Santiago is the economic, political, and cultural center of Chile. The central location of this capital city makes it a perfect base to explore the Chilean countryside. It's possible to spend a morning skiing in the nearby Andes, and then head to the beaches along the Pacific coast for an afternoon dip all in the same day. But of course, the downtown neighborhoods of Santiago offer plenty of things to see and do for the vacationing guest.
Santiago is bisected by the Rio Mapocho, which marks the northern border of the downtown's city center. This heart of the city, known as the Plaza de Armas, is where visitors will find the city's biggest museums, monuments, and other architectural marvels. Enjoy a walk down the Parque Forestal, an expansive city park taking evident cues from Parisian parks, before making your way to Mercado Central. This open-air market sells a variety of locally exotic fruit and vegetables, along with a variety of handmade arts and crafts.
Across the river from Plaza de Armas is the Bellavista neighborhood. This chic district is home to many of the city's more popular restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops. Visit the stunning Parque Metropolitano, Santiago's major park complete with walking trails, picnic areas, and zoo.
Cuisine and entertainment
Considering the vast coast of Chile, it's easy to understand why the national cuisine is heavily based on fish and other sealife. Most local restaurants will serve dishes featuring clams, sea urchins, abalone, and Chilean sea bass paired with a healthy serving of rice. However, Spanish-based dishes with local modifications are also a huge favorite. The most popular being the Pastel de Choclo, a chicken and beef pie topped with a sweet corn mash.
Once the sun sets, Santiago comes alive with music, particularly jazz. This city has a very impressive jazz scene, with several popular and intimate clubs that can be found throughput the city. Perhaps the most popular is Jazz de Santiago, located in the northern end of the Nunoa district. This active venue regularly attracts some of the best local, national, and even international artists that play music such as the blues, latin jazz, and bossa nova. If the bar and pub isn't your scene, head to one of the city's local theaters, another huge cultural pastime.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is during the spring, between September and November.