Where to shop and have fun
Your travel package to Chile starts and ends in the vibrant capital city of Santiago, and what better way to experience the heart and soul of the Latin American people than spending a few days exploring its famous streets and hunting down the best places to shop and to have some fun.
La Vega Central
Chile is famous for its gorgeous fruit and vegetables and all agricultural roads seem to lead to the main market, located in a fairly down-market part of town next to the Mapocho River. It’s a chaotic, overcrowded mix of fruit and vegetable stalls, and street cafes. Vats of olives, chunks of cheese and tropical fruit are piled high on tables, and the vendors aggressively compete for your business. It’s both exciting and overwhelming at the same time but definitely a fascinating experience. It’s busiest over the weekends so you’re in luck if you visit the market during the week.
If street food isn’t your thing, make your way to Barrio Lastarria which is home to an array of upmarket bars and restaurants. It’s where the wealthier set hangs out but just as festive. What interests you? A movie at the art-house cinema or a theatre show, or browsing through the boutique shops, book stores and antique market? It’s all there.
Pio Nono is the central street and the party zone of Bellavista. Elsewhere it may be called the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ but, in a group, it’s Latin American revelry at its best. It’s packed with pubs, restaurants and night clubs that are great to visit at night, with a selection of artesian shops to visit during the day.
If the locals’ capacity for alcohol is a bit hectic for you, make your way to Constitución or Plaza Bellavista for some finer dining at more expensive restaurants.
The General Cemetery
It might sound a bit weird to recommend exploring the ancient city cemetery but it’s a really interesting way to experience the country’s past. History boffins love it! On the weekends, it’s filled with flowers and the happy sounds of families picnicking around the graves of their loved ones. It’s a calm environment to hang out in if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
San Cristóbal Hill
Put your walking boots on for a walk up the second highest hill in Santiago or take a taxi to the top for a swim in Cerro San Cristóbal. It is a swimming pool like no other, located in Santiago’s Metropolitan Park. It’s surrounded by the Andes and the vistas of the city are breath-taking. The pool is only open for a few months of the year and is pretty expensive to get into but it’s an opportunity not to be missed. At the peak of the hill is a statue of the Virgin Mary which is lit up at night and can be seen from miles away.
Santa Lucia Craft Market
For souvenirs and gifts to take home after your holiday in Chile, this is the place to go. It’s jam-packed with stalls offering everything from handcrafted shoes, boots, rugs, bags, woollen clothes and jewellery. Across the road is Cerro Santa Lucia where local artists exhibit their work. They’re both fun just to wander around but you’re guaranteed to take home a few authentic Chilean goodies with you.
Paris Londres Neighborhood
Walk the ancient cobblestones of Calle Londres and Calle Paris and discover two of Santiago’s oldest streets. Paris Londres Neighborhood is located behind the San Francisco Church and is known for its renovated mansions that remind you of the Latin Quarter in Paris, France. Look out for a building in Calle Londres that was a former jail and torture facility during the Pinochet regime. Tiles in front of the building have names inscribed on them of former political prisoners who were held there. It’s a quaint place for a bit of shopping.
Plaza de Armas
If you’re in Santiago to experience the cultural delights of Chile, this is where you need to be. Painters, storytellers and musicians congregate in this square, along with a few hundred greedy pigeons. Put your feet up at any one of the street cafés and take in the sights and sounds; and if you’re feeling up to it, challenge one of the locals to a game of chess.
Extra time to shop? Make your way to this more orderly and classy outdoor market. Most of the items sold are handmade on site so your gifts are guaranteed to be truly authentic. It’s located a short bus or train trip out of town but it’s worth the effort as it gets you out of the busy city and you can see a bit of the countryside at the same time.
Las Condes District
Your holiday to Chile is not complete without taking home a bottle or two of its world-famous wines. The best place to go for a mind-blowing selection of locally-produced (and international) wines is El Mundo del Vino’s flagship store in the Las Condes District. El Mundo del Vino is the largest wine store and wine distributor in Chile. Top up your knowledge of Chilean wines at an in-store tasting, than take your pick from a choice of over 6 000 labels stacked in eye-catching displays. If wine isn’t what you want to take home, it’s worth a visit just for its elegant and trendy architectural design.
Experience the sights and sounds of Chile. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Chile. Click here to find out more about travelling to Chile with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.