The largest city and capital of Chile, Santiago has deep roots dating back to colonial times. The city was founded back in 1541, but its beautiful mix of new-world and classical architecture keeps the city balanced between historical and modern. The Andes Mountains create a picturesque backdrop for Santiago, surrounding the historically rich museums of the city with natural beauty.
The city isn’t all pristine museums and classical architecture, though, as it nearly boils over with restaurants, cafes, and shops. An underground subway system will take travelers to and from all of theses locations, and with the plethora of parks and green spaces, there’s always a place to take a nap. Enjoy tango and salsa dancing, whether you want to participate or watch others put on a show. Whatever you choose to do in Santiago, you’re sure to love the experience in this lively city.
Plaza de Armas is Santiago’s former city center. It takes the cake as Santiago’s most visited plaza, and it’s easy to see why. The area has two pedestrian malls, a group of Chileans playing chess everyday (which you can join in on for free), neoclassical architecture, vendors, cafes and shops. It’s quite easy to walk from the plaza to museums and other historical sites, and the metro system goes to and from it. You’ll get a great taste of colonial Santiago by visiting this plaza.
Where else in the world can you enjoy a coffee while watching an authentic tango show? Café Tortoni is the oldest café in Santiago, and although it might be a bit crowded with other tourists, it’s still worth stopping by for an espresso and a full tango show. The inside is covered with plenty of old pictures and decorations, so sit back and take in the atmosphere of the oldest café in Santiago.
If you’re a sports fan, check out Chile’s national soccer team, La Roja. The crowds can get pretty rowdy at these games, so avoid sitting in la barra, or the fanatic, section. If you want to spend some time outdoors, but don’t want to venture to the soccer stadium try visiting Quinta Nomal, a huge park in Santiago’s museum district. The park is surrounded by historical museums, science museums, and even the Planetarium at the University of Santiago. A nap in the park between museum stops will help rejuvenate you for an evening out on the town, too!
The famous Magellan Strait is easily accessible from Santiago, with many companies offering day trip boat rides from the city center. Marta and Magdalena Islands, in the Magellan Strait, offer visitors a unique look at indigenous plants and a penguin colony of more than 150,000! Consider this trip if you’re looking to spend time in nature somewhere that’s more off the beaten path than Santiago’s parks and plazas.
Just a short hour and a half drive from the city center in Santiago are more than 5 different ski resorts, perfect for the winter sport-loving traveler. The closest and most budget-friendly resort is Lagunillas, and it’s also a great place for beginning skiers and snowboarders. If you are more of an adventurous skier or snowboarder, consider Valle Nevado. It is one of the most well known resorts in Chile and is nestled into the Andes Mountains, so you’re sure to come across some challenging slopes.
Santiago does, in fact, have a pretty efficient underground metro system and it is the second largest in Latin America. It has five lines and can take you just about anywhere in the city. It’s fairly easy to use, too. Just make sure to get a Tarjeta bip! card, which you can refill with money to ride the subway and bus. The city also has a bus system, which can take you places you may not be able to reach conveniently by subway, and taxis available for hire for any late night outings you might have.
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Shopping is a fun experience in Santiago. Check out Calle Florida, where it’s not uncommon to hear vendors hawking their goods on this energetic street. Galería Pacifico is a great shopping mall with its top floor housing a cultural center. Food and drink can be found all around this area, so make a trip of it and enjoy the street’s upbeat vibes.
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