Santiago, is a BIG city, with a population of 6.7 million. Obviously with a city this size and so much culture and history, it’s impossible to see everything in 3 days. This guide will show you how to spend 3 days in Santiago and show you some of the top sites in a short period of time. You will experience culture, art, and food & beverage. I love art so it’s a common theme you will see in my posts. I also love ‘refreshing’ beverages (wine especially) so you’ll see a lot of that too.
From just about anywhere in the city, you can see the Andes Mountains. The center of the city is full of neo classical architecture, colourful side streets, unique barrios (neighborhoods), cerros (hills), and the fast flowing Mapocho River.
The city’s outskirts are surrounded by vineyards. The wine in Chile is some of the best in the world. Don’t miss out on a visit to a winery!
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How to Spend 3 Days in Santiago, Chile
Day 1 – Bella Vista
Arrive in Santiago. If you are like me, you probably had a long journey to get to Santiago. After 18 hours of traveling, we landed in Santiago at 10:30am. When we finally got through the long line at immigration, we hopped in a taxi (around $30USD/$40 CAD) which our hotel pre-arranged for us, and went straight to Apart Hotel B located in Bella Vista. Luckily our room was ready and we were able to check in right away. After a shower and a change of clothes, ignore your jetlag and hit the streets!
I find the best way to beat jetlag is to dive right into the time zone you have just arrived in, staying awake until nightfall even if you haven’t slept in 24hours!
First thing I like to do in a new city is explore the area that I am staying in. In Santiago we choose Bella Vista. Bella Vista is a safe and trendy neighborhood, full of art, colourful buildings, and plenty of restaurants & nightlife.
It was hot out and after a long travel day we definitely needed a ‘refreshing’ beverage. We headed towards Pio Nona then stopped at Zona Latina for our 1st Pisco Sour. It was the 1st of many consumed in Chile.
Pisco Sour is the ‘national drink’ of Chile, made with Pisco, lemon juice, egg white and simple syrup. It hit the spot, and I was hooked.
Once you’ve replenished yourself, head north on Pío Nono towards La Chascona, 1 of 3 of Pablo Neruda’s houses that have been transformed into museums, that feature his eclectic and artistic taste. This is probably my favourite site to see in Santiago. La Chascona is translated to ‘messy hair’ and is thought to be named after his mistress, Matilda Urrutia’s crazy hair. Neruda had a love of collecting unique and odd items such as these salt n pepper shakers. You can buy replicas in the gift shop. I couldn’t resist!
TIP: If you love La Chascona, don’t miss out on La Sebastiana in Valparaiso and his 3rd house, Casa de Isla Negra, just south of Valparaiso.
Cerro San Cristóbal
Almost next door to La Chascona is Cerro San Cristobal. Cerro San Cristobal is the largest of many cerros in the city. Take the funicular to the top for the best 360 degree views of Santiago. Other attractions on the hillside include Zoológico, Jardin Botánico Mapulemu and Jardin Japonése.
Dinner at El Palacio de la Chorrillana
For dinner head to El Palacio de la Chorrillana located at 201 Pío Nono. We started with the empanadas. Our 1st in Chile, and boy, they did not disappoint. We had a platter of 8 mini empanadas, 2 each of carne, mushroom, camarones and queso. For our main we had the chorrillana’s. Chorrillana is a Chilean dish consisting of french fries topped with different types of meats, sausages and/or other ingredients, usually a fried egg or onions. So good! Oh!… and the cocktails here are amazing too!
If you still have energy, stop at one of the clubs along Pío Nono with music blasting, and dance off that chorrillana that you just ate.
Day 2 – Lastarria and El Centro
Today, start by walking south on José de La barra, and walk over the Rio Mapocho. It’s a fast running muddy river full of pollutants. It’s not the most beautiful river, and I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it, but from Bella Vista you need to cross over it to get to the centre of Santiago.
Cerro Santa Lucia
Keep walking south and you will come to Cerro Santa Lucia. Take a leisurely walk up this beautiful cerro (hill) through the Jardin Japonése (Japanese Garden). On your way up to Castillo Hidalgo, you will pass chapels and some other historic buildings. There are some steep stairs to get to the top but once you get there, take in the view of Santiago. If the steep stairs don’t sound like your cup of tea, there is a free elevator to the top.
Next, head east to the Barrio Lastarria. Take a stroll down the main drag, José Victorino Lastarria, a cobblestoned narrow street lined with cafés, bars and restaurants. The buildings are older with a lot of character. Most are covered in graffiti (like you see all over Santiago). Whenever I travel I love to see local graffitti, of all kinds, and see how it varies from country to country. Chileans are very passionate about their country. Most of the graffiti and street art you see in Santiago is very political.
Stop for lunch and a ‘refreshing beverage’ at La Barrita Sanguchera. The salads are huge and beer is cold! Check out the presentation of the salad. (Note to self: learn how to make a rose out of an avocado!).
Centro Garbiela Mistral
After lunch make your way towards the Centro Gabriela Mistral. From La Barrita Sanguchera, continue south on Lastarria until you reach Av LIbertador Bernardo O’Higgins and take a left.
This performing arts centre named after Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral hosts concerts and performances nearly everyday. There are also art exhibits on the lower floor. The day we were there, and I don’t know if it is like this everyday, but there were large displays on the outside walls of the centro, of items protesting many different political issues/problems that exist in Chile, ranging from feminist rights, missing persons, and their feelings towards their current government.
Biblioteca Nacional de Chile
Just west, down O’Higgins, past Cerro Santa Lucia, you will see the impressive building of the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. It really is something to see. To get inside, head around to the back and enter on Moneda. Entrance is free.
TIP: Be sure to bring your passport.
We didn’t have our passports with us and nearly didn’t get in, but after a lot of smiling, begging in broken spanish, and proclaiming that we were from Canada, they finally said yes. The library, founded 1813, is one of the oldest in Latin America. It’s a huge stunning building well worth having a look at. You will find grand staircases, long hallways, magnificent rooms with high ceilings, stained glass domes, traditional study hall, art exhibits, and a little cafe.
Plaza de Armas
About a 10-15 minute walk away is Plaza de Armas, the heart of Santiago. In the centre of the plaza you will find a fountain surrounded by palm trees. On a hot afternoon you find Santiaguinos having an afternoon siesta under the shade of a palm tree, or playing a friendly game of chess. Surrounding the plaza you will find cafes and restaurants, a perfect spot where you can sit with a ‘refreshing beverage’ and watch life in Santiago unfold before you. Other popular sites around or near are the Catedral Metropolitana, Museo Histórico Nacional, and the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.
Palacio de La Moneda and Centro Cultural Palacio La Mondea
If you still have energy, make your next stop at the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, just under the Palacio de la Moneda. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from Plaza de Armas and hosts a variety of exhibitions, activities and workshops of cultural and artistic interests. The day we planned to visit, we were disappointed to get there and find that it was closed even though the times on the door said that it should have been open.
Palacio de la Moneda is the seat of the president. This is also where Presidente Salvado Allende died on September 11, 1973. If you are interested, you can do a free tour but it has to be booked in advance by emailing email@example.com. We didn’t do a tour but a couple we met said that you need to book at least 2 weeks in advance. Also, make sure you take your passport.
Dinner at Bocanáriz
Finish off your day with dinner at Bocanáriz in the barrio of Lastarria. If you love wine (I do!), you will love Bocanáriz which has over 400 different Chilean wines.Their menu was created to complement and enhance the characters of the wine. They also offer workshops to learn how to pair your wine with dinner.
Day 3 – Belles Artes and Winery Tour
Museo de Belles Artes
Start your day at the beautiful Museo de Belles Artes. The permanent collection contains more than 5000 pieces of Chilean and foreign art. Throughout the year the museum displays a selection of these works. They also host several temporary and historical exhibitions. Admission is free.
We were going to make Edificio Radicales in barrio Belles Artes our next stop however we discovered it is no longer there. To ‘drown’ our sorrows over this, we stopped at Mosqueto Cafe on Calle Mosqueto for a snack and cold drink. It’s a cute little cafe with a great patio.
While you are in barrio Belles Artes, walk past the little square where the metro station is. There are some really amazing murals there.
Concha y Toro Winery Tour
In the afternoon, visit the well known Concha y Toro winery, which is just south of Santiago. You can choose to get there on your own, or take a tour. We decided to book a tour which was reasonably priced, in a nice air conditioned bus, and picked us up right at our hotel. Cost for the tour was 31,000CLP ($53CAD/$35USD). The tour took us on a walk through the beautifully manicured gardens and past the one time summer residence of the Concha y Toro family. We learned about where the wines come from as we wandered through vineyards. Our wine tasting included a Carménere wine, the grape originally from France but pretty much now found only in Chile.
The tour also took us through the cellar, where we learned the legend of the centenarian, Casillero del Diablo!
Dinner at El Mesón Nerudian
For your final dinner in Santiago, try El Mesón Nerudiano, which pays tribute to Pablo Neruda, and is also only a few blocks away from La Chascona in Bella Vista.
The atmosphere was spellbinding.
Some nights you can see live music, theatre or poetry readings. It serves traditional Chilean recipes, such as Caldillo de Congrio, made from Neruda’s recipe in his poem ‘Oda Al Caldillo De Congrio’. It was one of my favorite meals I had in Chile. I highly recommend it. And the wine was pretty good too!
Where to Stay
We chose to stay in Bella Vista mainly due to its proximity to the centre of the city as well as for its restaurant and bar scene. It’s also a safe neighborhood. There are other barrios that you may choose to stay in as well but here are some recommendations for Bella Vista.
Although we didn’t stay in a hostel, these are the ones in Bella Vista with the best reviews. Most of the budget hostels are located around Pio Nono which has a lot of loud bars that keep going until early morning so keep that in mind when booking in this area.
- La Chimba Hostel is a funky, colourful, hostel with outdoor patio space, kitchen, bar, and continental breakfast & wifi included. This is a party hostel! Unless you want to party until all hours of the night (or morning!) this may not be the place for you.
- Pariwana Hostel is a newer hostel with breakfast and wifi included. They offer dorm and private rooms. Reviews I’ve read say that the staff are great and that is it a great hostel for partying and socializing.
- Rado Boutique Hostel is a modern hostel located in the heart of Bella Vista. They offer private and dorm rooms, free breakfast and wifi, computer station, bbq and terrace. It’s clean. They offer fun events and a very social atmosphere.
We stayed at Apart Hotel B, and I really liked it.
- Apart Hotel B is an apartment style hotel and situated perfectly in Bella Vista, far enough from the party around Pio Nono but still close enough to enjoy the bars and restaurants. You can walk to Plaza de Armas in the centre of the city in about 15 minutes. The rooms are modernly decorated and all have kitchenettes. Breakfast is included which they deliver in the cutest basket to your room each night. It usually includes eggs, bread or banana bread, granola, yogurt, fruit, juice, coffee and tea. The best part is you can cook the eggs just as you like from the comfort of your room, and sit and enjoy breakfast on the balcony. Consider booking the family suite. It is larger and the extra cost is minimal. There are also british electrical outlets in the room.
These 2 boutique style hotels look quite fabulous and I think a stay in either would be delightful.
- Castillo Rojo is located at the center of Plaza Mori, 1 block from La Chascona and San Cristóbal. The ‘Red Castle’, originally built in 1923, still holds the 1920’s style with beautiful architecture. They offer 19 guest rooms, from doubles to suites, a wine bar and restaurant, a beautiful garden and a terrace overlooking Plaza Mori. They do not have an elevator so keep that in mind when booking.
- The Aubrey is located at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal. As we walked by it, it immediately caught our eyes. It’s an elegant hotel, converted from a 20th century mansion, with piano bar, outdoor pool and pool bar, bar/lounge and rooftop terrace. They have free breakfast, wifi, and parking.
When to Go
Santiago is hot in the summer, December – February with average daytime temperatures of 31C or 88F. It is more crowded and the prices are higher.
March to May is autumn. It’s not quite so hot but there is still plenty of sunshine. It’s also less crowded. If you are a wine lover, it’s the best time to visit with wineries celebrating the season with grape harvest festivals.
Winter, from May to September, brings cooler temperatures, showers and more smog. However it is a great time to head to the mountains to ski. .
From September to November is spring time. It’s not as hot as summer but plenty of sunshine, and less crowded.
Other tips for Santiago
- Most museums are closed on Monday’s.
- Take your passport with you if you plan to visit museums as some require it to get in.
- Keep hydrated, especially in the summer.
- If you are flying out of Santiago, be sure to arrive at the airport early as the line can be very long for immigration.
- Enjoy the wine! Some of the best wines come from Chile, and the price is pretty good too!
Ciao for now!