We arrived in Santiago at 1pm and it was already 33 degrees which instantly knocked our socks off. We had a smooth and painless flight over from Auckland so were rearing to go and explore this beautiful city. We noticed the moment we walked out of customs that we were very recognisable as tourists or ‘Gringos’ as we were immediately hounded by at least half a dozen taxi drivers wanting to charge us extraordinary prices. After one unsuccessful attempt to catch an Uber (we found out its illegal for Ubers to be at the airport. While it is possible to get one, we found it wasn’t worth the hassle) we gave into our most persistent follower. We managed to barter him down to 15,000 pesos which was exactly what we were willing to pay.
We arrived at our Airbnb after a slightly scary taxi ride and were totally blown away by the view out of our window. We were staying on the 21st floor and had the most incredible views out over the city with The Andes as the most perfect backdrop. A population of 7 million live in Santiago with a very large amount in tiny city apartments.
Plaza de Armas wasn’t far away from the AirBnB so we wandered down the street to see what we could find. We both made sure we were extra careful with where we kept our money and belongings but fortunately we felt very safe in central Santiago and were able to relax without feeling we would be targeted by opportunists.
We spent a few hours walking around getting familiar with the area and it’s people. Along the way we browsed market stalls, shops and a few eateries (dos cervesa por favour). However, it wasn’t long before the jet lag set it so we made our way back to our Airbnb and went for a swim and sunbathe in the rooftop pool (yes you read that right). We spent the rest of the night drinking beers and being entertained by Chilean reality tv shows.
Day 2 started with a trip to Café con piernas (coffee with legs) which is exactly what it sounds like – coffee served by waitresses wearing tight and short dresses. These are scattered all over Santiago and they all have standing tables only – no chairs at all. After leaving our caffeination station we made our way to Plaza de Armas and tagged onto the back of a free tour of the area. This included The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago, Central Post Office Building and the former prison which is now a government house. These buildings are beautiful and highly recommended.
The next stop was at Cerro Santa Lucia which is a small hill in the Centre of Santiago with gorgeous views from the top. This only took us about 15 minutes each way but the 360 degrees views from the top were once again surreal!
After all that hard work climbing the hill, we decided that a wine or two would be appropriate, so we headed towards (which we later found out) the top rated restaurant in Santiago. Bocanariz had popped up a few times on our searches for good bars in the area and it definitely didn’t disappoint. With a selection of over 400 Chilean wines, it was our type of heaven as soon as we walked through the door. We tried a variety of wines and the oysters were also delicious.
La Piojera was our hole-in-the-wall for the a few well earned drinks and some food. This is definitely a local hangout and is famous for its Terremotos (earthquake) drinks which are made with white wine and pineapple ice cream. These a VERY strong in both alcohol and sugar but they are a must try. We also had our first Chorrillana which is very common in Chile and is basically fries with any form of meat, egg and various other basic toppings. After a few more drinks we wandered back home through an assortment of street stalls and vendors – the streets seem to come alive in the hours of darkness in Santiago.
Day 3 begun with a swap of Airbnb’s as we were catching a very early flight the morning after so wanted to be close to the airport. We stayed in Quinta Normal which was only a 10 minute taxi ride from the city and is where we met our lovely host Jessica. This area was a far more genuine representation of Chile and how people lived in the city. We really enjoyed staying there – we just had to be a little more careful with our belongings.
We caught a collectivo back to the city centre, which is a taxi shuttle service that acts like a bus, but only 4 people fit into the car. Best thing is that its only 900 pesos ($2 NZD) per person and is much faster!
Dos lomitos y dos cervezas, por favour!