Santiago is a modern city, dramatically situated in a valley right at the bottom of the Andes, which rise like a wall behind the city. The mountain range is not always visible, as clouds and smog can hide it, but on a clear day, the views from and of the city are spectacular. There are plenty of things to do in Santiago. Two days may not be enough time to see the best of what the city has to offer. Santiago has loads of good restaurants and bars, as well as great shopping and sightseeing. Santiago is also in the heart of one of Chile’s main wine growing regions, and if you like red wine, you will want to visit Concha y Toro, one of the best wineries in the Maipo Valley. Here is a perfect 48 hour Santiago itinerary (including options for a winery tour).
A Guest Post by James Ian of Travel Collecting
How to Get to Santiago
Santiago is the capital city of Chile and its major international airport with connections from all around the world.
How to Get around Santiago
Taxis are common in Santiago. Check that they are using the meter before you start your journey. If you are taking a taxi from the airport, the best thing is to book and prepay at one of the taxi booths between customs and the exit into the main foyer of the airport.
For most places in central Santiago, the metro is the cheapest way to get around. It is clean and easy to use. It is open 5.35am – 12.08 AM weekdays; 6.30 AM -12.08 AM Saturdays; and 8:00 AM – 11.48 PM Sundays and public holidays, except Line 1, which starts at 9:00 AM on Sundays. The ticket booths, however, are open 6:00 AM – 11:00 PM Monday to Friday; 6:30 AM – 11:00 PM Saturdays; and 8:00 AM – 10:30 PM Sundays and holidays. You need a Bip! Card to take the metro, which costs 1,350 pesos, but can be refilled. The fare varies depending on the time of day, from 590 pesos to 700 pesos each trip. (2019)
Things to do in Santiago Chile – Day 1
One of the best ways to get an overview of the city sights and food of Santiago is to take a food tour. Santiago is easy to get around, so if you prefer not to take a tour, you can do most of these things yourself, but a tour guide can give you interesting insider information and make you feel more like a local.
Plaza de la Constitucion
After a light breakfast in your hotel, head to Plaza de la Constitucion. This plaza is bordered on one end by Palacio de La Moneda (The Coin Palace), which is the presidential palace. This is where the former president Salvador Allende committed suicide when faced with a military coup that ushered in the Pinochet dictatorship.
Plaza de Armas
Your first stop should be at a nearby café for a traditional Chilean sandwich, before a short walk to the Plaza de Armas. This is the main square and center of historical Santiago. One side of the square is dominated by Metropolitan Cathedral. Pop inside to see the neoclassical interior.
Mercado Central/ Central Market
Continue on to the Mercado Central/ Central Market, Santiago’s seafood market, to sample delicious shellfish empanadas (or other flavors if you don’t eat seafood) and a pisco sour.
Wander through the nearby Vega Markets in Recoleta and see authentic Santiago. You will most likely be the only tourists in the market. This is where the locals buy fruit, vegetables and a wide range of other goods.
Then hop on the metro to the Bellavista neighborhood. Walk along Calle Pio Nono, which is lined with lively restaurants and bars, and worth coming back to after dark if you like to party.
Cerro San Cristobal
At the end of the street, take the funicular railway up Cerro San Cristobal. It is also possible to take the funicular by yourself, and even walk or cycle up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal (it’s about a 45-minute uphill walk).
Prices for the funicular (2019) and cable car for adults are:
Weekdays: $2,000 return
Weekends: $2,600 return
Funicular + cable car (teleferico) Combination
Weekdays: $3,550 one-way or $4,700 return
Weekends: $4,420 one-way or $5,850 return
At the top of Cerro San Cristobal, climb some stairs to the base of the giant statue of the Virgin Mary. From here, there are endless views of Santiago stretched out below you, and, on a clear day, the Andes behind the city.
Continue on to the cable car, for more stunning views of the city. There is also a swimming pool to cool down in summer, a small chapel, and a zoo at the station half way down the funicular.
TIP: Make sure you have a small change in case you need to use the restrooms.
You can get out at the end of the cable car (Oasis Station) or take it back to Cerro San Cristobal and relax and enjoy the views at one of the outdoor cafes.
Back at the bottom of the funicular, walk along Calle Constitucion, which runs parallel to Calle Pio Nono. This street also has plenty of restaurants to choose from, and the options tend to be more upmarket than Pio Nono. This is a nice place to stop and enjoy a leisurely dinner before heading back to your hotel.
Things to do in Santiago Chile – Day 2
Changing of the Guard at La Moneda Palace
Start your day back at La Moneda Palace, this time to see the changing of the guard. It happens in the Plaza de la Constitucion, the plaza in front of La Moneda Palace. The Changing of the Guard involves lines of uniformed soldiers, some playing instruments and some mounted on horses, marching into the plaza, where, with much pomp and more music, the guards at the main gate of the presidential palace are swapped out. With the military band playing, it is quite a spectacle.
The Changing the Guard usually takes place at 10:00 AM on even days in January, April, May, August, November and December and odd Days in February, March, June, July, September, and October. Beneath the palace building is the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, where there is an art gallery. The closest metro stop is La Moneda.
Centro Artisenal Los Dominocos
Take the metro to Los Dominicos at the end of red Line 1. Adjacent to a cute colonial church is the Centro Artisenal Los Dominocos (also called the Mercado Des Artesanias de Santo Domingo), which is open daily 9:00 am – 8:00 PM.
Los Dominicos Church
This Central Artisan Market of The Dominicans is a recreated village with dozens of cute shops selling a variety of handicrafts, including leather, woolen, and wooden goods.
There are also several cafes under large trees in the center of the ‘village’ that make a delightful spot for an early lunch. You can easily spend several hours shopping here.
Also Read: 5 Amazing Day Trips from Cusco Peru
Museum of Memory and Human Rights
An alternative if you prefer Museums to Shopping is the Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). The museum focuses on the period from 1973-1990 when Chile was ruled by the dictator Augusto Pinochet and highlights the human rights violations that occurred under his regime. It’s heavy but fascinating. The museum is free and is open Tuesday to Sunday. The nearest metro station is Quinta Normal on the green Line 5.
Concha Y Toro Wine Tour
Then head back to your hotel for your pick up for a winery tour. Chile is well-known for good wine, and the valleys around Santiago are full of vineyards. This region specializes in red wines, so if you like good wine, a tour of a winery with tastings is something you can’t miss. The Concha y Toro wine tour included hotel pickup and drop off. Concha y Toro is one of the largest wineries in Chile, and their tour is well organized.
It starts with a walk through their gardens to see the colonial house of the owners, and the first tasting under trees outside. After stopping to see a garden full of all of the different kinds of grapes that are grown by Concha y Toro and the vineyards stretching out beyond, visit one of the modern cellars and have another tasting. Then head down into one of the original cellars for a dramatic retelling of how the original owner prevented thieves from stealing his wine. Then another tasting, before ending the tour in the gift shop.
Gran Torre Santiago
Back in the city, before dinner, head to the Gran Torre Santiago. The 64-story skyscraper is the tallest building in South America and dominates Santiago’s skyline. The observation deck on the 61 and 62nd floors is open daily from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The last ride up is 9:00 PM and it costs 15,000 pesos for adults. If heights are not your thing, an alternative is to head back to the Plaza de Armas to spend more time exploring the cathedral or sitting and watching the world go by. There is a fascinating statue in the plaza by Enrique Villalobos, which he created in honor of Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people.
Finish your day with dinner in one of the restaurants of the Bellavista souvenir market courtyard off Pio Nono or at one of the many restaurants along Isodora Goyenechea street in the Las Condes area.
The Best Time to Visit Santiago
Santiago is in the middle of Chile and the weather is mild, so you can visit any time of the year. Summers (January/February) can be hot, but although the temperatures can get over 30 degrees, the average is about 20 degrees. In winter (June/ July), the average temperature is 8 degrees. The city is nestled at the foot of the Andes, and smog can be an issue, especially in winter. It is clearest after rain, and this is your best chance of seeing the Andes, as they can be hidden by cloud and/ or smog.