If you’re wondering is Santiago worth visiting, the answer is yes!
A beautiful city set at the foot of the snow-capped Andes Mountains, Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with beautiful parks, impressive architecture, interesting cultural and historical attractions, as well as bustling markets and excellent food.
It’s also one of the few cities in the world where you can ski in the mountains and then walk on the beach or even surf in the same day!
And with its convenient location in the heart of Chile, Santiago is an excellent base for exploring other areas of the country. From Valle de Luna in the Atacama Desert to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, there are countless destinations that can be reached from Santiago.
But to help you decide if Santiago is worth visiting, we’ll share some great reasons to visit the city, as well as when to visit, where to stay and how to get around, so you can decide if it’s the right destination for you.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through a link,
I may make a commission – at no extra cost to you.
Please read the disclosure for more information.
READY TO TRAVEL? USE OUR FAVOURITE RESOURCES
Accommodations: Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia
Rental Car: Discover Cars
Travel Insurance: SafetyWing
Tours and Activities: Viator | Get Your Guide
Reasons to Visit Santiago
1. Explore the Historical Centre
Santiago’s beautiful historical centre is a perfect place to wander and explore.
Founded in 1541, this historic center is centered around the large Plaza de Armas. Surrounding the square are impressive buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Historic Musem and the main post office.
From the Plaza de Armas, it’s only a few blocks to the traditional Central Market, or a few blocks in the other direction to the Presidential Palace.
Stroll through the streets leading from the square, browse the shops, and enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants or cafés in the area.
Also in the historical center is Cerro Santa Lucia, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The park has fountains, ponds, gardens and some buildings scattered around the paths, but the real draw is the stunning views of the city from the top.
2. Experience the Highest View in South America
Santiago is home to the tallest building in South America, Sky Constanera, now known as Gran Torre Santiago.
This 62-story skyscraper is an impressive 300 meters high and offers an incredible 360° view of Santiago from the observation deck.
It’s the perfect spot to get yourself familiar with the city and appreciate the size of this incredible metropolis. On clear, sunny days, you’ll have a stunning view of the Andes Mountains.
3. Enjoy Delicious Food
If there’s one thing that Santiago is known for, it’s definitely its amazing food.
From traditional Chilean dishes to international cuisine, Santiago has something for every taste.
Sample fresh seafood at the Mercado Central or try a delicious empanada at one of the many street stalls.
Be sure to try sopaipillas, which are a kind of fried pastry that you top with spicy sauce, and can be found all through the streets of Santiago.
Another popular snack that you’ll find on the street is a completo, the Chilean version of a hot dog.
You’ll also find plenty of trendy restaurants like the upscale Bocanáriz, Ambrosia which serves up some classy comfort food or try some Japanese fusion at Kiara Nikkei.
4. Visit the Nearby Wine Region
Just outside Santiago lies the famous Casablanca Valley wine region. With some of Chile’s best wineries scattered among rolling hills and picturesque vineyards, this is an excellent place to visit if you want to learn more about Chilean wines.
The region produces some of Chile’s most acclaimed wine varietals and is known for producing excellent Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Many wineries offer tours and wine tastings so that you can sample the local flavours.
Stop in for a visit to Emiliana Winery, a sustainable and organic winery where the vineyards are surrounded by lavender bushes. Other wineries include Santa Rita and Concha y Toro, the largest wine producer in Latin America, the latter which is also accessible by public transport.
You can easily visit any of these wineries on your own if you have a car, or there are also tours from Santiago that will take you around the region.
5. It’s an Easy Day Trip to the Pacific Coast
Valparaíso, or “Valpo,” as it is known locally, is just over an hour from Santiago and makes for a great day trip.
Known for its incredible street art, this picturesque port city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Set on a series of hills – 45 to be exact, Valparaíso is full of winding streets, staircases and funiculars that you can ride up the slopes.
Wander past the colourful houses and take in the amazing views from the communities on the hills, or take a boat trip around Valparaíso’s gorgeous bay and admire the view from the water.
Valparaíso also boasts some excellent restaurants, many perched high on a hill with excellent water views. However you choose to spend your time in the city, there are plenty of things to do in Valparaíso.
A few minutes drive up the coast from Valpo is the town of Viña del Mar. A completely different feel from nearby Valparaiso, Viña del Mar is a chic beachside town.
Take a stroll along the coastal path, dine in the many excellent restaurants or simply relax at one of the pristine beaches. It’s a great place to experience some of the best beaches in the country and spend an afternoon soaking up the sun.
And if you want to make your day trip a little longer, a few more minutes drive up the coast are the Concon Dunes. These giant sand dunes are sandwiched between the apartments and buildings of the town and are fun to walk in, but also offer some fantastic views. Take a walk up the dunes and marvel at the view, which is especially stunning at sunset.
6. Plenty of Outdoor Opportunities at Cajon del Maipo
The Cajón del Maipo is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Located in the Andes Mountains, just a short drive from Santiago, this gorgeous valley has rivers, waterfalls, gorges and snow-capped peaks.
Take in stunning views by hiking, mountain biking, or white water rafting down the Maipo River.
Or simply relax in Baños Morales or Termes Valle de Colina, two of the hot springs the are dotted around the area.
7. Ski in the Andes
While Santiago rarely gets snow in the winter months, the nearby Andes Mountains do, and just a little over an hour’s drive from Santiago you’ll find world class ski resorts.
Valle Nevado is one of the most popular ski resorts, offering skiing, snowboarding and all kinds of winter activities. Many of the resorts in the area like the Gran Parador offer ski rentals as well as ski-to-door access.
8. Try a Pisco Sour
No visit to Chile would be complete without trying the country’s national drink: pisco sour.
Although it originiated in Peru, the Chilean version is actually quite different. Made with pisco brandy, fresh lime juice and sugar, the Chilean version omits egg whites and angostura bitters that you’ll find in a traditional Peruvian Pisco sour.
It’s also commonly served in a champagne glass, while in Peru it’s served in a wider glass.
You can find this delicious cocktail in many bars around Santiago and it is sure to add a memorable touch to your trip in Chile.
9. It’s one of the more Westernized Cities in Latin America
One of the biggest benefits to Santiago is that the city has a more Westernized style than many other Latin American cities.
The modern infrastructure, public transportation system and urban layout are indicative of its development into a world-class city with plenty to offer visitors.
English is also widely spoken and you’ll find less hustle and bustle that is common in other Latin American cities.
With a wide range of activities and attractions, including plenty of things to do with kids, Santiago is an excellent destination for travelers looking to experience the best of Chile.
From skiing in the Andes to visiting Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, and trying pisco sour, there are plenty of fantastic opportunities to explore and discover what this dynamic city has to offer.
Where to Stay in Santiago
Santiago has plenty of accommodation options. We recommend staying in the city center so you can easily access most of the top things to do in Santiago and best experience the vibe of the city.
Hotel Sommelier is in a great location right downtown, with large clean rooms and a separate seating and sleeping area. The rooms also have a small kitchenette, which is great for those wanting to cook their own meals and breakfast is included.
Another option in the city center is Novapark Hotel. Rooms are modern and very clean, and the hotel offers a hotel bar and coffee shop on-site.
If you have a late evening or early morning flight, or if you’re just in Santiago for a day or two, Hotel Diego de Almagro Aeropuerto by the airport is a good choice. There’s a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and an outdoor pool and restaurant on site so really you don’t have to leave if you don’t want to! (And we didn’t leave when we stayed here, as we had a day between our flight from the Atacama Desert and our next flight to Buenos Aries and just enjoyed a quiet day at the hotel.)
Best Time of Year to Visit to Santiago
The best time to visit Santiago is really anytime!
As it’s in the southern hemisphere, winter months are July and August, but Santiago rarely gets snow and temperatures average highs of 15°C with lows dipping to 2°C. It’s a great time to take advantage of the ski resorts in the nearby Andes and to explore some of the city’s sights without worrying about extreme heat.
Spring is definitely one of the best times to visit Santiago. The days begin to get longer, temperatures are warm and pleasant and it’s the perfect time of year for outdoor activities like hiking or rafting.
Summer is peak season in Santiago, as temperatures reach an average of 30°C with lows around 11°C. It’s a great opportunity to explore the outdoors or head to the beach.
Other Things to Know Before Visiting Santiago
- Santiago is a very safe city, but it’s still important to take basic precautions. Avoid carrying valuables and only use ATMs in well-lit public areas.
- The currency in Santiago is the Chilean Peso (CLP), and while many places will accept credit cards, it’s a good idea to keep some cash handy, especially when visiting the markets or food stands on the streets.
- The official language in Chile is Spanish, but English is spoken throughout the city, especially at hotels at other tourist attractions.
- Santiago is one of the biggest cities in the Americas, with a population of 6.58 million (2022), while the Metropolitan area has a population of 8 million!
Conclusion: Is Santiago Worth Visiting?
The answer is an absolute YES! From its westernized charm and large variety of activities and attractions, Santiago provides the perfect combination of city vibes and authentic Chilean culture that will leave you wanting more. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, cultural immersion or just a relaxing trip, Santiago has something to offer everybody.
And don’t forget to try some pisco sour while you’re there – it’s delicious!