When it comes to international travel, my husband and I have spent most of our time in Europe. So when the opportunity to go to South America presented itself last month, we said yes right away. Going to South America in January means a nice break from wintery temperatures here in the States. It was pretty warm in Santiago but dry so we were never uncomfortable. I’ve put together a list, in no particular order, of 9 amazing things you have to see and do, especially if it’s your first visit.
1. ) See panoramic views from the highest viewpoint in South America at Sky Costanera
Bring your camera and get ready to take some amazing selfies. With 360 degree views of Santiago, the experience is well worth the low ticket price. As you walk around the observation floor, helpful information is posted on the walls indicating what to look for as you gaze out the floor to ceiling windows. Make sure you take the escalator to the open-air deck at the very top.
2. ) Ride the funicular to Cerro San Cristóbal
While you can get to the top by an hour-long walking trail, we found it fun to ride the funicular which dates back to 1925. Just make sure you get there early. It opens at 10am and a line was forming by 9:30. Purchase a round-trip ticket at the Pío Nono station and enjoy slowly rising above the city. When you reach the top, take in the beautiful green space and 14-meter high statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción.
3. ) Drink a pisco sour
Known as the national cocktail of Chile, you can find a pisco sour almost anywhere. We found them to vary just slightly depending on the bar or restaurant, but all were amazing! Frothy, cool, and refreshing. It’s the perfect summer drink.
4. ) Walk to the city center and see the Plaza de Armas
Surrounded by bustling street performers and food vendors, the Plaza de Armas was once a military training ground. It’s undergone many changes through the years but continues to be a focal point of the city. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy a quick bite, people watch, and take in the European style architecture.
5. ) Engage your five senses at the Mercado Central
More than just a market, the Mercado Central is a great place to grab lunch at one of its many restaurants. Or pick up some fresh produce and seafood to make your own meal. There’s also liquor, pastries, spices, cheese, and even jewelry. Spend some time walking amongst the market stalls and checking out the multitude of exotic seafood available.
6. ) Sip and savor a fresh fruit juice drink
Santiago seems to have a juice bar on every corner. The fruit combinations are limitless and made fresh on demand. The roaring sounds of blenders and sweet sugary aromas permeate the sidewalks. Each is served in a simple plastic cup and is the perfect accompaniment to seeing the city on foot.
7. ) Eat a completo
This is a hot dog with a serious upgrade. Imagine the best hot dog you’ve ever had and then top it with even more awesomeness. Again, combinations here seem limitless. We went to Dominó, a local favorite, and had lunch outside under the umbrellas. I ordered my completo with just about everything on it, including mayonnaise, avocado, tomatoes, and cheese. It sounds so bizarre but it was so good.
8. ) Explore Barrio Bellavista
With a colorful bohemian vibe, the Bellavista area is a great area to check out. You can easily see it while visiting Cerro San Cristóbal. We enjoyed walking down Pio Nono street and Pablo Neruda built a home here in the 1950s. At night the area is buzzing with numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs.
9. ) Have lunch at Liguria Restaurant & Bar
There is more than one, but we had lunch on our last day at the Liguria Manuel Montt location. You’ll find a large menu of authentic and affordable dishes as well as a lively atmosphere. Vintage art lines the walls and the staff is very friendly. The pisco sours here were also excellent.
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