Chile Santiago de Chile is a fun place to tour by bike. Photo: La Bicicleta Verde

Published on January 17th, 2016 | by Peigi Rodan

Santiago de Chile is a fun place to tour by bike. Photo: La Bicicleta Verde

Chile Travel Tips: The 4 Coolest Barrios in Santiago

Santiago de Chile is one of South America’s most modern and exciting cities, with lots of exciting neighborhoods to explore. So I was thrilled when Peigi Rodan, who works at La Bicicleta Verde, a company that offers bicycle city tours as well as bike and wine tours, contacted me and offered to share some of her local expertise about Chile‘s capital. Her’s her insider’s travel guide to the coolest neighborhoods in Santiago. 

Welcome to Santiago, astrayed Amigo! Maybe you don’t have so much time here? It would be unfortunate if you spent most of your time in the wrong barrios. Or if you miss out on the best places in the right barrios. I will explain the coolest barrios in 2016. And once you get to these barrios, you’ll know exactly what cafe, shop or gig venue to hit up. Here, I will tell you exactly what the Chileans like to do in their down time.

Barrio Bellas Artes
Maybe it would be far fetched to state that Bellas Artes and Lastarria are the center of the universe. I will state that it is truly the centre of Santiago, though. Nestled between the famous local market of La Vega and Cerro San Cristobal, and with a selection of museums, political buildings and restaurants, this barrio is not just a hotbed for culture and politics. You will also find a pattern of artists and intellects strolling around their picturesque Parque Forestal. You would be loco (and maybe a little lost) if you came to Santiago without checking this place out. You can spend the day here and not run out of things to do.

• Drink at Bar the Clinic. It began as a politically controversial newspaper and has now opened up as a bar. The bar hosts an array of events weather it be film showings, book readings or art installations. You will leave this place visually, intellectually and gastronomically satisfied. TIP: Take a pisco sour! Right around the corner is meeting point for Tours 4 Tips and Bellas artes to take a insightful 3 hour walking tour of Santiago.

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• Relax at Baños Miraflores. A Turkish bath that has been around for decades, Baños Miraflores offers reasonable prices for a hot steam bath or massage. Go here to find out how the Chileans like to spend their downtime. Replenish with a Orange/Carrot juice at the bar, or do what I do and take a beer (I find it helps for cooling down…)

Bike. with La Bicicleta Verde, the easiest and best way to see the true Santiago. Take one of their city bike tours or reserve a spot on one of their infamous ‘bike and wine’ adventures. Or if you wanna go solo, grab one of their bike rentals – RIDE ON!

• Climb Santa Lucia Hill. This relaxing hike isn’t without reward, with a perfect 360-degree view of the city (go on a clearer day). On the weekends there are market stalls at the bottom to collect souvenirs and local products.

• Visit Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts).  is the main tourist pull here, but there is so much more. Check out some wholesome food stores , glorious coffee shops and maybe even a yoga studio.

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Barrio Italia
A far cry away from the Little Italy in New York … and we’re thankful for that. Barrio Italia keeps its authentic charm and modesty while still being a fully functioning haven for any visitor in Santiago. Forget all the cheesy signs (and pizza for that matter). Barrio Italia doesn’t sell itself as Mama Mia’s pizza or Mario’s Famous Spaghetti. Settled by Italian immigrants in the 19th century, it’s so much more than just food. It’s like a free, open-air gallery that you can walk around and enjoy for days. Find boutique shops, crafts, art, hidden cafes and old gems.

• Shoe shop at Blaskos. One-of-a-kind animal print shoes your thing? For anything a little bit different, made with time and care, you should check out this shoe shop. Wonderfully fashionable and well displayed shoes, even if it’s just for looking!

• Find fine crafts at El Emporio de Dominga. A beautifully put together handcraft store, El Emporia displays everything in such a way that even if you can’t buy it, you’ll just want to feel the beauty of it. If the lustful leatherwork isn’t for you, then pick up a hand-woven blanket or some Creole style crafts.

• Savor Saturday lunch at Casa Luz. This is the place to grab your guilt-free afternoon cocktail (or pisco sour if you do it the Chilean way). The lunch will set you up for the rest of the day, with its freshly caught local fish. If you’re not so hungry, it’s worth popping in for a coffee to enjoy the dreamlike ambiance.

While you’re here don’t forget to check out awesome rooftop restaurants, a jazz bar or drink Santiago’s BEST hot chocolate… oh yes!

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Barrio Bellavista
If you’re in Santiago and haven’t heard of Barrio Bellavista yet … where have you been? Bellavista is famous for its grungy architecture, edgy street art and its famous attraction: the former home of Santiago’s beloved poet Pablo Neruda. Back in the 16th century, the city was divided by the Mapocho river and Bellavista was the home of the poor. But what also came with that label were artists, writers and musicians. The Barrio remains a reflection of its rustic past with a feeling of artistic refuge. The Barrio has become famous among tourists (thanks to its many outdoor bars and the city zoo). With some local knowledge, you can find some places less explored by visitors for a true local experience.

• Discover Pablo Neruda at Casa Museo La Chascona. OK, I admit this may be a bit of a tourist hotspot. But so is Anne Frank’s house, some of these things you’ve just gotta check out. Enter this boat-shaped house where Pablos poems came to life and see how the man himself lived. It’s also a cultural hotspot showcasing an array of theatrical performances.

• Dance at MAMBANot your generic nightclub, MAMBA is where people drink so much they don’t know if they’re chatting up a bar seat or a girl. It’s is a cross between a cool house party and an nightclub with psychedelic lighting and graphics. You’ll never be disappointed by the quality of music, which often includes electro music accompanied by a brass instrument.

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• Watch the transexual entertainment at Dionisio Bar. This nightclub is a hit among locals in Santiago, and not only those in the gay scene. All you need to enjoy this show is an open mind. It’s a vulgar Spanish comedy, with audience interaction. TIP: don’t go here if you’re not confident with your Spanish or hate feeling uncomfortable.

Other ideas: Head to Korean Restaurant Hansoban for a ‘do it yourself’ cooking and eating experience. Or have a cocktail that will blow your mind at Sarita Colonia (also a great location to enjoy obscure decor).

Las Condes
You’ll know when you have entered this area because of the sound of the gringo voices. This is the financial area of Santiago — a glass jungle some would say, of 21st century architecture and skyscrapers, but also popular among tourists for its diverse choice of restaurants, quality shops and incredible parks. This is where you’ll see the culture of the higher class enjoying the luxuries in life. If you really want to see Santiago’s culture, then you must not miss out the wealthy side. What’s wrong with going for an overpriced cocktail when you’re on holiday, if only once? If you really don’t have the cheddar for that, you should just go to check out “Sanhattan” as the locals like to call it.

• Eat prize-winning food at Osaka. Tripadvisor voted this the number one restaurant in Las Condes, with cuisine described as “Japanese, Peruvian, Asian, South American sushi fusion.” It’s not something I would put all together, but damn do they make this concoction work. If you’re into food, then go! Osaka is located on the fourth floor of the W hotel. Remember to book ahead and expect to pay between 12,000 and 18,000 clp for a main dish.

• Have a pink flamingo time at Parque Bicentenario. Located a little further east of Los Condes in the Vitacura area. Go and see the large ponds at this park, where you’ll get a surprise when you see flamingos instead of ducks. But flamingo spotting is just one of many things to do. The park has black swans, a dog training area, green areas for picnics and a restaurant with a view. The best way to check this green getaway is by green bicycle, there are many bike paths here to disfrutar (enjoy).

• Have an eventful evening at pasaje orrego luco. This lively little square is filled with a selection of bars and clubs. You won’t have to dish out much money, because the pisco sours and beers are cheap and plentiful. Expect some local entertainment by street artists and musicians. Once you have had a few drinks in the fairy lit outside bar area, head to one of the underground clubs. Depending on the night, two step to electro or get funky to some hip hop.

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