Published on May 30th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
Hot Hotels, Cool Culture: 3 Reasons to Visit Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile is a beacon of success in Latin America, as the capital of one of the region’s most economically and politically stable nations. And with an expanding lineup of cultural activities, hotels, shopping and dining, there are now more reasons than ever to visit Santiago de Chile.
I recently wrote a feature article about Chile for Meetings Focus magazine, highlighting the latest travel news as well as the nation’s rising popularity as a destination for international meetings and conventions. I also came up with several good reasons to spend extra time in Santiago, whether you’re on a business trip or vacation:
1. Interesting Attractions: Santiago is the nation’s cultural hub, with an array of intellectually stimulating attractions. Among the newest cultural venues is the Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos, a human rights museum that opened in 2010. The facility, set in an eye-catching modernist building, hosts exhibits that focus on Chile’s time under dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 until 1990. If opera is your thing, check out the 1,456-seat Teatro Municipal, which hosts noteworthy national and international dance performances, operas and concerts. The venue is staging its first-ever presentation of Zorba the Greek as part of its 2013 season.
If staying in shape while seeing the sights is your idea of fun, Santiago is a great place to be — it’s one of several cities with foreigner-friendly bicycle city tours and bike rentals. Options from companies like Bicicleta Verde include tandem bicycles built for two, mountain bikes and trailer attachments for taking the kids along. And don’t forget about the easy access that Santiago offers to Chile’s wine country, ski resorts and the coastal pleasures of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso (as well as the world’s largest swimming pool, a 1,107-yard wonderland called San Alfonso del Mar).
2. Hot Hotels: Santiago’s hotel scene continues to improve, with a wider variety of properties catering to a variety of tastes and budgets. One of the newest small properties is Su Merced, a nine-room hotel located between Barrio Lastarria and Forestal Park. Su Merced’s restaurant, SU Grill & Wine Bar, is headed by chef Mauricio Núñez, a winner of Chile’s National Gastronomy contest. One of my personal favorites, meanwhile, is a stylish boutique hotel that’s made the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List: The Aubrey, which is set in a pristine mansion built in the 1920s.
If you’re looking for a larger, brand-name experience, consider the InterContinental Santiago, which added a 16-story tower in 2011, with 81 new guest rooms, two swimming pools, a VIP lounge, 20 meeting rooms and 27,200 square feet of meeting and event space. The Grand Hyatt Santiago, in the upscale Las Condes district, is walking distance to Parque Arauco, a chic shopping mall.
Still in the works is the 126-room Park Hotel by Radisson Vespucio, slated to debut in 2014, with a business center and meeting space for more than 200 people.
3. Large-Scale Shopping and Dining: Chile’s largest shopping mall, Costanera Center, opened last year — and foreign visitors can stop at the “On Tour” counter on the second floor to find out about special discounts available only to foreigners. In addition to the predictable fast food, the mall is also home to several sit-down eateries that allow visitors to sample a better class of Chilean food; one of the most interesting is Costamía, which is billed as the first “restaurant/aquarium” in Chile, with four gigantic tanks teeming with marine life. Parque Arauco is also a better-than-average mall for dining, with more than 50 restaurants and shops in its Boulevard section.
GETTING THERE: LAN Airlines, which uses the Santiago airport as its primary hub, continues to strengthen ties with sister company TAM Airlines of Brazil. The carriers’ parent company, LATAM Airlines Group, announced in March that oneworld would be the global alliance for both airlines. Last year, Sky Airline, a major domestic carrier in Chile, signed a codeshare agreement with Avianca, and now also offers flights to Buenos Aires, La Paz, Arequipa and Lima.
MORE CHILE TRAVEL TIPS & INSPIRATION
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