In our 4th South American capital city, Santiago, we decided to get to know different areas of the city by changing hostels every few nights. In this way within our week in Santiago, we stayed in a total of 5 different hostels in four different neighborhoods of the city including Bella Vista, Bellas Artes, Barrio Brasil, and Providencia. Night one in Bellas Artes, we stayed in Hostal Forestal, which was actually not a nice hostel, and part of the reason we decided to switch to a different neighborhood of the city. However, the area it is in Bellas Artes is nice, and it is very close to Lastarria, Bella Vista neighborhood, next to a major subway stop (Baquedano), and close to several parks. We were able to walk around Parque Forestal, a long green space with fountains, many trees, running and biking paths, workout equipment, and various sculptures, during our first day. We also had time to make a much needed trip to a mall in Providencia where Adam finally found a new pair of shoes! Yay! (We had been looking since Bolivia.)
The next stop on our city trip was a night in Barrio Bella Vista at Caracol Hostal, where we turned out to be the only guests who were not Brazilian, which made us even more excited for our time in Brazil. The hostel was very nice, as were the people there and it seemed like it had recently been renovated. The neighborhood, which is known to have some of the best nightlife in the city, was very colorful and filled with street life, which made it seem like an extension of Valparaiso in Santiago. It was also located next to Barrio Patronato, which was filled with Asian food markets and different types of ethnic restaurants. Here, we got some Korean food and different Chinese snacks and tea that I had not seen since China. Yum!! We also took a day to head up to Cerro San Cristobal. The park is a large green space in the city with a great lookout over the city and different “mini” parks in its border, including a botanical garden, a japanese garden, a public swimming pool and old lookout tower, and a huge statue of the Virgen Mary under which Pope John Paul II said mass when he visited the city. Just on the outskirts of the park and within Barrio Bella Vista is one of the famous, Noble-prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda’s houses. (He has three popular homes, turned museums in Chile.)
Next stop on our neighborhoods tour was Barrio Brasil, where the Museum of Memory and Human Rights is located. This museum is dedicated to the victims of the Pinochet dictatorship during the 70’s and 80’s in Chile. Very unfortunately, we never made it to the museum, but will do so whenever we return to Santiago in the future. We found Barrio Brasil to be a little bit less than what we had expected and our hostel there (Casa Roja) was not as impressive as I thought, so we switched to Providencia the next night.
In Providencia, we stayed in Castillo Surfista Hostel, which is run by a Californian expat. The place was really nice, on a residential street in Santiago, giving us a look at another side of Santiago. From here we also walked to Cerro Santa Lucia, another city park with a view of the city’s skyscrapers surrounded by the Andes mountains in the distance. We also walked to the Museum of Contemporary Art, located in Bellas Artes. There were a few exhibits here we really liked and others we found to be really strange, but it was still worth the 700 peso (approx. $1.40 USD) entrance fee. Outside of the museum residents of the city had brought out there old belongings and handicrafts to sell at reduced prices in Parque Forestal, a kind of Chilean garage(less) sale.
Our last night in Santiago, we went back to Barrio Bella Vista to the maze-like La Chimba Hostal. Here we relaxed with some pizza from Patio Bella Vista (an very nice outdoor mall in the neighborhood) and Chilean wine on our last night in the city. Overall, we decided that Santiago might be a nice city to live in with an endless number events, many bars and restaurants to keep one occupied, and plenty of green space to enjoy walking, running, cycling, or rollerblading through, and with the some of the country’s best skiing and wineries just an hour or two drive away. However, even though we really enjoyed the city on our visit, there are a number of other cities we would recommend visiting on a week long vacation, before we recommended Santiago.