La Moneda Palace is a must-visit destination that encapsulates the political and historical significance of Chile. Located in the city center, this architectural gem serves as the seat of the country’s government, housing the offices of the President and various ministries.


La Moneda Palace holds a significant place in Chilean history. Built in the late 18th century, the palace originally served as a mint. However, it gained prominence as the stage for a pivotal moment in Chile’s history – the 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.


Today, the palace stands as a symbol of Chile’s democracy and resilience. The exterior showcases an elegant neoclassical design with grand columns and intricate detailing. It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the architectural beauty of the building before venturing inside.


Guided tours of La Moneda Palace are available, providing visitors with an insightful peek into the history and workings of the government. As you explore the grand hallways and rooms, you’ll encounter stunning art pieces, historical artifacts, and exhibits that shed light on Chile’s political past and present.


A highlight of the tour is the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place every other day in front of the palace. This ceremony is a magnificent display of precision and discipline by the specially trained guard unit, and it is a sight not to be missed.


Outside the palace, you’ll find an expansive courtyard adorned with beautiful gardens and fountains. It’s a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city, providing a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Santiago. Take some time to relax and soak in the surroundings before continuing your exploration.


Adjacent to La Moneda Palace is the Centro Cultural La Moneda, a contemporary cultural center that hosts a variety of art exhibitions, film screenings, and live performances. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in Chile’s vibrant arts scene and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s culture and creativity.


La Moneda Palace is not only a significant political institution but also an architectural masterpiece that offers a glimpse into Chile’s past and present. It’s a testament to the country’s enduring spirit and a reminder of the importance of democracy and governance.


After a visit to La Moneda Palace, it’s time to delve into Chile’s rich pre-Columbian heritage at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.


Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Located in the heart of Santiago, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, or the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, is a treasure trove of artifacts and artworks that showcase the rich and diverse cultures of ancient civilizations in the Americas.


Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building, the museum is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the artistic achievements of the indigenous cultures that flourished in Chile and across South America before the arrival of the Europeans.


Step inside the museum, and you’ll be immersed in a world of ancient history and art. The collections span thousands of years, featuring ceramics, textiles, metalwork, and sculptures from various cultures, including the Mapuche, Inca, Moche, and many more.


The museum’s exhibits highlight the remarkable creativity and craftsmanship of these ancient civilizations, providing insights into their beliefs, rituals, and daily lives. Each artifact tells a story, shedding light on the spiritual beliefs, social structures, and artistic techniques of these ancient cultures.


As you explore the galleries, you’ll come across intricately decorated pottery, finely woven textiles, and exquisite metalwork that showcase the skill and ingenuity of the artisans. The museum’s expertly curated exhibits provide a fascinating glimpse into the diverse cultural heritage of the pre-Columbian peoples.


In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that delve deeper into specific themes within pre-Columbian art and culture. These rotating exhibits provide a fresh perspective and ensure that there is always something new to discover on each visit.


The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino also offers educational programs, workshops, and guided tours, allowing visitors of all ages to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of pre-Columbian art and culture. These interactive experiences provide a hands-on understanding of the techniques used by ancient artisans and allow visitors to create their own art inspired by ancient traditions.


After immersing yourself in the ancient past, take some time to relax in the museum’s courtyard. Adorned with beautiful indigenous plants and a stunning sculpture garden, it’s a tranquil space to reflect on the richness and diversity of the cultures explored within the museum’s walls.


The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino is a true gem in Santiago, offering a unique opportunity to connect with the ancient history and artistic legacy of the Americas. It’s a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, art lovers, and anyone seeking to delve into the fascinating world of pre-Columbian civilizations.


After exploring the wonders of the museum, it’s time to savor the flavors of Chilean cuisine once again with a memorable dinner at a traditional Chilean restaurant.


Dinner at a Traditional Chilean Restaurant

After a day of exploring the vibrant city of Santiago and immersing yourself in its rich history and culture, it’s time to indulge in a memorable dinner at a traditional Chilean restaurant. Chilean cuisine is a delightful combination of flavors influenced by indigenous traditions, Spanish heritage, and international influences.


When choosing a traditional Chilean restaurant, look for establishments that showcase the country’s culinary heritage and use local ingredients to create authentic dishes. These restaurants often pride themselves on preserving traditional recipes and techniques, allowing you to savor the true flavors of Chile.


Start your culinary journey with some traditional appetizers, such as “pastel de choclo,” a savory corn pie filled with meat, onions, and olives, topped with a creamy corn crust. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish is simply irresistible.


For the main course, consider trying the beloved “asado,” a traditional Chilean barbecue. This meat feast usually includes a variety of grilled cuts, such as beef, pork, and chicken, served with accompaniments such as pebre, a spicy salsa made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and ají pepper. Pair your asado with a glass of Chilean wine, as the country is renowned for its excellent vineyards.


Another iconic dish worth exploring is “cazuela,” a hearty stew typically made with meat, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and other seasonal vegetables. This comforting dish reflects the agricultural traditions of Chile and is perfect for a satisfying evening meal.


Seafood lovers should not miss the opportunity to indulge in Chile’s fresh coastal offerings. Traditional dishes like “conger eel stew” and “machas a la parmesana” (baked clams with Parmesan cheese) highlight the nation’s rich marine resources and culinary expertise.


As you savor your meal, take note of the warm and welcoming atmosphere that often characterizes traditional Chilean restaurants. The staff are typically friendly and eager to share stories and insights into the local cuisine, helping to enhance your dining experience.


Complete your meal with a traditional dessert such as “manjar,” a sweet caramel spread, often paired with “sopaipillas” (fried pumpkin bread) or crispy “calzones rotos” (fried dough strips). These sweet treats provide a perfect ending to a delectable Chilean dining experience.


Remember to take your time and enjoy the flavors and company at the table. Chilean cuisine is all about savoring the moment and appreciating the culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations.


After a delightful dinner, reflect on your adventures in Santiago, and perhaps plan for more explorations to come. The city has so much to offer, and your journey is just beginning.



As our day of exploration in Santiago comes to an end, we reflect on the incredible experiences we’ve had in this vibrant and captivating city. From wandering the historic Plaza de Armas to indulging in fresh seafood at the Mercado Central, exploring the cultural treasures of La Moneda Palace and the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, and savoring the flavors of traditional Chilean cuisine, we have truly immersed ourselves in the spirit of this amazing destination.


Santiago is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. Its colonial architecture, bustling markets, and breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains create a backdrop that is both captivating and enchanting.


During our journey, we have walked the streets of Santiago, capturing glimpses of its rich history and cultural heritage. We have explored iconic landmarks, indulged in local cuisine, and delved into the artistic legacy of pre-Columbian civilizations. Each experience has allowed us to connect with the soul of Santiago and gain a deeper understanding of Chile’s unique identity.


As we conclude our day in Santiago, we can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to explore this dynamic city and immerse ourselves in its diverse offerings. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or a nature enthusiast, Santiago has something to offer for everyone.


So, as you continue your own adventure in Santiago, let curiosity guide you as you wander through its streets, discover hidden gems, and engage with the warm-hearted locals. Embrace the vibrant culture, indulge in the flavors of the cuisine, and take in the awe-inspiring landscapes that Chile is known for.


Santiago is a city that beckons you to explore, to connect, and to create lasting memories. So, grab your walking shoes and embark on your own journey through this remarkable city. Santiago awaits you with open arms, ready to share its beauty and charm.


Safe travels and may your experience in Santiago be filled with joy, discovery, and unforgettable moments!