Latin America: 48 hours in Santiago

Nestled at the foot of the snow-capped Andes, Santiago de Chile is Chile’s thriving economic capital.

Home to towering skyscrapers and modern shopping malls, Santiago is also home to hundreds of street vendors, happy to give your shoes a shine and sell you a dollop of ice cream in summer. A city with a strong European influence, Santiago boasts beautiful colonial buildings, great handicrafts, plentiful shopping and delicious seafood. It’s also a springboard for day trips to some of Chile’s best wineries, beaches and ski resorts.

Make sure your clients get the most out of the city by following our 48-hour guide.

Day one:  Parque life

09:30: Get a feel for the city and head to Cerro San Cristobal. A steep hill to the northeast of the city, Cerro San Cristobal is home to Parque Metropolitano, the city’s largest open space which houses a zoo, pools, a botanical garden, an art museum and a 35-metre statue of the Virgin Mary. The summit can be reached by funicular railway and cable car and a $3 combination ticket gives visitors access to both.

History today

11:30: For a taste of culture don’t miss Santiago’s Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino – Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. Located on Bandera 361 and housed in the 1805 Real Casa de Aduana or Royal Customs House, this museum tells the story of 4,500 years of pre-Columbian civilisation.

Vintage experience

12:00: Ready for a tipple? Chile’s biggest and best known winery, Concha y Toro, is only 12 miles south of central Santiago, in Pirque. Daily tours include a trip to the wine cellars, tastings and explanations of production. English-language tours are at 12pm on Saturdays and 11.30am and 3pm Monday to Friday.

Going to market

14:30: It’s the traditional time for lunch in Chile. Head to the city’s Mercado Central, the bustling fish market, also packed with fresh fruit and vegetables. Find Donde Augusto’s, a popular fish restaurant inside the market, and try ceviche – raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice – or paila marina, fish and shellfish chowder.

Time for a wander

16:00: Clients can walk off lunch with a stroll through Plaza de Armas, the lively heart of downtown Santiago. Historically a protected area for guarding the city’s arms, it is now a hive of activity for street artists. Wander past the Palacio de la Real Audiencia, a preserved colonial building that houses the Museo Historico Nacional, the Metropolitan Cathedral, or the spectacular Municipalidad (town hall).

Fishy tales

20:30: Santiago caters for all tastes, but Chile is to seafood what Argentina is to beef, so opt for the fish. Azul Profondo, on Constitucion 0111, in the bohemian suburb of Bellavista, serves excellent seafood amid maritime décor.

Strut your stuff

23:30: Ready for some salsa? Santiago’s hot night spots are to be found in the suburbs of Bellavista and Brasil, Providencia’s Avenida Suecia and Plaza Nunoa. For atmosphere, venture into the dark, low-ceilinged Bar Berri, on Rosal 321. One of Santiago’s liveliest bars, it draws a fashionable crowd. For drinks, sip on Chile’s national drink, Pisco Sour, a brandy drink with lemon juice, egg white and powdered sugar, or a Kunstmann, Chile’s best beer.

Day two: Hill street blues

09:00: Grab breakfast before heading to the old port of Valparaiso and the beach resort of Vina del Mar, one-and-a-half-hour’s drive to the west of Santiago. Valpo, as Valparaiso is known locally, is home to brightly coloured wooden houses that cling to the hillsides, cobblestone streets and quaint funiculars taking you to the hills above. Further round the coast is the resort of Vina del Mar, nicknamed Cuidad Jardin, or Garden City, due to its many gardens.

Grand designs

10:30: Head to Muelle Prat, or Prat Wharf, at the foot of Plaza Sotomayor, which gets lively on the weekends with handicraft markets and harbour tours. Shopping done, scoot over to the bustling resort of Vina del Mar to wander through its many gardens and ogle the grandiose mansions. People moved here to build grand houses and mansions after the railway linked Santiago and Valparaiso.

The chips are down

12:30: In Valparaiso’s central market, or Mercado Cordonal, grab yourself an artery-clogging chorrillana at J Cruz restaurant. A Chilean favourite, you’ll be given a plate of spicy pork, onions and fried eggs buried under a pile of chips. Otherwise head to restaurants Turri and Brighton, two of Valparaiso’s best dining spots overlooking the harbour.

Hit the slopes

13:30: Time and energy levels permitting, Chile’s ski slopes are accessible from Santiago. There are three major resorts around an hour’s drive from the capital, most of which are above 3,300 metres and are treeless with long runs. Open from June to October, El Colorado and Farellones, 28 miles east of Santiago, has 19 lifts and 22 runs, with a full-day lift ticket costing $33.

Retail therapy

14:00: If time is your enemy, head back to Santiago for some shopping. Give your credit cards a workout at the malls or browse through the indigenous craft shops. In Plaza O’Higgins, you’ll find plenty of choice, while next to Los Dominicos church there is Pueblito Los Dominicos, a handicraft village.

Fine dining

18:00: Treat yourselves to a pre-dinner Pisco Sour at ‘R’, in Latarria Street, one of the best places for some early-evening people-watching. Many of Santiago’s top hotels house top-of-the-range restaurants where customers can sit back and enjoy some decadent fine dining.

The Bristol at the Hotel Plaza San Francisco serves haute cuisine Chilean dishes and has some of the nation’s best chefs. A starter might include a Magellan Strait king crab tartar and picoroco mousse with salmon caviar, followed by braised wild boar with baked quince, chestnut purée and huacatay pesto.

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