An insider’s guide to Santiago

lg_chile_a

Back in the “old” days where the Lonely Planet used to be the insider guide to the backroads and hidden places for backpacker and adventurous tourists, it was easy to discover genuine places unspoilt by mass-tourism.

Nowadays travelers have to do some serious research in order not to find themselves squeezed together in an authentic bar – next to 20 other Lonely Planet readers.

Once hidden places like the legendary bar “La Piojera” have now become number one attraction for tourists from all over the world.

This is great if you want to meet fellow travelers but not if you want to really get off the tourist trail and indulge in a slice of true Chilean culture.

So we’ve asked Marinela, a native of Santiago, Chile to give us her best tips for all those who want to breathe some real “aire chileno” and here they are…

Food & Drink

You cannot leave Chile without having tried Empanadas (dough pockets traditionally filled with minced meat and onions) and Sopaipillas (flat dogh cakes made out of corn and pumkins.

The best ones – apart from homemade ones – are actually sold on the street (hot spots: Metro Station Cal y Canto and the street Pio Nono in the Bellavista neighborhood). Who wants to go easier on his stomach should try the restaurant version in Manuel Montt street – Bote.

And after a night out – the Santiago party crowd hits the Mercado Central to grab a delicious soup or fresh fish!

For those who have a craving for spicy food (hard to find in Chile) – the best places are the Indian restaurant Majestic in downtown Santiago or the Korean version of spicy you can find in the Patronato area – also known as Chinatown in Santiago.

Shopping

1) Fed up with the travellers clothes in your backpack? Forgot to pack a jumper?  Here’s a rundown of the best places to shop in Santiago without spending a fortune…
2) Banderas – An entire street in downtown Santiago with vintage clothing. Unique, very good condition and – cheap!
3) Patronato – This neighborhood has all you dream of in the world of clothes. Definitely the cheapest place to shop in Santiago. But watch out: Do not go there on weekends – waaay to crowded and have a second look at everything you buy – the quality is not always the best.
4) Monjitas, Merced and its side streets: Here you can find hip and young designer stores – affordable prices and 100% different
5) Lastarria – THE street in Santiago where you can find cheap books, paintings and jewelery
6) Persa Bio Bio – This huge market, just off Franklin Metro Staion has literally EVERYTHING: from used tires over furniture up to old postcards of Santiago. Best place to find economic souvenirs.

Nightlife

Santiago offers endless possibilities for a night out on the tiles. Depending on your mood and tastes, here’s just a couple of suggestions of where the locals go…

• La Batuta, right at Plaza Ñuñoa, is a chilled place for lovers of rock music
• El Grancentral in Providencia offers live DJs from Friday to Sunday and some of the best cocktails in town
• Blondies in Barrio Brazil is made for lovers of Brit Pop
• Galpón de Victor Jara is located in the middle of Plaza Brazil and the inside spot for all who enjoy high-quality latino rhythms and if you need a break, you have the entire street of Huerfanos full of bars from stylish to cozy
• Bellavista is an entire neighborhood of clubs and bars. The best ones are hidden and change frequently – so don’t be shy and just ask

Culture

Of all the interesting cultural sights Santiago has to offer – these are to be sure not to appear in your common travel guide – what a miss!

1. Centro Cultural de Gabriela Mistral is one of the newest cultural centers in Santiago – showing contemporary art, movies and sometimes even musical events.
2. Centro Cultural de la Moneda is the more famous version of the former – but what hardly anybody knows – Wednesday nights, in the subterranean of the presidential palace, you can watch movies for as little as 1.000 Pesos (less than 2 Euros)
3. Faculdad de Artes of the Universidad de Chile in the street Comañía de Jesus is always worth to stop by. Excellent concerts and most of them for free. Make sure to get there in time to get a good spot!
4. Looking for an interesting play? Just walk down road Bellavista – among the many theaters you are sure to find a play a tu gusto– even in English!
And finally, to get the most out of your trip, learning some Spanish will really help you integrate with the locals and truly get off that tourist trail.