Falling in love with Santiago
In my first draft of this I did the usual dot to dot of best bits of the city but in truth there are hundreds of ‘Top 10 Santiago’ travel lists out there and I think this Chilean city is more than just the sum of its tourist attractions. I want to write about how I came to fall head over heels for this city. However, I promise to throw in a few ‘best ofs’ and ‘top tips’ as well.
The first thing that hit me about Santiago was its infectiously relaxed atmosphere and its world of contrasts. In one moment it could be any Mediterranean European city until you turn a corner to be met by a bar belting out the rhythms so synonymous with Latin America. It has art and music and culture bursting from its seams and bohemian neighbourhoods nestled against its commercial hubs and serious political history.
Something that I really loved was how the majority of the so-called tourist attractions are enjoyed regularly by local people too. Granted that these local people were the city dwelling middles classes but still I happened to be visiting during a weekend which gave me a glimpse into real life Santiago. Groups of friends run and cycle up local viewpoint Cerro San Cristobal while families take the cable car to visit Santa Maria in her perch atop this hill where she watches over the city.
Cerro Santa Lucia is another smaller hill where 360 degree views can be enjoyed in the centre of Santiago. Perfect for picnics with plenty of winding scrambly paths to keep the kids busy, it draws many a local for the oasis of calm amongst the bustling streets.
For Europeans, museums are often just the escape from dreary wet winter streets but in Santiago they are more than just a pool of cool air on a hot day. There is something for everyone from the Museo Nacional de Bella Artes with its interesting mix of contemporary and classical art and the adjoining MAC museum to the Museo Nacional del arte Columbino with its amazing collections of ancient tribal artefacts from across the continent. Due to its low cost of ‘free’ the Natural History Museum is also great for a giggle at the slightly deformed taxidermy creatures and a really good massive whale skeleton. To end museums on a serious note’ the Museum of Memorial and Human Rights is a must-see. It is fascinating but very emotional as it describes the atrocities suffered by so many during the Pinochet era in Chile and truly breathes life into the grainy black and white photos of ‘the disappeared’.
Something else I totally got hooked on was the incredible street art daubed upon the halls across Santiago. My phone is now stuffed with photos of random walls with beautiful paintings and my Instagram followers really are getting bored now! For those who love that kind of thing, the area of Bellavista has streets and streets of examples and a sea of quirky bars and restaurants to check out too.
From the first local that went out of his way to help me find my hostel to the street venders who don’t charge you ‘gringo’ prices despite your jumbled Spanish, the people of Santiago were truly wonderful. I don’t know what I had expected except that I have a fair amount of travel experiences under my belt that have taught me a slight level of mistrust and that shape the way I interact. Well so far in Chile, I have met only with friendly and helpful people accepting my terrible Spanish and going out of their way to make me feel welcome. I hope you find the same and can enjoy everything that this fab city was to offer!