Sensational Santiago

With its fabulous cuisine, European ambience and easy mix of Latin American energy mixed with old-world bohemian charm, Chile’s capital city has plenty to entice the curious.

1.  Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Santiago’s Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is housed in the lovely 1807 ex-Royal Customs House. It is an essential first stop – especially if you’re heading further north to explore the Inca city and World Heritage site of Machu Picchu in Peru. The museum’s collection includes centuries-old art from Mexico to Patagonia. Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s bustling hub, is just metres away, but inside the museum all is relaxed and reflective.

2.  Mercado Central

Chile’s incredible long coastline ensures a varied supply of seafood, and the best place to sample the Pacific’s bounty is at Santiago’s Central Market. Take a seat at one of the seafood restaurants and order one of Chile’s signature Pisco Sour cocktails to enjoy with your meal, fresh from the ocean.

3.  Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Bellavista is Santiago’s most well known bohemian neighbourhood with modern bars, restaurants and boutique hotels. The area’s arty vibe still lingers at places like the humble Venezia Café, which is well worth a visit. The Venezia Café was a favourite haunt of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, whose former Santiago residence; La Chascona is now a museum.

4.  Random acts of juggling

Forget car window washing! During rush hour Santiago’s students present their own unique brand of money-making entertainment at intersections around town. And because you are in South America, don’t be surprised to see a few flash moves with soccer balls as well.

5.  Barrio Brasil

Welcome to one of Santiago’s most popular eating and drinking hot spots. Barrio Brasil’s (undeserved) reputation as an unsafe area after dark has been trumped by its emergence as the city’s hub for atmospheric corner bars and intimate restaurants. For something special the elegant Zully Restaurantlocated in the mansion that was once home to Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro, is well worth a visit.

6.  Football

The best way to beat jet lag is to jump on the city’s modern subway and venture to a soccer match. Expect lots of singing and chanting, with the bonus of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes as a scenic backdrop.

7.  Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is the main square of Santiago and the central heart of the city. Here you will see the historic architecture of heritage villas and the Santiago Cathedral. Despite the modern additions of alfresco cafes and skyscrapers, traditional Santiago remains refreshingly intact, with shoeshine stalls, art displays and impromptu games of chess always in progress.

8.  Concha y Toro Vineyard

Chile is rapidly increasing competition for Australian’s wine offering worldwide. A visit to Chile’s oldest winery, Concha y Toro winery on the city’s outskirts is a popular afternoon activity. Established in 1883 the winery is set in 23 manicured hectares and effortlessly recreates a languid French ambience. Drinking world-class wines like Concha y Toro’s acclaimed Don Melchor cabernet sauvignon at the point of origin is yet another compelling reason to visit Santiago.