I started my Saturday morning by taking a walk from my accommodation to the nearest metro station to join up with and a Sites and Bites tour, to get an idea of the lay of the land in the city, and see what it has to offer in terms of snacks
We started the tour off on the plaza outside the old mint that serves as the seat of government. It is also the site of the bombing that started a time of conflict and Human rights violations in the country.
Plaza del armas
Our next stop was at the Plaza Del Armas. From here we could take in the beautiful Cathedral and the Post office, while taking in a bit of history and enjoying the shade of the lovely big trees. In the background the artists sell their wares to the tourists and many people are enjoying the lovely day out.
La Vega Central
By now the morning is well underway and we make our way to La Vega Central, a massive market where locals come to do their shopping. From the carts of goods to the trucks outside, it is clear that this is where the restaurateurs get their produce. Between the throngs of people, you can see vendors selling everything from all parts of the continent. Amazing fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, grains, nuts seeds and spices!
We stop for a coffee and a little something sweet. The coffee vendor gives us some halfmoons to share (a type of croissant filled with dulce de leche) and the guide brings along some Suspiro de Limena, an intensely sweet caramel, cream and meringue dessert.
The central market is housed in a beautiful old building with pressed iron work, and on its own already a sight worth seeing. Inside there are stalls that sell curios and gifts for the typical tourist and next to it is an amazing fish market that sells anything that the South Pacific has to offer.
Our tour stops here for a seafood empanada and a pisco sours, before we make our way by Metro to the next destination.
Casa de Cena
The restaurant is housed in an old street with picturesque houses, even if they look slightly decrepit, it ads to the charm. During the military rule, nobody was allowed outside after 9pm, but this restaurant offered a place to sleep after dinner, which made it popular with all sorts of thinkers and it became a popular place to hang out. We tried our the Pastel de Choclo, a strange version of a shepards pie with a sweet corn based crust.
From here our tour ended, but our lovely guide suggested some things for the afternoon. I decided to go exploring with a new friend that did the tour with me and from there we went exploring, starting at a cultural centre which housed a free exhibition on “Destination cities”, capturing the realities of refugees making a new life in a different part of the world.
To be honest, when i saw a bunch of guys sitting around a table outside the cultural centre, I thought they were playing Magic the Gathering or a similar card game. On closer inspection, I found it is a group of people who are knitting and crocheting on a community project. The end result will be a flag of the Mapuches people, the first inhabitants of Chile. We stayed behind to make a square for them to add to the project.
Very close to the cultural centre is the artistic neighbourhood of Lastarria. It has a brilliant vibe of flea markets selling organic spices, artworks, second hand books and nearly anything else. The ice cream shop had a line out the door, proof that it must be popular, and a group of young people were performing outside a restaurant that looks like it stepped right out of a film set.
Cerro San Cristobal
Walking through the Bellavista neighbourhood brings us to the Cerro San Cristobal, one of the hills in the middle of the city. The funicular took us up to the top where we could enjoy the views over the city, overlooked by the statue of Mary. For the full experience, we decided to descend on the other side using the cable car, or Teleferica as it is called in the city, which was closer to our respective accommodations.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights
The next day I went directly to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, a striking place that remembers the human rights violations that was carried out against the people of Chile. It is sobering to see how humans can treat other humans, and to realise that it is a worldwide phenomenon. One of the first exhibitions is a world map with a brief synopsis of where human rights violations occurred around the world. The takeaway for me was that we should always be vigilant not to repeat the atrocities of the past, and to realise how resilient people really are. In recent history Chile had dealt with terrible violations, however, they are raising out of the ashes and Santiago is becoming a modern world city.
Cerro Santa Lucia
On my way back I received a notification that my flight was delayed, which gave me some time to visit another of the cities hills. The Cerro Santa Lucia is close to the Barrio Lastarria and is home to a castle like building that juts out over the modern city. The walk is not easy but it feels like walking into a fairy tale, with the gardens, old stairs and lookout points. A lovely place to let your mind wander, enjoy the nature and the contrasts of the city.
After the long hot climb I was ready to try out the ice cream from that shop that looked so popular and I was not disappointed. A lovely mix of chocolate and rose ice cream was the perfect end to an amazing trip!
I stayed at the lovely Santiago Village Hostel, super well located, clean, comfortable with a really awesome vibe. The staff will help with everything from a lift to the airport, a bottle of amazing wine, and a homemade pizza! They also have lovely single rooms and double rooms for when you don’t feel like sharing.