Santiago de Chile is, in comparison to other South American capitals, a rarely-visited and little-known backwater. It is by far the least talked about city on the backpacker circuit thanks to it being overshadowed by Quito, Rio, Bogota and Lima – but, the reputation and image is starting to change.
Arguable the most developed nation of South America, Chile’s capital is comparable with US or European cities with the great nightlife, dining and other amenities and attractions on offer. Santiago may be the capital city of Chile but it is also the gateway that you need to use to get to the outback which has a lot of wilderness to explore.
Knowing the culture of a country is something that you should get out of going on vacation, and while people don’t know Santiago like Buenos Aires or Rio, it is the perfect spot to understand the culture of Chile. Music is one of the best ways of enjoying the culture of a country. With live music feature from Wednesday to Saturday, the Club de Jazz is the best known of the many clubs in the city. As with many places in Latin America, it is also a city for salsa with live music and dancing.
One of the most famous Chileans was the Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda. One of his three homes, La Chascona, is located in Santiago with the other two being not too far away. In fact, there is a tour that will take you to all three. La Chascona, meaning woman with the unruly hair, was built for Neruda’s mistress and is constructed like a small ship.
Villa Grimaldi is an important spot to visit if you are interested in the history of the country because this spot was used for torture during the Pinochet dictatorship. This isn’t the proudest moment in the history of Chile but it is an important one for the development of the country, and having only happened in the 1970s it has a huge effect on today’s culture.
The Fine Arts Museum (Museo Bellas Artes) is the most famous museum. This museum plays host to some of the best contemporary art that the country’s artists are producing. Nearby is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Contemporary Art Museum) which simply adds to the experience.
To get away from it all a bit, take a walk to Cerro Santa Lucia. This hill offers a nice vista of the city as well as many different statues, ponds and murals along the way. Another place to take a nice stroll is the Parque de Esculturas (Sculpture Park) located along the Mapocho River. During the summer, concerts are held there.
Of course, you’ll want to check out some of the local food and fish is definitely one of the specialties here. You’ll also want to try a drink made with pisco, a brandy made from grapes. Despite the ongoing contention between Peru and Chile over where pisco originated, there is no doubt that it is the national liquor of both countries. What many people know Chile for, however, more than pisco, is wine.
There are a number of wineries that can be toured using Santiago as a base. Concho y Toro is the found in the Maipo Valley and is one of the best – and largest – producer of wine in the country and great for a tour.
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