Chile: Santiago Sights

It’s a long trek to reach Chile’s hot destinations of Patagonia or the Atacama Desert and often Santiago is just a quick stop over for those on their way to more exotic locations. Yet, Santiago has plenty to offer a traveler; making a short stay worthwhile. With the dark days of Pinochet in the past, the city is booming, relatively safe, and easy to navigate.  There are great options for day trips to the wine region of Casablanca and the vibrant port city of Valparaíso. Lacking the sophistication and elegance of Buenos Aires or the dramatic scenery of Rio, I would not recommend a trip solely to Santiago, but if you’re in Chile why not visit for a day or two. Here are some of Daytripper’s ideas for a taste of Santiago.

Tripper Tips:

It’s easy to get to Santiago—catch a non-stop overnight flight from either NY, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas or Houston.

Read up before you go. Isabel Allende wrote the saga of the Fictional Trueba family in The House of the Spirits in an “attempt to recreate the country I had lost, the family I had lost”. For a more factual account of the Pinochet years turn to A Nation of Enemies by Pamela Constable and Arturo Valenzuela, and José Donoso’s Curfew.

Stay: Located in the heart of the hip, happening neighborhood of Lastarria, the Singular Santiago is a stylish boutique hotel near the Parque Forestal, the city’s leafy oasis. Enjoy pre dinner cocktails at the buzzy rooftop bar (there’s a small pool) with scenic views of the city, San Cristóbal hill, and the Andes Mountains. Newly opened Cumbres is right around the corner and is another chic, cool option.  

Neighborhood: Lastarria is home to the Natural Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral. The area is lively, filled with bars, boutiques, bookstores and restaurants. You can walk to Bellavista and it’s a quick taxi or metro ride to the markets.

Coffee: Directly across from the Singular, Bloom has some of Santiago’s best coffee. Grab one to go before heading to your first morning stop.

First Thing: Get to La Chascona, Neruda’s beloved house in Bellavista, close to the opening time of 10 am or prepare to wait upwards of an hour as the day goes by. Built for his lover Matilde Urrutia, who later became his third wife, the house is named for her wild red hair. The self-guided audio tour is well done, leading you from room to room where all of Neruda’s personal objects are still on display as if he just stepped out. An avid, eclectic collector it all makes for a fascinating visit. Allow at least an hour, though that is rushed. Read this excellent piece by Joyce Maynard about Neruda’s three Chilean homes here to entice you even more.

Visitors View:  Right down the street from La Chascona, head to the Parque Metropolitano, and get a lift on the wooden funicular, dating back to 1925. At the summit of San Cristobal Hill you’ll be rewarded with sprawling, panoramic views of the city below.

Wander: Before heading back to Lastarria, explore the Bellavista neighborhood with its colorful facades decorated with street art—it’s been compared to an outdoor museum and we could see why.  There are tons of boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. This is Santiago’s bohemian barrio, and it’s packed at night with young people spilling out of the many bars and discos.

Lunch: Bocanariz is a wine bar with solid food in Lastarria showcasing Chile’s best wines--everything from small garage producers to the big name vineyards—offering over 35 wines by the glass. It’s very popular, so make a reservation well in advance.  

Local Bite:  It’s definitely not for vegetarians, but meat lovers will love super local Fuente Alemana for the classic meat sandwich-- the Lomito --packed with pork, avocados, cheese and sauerkraut. Anthony Bourdain stopped by when he was in town. Another local hot spot is Bar Liguria for traditional Chilean cuisine, there’s a new location opening soon in Lastarria.

Ice Cream: Chileans love their sweets and there’s nowhere better to indulge than at Emporio La Rosa for Santiago’s best homemade ice cream.  Try one of the innovative flavors such as lucuma, ulmo or rose petal. For chocolate lovers there are a variety of pops, the dulche de leche dipped in chocolate is worth the wait on line.

Foodies: We spent a morning discovering Santiago’s rich culinary history on the go with cookbook author, chef, & sommelier Liz Caskey.  Liz organizes culinary and wine experiences throughout Chile, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. She is a powerhouse of knowledge and knows the region, producers and hotels intimately.  Our first stop was La Vega Central dating back to the late 1800’s. We started with a bang at the entrance dunking deep fried sopaipillas into a homemade hot sauce so good I wished we could bottle it up and take it home. The market is a large, pulsating mish mash of stalls, displaying the freshest produce, local cheeses, meats, tubs of spices. Get some merken, the smoky chili powder to bring home. It seems as if one market blends into the other, and ending in La Vega Chica it was time for a snack at Carmen’s. You must try her delicious sweet corn tamales and a bowl of her brothy, vegetarian stew. Next we headed across the rushing Mapocho River, mud brown with sediment, to the Mercado Central Fish Market. Admire the freshest abalones, razor clams, sweet shrimp, and sea urchins. There are places to eat inside the market if you want to do more than look.

Shop: In Lastarria, Ona specializes in high quality Andean handicrafts. Tienda Nacional carries an eclectic mix of local, cultural items such as cookbooks, posters, maps and music. Head to Patio Bellavista for a collection of shops selling arts and crafts, jewelry, wool and wooden items all centered around a cobblestoned patio. Everywhere in Santiago are stores selling jewelry made with Lapis Lazuli--the blue stone mined almost exclusively in Chile. For some of the best designs head to Faba Jewelry, a short cab ride away in Vitacura. Also in Vitacura, Sisa Collection, helmed by two young designers, features women clothes that has been a huge success story in Chile.

Dinner: So many choices as Santiago is emerging as a culinary hot spot! Considered one of Santiago's top tables, Borago is a culinary experience offering tasting menus of either 6 or 9 courses from chef Rodolfo Guzman. A must for wine lovers make a reservation at popular Baco, a casual, bustling bistro with an indoor/outdoor space serving delicious food to accompany the outstanding wine list. It’s got a great local vibe! Stylish Peumayen, in Bellavista, focuses on the cuisine of Chile’s ancestral population-- the Mapuche, Aymará and Rapa Nui. What a fun way to explore Chilean ingredients unfamiliar to even the biggest foodies. Also in Bellavista, Restaurante 040, is a casual spot for tapas and small plates. Restaurante 99, in the business district of Providencia, is attracting much attention (it was on the 2015 Latin America’s Fifty best list) for acclaimed chef Kurt Schmidt’s sophisticated tasting menu. 

Day Trip:

Less than an hour from the city center, the Casablanca wine valley is home to cool weather varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Plan a stop at Loma Larga Winery, a boutique family-run operation for a tour and tasting. Looking to drink more—visit Vina Morande, Matetic or Veramonte. Then continue on  (approximately a 30-40 minute ride) to the colorful and historical port of Valparaíso. Valparaiso is reminiscent of San Francisco with its many hills, while the architecture in some parts reads more New Orleans. Stop at a cozy café for a coffee or drink, visit some of the art galleries and small shops, and ride one of the city’s ascensores, the old wooden funiculars dating back more than 100 years. Neruda had another home here, La Sebastiana, where he lived with Mathilde, perched high on a hill overlooking the city. If you’re a Neruda fan this is a must do.

A Daytripper itinerary 2.3.16

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