Where to Eat, Stay, and Play in Santiago, Chile

Visit this Andean destination for sun-kissed outdoor spaces, daring cuisine, and fascinating history.
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Nestled between the snow-capped Andes mountains and the majestic Pacific coast, Chile’s capital of Santiago offers a tantalizing mix of outdoor adventure, historic sites, and innovative cuisine. The South American destination also beckons northern travelers with warm, dry weather in December and chilly temperatures in June, when skiers take to the heady slopes just outside the city.

From Santiago, day-trippers can enjoy sophisticated vineyards in the Casablanca Valley or near Santa Cruz; rafting and rock climbing at Maipo Canyon; the swanky beach town of Zapallar; and breathtaking ski resorts such as Valle Nevado and Portillo. With more time to travel, they can also visit farther-flung destinations like pristine Patagonia down south, the star-studded Atacama Desert up north, and Easter Island in the South Pacific.

Before venturing onward however, take some time to really soak in Santiago. There’s no shortage of alluring places to explore in this increasingly diverse metropolis.

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When to visit Santiago

Visit during the spring months of September through November, when daytime temperatures in the mid-70s are just right for exploring and the Andes foothills are tinged green from winter rains. In September, seek out Independence Day traditions like cueca (a historical folk dance with handkerchiefs) on street corners and in rodeos in the countryside.

The weather starts to warm in December, but it rarely gets steamy here. Evening temperatures tumble in the desert climate—even at the height of summer—so it’s best to pack a sweater or light jacket no matter when you visit. City traffic is especially light in balmy late January and February, when most Santiaguinos take their summer holidays, but you’ll want to avoid the beaches then, as they’ll be crowded with fellow vacationers. And if you’re going for the skiing, book your Chilean getaway in July or August.

Chile acted quickly to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, and while most locals are vaccinated, masking is still required in many indoor locations and on public transportation. The government recommends visitors obtain a Mobility Pass and validate their vaccine status to enter restaurants, theaters, museums, and some buses that require it.

Getting to and around Santiago

Chile’s Latam Airlines as well as Delta and American offer direct flights to Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport from major U.S. cities including New York, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles. From the airport, you can hop on a hotel shuttle bus or take a car service like Transvip to your accommodations.

Once you’re settled, Santiago’s extensive metro system is a safe and efficient way to get around. Buses and taxis are readily available and generally secure, but ride-share services like Uber are a better bet. Metro and bus fares are paid through Bip! cards, which you can purchase at any underground station.

Salmon tartar with goat cheese, avocado, crunchy almonds and sprouts at Bocanáriz Wine Bar & Restaurante

Bocanáriz Wine Bar & Restaurante

Where to eat

Whether you’re in the mood for an empanada from a street vendor or haute sushi served under the stars, Santiago has options for every palate and price tag. Reservations are a must at the city’s top restaurants. Also note that many places don’t open until 1 p.m. for lunch, then close at 4 p.m. and reopen starting at 7 p.m. for dinner.

For casual daytime fare, head to the Franklin neighborhood on the southern edge of the city, where former warehouses have been tastefully converted to bustling food bazaars. At Franklin Factory, try the tangy pickles and stuffed pork from By Maria, book a guided vermouth tasting at artisan distiller Vermut Luther, or pair gin and chocolate at Destilados Quintal. In the adjacent Victor Manuel market, make time for Willimapu restaurant, which serves Indigneous Mapuche specialties like curanto en olla, a one-pot feast of seafood and meat. And for rich coffee and innovative dishes like brussels sprouts tartare, DeMo is a solid choice.

When it comes to more upscale dining, whet your appetite at Bocanáriz, a wine bar in the historic downtown neighborhood of Lastarria offering elegant small plates like carne mechada empanadas and seaweed ceviche. Also not to be missed is the award-winning Boragó in the tony Vitacura area on the eastern end of the city. Here, renowned Chilean chef Rodolfo Guzman serves a seasonal tasting menu full of endemic ingredients like changle mushrooms dotted with murtilla berries, and sturgeon caviar with wild Patagonian apples. To accompany his visually arresting dishes, there’s a collection of niche local wines that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. At Olam in neighboring Las Condes, Spanish chef Sergio Barroso dishes up creative share plates like scallops in Parmesan foam, and abalone dumplings in coconut milk.

Santiago Cathedral en Plaza de Armas in Santiago de Chile


What to do

History buffs won’t be the only ones awed by the artifacts on display at the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Santiago’s historic downtown. While in the area, stroll past the La Moneda presidential palace (an important site that was targeted in Chile’s watershed 1973 coup), or explore the cultural center and fine-handicrafts shop located under the building.

Next, take in the imposing Plaza de Armas, site of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral and historic Central Post Office Building. Nearby is the former congressional palace, where elected constituents are putting the finishing touches on a new national constitution. Walk a few blocks east and you’ll find Santa Lucía Hill, which offers sweeping views of the city. From there, you can double back to the historic Municipal Theater for a ballet, opera, or classical music performance.

From downtown, ride the metro to the museum district of Quinta Normal and Yungay (the favored barrio of wealthy Chileans, artists, and intellectuals in the 19th and early 20th centuries) and visit the exceptional Sound Museum, Museum of Memory and Human Rights, and Contemporary Art Museum. Afterward, check out the classic barbershop Peluquería Francesa on Compañia de Jesus Avenue. It features an adjoining French restaurant decorated with a panoply of antiques; ask the gregarious owner, Cristian Lavaud Oyarzun, for anecdotes surrounding the rich landmark.

In the bohemian Bellavista part of the Providencia district, visit La Chascona, the Santiago digs of late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. His two other homes outside Santiago, at Isla Negra and La Sebastiana, are worth day trips, too. Entry to the three sites is on a first-come, first-served basis, so plan to arrive early.

You could also rent a bike at Bella Bike in Bellavista and pedal along the Mapocho River that runs nearly the length of the city; ride the cable car in Metropolitan Park for breathtaking city vistas; or meander through Bicentenario Park in Vitacura to see sculptures and black-necked swans.

If wine is your thing—and if it isn’t, Chile will change your mind—you’ll also want to arrange a tour, tasting, and elegant lunch at a nearby vineyard like Santa Rita or Concha y Toro.

Mandarin Oriental Santiago

Mandarin Oriental

Where to stay

Most travelers opt for hotels on Santiago’s modern eastern end. Housed in an iconic circular building, the Mandarin Oriental in Las Condes features an outdoor pool surrounded by gardens. Other options include the posh Ritz-Carlton, conveniently located off Apoquindo Avenue near the El Golf metro station and the Municipal Theater, and the easier-on-the-wallet Hyatt Centric next door.

On nearby Isidora Goyenechea Avenue, you’ll find the W Hotel across from Plaza Peru, where you can browse fine antiques every Sunday. There’s also a plethora of restaurants in this part of town, known by the locals as Sanhattan for its skyscrapers and dapper office workers.

A classy downtown option is the Hotel Magnolia near Santa Lucía Hill. And in Lastarria, there’s The Singular, which has a sister property in Patagonia if you’re planning to travel there next.