Santiago was meant to be the place we would stop our travels and live. It’s big and cosmopolitan, with a nice subway, international restaurants, cheap student bars, and old buildings hidden away among mostly modern constructions. It’s the least intimidating and the easiest to deal with as a visitor. But it just didn’t feel right for us when we arrived. Of all the capital cities we’ve visited, it felt the least South American.
Santiago is surrounded by towering snowcapped mountains. This sounds like an ideal city backdrop, and it may be in the summer. Unfortunately, smog gets trapped in the city during the winter months, obscuring what might otherwise be a stunning vista.
Even with a substandard view, Cerro San Cristóbal is an easy and cheap way to spend a few hours. A ride up the old funicular is a fun little ascent and a touch of living history in this thoroughly modern city.
The mirador sits 485 meters above the city, and offers potentially great views, depending on the weather. There’s a museum, a zoo, snack and souvenir shops, and of course the ever present stray dogs of Chile.
How to get there The funicular leaves from Plaza Caupolicán in Pío Nono, Bellavista. Or, if you’re up to it, you can walk to the summit from the same point.
Cost CH$1300 per person.
Hours 1-8 p.m. Mon, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tues-Sun
A visit to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) in Santiago is almost worth it just for the first floor lobby. Topped by a glass cupola, it’s an expansive and impressive space which lets in light to better view its striking collection of statues. The museum hosts temporary exhibits from modern artists on the second floor, as well as a collection of paintings from Chilean and international artists. All in all, the collection is rather sparse, and a ticket to the fine arts museum doesn’t also get you into the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. Still, it’s a tranquil space and a nice escape from the wide, car-filled streets outside.
Located in Parque Forestal by the Bellas Artes metro stop. It’s in the same building, but with its entrance on the opposite side, as the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MAC).
Cost is C$300 for adults, children under 13 free and free for all on Sundays.
Opening hours are Tues-Sun 10am-7pm.