Every love story has a beginning. The heart of Santiago is in the Plaza de Armas. It was the main central square as early as the colonial period in the 16th century and even earlier. According to historians, it is built on top of a ‘kancha’ (a rectangular enclosure around a central courtyard) from the Inca period. This is where the most emblematic buildings in Santiago are located, from the Metropolitan Cathedral to the National History Museum and La Moneda Palace.
Ten minutes from the heart is its stomach. The Central Market was declared a Historical Monument because of its unique metallic structure, but it should also be recognised for its delicious food. A tasty conger eel soup or almejas machas a la parmesana (pink clams with Parmesan cheese), for example.
Once your stomach is full, you can visit the Parque Forestal public park on bicycle, making the most of a car-free area. Here you can visit the Museum of Fine Arts or the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre. Not far away is the recently-opened Violeta Parra Museum. Entrance is free until 31st December. The museum pays homage to the first Chilean artist to exhibit her work at the Louvre in Paris.
After submerging yourself in the most cultural part of the metropolis, you need to discover the famous ice creams of Emporio La Rosa. Creating flavours such as chocolate and pepper or rose petals is also an art form. Next door, the Lastarria district is one of the most visited parts of the city because of its large number of theatres, cinemas and restaurants. You also have to visit its design shops, where you can find real jewels, like those they sell in the shop “Aji”. Wandering around this area is a real adventure, especially on a Sunday when it’s full of antique stalls.
And before dinner, have a snack at The Clinic Bar, in calle Monjitas. It’s well worth visiting just to see its fun menu, including satirical drawings of Chilean politicians. Patio Bellavista is a meeting place for young people in Santiago with an endless amount of eating options. A good plan could be to have a sandwich at the Ciudad Vieja bar and end the ‘carrete’ (party) with some ‘piscola’ cocktails at one of the bars open around the patio.
In Santiago, clubs don’t close until early in the morning and the best way to recharge your batteries the following day is by having brunch. It tastes a lot better on a terrace with views of the city and the mountain ranges that surround it, like from the Tramonto Bar & Terrace. Afterwards you can go shopping just like in ‘Pretty Woman’, because Avenida Vitacura, just a few metres away, is known as the “Rodeo Drive of Santiago”. Go to the junction with Avenida Alonso de Córdova to discover its boutiques and shoe shops.
We return to the centre in order to climb to the viewpoint in Cerro San Cristóbal, in the Parque Metropolitano. Our final cultural stop before trying the famous “earthquake” cocktails at La Piojera is La Chascona, the residence/museum of the poet Pablo Neruda. Because in order to say farewell to Santiago we need more than ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’.