I had the pleasure of spending a beautiful weekend in Santiago recently! What was supposed to be a day trip expanded into two action packed days of museums, art and food.
Eloni, my roommate and I, took a TurBus from Viña del Mar Saturday morning and within two hours on a heated bus (Yay! Finally some central heating!), we were in the capital and ready to go! We stayed at Hostel Forestal in Barrio Lastarria, right along side the long, tree lined park that runs through the center of Santiago.
Featuring all the basics, luggage storage, lockers, free breakfast and WiFi, Hostel Forestal also was a great choice for its prime location in the artsy, hip neighborhood of Lastarria and Bellas Artes, right around the corner from some of the best ice cream in the world and space heaters strategically placed in the dorms!
My first day was spent meandering through Museo de Bellas Artes, which features fine classical art as well as a few more contemporary exhibits, and the Museo de Artes Visuales, whose exhibits on nature and the human form were more inspiring and intimate! I highly recommend both, to any art fan who has stumbled into Santiago. Museo de Bellas Artes is situated in the middle of Parque Forestal and conveniently near both metro and bus stops.
Museo de Artes Visuales is tucked behind a simple metal gate in Barrio Lastarria, off the pedestrian-only path that features antiques, used books, jewelry, and clothing vendors.
Both are strategically near a wide variety of cafes, restaurants and shops to complete the day!
I ended the day with the most amazing vegetarian food at El Huerto! I indulged in an Indian Thali of tofu curry, aloo ghobi, raita, cumin rice and chutney and finished the meal with a wonderful fruit salad and homemade herbal tea! BONUS: The whole wheat rolls came with a delicious curry spread that I basically drooled over! El Huerto is located in Providencia, a wealthy. more suburban sector of Santiago, accessible by metro.
The next day in Santiago, I spent more time a the Museo de Bellas Artes before making my way down through’ Parque Forestal to the Mercado Central, or municipal fish market famous for the diversity of marine life for sale in the maze of stalls. Because it was a Sunday morning, I was unable to enjoy any of the fresh seafood at the local restaurants that wrap around the perimeter and fill the center.
I also meandered through the Plaza de Armas, or center square of Santiago, before my second museum of the day, Museo de Arte Precolumbino. This modern building is tucked behind Plaza de Armas and is a wealth of content. With artifacts spanning centuries and across Central and South America, this museum is well worth the $5 entrance fee!
Lunch was back in Barrio Lastarria at Sur Patagonia where I was serenaded by wonderful Andean flute music and guitar while I devoured roasted eggplant dip, grilled river trout with merken, an indigenous Mapuche spice that I have fallen in love with, sauteed vegetables and potatoes. I washed it all down with a Chilean beer brewed a bit farther north from Santiago in the Valle de Elqui, a wonderful region famous for its pisco where I plan to visit in the coming months!
Eloni and I also found a wonderful record store with tons of original, first edition vinyls by everyone from Elvis to Judy Garland to Aretha Franklin. Our favorite place, though, is this really unique store that sells only materials produced by Chilean artists and authors. We spent ages in the basement perusing Chilean literature and I even bought my first Neruda book!
While I’m thankful for everything that Viña del Mar has to offer, the people that I have met and the experiences that I have had there, I am also deeply in love with the messy, European-like sprawl of Santiago and I can’t wait to return!