Where to Stay, 21 Things You Must See and Everything to Know Before You Go. Santiago Chile
Santiago Chile is a must do if you’re visiting Chile and it’s a great starting and ending point for your trip, culturally rich and scenically surrounded by snow capped mountains and hillside lush green parks. Conveniently, it also happens to be where most international flight arrive and depart from. We researched this trip for a long time before going so this full Santiago travel guide contains all of the research prior as well as our personal experiences, post trip tips and reviews.
This covers everything you need to know to plan your Santiago vacation especially if you’re planning on going over Christmas. Plus and personal insights and our Santiago itinerary so you can plan your own. There’s a lot to see and do in Santiago but the subway/underground makes it really easy to get around.
- Where to Stay, 21 Things You Must See and Everything to Know Before You Go. Santiago Chile
- Where to Stay in Santiago
- Christmas Day in Santiago
- Where to Eat Christmas Dinner in Santiago
- Best Places to See Great Christmas Decorations
- Our Santiago Itinerary
- How to get around Santiago
- 21 of the best things to see and do in Santiago
- Best Views and Places to Take Photos in Santiago
- Weather in Santiago Chile
- Share your Chile experiences
TRAVELING DURING 2021
All of the information in this travel guide is from when we travelled and visited before COVID. Please check all travel restrictions, airline and immigration regulations and what’s open before you book or plan head, dream of traveling and wait until it’s safe to go.
When to visit Santiago Chile
We visited Santiago in December for Christmas and were a little nervous to go to begin with with, due to all of the riots going on around that time. Luckily a friend had just been and reassured us it was safe, so we took him at his word and went.
How to Get From Santiago Airport to Your Hotel
Some hotels will offer shuttle services but our hotels shuttle worked out more expensive that hiring a car as there was 4 of us. You could also take a taxi or hire a car but don’t rely on Uber (more below).
Since we were arriving at 8:45pm in Santiago on Christmas Eve (United Airlines) we’d booked a hire car to get around, figuring that would give us the most flexibility. That was a bit of a nightmare as the car hire office was closed. Even though we’d booked and confirmed to be able to pick it up at that time!
An employee took pity on us and drove is to the ICON Hotel where we were booked to stay. Don’t worry about restaurants being open if you’re on a late flight too. Latin America and the Chilean’s eat late so you shouldn’t have a problem finding dinner. If you decide to stay at ICON hotel, the hotel rooftop bar serves food until 2:30 am.
Where to Stay in Santiago
We did a lot of research to find the best hotel in Santiago Chile for us. Our choice was based on location, amenities, if their restaurant was open Christmas day, what their rooms looked like, and the reviews.
We chose the ICON hotel Santiago above the others for it’s location in Nueva Las Condes. Along with it’s modern decor, gym, health club, spa, secure parking facilities and rooftop pool where we spent Christmas day. The rooftop pool on the 23rd floor has stunning panoramic views and a bar which turns into quite the scene at night.
Christmas Day in Santiago
Most places in Santiago are closed on Christmas Day so we used the morning as time to relax, eat and drink by the pool. The panoramic views from the rooftop pool are fabulous and it was a great way to get over any jet lag and get into vacation mode.
Since most places are closed besides a few tourist spots and parks, we booked our hotel restaurant for Dinner at 7pm. Figuring we might be too tired to do dinner any later and we wanted to get up early the next day to explore before we moved onto the Chilean wine district (Colchagua Valley).
This is a great article about what to do for Christmas and New Years in Santiago. If the restaurants at the place you’re staying on Christmas are shut, try to make a reservation at one of these places
Where to Eat Christmas Dinner in Santiago
Most of the Christmas dinners are on the evening of the 24th as that’s the big celebration day in Chile. I’d recommend dining at your hotel restaurant and wherever you decide upon, making sure you make reservations, both for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
For a listing of places offering a special dinner check out Zomato which usually has Christmas event listings.
Best Places to See Great Christmas Decorations
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit and walk off your Christmas dinner these places have some beautiful Christmas decorations and displays.
- Costanera Center: visit with Viejito Pascuero here Dec 1-24. Head out to their Christmas display at night to see their holiday light display on Costanera Torre from 9pm-12am
- Alto Los Condes has visits with Viejito Pascuero (Father Christmas) from December 2-24.
- Portal La Dehesa visits with Viejito Pascuero from December 2-24.
- Windows of Paris: department store located at Costanera Center.
- Streets of Providencia, inc Avenida Providencia and Nueva Providencia, and in Santiago Centro the pedestrian street of Huerfanos. These streets are full of vendors selling Christmas cards and decorations. As well as live Christmas music.
Our Santiago Itinerary
Arrival Santiago airport 8:48pm (United Airlines). Transportation to ICON hotel and dinner at the hotel restaurant for a late Christmas Eve dinner.
Day 2 Christmas Day poolside and Santiago half Day exploring
Christmas day morning was spent at our hotel, relaxing by the pool. We then spent the afternoon exploring Santiago by metro and foot. The Sky Costanera (more details below) had been recommended to us by a friend so we started our day here as aerial views are a great way to get your bearings in a new place. The mall that’s in the Gran Torre Santiago was closed as it was Christmas day. You can get in only to access the elevators to the tower which meant there were no lines to go up to the top.
I’d definitely recommend going up to the top as you can do it in a hour, you’ll get a good 360˚ overview of the entire city of Santiago, snow capped mountains and beyond, as well as learn some historical facts.
Afterwards, we walked to the cable cars and took a cable car up hill Santa Maria. It’s a scenic way to get to the top and the aerial view means you get to see more of the park en route. There are magnificent views from the sanctuary at the top so grab an ice cream and breath it all in.
We had dinner at the hotel as most places were closed for Christmas day and it was convenient. Also, because their grilled octopus, ceviche trio and volcano chocolate cake was so good.
Day 3 Day trip to Vina Del Mar
I worked out at the hotel Gym to work off some Christmas food and used their sauna and jacuzzi.
We then took a 90 minute drive to the seaside resort town of Viña Del Mar. A friend had recommended Restaurant Nogaro by the casino. This restaurant is a favorite with locals and located right on the promenade overlooking the Pacific Ocean with great views of coastline. The seafood here is really good and they also have a rooftop bar if you’re there later in the evening.
You can walk from the restaurant to Castillo Wulff. It’s not really a castle by European standards but more of a historical building overlooking the sea which was built in 1908. We didn’t bother going into Hotel Del Mar, the casino there as you have to pay to go and since we live in Las Vegas we skipped it.
Instead, went drove to the sand dunes 25 minutes away which was nice to be able to walk on the sand but not really worth the extra driving. If you’re really desperate to get to the beach or visit Vina Del Mar and have time, go for it. Otherwise, I’d recommend spending the day in Santiago.
Day 4 Santiago to Colchagua Valley
Our original plans were that we’d then fly back to Santiago on January 6th, stay at Santiago ICON Hotel again, have all day in Santiago on January 7th and fly back to the US at 10:45pm. Unfortunately we cut out our last couple of days and came straight home from Atacama due to my kitty (back in Las Vegas) and I both being very ill.
How to get around Santiago
The subway was cheap and easy to navigate. However, the only difficulty was getting the tickets as they didn’t speak English so make sure you have a cell phone with wifi enabled abroad and use google translate.
The Metro and rail runs from 5:35am-11:43pm on the weekdays but avoid rush hour. On weekends and holidays it runs from 8am-11:23pm
Their buses are difficult to use so best avoided. Another alternative is Taxis which are cheap. Is there Uber in Santiago Chile?
Uber is technically illegal in the country…Uber operates in a legal gray area in Chile.
I wouldn’t rely on being able to use Uber. Instead I’d recommend using the metro, taxi or hire a car instead.
21 of the best things to see and do in Santiago
- Take a free walking tour of Santiago. The walking tours depart 2 x a day from Catedral Metropolitana. Although the groups can be large, the guides are local and provide interesting and detailed insights. Find out more about the tour. The walking tour takes you through the Bohemian Barrio Bellavista area, where you’ll see the artistic boutique shops, art galleries, cafes & street art. If you have time before or afterwards, make your way to the top of 914m St. Christopher Hill for photo opportunities and panoramic views of Santiago.
- The Sky Costanera. With 62 floors, Gran Torre Santiago is the tallest building in Santiago. Visitors can reach the top floor by elevator for amazing panoramic views of Santiago and some guided history videos. Tickets are available from the ticket booth and it’s open Mon – Sun (holidays included) 10:00am-10pm. The last elevator ride up is at 9 PM. Tickets cost from $10-20. If you’re short on time in Santiago, this is something you can do in under a hour.
- Take a cable car/Cerro San Cristóbal or Funicular de Santiago up to San Cristóbal Hill/Santuario del Cerro San Cristóbal. The cable car runs continuously and is very reasonably priced. If you aren’t good with heights, the Funicular is an alternative way to get to the top to visit the sanctuary.
- Vina Cousino Macul. Located a little way outside of Santiago, Vina Cousino Macul this is the 3rd oldest winery in Chile. You can book a tour via Trip Advisor where you also read reviews and see if it’s for you. Some of their tours also offer a visit to the Andes mountains to Baha’i Temple which overlooks all of Santiago Chile. There’s not much to do at the temple unless you’re into architecture. The inside is supposed to be amazing) and scenery.
- Plaza de Armas & Santiago Centro. Visit the shopping centers, cafes & restaurants on Paseos Ahumada & Huerfanos in this area.
- Presidential building/Palacio La Moneda. This is in Plaza De Armas. It’s difficult to book a tour but it is possible if done 1 week in advance. Booking a tour must be done by emailing v[email protected] and you’ll need your passport
- Barrio Paris-Londres: Take Cerro Santa Lucia up Santa Lucia Hill. To catch the tram/funicular to this pretty hillside park you need to enter from Ave Alameda at Plaza Neptuno. If you only have time for 1 park I recommend no.3 (see above).
- Barrio Lastarria. A charming fashionable district with lots of cute and trendy boutiques. Leave your heels behind to navigate these cobbled streets.
- Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the main Cathedral in Santiago. This cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great, the apostle of Jesus Christ. The cathedral’s open daily 7am-8:30pm. Remember to dress appropriately if you’re planning on going inside.
- Parque Quinta Normal. This area of Santiago is home to most of the Santiago museums.
- Barrio Concha Y Toro. Explore this neighborhoods if you have time and want to wander around one of the most well preserved picturesque areas in Santiago.
- Barrio Dieciocho. This area is where the wealthy lived during the 20th century. Since then they’ve moved uptown but you can still see and imagine what the beautiful villas would’ve looked like. Even if they’re a little faded now.
- Basilica de los Sacramentos
- Club Hipico Race Track. You can check their race schedule to see if there’s any events going on while you’re in the city.
- Barrio El Golf. If you’re looking for a modern upscale area to have dinner, have a look at the restaurants on Ave Isidora Goyenechea and Ave El Bosque on Trip Advisor.
- Barrio Vitacura. This is another residential area with green parks, upscale boutiques and restaurants if you’re looking for shopping and a nice meal. Most of the stores and restaurants can be found around Ave Alonso do Cordova & Nueva Costanera. If you like festivals and wine events, have a look at Parque Bicentenario’s event schedule to see what they have going on.
- Take in views at top of San Cristobal Hill at night followed by a visit to La Moneda Palace and Plaza de Armas.
- Visit the beach. Ok so there isn’t a beach in Santiago but it’s easy to drive to either Vina Del Mar (see our itinerary above) or Concon for a day trip to get some fresh air and seafood.
- Take a day trip to any of the wineries in the region.
- Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino). This museums an art history buffs paradise. It holds both permanent and temporary collections. Including pottery, sculptures, artifacts and textiles.
- Mirador Interactive Museum (Museo Interactivo Mirador). If you have children head here for a fun, educational, interactive experience. The museum has a main pavilion, astronomical pavilion and park.
Best Views and Places to Take Photos in Santiago
The best place to take photos in my opinion is from the top of San Cristóbal Hill with the panoramic views.
From looking at other peoples photos, Bahá’í House of Worship for South America would be another great spot both for the architecture and scenery. As well as Palacio La Moneda because it’s such an historic landmark and you can also try to snap some of the guards in the background.
Weather in Santiago Chile
We went in December which is obviously there Summer so it was the perfect time for exploring outside. The weather varies in Chile greatly from region to region so be sure to check the climate in each place you’re planning on visiting so that you can pack accordingly.
Share your Chile experiences
I hope you found this travel blog of Santiago Chile helpful and found some unique and interesting things to do. If you’ve been to Chile or go and do any of these things I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment below or tag me in your Instagram photos #glamourandgains.
Eve Dawes is a Blogger, Podcaster, Mrs. England World 2021, a WBFF Pro Diva, SAG-AFTRA actress, NASM certified Personal Trainer, Founder of Dawes Custom Cosmetics and GlamourandGains.com. Eve's also the host of BFF (beauty, fitness & fashion) segment on Spill The Tea Live! The show for British Expats.Eve has over 15 years experience in the fashion world, is an avid traveller and cruelty-free beauty advocate.