Planning a 24-hour stopover in a major city can be stressful. So much to do. So much to see. So little time.
Are photos your priority? Frantically pounding the streets pulling your best Instagram pose in front of every landmark? Evidence of your visit?
Or do you take a calmer, more mindful approach? Use your time to absorb the atmosphere. Interact. Smell the smells. Get a sense of people and place.
Truth is you simply can’t do it all. To attempt to get under the skin of a city in a single day is an injustice. Don’t even try. Strike a balance I say. Create space for happenstance. Be selective with your photo opportunities. See an attractive coffee shop or bar? Stop a while. Take time to relax and observe.
Unexpectedly, 24 hours in Santiago was a highlight of our recent 3 week South America adventure. Should you find yourself with a short stopover there, these are my 7 recommendations for an itinerary in Santiago de Chile for 24 hours to make your visit memorable… without stress.
Choose convenient accommodation
Don’t lose precious time grappling with public transport (save that for a longer visit). Choose a hotel in a district close to the main sites. I suggest Bellas Artes or Lastarria districts. Both are close to Cerro Santa Lucio (Santa Lucia Hill), the first, stop on your walking tour. Santiago is pretty cheap so you should find accommodation that suits your budget.
An aside: on arrival, we had an unwelcome logistical hiccup. We’d booked a hotel using one of the biggest, most popular, online booking sites. The hotel had no record of our booking, no availability and, they said, no relationship with the online booking site. Jet-lagged and exhausted from 15-hour our flight, this was exactly what we needed. Nearby, we found the basic, but friendly, Apart Hotel Carlton House There’s nothing fancy about this hotel but we liked it. During breakfast there was a short, a few seconds, power outage. Plunging the basement dining area into complete darkness. Guests and staff were unphased. Giggling then cheering when power returned.
Walk up Cerro Santa Lucio (Santa Lucia Hill)
To orientate yourself take a walk up nearby Cerro Santa Lucio. You’ll see statues, pretty, well-maintained gardens and, from the peak of 69 metres, a good view of the Andes that surround the city.
On our visit the Andes were partially hidden by early morning mist. Which lifted as the day progressed. The mountains appeared to grow before our eyes. Incredible. This activity should be a part of every itinerary in Santiago de Chile.
Walk to Barrio Bella Vista
Head across the city, over the Mapocho River, to funky Barrio Bella Vista. Taking your time. En route, explore the parks and old buildings. If a cafe takes your fancy, stop to drink a Cafe con Leche with the locals.
Barrio Bella Vista is vibrant culture hub so lots to see. Explore yourself or book a guided tour from one of the kiosks on the street. Peckish? Try some delicious Empanadas with Pebre (Chilean Chilli Sauce).
Experience La Chascona
La Chascona, meaning “tangled-haired woman”, is the Santiago home of writer, diplomat and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. Now a museum, the building, at the foot of San Cristobal Hill, is unpromising from the outside. Inside it is fascinating and not to be missed.
Use the audio guides available to learn about the extraordinary life of this brilliant, eccentric Chilean hero. About his kooky sense of humour and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. It was outside this house, in September 1973, that large crowds gathered for Neruda’s wake. A public tribute expressly forbidden by the brutal new regime of Augusto Pinochet.
Climb Cerro San Cristóbal
If you’re reasonably fit, I recommend you work up a sweat climbing, walking actually, up to the 300m peak of San Cristobal Hill. That way you can appreciate the increasingly elevated views of the city and the Andes. Alternatively, use the funicular or cable car.
At the top of the hill there’s collection of large, contemporary crucifixes, a church and a cardboard cutout of the current Pope, Francis. Unless you’re a devout Christian, the real thrill here are the extraordinary views. #instagramopportunity
Itinerary in Santiago de Chile: Cable car
For views of Santiago from the other side of San Cristobal Hill, take the cable car down. At ground level, at the cable car station, you’ll find yourself near, a 10-minute walk, from a large shopping centre (Sky Costanera). Personally, I hate shopping but from a cultural perspective, I find it interesting to see shops in other countries. Horses for courses I suppose. If nothing else you might appreciate a blast of cool air conditioning and some free wifi.
Evening: Pisco Sour Time
For your one evening in Santiago, indulge yourself in the fabulous bars and restaurants of Lastarria district. We had a great meal at Casa Lastarria but whichever restaurant you choose, you must try the national drink of Chile, the mighty Pisco Sour, and taste the delicious Ceviche. Enjoy!
So there you go. My recommendations for a short Santiago stopover.
How does this compare to your visit to Santiago? What ‘must haves’ would you add to this list?
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