Climb Cerro Santa Lucia
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The steep staircase may look intimidating but a climb to the peak of Cerro Santa Lucia is a rewarding experience, despite the incline. Enter through the neoclassical gates and make your way to the hill’s summit, where you’ll find a rambling park dotted with grand structures, two forts and impressive pre-colonial monuments.
Explore Barrio Londres-Paris
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The clue is in the name of this charming section of Santiago. Consisting of just two intersecting streets – appropriately called Calle Paris and Calle Londres – these grand, cobbled streets are more reminiscent of Europe than Latin America. Conceptualised in the 1920s, it may seem sleepy and peaceful but parts of it harbour harrowing history – at Londres 38, a memorial now stands in the former torture centre of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Flirt with fine dining at Boragó
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Frequently finding its way onto best restaurant lists, Boragó – and the experimental attitude of head chef Rodolfo Guzmán – has earned a distinguished reputation since opening back in 2006. Passionately focused on Chilean produce, Borago serves up treasures foraged from the local area in an array of picturesque plating techniques: think portions hung on bonsai branches and slabs of stone in place of traditional ceramic crockery.
Take in the views at Cerro San Cristóbal
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Towering 300 metres above the cityscape of Santiago, it’s not surprising this lookout spot, also known as Parque Metropolitano, is one of the city’s most famous destinations. At the very top, you’ll find the iconic 22-metre tall Virgin Mary statue along with sweeping vistas of the city. Once you’ve made your way to the summit, meander through urban parks (that cover 722 hectares) or cool down in one of the two public swimming pools.
Up and away
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Don’t despair at the thought of walking Cerro San Cristóbal – there are actually three ways to reach the apex. There’s the option of taking a very steep dirt trail for a workout or jumping on board the forest green funicular, which is the fastest way to the top. Journeys with this method begin from Plaza Caupolicán.
Explore a little further
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There is a third option for reaching the heights of Cerro San Cristóbal and that’s the newly installed teleférico. This modern cable car makes two stops: at the open-air pool of Piscina Tupahue and then onto the Cerro San Cristóbal where you can finish the climb to the Virgin Mary statue.
Spend a day at Cajón del Maipo
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Venture out of the urban splendour of Santiago and make the 40-minute journey to the playground that city-dwellers choose for their weekend outings. A deep, fresh gorge lined with imposing mountains, Cajón del Maipo is the perfect place to trek a trail, observe some of the unique birdlife and also soothe any aching bones in the nearby Baños Morales thermal springs.
Hunt for treasures in the Italian quarter
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Depending on how much suitcase space you’ve got, a trip through the streets of the city’s Italian quarter, Barrio Italia, could be either a good idea – or a bad one. The streets are lined with antique furniture stores begging to be raided for their unique design treasures. If you’re finding the temptation too difficult, regroup with a hot chocolate – café Xoco Por Ti has five different types of cocoa blended through their decadent beverages.
Appreciate poetry at La Chascona Museum House
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As one of three homes that belonged to celebrated Chilean literary figure Pablo Neruda, the azure La Chascona is the site of many a poetry pilgrimage for visitors to Santiago. Thanks to his mistress Matilde Urrutia, the house is arranged with all manner of artworks, furniture and knick knacks that surrounded Neruda and his lover during their time together in the quirky, ship-themed home. Image: Flickr Jumaï-Hadrien-(CC-BY-NC-2.0).
Enjoy a seafood lunch at Mercado Central
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A bustling, lively marketplace since 1872, Mercado Central – open daily – is now the hub of some of the best seafood Santiago has to offer. Along with a number of stalls specialising in fresh, local seafood, there are also numerous stalls spruiking everything from cheese to empanadas and everything in between. If you choose to opt for seafood, stick to the smaller vendors along the edge of the marketplace for more authentic local flavours.
Step back in time at Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
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A stunning collection of Mesoamerican, Amazonian and Andean artwork is perfectly preserved and on display at the Precolombian Museum in Santiago’s historical centre. There are more than 1000 pieces to admire spanning materials such as bone, leather and ceramics, with the collection of the latter particularly fascinating in all its form of masks, sculptures and practical artefacts.
Get your culture fix at the Chilean Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
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There are almost 3,000 artworks on display at the National Fine Arts Museum, showcasing leading artists from Chile, its South American neighbours and even as far flung as Africa. The neoclassical building itself is admirable on its own, dating back to 1905.
Take a day trip to Valparaíso
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While in the area, it’s worth making a detour to the creative coastal hub that is nearby Valparaíso. Less than two hours’ drive northwest of Santiago, ‘Valpo’, as it’s affectionately known, brims with vibrant, multi-coloured homes that line the cliff faces (with small eateries and galleries nestled in between). It’s also home to an energetic street mural scene, so aimless wandering through the colourful laneways is a must. Don’t leave without visiting La Sebastiana, another of the quirky former residences of poet Neruda.