Time fly’s when having fun… That saying is so true, and our two month stay in Santiago went by in a flash. Even though we spent much of our time working and setting up projects to keep funding our location Independent lifestyle, we did get out and about looking for more than 10 things to see in Santiago.
The biggest challenge for most full-time travelers is finding the balance between work and play as a digital nomad.
So what did we do in Santiago?
A visit to Estacion Mapocho
This used to be a bustling train station in the 19 hundreds. Thankfully it still remains intact and today it’s used for different things, you can still see and imagine how it would have been back in the day.
What used to be the train lines and platforms have been changed into a huge open space and is now the ‘centro cultural’ where many local events take place, from concerts to exhibitions.
The massive iron frame and highly decorated ceilings add to the character. It just goes to show that not all old buildings need to be replaced with new. To top it off, the entire reconstruction to todays Estacion Mapocho was all self funded.
The fruit & vegetable markets in Santiago
These markets are great, and they have so much more than just fruit and veg as well. You can find cheeses and cold meats, fresh juices, canned and dried products and a whole array of pickled items.
Upstairs you can buy all sorts of household items and grab a bite to eat from the selection of eateries. No alcohol is served here.
We shopped here at least twice a week and enjoyed the fresh products for the entire two months. The prices did vary depending on supply, needless to say better value than the supermarkets. Strawberries were sometimes only 500 peso for a kilo.
The produce was generally very good, and with lots of stalls to buy from it pays to walk around and choose the ones you like best. The cheapest was not always the best.
The Tirso de Molina Market in Santiago is next to the river at the corners of Sta. Maria and La Paz in Centro Santiago.
Pergola Santa Maria flower market in Santiago
Next door to the Tirso de Molina market you will find a flower market. This place has the best flower displays ever, with fresh flowers in so many varieties for all occasions.
Mercado Central in Santiago
While on the topic of markets, over the road is the Central Market. This is a large fish and meat market with restaurants in the centre. We walked past this place many times and never went in until the last week. To say we didn’t miss much would be correct. It always had a very strong fish aroma that would waft metres from the building.
It looks nice from the outside, and there are the restaurant hawkers trying to entice you in for a meal, to imagine sitting in there is not the most exciting way to dine, yet many tourists probably do.
Basically around the outer parts are the stalls with the fresh fish etc and in the centre are the restaurants.
On the topic of food, buying from some butchers and small goods stores is quite old school. What you need to do is find what you are looking for and place the order for it. Then you must go and pay for it at a central kiosk, here you’ll receive a receipt and slip, these you take to the pickup area where in exchange for your ticket you’ll receive your items.
It works well and actually keeps people employed and also stops any cross contamination between the product, server, cash etc.
Plaza de Armas
There are many buildings with lots of character in Santiago, and a good place to start is the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza de Armas is a large square and many locals as well as tourists gather here everyday to chat, play in the water fountains, relax in the shade of the huge palms etc.
A couple of cafes are along one side where you’ll also find street artists and often some performers. There was always plenty of police in the area and we felt very comfortable here.
The Plaza de Armas was always busy with people, and so were the streets that fed into the square. In fact all of the areas we walked were busy, except on weekends.
Lots of benches line the Plaza de Armas East side and you can see many men playing chess under the shade umbrellas.
Correo Central Chile – Santiago Post Office
Around the outside of the plaza de armas are many buildings, one of which you may need more than others is the Central Post Office (Correo Central). The building is very nice both inside and out, and worth a look even if you don’t need to post anything.
Did I mention that this post office is busy, we spent two hours here sending a parcel to Australia, in their defence, the assistant had a problem with her computer system, but still it would have been a long wait.
When you visit the post office, make sure you go early and as soon as you get in, collect a ticket from the machine. Tap the top area of the screen for general post. If you are going to need to pack a parcel or something like that which will require returning to the counter, be sure to collect another ticket after say about ten people this will hopefully have you in perfect time when you’re ready to go up again.
Believe me, this place gets very busy, we had a number that was 43 people in front of us!! Luckily a kind gentleman had given up the wait and donated his ticket to us which bumped us up 18 places.
Another tip for you is that if you need an envelope to send something, these can only be bought outside the building. You will find trolleys that have cards, tape, envelopes of various size for sale, they do not sell them inside. However boxes you get from the counter, I know it’s a bit strange, but hey it works for them.
Not only is this an active and very busy post office it also houses a museum.
Museo Postal Y Telegrafico Santiago
Ahh the museum, maybe they put this here to help you pass the time while waiting for your turn. It has a display of many stamps from around the world in the middle, all on pull out frames. Either side of this are other displays, the right has all the old style postage items, from scales, post boxes to replica post office set up.
To the left you’ll find a display about communication from telephones, morse codes machines, typewriters and much more. Even if you don’t need to visit the post office for the logical reasons, a quick stop by this post office museum would not disappoint.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
To the left of the post office building but on the other side of the corner of the square is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago. Unfortunately at our time of visiting Santiago the faced was undergoing some repairs and the photos aren’t that great. To their credit though, instead of just having boring scaffolding, they actually have a print of the building which they span tightly in front of the work being done, to give the impression of how the cathedral looks.
To the right of the post office is a yellow coloured building which is the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago. I don’t think you can go in, it just stands out nicely so I had to find out what it was.
Our favourite place for coffee was at cafe Primmo on Moneda and on many occasions we would walk further up the street towards the shopping streets back to our apartment. About four blocks along you will find a huge building with guards at the main gate and police at many points within close distance.
La Moneda in Santiago
This is the presidential palace called La Moneda and is where all the usual presidential events take place. Back in 1973 the president of the day, Salvador Allende suffered his fate during the coup d’etat on September 11th.
You can do tours of La Moneda and also view the changing of the guards ceremony at 10am on weekdays and 11am on weekends on alternate days.
At the rear of the La Moneda is Plaza de la Ciudadania.
Shopping streets in Santiago
The shopping streets are long and busy. Most are pedestrian only and the walkways are populated with street vendors offering anything from small trinkets to paintings, phones, clothes etc. Some have elaborate set ups and others have their goods wrapped in a towel like rug or tarp that they simply unroll and open for business, all very simple.
There are food trolleys dotted along the way as are the shoe polisher’s and the ever-present police. We always felt safe in the city during the day, but had been warned to not venture into certain areas at night.
All sorts of people can be seen out and about in the central Santiago shopping and business area. The Plaza de Armas is in the middle of the Paseo Ahumada which is the main pedestrian shopping street, here you can find a mix of big department stores like Ripley, Paris and Falabella along with many other smaller stores.
Once you find Ahumada street you can simply walk and shop all day if that’s what makes your heart sing. Visiting roads Huefarnos and Estado will also keep you busy. There are many cafes and places to eat as well so you wont go hungry. The Lider supermarkets have a good selection of produce and I find them better kept than the Santa Isabel supermarket chain although you can buy alcohol in the later. There are also bottle shops all around for your alcohol purchases.
At both of these supermarkets you will find young girls & boys that pack your shopping into the plastic bags, it is customary to give them some loose change. Once they receive some tip (no matter how much) they rotate the next person inline to pack, they will pack until they receive a tip before the next packer can get there turn.
I did mention where we found a good coffee in Santiago earlier, but Chile is also home to a unique café style. These are called cafe con piernas, translated means coffee with legs. These are mostly coffee bars where the clients all stand and enjoy their caffeine fix. Both inside and out are standing only.
The attraction here is not the coffee itself but rather the ladies that serve the coffee. They wear very little and high heels, with tight-fitting tops. Done up to look pretty and I believe to tempt the gentlemen to the establishment. These are the more conservative of the cafe con piernas, the more extreme cafes con piernas the ladies just don swim wear and some that don’t.
On the main shopping street you can find two of these next door to each other, Cafe Haiti and Caribe, we didn’t go in to try the coffee as it didn’t look that great to us. However, we did stumble into a cafe, one that was not on the main shopping street and sat down, only to be severed by a lady in mini skirt and skimpy top.
Needless to say, I was right about the coffee being average. Probably great for South Americans, but not those that appreciate classic cappuccino or latte styles. The clients were 90% male guests of the slightly older age and many were greeted with gentle touches and kisses, I guess if your old and enjoy coffee you’ll never be alone in Chile.
There are lots of beautiful buildings in Santiago and many of which I don’t know or haven’t been able to find out about them. I’ll just finish this post with a collection of images from Santiago.
The pavements are somewhat of a challenge to walk along, not only are they not that wide and you have to respect the others walking, but they have planted trees which is great except each tree has a large area of earth around and you find yourself forever dodging them as you don’t want to step in them or you will most likely end up standing in more than you bargained for.
Whatever you do, don’t step into the street either, as the traffic (especially the busses) race along very close to the kerb.
There are some bike paths clearly marked and also during our final week in Santiago they installed some new bikes for rent stations.
This Bike Santiago station is just down from La Moneda and is brand new. On checking out the website http://www.bikesantiago.cl/ there are lots of stations, at least 40, not sure how we missed seeing any of them until we saw this one, then we saw another… and… This would be an excellent way to get around. Be sure to check out the bike Santiago site if you’re staying for a while.
Not sure what this building is, but it was behind a fence and had a very well manicured garden.
We walked past this Museo de Santiago on the way home one day, but never went back to see it.
The main river that runs through the city is called the Mapocho river and is near to the Tirso de Molina market. The river is fed by the Andes and unfortunately is contaminated by some copper mines in the Andes and also household waste, apparently there are plans to treat it and make it clean.
We did see some homeless taking shelter below some of the bridges, and also some colourful inscriptions on the walls. Even though it was constantly hot and dry during our stay the river was constantly running.
Even though I have probably mentioned more than 10 things to see in Santiago, we’d still love to know what have you experienced in Santiago in the comments below.