It’s quite possible that journeys to remote part of the globe like Patagonia, the Falkland Islands, Cape Horn, and South Georgia will place you in the enviable position of spending time in Santiago, Chile, in South America. Santiago is a stopover for many Antarctic-bound travelers, and a popular post-expedition vacation for travelers who want to explore South America after their Antarctic voyage.
Santiago, also called Santiago de Chile, is the Chilean capital city. The beautiful city is one of the largest in Latin America, and is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Whether you choose to stroll through the Plaza de Armas, visit La Moneda Palace, or shop at the central market, there are plenty of ways to spend some time in Santiago before or after an expedition to Patagonia.
Enjoy these 10 best things to do in Santiago, Chile, when on a layover:
1. La Chascona Casa Museo, home of Pablo Neruda
For visitors interested in an eclectic, fairytale-like tour of a national landmark, La Chascona Casa Museo is the perfect stop. This self-guided audio tour of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s third home is brief but intriguing. The house is rumored to have been built for Neruda’s last wife, Matilde, his secret lover while he was still married to his second wife.
2. Parque Metropolitano
If you have hours to spare or an entire day, visit Santiago Metropolitan Park, an urban park spanning four communities, considered one of the largest in the world. There are a number of activities and sites to keep you busy, including the Chilean National Zoo, spectacular views of the city from San Cristobal Hill, two public swimming pools, and the funicular, a national monument from 1925.
3. Andes Treking Tour
Tour companies in Santiago like Turismo Flecha Extrema provide opportunities to trek the Andes Mountains as soon as you arrive in Chile. All equipment is provided, as well as transportation and food, allowing for a convenient way to explore the Andes in a short period of time.
4. Santiago Freak Day Tours
There is no shortage of walking, treking and biking tours, but if you prefer a tour unlike any other, you might consider Santiago Freak Day Tours. These tours are intended to showcase Santiago’s B-side and offer a variety of themes ranging from Paranormal to Boho to Origins of Santiago, and include trained actors reenacting important moments in Santiago history.
5. Barrio Lastarria
One of the trendiest areas, yet full of historic buildings, Barrio Lastarria in the city center is a favorite neighborhood for walking, dining at interesting restaurants, and even wine tasting at various wine bars. Barrio Lastarria is also a fun place to just linger among Bohemian street vendors and market stalls.
6. Barrio Bellavista
If you’re looking for evening activities, Barrio Bellavista is considered Santiago’s nightlife central. A neighborhood full of quirky art and shops, its various pubs, bars, dance and music spots come to life in the evenings.
7. Take a Free Walking Tour of Downtown Santiago
There are a number of walking tours to choose from, many of which are free. The Local Pulse Tour features a guide who takes you to the heart of his hometown, sampling local food, visiting local bars, sharing cultural tidbits, viewing street art, and exploring some of the less-touristy areas of Santiago.
8. Municipal Theater (Teatro Municipal)
An important site to visit in Santiago is the Municipal Theater, originally built in the mid-1800s. Stop by and view what is considered one of Santiago’s architectural gems, or catch one of several opera or piano concert performances. Some shows are free to the public.
9. Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)
Catedral Metropolitana is one of South America’s major tourist attractions, with its collection of breathtaking, historic cathedrals. If you are visiting Santiago for a short time, you can stop by for a relaxing views of the church’s paintings, wood carvings, and monuments.
10. Bio-Bio Market
If you feel like shopping, but prefer a different experience than the typical shopping mall, the Bio-Bio Market is a nice stop in Santiago for items you won’t find in department stores.
Bio-Bio is known for all things vintage, from antiques to second hand furniture, books, and jewelry. You can also take a break from shopping and catch some street performers or sample local treats.
Visit Santiago, Chile's Capital City
Santiago, Chile, is just one of several pre- and post-trip options available to enhance and extend your polar cruise on trips like our Essential Patagonia: Chilean Fjords and Torres del Paine expedition.
Note: some of the above-mentioned tours and guides may have changed since original publication of this blog.
Contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser to learn more about all our layover options.