Ahhhhh Santiago. After spending a great week and New Year’s Eve with my cousin in Sydney, we head over to Chile to be welcomed by Kosta and Emily, Lydie’s friends that she met in Switzerland. So here begins our South American adventure ! Santiago was the first city I ever visited outside of Colombia’s territory and I felt in love with it then and again this time. I was only 15 years old to be part of a world jamboree with the Boy Scouts.
Interesting facts and history
The city has more than 7 million people located is located in the country’s central valley, at an elevation of 520 meters above sea level. The whole city is hugged by the Andes mountains all around.
Regarding the founding of the city, on December 13th, 1540, the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Vadivia reached the valley of the Mapuches (group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina). He explained his intention to found a city on behalf of the king Carlos I of Spain. 6 months later while Santiago was being built, it got burned down entirely by the Mapuches. The city would slowly rebuilt, giving prominence to the newly founded Concepcion, where the Rozal Audiencia of Chile was then founded in 1565.
Santiago had also another threat of damage which was the earthquakes. The capital of Chile actually has the record for the highest earthquake magnitude ever recorded, which was a whooping 9.5 back in 1960. In 2010 they also had a 8.8 earthquake that caused several damage to the city. Time after time, they have rebuilt surviving different earthquakes and fires.
Politically, Chile has also gone through some up and downs in the last 50 years. In the 1960’s, a socialist named Allende was elected president and wanted to break the gap between rich and poor and make all private companies public. With the opposition of the right and left political wings, they wanted him out. On September 11, 1973 a military coup took place to get Allende out in which ended up by him committing suicide. Later on, General Pinochet took over as commander in chief and led the country for 17 years in communism. With the difference to hold elections every 8 years with a yes for him to stay or No to get him out. Finally, in 1990 there was a huge movement for people to vote No and got him out of power which has changed the country dramatically. There is a new academy award nominee movie called “No” based on the campaign Chileans vote no on the elections and have Pinochet out of power, a must recommended movie.
Now Chile prides itself of having the first female president and first female mayor in South America. We got all this interesting information from a free walking tour of the city. It was a great tour to get to see and know more about the city.
What to see and do in Santiago ?
Now in term of sightseeing, Santiago has a lot to offer and can be easily visited walking or by taking short metro rides.
– The beautiful Plaza de Armas with figures of Valdivia and the Mapuches. It is the heart of Santiago and the city life is going through this place. It is the best place to feel the soul of the city !
– Downtown area: It has many different areas interesting to see and hang out such as the Plaza de la Moneda where the military coup happened with the biggest flag in Chile, or its famous coffee with legs establishments, original to Santiago. Coffee with legs mean having sexy waitresses with mini-skirts ( yes really!). The reason was because Chile is not a “coffee place”, they don’t produce coffee. So this form of service was a way to attract people, meaning the locals or tourists. We could find other small coffee places or bars in the downtown’s streets that date back to the late 1800’s and kept the original decorations. We visited the Pica de Clinton where President Clinton had a diet coke after the theater, it was one of our favorite! This small place was at the time on the point to shut down but it got suddenly famous and made its business by having the President Clinton as a client that night… Sometimes life gives to people some gifts like this one 😉
– Various parks: In Santiago we also enjoyed walking around the different parks including the forestal park. There we found the heladeria “Emporia la Rosa” which has the best ice creams in the world with tons of different and imaginative flavor. Also, this park is a great place to get to see the local life activity and many people come here to practice yoga, soccer and even samba ! The San Cristobal park and hill is also very nice to have a 360 view on the city. People can either take the 45 mins walk or go up on a funicular.
– Winery Concha y Toro: We have had a very good time at Concha y Toro, located not too far from Santiago City Center. It is a large producer of a wide range of reds and whites, exporting wine abroad as well. We learnt about the different variety of wine, the story of their industry and of course we have been able taste some of their popular wine, a good address for a relaxing afternoon !
– Bars: For our last night, Emily showed us a good area to have a drink and hang out at night which is the Ñuñoa Plaza and around. We went to one of the nearby bars to have a drink. There, we experienced for the first time a Pisco Sour. The Pisco is the local alcohol. Chile is “fighting” with Peru for its origin that is according to Peruvians from their country. Well, so we decided to try then both Pisco! 🙂 the Pisco sour and the Pisco Peruviano. Both were really good and the difference is at the end of the day very little. We felt for sure the good intensity of the alcohol..! Chilenos don’t joke with cocktails 😉
We had a really good 5 days in the city and enjoyed a lot the life style here. Santiago has become a destination and no longer a quick pass by. So after this first taste of South America, we prepared ourselves to head towards to the coast to discover Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, known for their beaches, culture and good food !
– Buses and metro lines are easy to find and take. They run frequently during the day and the BIP card is a must to have to use the public transportation in Santiago. It can be bought at the metro stations and recharged in various shops in the city.
– The free walking tour, taking place every day at 10 am and 3 pm, No booking is needed. The tour lasts approx 4hrs.