Whenever I visit a new city or town, the quickest way for me to get a feel for the place and set my inner compass is to walk and use some of the landmarks as my reference points. Santiago sights spread out a bit so the metro is useful to get from A to B quickly. I was warned to watch my belongings but I did not experience any pickpocket or any harassment during my stay in Chile. I enjoyed my walks and the associated sensory experiences very much.
Stray dogs are common sights in Santiago, as in San Pedro Village. They followed me, sometimes for a few blocks, but were well-behaved. I did not touch or feed them. At first, I was kind of on alert when they approached me but since they were not aggressive, I relaxed and let them go along until they decided to leave.
My discovery walks in Santiago:
On Day 1, I spent the morning walking around on my own. To see a panoramic view of Santiago, I headed to Parque Metropolitano, and rode the funicular up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal (San Cristobal Hill). After enjoying the views, I headed back down the hill and spent time wandering the bohemian streets of Barrio Bellavista where cafe-restaurant workers were setting up tables on the sidewalks and Santiago street art was abundant. Then I crossed the Rio Mapocho (Mapocho river), noticing the love locks along the bridge railings, before entering Parque Forestal (Forestal Park), a leafy park that runs along the river. I really enjoyed this park as it has many big trees, benches, public art, fountains, and it is for pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists only. I exited the park to visit the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). Admission to the museum is free although it cost 100 CLP (coins only) to use a locker for my backpack.
|Panoramic view of Santiago, Chile|
|San Cristobal Hill Funicular|
|Statue of the Virgin Mary, San Cristobal Hill|
|Sidewalk tables, Barrio Bellavista|
|Love locks above Mapocho River|
|Fruit cups for sale by Forestal Park|
|Forestal Park, Santiago|
|Museum of Fine Arts, Santiago, Chile|
|Statues in Museum of Fine Arts, Santiago|
On Day 2, I joined the free Santiago Off-Beat walking tour offered by Tours4tips, the same company that offered the walking tours in San Pedro de Atacama. This tour started from the Museo de Bellas Artes at 10 AM for about 3.5 hours. Carlos, our tour guide, took us to explore the Esmeralda neighbourhood, La Chimba on the other side of the river, Mercado Central (Central Market), and La Vega market, while explaining the various waves of settlers such as Koreans, Peruvians, and Middle Easterners in Santiago. We took a short metro ride to the Santiago General Cemetery where there is a contrast between burial grounds fit for kings and small graves stacked on top of each other. This is also the final resting place of President Salvador Allende Gossens who was ousted in 1973 by a coup when Pinochet took control. The tour ended at Quitapenas Bar and Restaurant with a complimentary local drink called Terremoto (or Earthquake in English). Terremoto drink includes fermented white wine and pineapple ice cream.
|La Vega Market roof design|
|Fish at the market, Santiago|
|Fruit at the market, Santiago|
|Fruit at the market, Santiago|
|Watermelon fruit stand, Santiago|
|Stacked graves in Santiago General Cemetery|
|Greek-style mausoleum, Santiago General Cemetery|
On Day 3, after lunch, I joined the free Santiago Highlights walking tour, also offered by Tours4tips. This tour started from the Museo de Bellas Artes at 3 PM for about 3.5 hours. Natalia, our tour guide, took us to explore the Bellas Artes neighbourhood where I saw some of Santiago's most symbolic street art. We walked to Plaza de Armas, where the cathedral and old post office are, along the Alameda, and to the presidential palace of La Moneda and the landmark church, Iglesia San Francisco. Again we took a short metro ride and ended our tour at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral GAM. After the tour, at Natalia's recommendation, I stopped for a bowl and a waffled cone of delicious ice cream at Emporio La Rosa ice cream shop and wandered in Lastarria neighbourhood.
|Murals by Inti, Bellas Artes, Santiago|
|Plaza De Armas, Santiago, Chile|
|Stained glass windows, Santiago Cathedral|
|Old Post Office, Santiago|
|La Moneda, Presidential Palace, Santiago|
|Whale display, Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral|
|Gabriela & Violeta, GAM, Santiago|
Both Santiago walking tours were very informative. The tour guides spoke perfect English and were passionate about Santiago and Chile. Each tour had about 12 participants. Each covered about 5 km (3 miles). I'd recommend them to visitors to Santiago.
Next week, I'll share my recap and photos of my visit to Veramonte winery, Vina del Mar, and Valparaiso, about an hour from Santiago.