After a long day of getting in and out the car, of seeing wild live in natures finest decors/settings we finally get lucky and get a below average slow ride from the border directly to Chiles capital. A giant glowing carpet as far as we can see, flowing in any direction as a river out of course and flooding the land, looking for lower ground, pops up in front of us the moment we leave the last mountain behind us. Santiago de Chile is different than most of the Latin capitals I’ve seen in my live. It’s day and night with La Paz, Caracas, Managua or Bogota, might be a bit like Panama City if you wish so, but most of it… Santiago reminds me of Madrid.
A modern metropolis where people live and participate rather than just survive the day, a city with an extend cultural offer that goes from music over drawing, painting and muralism till movie and theatre, a capital that breaths economic and political power… all this wrapped in this Latin way of doing things. We take a first night in the Hostal Casa Grande and together with many others we are just amazed for the prices. “It’s as expensive as London”, the ever smiling chap of the reception updated us quickly with sudden proud. One night we’ll stay here and then a bit of couchsurfing to lower our daily expenses.
Plaza de Armas is our first stop after a short but deep sleep, we take it as a reference for orientation (although I’ am not totally sure if it is the city centre square) and from there on we start a day walking through Chile’s capital downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding alleys, speckled by art deco, neo-gothic and other styles. And did we enjoy that!?! Just as a cork on a champagne bottle people are anxious to pop out to tell and show the world proudly that they are not the same poor underdeveloped Chile they once were. We saunter with a safe feeling the very well maintained and clean streets. We come upon the Mercado Central, the place to find any kind of fresh fish or seafood as well as restaurants offering the finest fish dishes.
With wonder we cross the ‘puente peatonal: Los Carros’ over the Mapocho River which is transformed into a street market, to enter the big daily fruit and vegetable market. Every now and then on a lost random corner a fine selection of street artists fill the air with live music, dance and/or visual art. Bit by bit we start to go get higher as the streets slightly go upward direction ‘Cerro San Cristobal’ one of the main green oases of the city which we enjoy some minutes later, elevated 300meters above the city and 880 meters above the sea level, an almost 360º view on Santiago’s modern skyline.
We, together with some friends we met during our trip and our ‘couchsurf’-host, enjoy this interactive area of El Cerros’ play gardens, the maze of tracks to small lakes with ducks, botanic gardens along with the open areas inviting you to experience with oversized instruments. Santiago is definitely a city where Europeans can feel home for a while after a long journey crossing different neighbouring countries. Chile by night is just amazing, is what we realize the very moment we get out the metro. Lots of people coming and going looking for the wild nightlife, advertising brightening the streets with all different flashing colours and many challenging fragrances steaming out of every eating place is what we find ourselves in at midnight in the big city…
…so we drank, laughed and fall in love with it.
- Hostal Casa Grande seems a bit expensive (10000 pesos per person/night) but it was past midnight and we really did need a place to stay
- Hostal Plaza de Armas on the very Plaza de Armas was 6300 pesos Chilenos per person/night and had a great service and good ambient… and stunning views on the square.
- Cerro de San Cristobal can be easily a full day of fun, is interesting for young and old and gives you a nice view on the city and the Andes.
- Some days, some of the museum, theatre and musical activities have free entrée, so inform well at different places to make sure you have the full and right information
- Public transport: Metro costs around 600-700 pesos Chilenos and in combination with buses you will get everywhere.
- For the mountain bike lovers: The slopes of the Andes just some miles away from Santiago have many trails and tracks to discover. It can offer you some serious downhill experience!
- Take a day to wander along the streets and admire the street art and the graffiti, they are the heart and voice of the people. So more than once you might get touched by their messages…