Top 5 for Santiago
- Take a tour at the nearby Concho y Toro vineyards.
- Explore the bohemian arts and crafts scene in the Lastarria neighborhood
- Head to Bocanariz for the absolute best taste of local food and wine
- Check out the Museo de Bellas Artes – and it’s free!
- Walk up Cerro Santa Lucia for great views over the city.
Santiago, the capital of Chile, that oddly long and skinny country on the West coast of South America, was a surprising place for me. I did little research before arriving and upon arrival, discovered it was full of the most wonderful combination of my favourite things – mountains, sunshine, good wine, good museums, hipsters, and ice cream. What more does one need in life?
I arrived late on a Friday afternoon, with time to check into my hotel and head out for a stroll in the setting sun. Since I stayed near the university, I first headed towards the Palacio de La Moneda near the campus, then to Plaza de Armas, where I was surprised to find a whole bunch of old men playing chess on parallel tables lining the plaza.
A live band was playing cheery music and crowds were dancing along. After enjoying the show I headed East to the chic-posh-hipster Lastarria neighborhood, heaven for overpriced Scandi-inspired stores, small boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Outdoor vendors are selling beautiful metal jewellery, posters, and antiques, and in the stores you can find locally-designed clothes, accessories, cosmetics, art, condiments, coffee, tea, you name it.
After perusing, I stumbled into Bocanariz, which I can say quickly rose to the top of my favourite restaurants list. Casual atmosphere, quick service, completely full which is never a bad sign, and LOTS of wines. As in, 347 wines on the menu, ALL from Chile. How cool. The food is also completely local-focused, using ingredients from Chile and preparations of traditional Chilean cuisine with a twist. I started with a wine flight, which I figured was a good way to try as many local wines as possible.
The menu is extremely diverse, with everything from light bites to heavy winter fare. The quinoa, broccoli, and cherry tomato salad with corn fritters was fresh, light, and filling.
The charcuterie plate – with local Patagonian hams of lamb, sheep, and beef, was salty and rich.
And, the strangest of all, the seaweed salad. I had to try it since apparently, seaweed was rampant in indigenous Chilean cuisine, I suppose because they had a LOT of it around. Despite the initial off-putting wrinkly brown appearance, the dish was naturally salty and acidic, with a nice crunch from the crispy seaweed on top.
There are a million more dining and drinking options in the Lastarria neighborhood, and all looked inviting and busy with people.
The next morning, I headed up Santa Lucia hill for a walk in the sunshine, a beautiful lush viewpoint over the city.
Back down in Lastarria, I went on a hunt for caffeine – arriving at Colmado coffee. The flat white was incredible and the service was dreadful. My caffeine boost fueled me for an hour-long subway ride out of town, to take a tour and do a wine tasting at the Concho y Toro vineyards, the largest vineyard in South America.
The tour was short and a bit cheesy, however the location is stunning and the wines even better.
On Sunday morning, another relatively warm winter day, I strolled along the river, which is lined with colorful murals, a theme continuing into the city, where incredibly vibrant street art is common.
The Museo de Bellas Artes is right beside the river, costs nothing to get in, and is amazing. My favorite exhibit was “copies & quotes”, an interesting look at how modern artists sometimes directly copy famous works (for practise) or, use the famous piece as inspiration or incorporate it into something completely different.
For a surprisingly delicious, cheap, and non-food poisoning inducing ceviche at a dive bar, check out Estacion Monjitas, just around the corner from the museum. Never have I had a $7 ceviche taste so good, nor come back to haunt me.
Last but certainly not least, you must check out Emporio la Rosa – number 17 on the list of the top 25 ice cream parlors in the world. I’m not sure who made this list, but they were a smart cookie. I sampled a few before settling on Manjar y Blanco, and man was it incredible. A perfect end to a great weekend.