Chile may not be as popular for tourists as its larger South American neighbors, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The capital city, Santiago, has everything that you’d want to find in comparable places like Buenos Aires – culture, history, good food, nightlife. If you’re a first time visitor, there are a few spots you must check out. Here’s my list of the top 5 places to visit.
1. Cerro San Cristobal
This hill overlooking the city offers some of the best views of the city and, on a clear day, the snow-capped Andes. The funicular ride is a fun way to get to the top, and a stop at the nearby zoo is also a good way to spend the afternoon.
2. La Moneda
Chile’s presidential palace was the sight of the start of the infamous coup d’état in the ’70s, so this site is a must for any history buff. If time allows, take a free guided tour for an in-depth look.
3. Mercado Central
Looking for an authentic, cheap lunch? The market is a great place to try local cuisine at a good price, or just walk through to see the overflowing stands of fresh fruits and seafood. Look up for a glimpse of the classic wrought iron architecture.
4. The Bellavista neighborhood
Strolling through this artsy neighboorhood is one of my favorite ways to spend the days. The area has good shops and restaurants, and is also home to one of Pablo Neruda’s home, la Chascona.
4. Plaza de Armas
This square started as the original Spanish settlement of Santiago in the 1500s. Today it’s a lively plaza filled with locals, tourists, performers and street vendors. Visit the centuries-old cathedral or the historic national post office, both located in the square.
5. Cerro Santa Lucía