My Santiago sightseeing took place piecemeal while I was traveling in Chile. First there was my amazing day of wine tasting in the Maipo Valley, then came my evening of exploring bits and pieces of the Santiago restaurant scene after a day in Valparaiso. But it was only on my last day in Chile that I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time exploring the city center.
My flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago arrived in the afternoon. After two weeks of popping in and out of Santiago, I knew the airport bus well. After dropping my bags off at the left luggage office at Santiago airport, I hopped on board for the 30-minute ride to the Los Heroes metro station. Alighting, I walked east along the busy road.
I didn’t have a set agenda for my Santiago sightseeing, so I decided to let the day take me where it would. First I passed by a large square flanked by government buildings and presided over by the largest national flag I’ve ever seen. Then I came across the main building of the Universidad de Chile in all of its historic grandeur.
Shortly thereafter I meandered through the pretty cobbled streets of Londres and Paris before making my way up San Francisco street. Between the three street names, I felt very much at home in Santiago.
Crossing the street, I worked my way north, where crowds of people spent their Saturday perusing the pedestrianized shopping street leading up to the Plaza de Armas. The plaza itself was bustling. An outdoor concert drew a large crowd, and an open-air art fair attracted others. Lining the square was an eclectic mix of buildings ranging from the historic Cathedral of Santiago to several museums to modern office buildings.
Continuing north, I found myself in the Parque Forestal, a pleasant strip of green space sandwiched between two major roads. In front of me was the beautiful Museo de Bellas Artes.
From there I headed south again and found myself in front of a large elevator attached to the side of an inner-city mountain. Intrigued, I hopped on board. About half way up, I remembered my crippling fear of heights, and sprinted out of the glass box as soon as I reached the top.
Suddenly I found myself in a serene garden, complete with fountains, flowers, and other flora. Cerro Santa Lucia was a beautiful place of respite from the busy city below, with equally stunning views of the city and the Andes in the distance. I spent some time walking around and soaking up the calm before taking the elevator back down to street level. I held my breath the whole way.
By that time I was starting to get hungry. Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to try the food at Coquinaria the last time I was in Santiago, I took the metro from Santa Lucia to Tobalaba and walked through the quiet leafy neighborhood back to the cafe. I arrived at 5pm to learn that they weren’t serving much besides small bites, but I was still able to order some ceviche and a great glass of pinot noir.
Afterwards I was still hungry, so I did as I saw many of the locals do: I went inside and got ice cream. Then I took it across the street to the park and ate my chocolate-and-orange helado while sitting on a bench in the late afternoon sun. I can’t remember the last time I ate ice cream in a park, but the experience was so pleasant that I vowed to make a habit of it.
Not done being hungry, I made my way to a nearby restaurant called Oporto and settled in for dinner. Despite the fact that I arrived at 8pm and stayed until 10, I was the only diner in the whole place. I had a decent meal of prawns and risotto, although the service was surprisingly slow given that I was the only one there.
When I finished my meal, I made my way back to Santiago airport and checked in for my slightly delayed flight to Dallas. I quickly stopped by the Admirals Club for some snacks and a shower, then hopped on my flight to enjoy the penultimate business class upgrade of my trip to Chile.
As the plane took off and I settled into my last glass of Chilean Carmenere, I waved good-bye to the city of Santiago and to Chile as a whole, thankful for the two amazing weeks in which it had shown me everything from busy cities to dry deserts to monumental moai to grey glaciers.
There was more geographic diversity in that one country than in some areas far larger, and I was happy to have had the experience of covering even the trace amounts that I was able to see. As for the rest, there’s sure to be a next time in Santiago and the rest of Chile.