Visiting Santiago anytime soon? Let me help you. The capital city of Chile makes for an amazing and affordable destination for travel lovers. In this guide, I will share how to spend a day in Santiago.
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One day in Santiago: How to spend a day in Santiago Chile
So my husband and I flew to Chile to visit a good friend by taking an 18-hour flight from Brussels. If you didn’t know this already, I am not a fan of long-haul flights, and this one had us connecting via Madrid, to the Chilean capital Santiago de Chile.
With excitement to experience a new place, the flight passed by quickly, and I even had a great experience inflight – some movies and a couple of hours of sleep and then we arrived in the sunny city of Santiago!
Getting to Santiago:
Santiago is the capital city of Chile. It is located at the center of Chile’s most densely populated area, which is home to over 8 million residents.
Santiago de Chile International Airport serves the city. The airport is also known as Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. From the airport, we took a shuttle bus to our hotel, through the Transvip shuttle service. You can also book a one-way transfer or shuttle service here.
They use minivans which can be shared with other travelers in order to avoid high taxi rates while still getting fast and pleasant to your destination.
Now, remember, Santiago cannot be compared to a European capital such as Paris or London. But it is a buzzing city with lots of traffic and at the same time, it is also a green city full of parks and palm trees. Its citizens are cheerful and friendly.
If you are visiting Chile to head to Patagonia, we do recommend a full day in Santiago to appreciate the capital city!
Getting around in Santiago
Public transportation in Santiago is easy to use, the city has a great metro system and an extensive range of bus transports. The only thing you need is a Bip! card.
These are available in all stations and cost 1350 CP with a minimum recharge amount of 1000 CP. The cost of a ride varies between 600 CP and 700 CP and you can swap between subways and buses for an additional amount of 20 CP.
Prefer to explore with a local? Book this private tour of Santiago.
This is how you can spend a day in Santiago de Chile, and check off all the amazing things to do in the city.
Climb up Cerro San Cristobal hill
Start your morning hours with a hike to Cerro San Cristobal Hill for amazing views. I recommend doing this at the start of your one-day in Santiago itinerary to maximize your travel time.
This is a moderate hike of 9.0 kilometers out and back trail. It features two lakes, a Japanese Garden and also offers a number of activity options along the way.
You can start the hike from any side. But instead of taking the usual route, which comprises 6 km of low sloped concrete roads, we decided to climb the hill on its steep flanks.
Once on top, San Cristobal rewarded us with an astonishing view over Santiago at a height of 860m.
Our descent went wrong as we took a wrong turn but fortunately, we found our way down. In the end, it only cost us some ripped clothes, some bruises, and a painful butt … but we sure as h*ll had a blast, as the views were gorgeous!
Note that you can also take a funicular or cable car ride to the summit for a fee.
Eat an empanada and chill out in one of the many parks
The base of the Cerro San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher Hill) is home to a metropolitan park. This is perfect to stop by and rest after a hike.
If you are taking the funicular to the top, then you can walk to another green park and relax, like Santa Lucía Hill, also known as Huelén Hill. This isn’t as high as the Cerro San Cristobal – but is beautiful for a visit.
Not into parks? Head over to the central square of Santiago – Plaza de Armas. Admire the cathedral – Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, the Central Post Office Buildings, and other colonial buildings in the neighborhood.
Quinta Normal Park is also another green park option, located near the plaza.
Check out ancient art works at Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Before heading for lunch, visit the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art to check out ancient artwork. This art museum is dedicated to the study and display of pre-Columbian artworks and artefacts from south to central America.
They open every day from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm, except Mondays. There is an entry fee of $8 USD per person.
Discover the neighbourhood Barrio Italia
After visiting the museum, head over to the neighbourhood Barrio Italia. This district is full of colourful facades and cosy restaurants. You can also stop here for lunch!
You can choose from a plethora of Italian restaurants, pizza places, and even enjoy gelato under shaded cafes.
Barrio Italia also has nice souvenir shops selling local handicrafts and Chilean designer wear, which are worth a look.
This neighbourhood also has a great vibe with live music.
Hang around in Barrio Bellavista
In the evening, hang around in the Bellavista district and enjoy the best nightlife in Santiago.
Bellavista is a hipster neighborhood and it is the perfect place to enjoy a Pisco Sour. There are pubs, cocktail bars playing Latino, and pop music. You can eat delicious Chilean, Italian, or Asian dishes that make up the lively Bellavista neighborhood.
Pro trip: Chilean people have the habit of going out for lunch instead of dinner. Dining is seen as something somewhat fancier and only for “special occasions”.
Grab lunch at Mercado central, a fresh fish and seafood market, where you can eat the best ceviche. Opening times: Mon to Fri 9 am – 5 pm, Sat and Sun 7 am – 3.30 pm Address: Corner of 21 de Mayo & San Pablo (nearest metro station Puente Cal y Canto).
Do you still like to eat a bite in the evening? Then certainly dine in Luciano.
Additional things to do in Santiago
If you wish to swap any of the activities, here are a few options
- Street art: There are many streets in Santiago that are known for their quirky art and murals including downtown or city center area. Top places to sight street art are Barrio Brasil, Museo A Cielo Abierto – San Miguel
- The National History Museum: This museum showcases Chile’s history with impressive art and exhibits. It is free to enter and explore.
- Museum of Memory and Human Rights: This museum is dedicated to the victims of human rights violations that took place between 1973 and 1990, led by Augusto Pinochet.
- The Santo Domingo Church: Learn about Santo Domingo and admire its beauty and a blend of architectural styles.
- Central Market: Perfect to stop by for fresh local produce, souvenirs, and more.
More time than one day in Santiago
If you have extra hours, you can also embark on a day trip outside of Santiago.
Yes, escape from the hustle and bustle of Santiago and visit the beautiful Cajón del Maipo, a canyon located on the edge of the Andes Mountains about an hour and a half’s drive from the capital. You can also book this as a day tour right here.
You can go hiking, camping, rafting, bungee jumping, and kayaking. In the winter you can even go skiing. In short, a park full of adventure all year round!
If you love wineries, then Maipo Valley is a great option to consider. In this 6-8 hour tour to the wine valley, you can sample a few wines and also enjoy the beautiful countryside.
You can also learn about the wine-making process of the finest Chilean wine and explore the historic cellars of wine estates like Concha y Toro, Santa Rita, Aquitania, and more. Here is a recommended day tour.
Additional Santiago Chile Travel Tips
Do you need a travel visa to visit Chile?
US passport holders can visit Chile visa-free for recreation, tourism, business, and academic conferences for 90 days. Belgian citizens don’t need a visa for a stay of up to 90 days either.
A valid passport is essential, and it needs to be valid for a period of six months. A Chilean Tourist Card is issued for a stay of up to 90 days.
Don’t forget to add travel insurance to your list of documents!
What is a good budget for a vacation in Chile?
Set aside a budget of $95 USD per person per day, for your trip to Chile. This includes a hotel on a shared basis, public transportation, food, and any museum and tour passes.
You can also save money by booking a free walking tour in Santiago. Do check the website and plan for your tour accordingly, as it was canceled in 2021.
Is it safe to travel to Santiago Chile?
Chile, unlike some other South American countries, is a safe place to travel to. The residents are helpful and you can drive through the country yourself without any problems. Make sure you always have your international driver’s license with you.
We hope you found this post on how to spend one day in Santiago Chile useful.
Do you have any further questions about this article? Feel free to leave a comment below.