August 27, 2010 / 10:05 AM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Santiago, Chile

6 Min Read

SANTIAGO (Reuters Life!) - A curious mix of old and new, Santiago boasts an ultra-modern business district nicknamed "Sanhattan" with gleaming high-rises and also has quaint, tree-lined neighborhoods that retain the warmth and color of the city's 500-year history.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short visit to the South American capital.

Friday

5 p.m. - Upon arrival in Santiago, take in the breathtaking view of the Andes to the east of the city. Use them as a point of reference when asking for directions.

Head straight downtown to wander along the pedestrian-only Paseo Ahumada to Plaza de Armas for a first taste of local vendors, artists and cafes in a city center dotted with aged churches and government offices with a colonial feel.

But visitors should beware of pickpockets who often work in teams. Even the most street-savvy natives can find themselves without a wallet or a cell phone after a less-than-vigilant visit.

Take a quick detour to visit the presidential palace La Moneda, nearly entirely rebuilt after air raids in a 1973 military coup plunged the country into a bloody, 17-year dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet.

7 p.m. - Catch the #1 Metro at La Moneda to Baquedano, just four stops away, and head to the University of Chile Theater for a 7:30 p.m. show. Depending on the weekend, you might get to see the local symphony, ballet or chorale, which, at well under US$10 a ticket, makes for an enjoyable and affordable evening.

9:30 p.m. - A short walk east and you'll find yourself in Barrio Lastarria, a charming old neighborhood with a wide array of choices for dinner and drinks. The Patagonia restaurant is a good place to start. It is an intimate barrio and small enough that all the clubs and lounges are within a three-block radius from there.

Saturday

10 a.m. - After breakfast, head to the Mercado Central, or central market, to pick up spices, locally grown fruits and vegetables or handmade souvenirs before visiting the nearby Mapocho Station. The former rail hub for north-central Chile now houses various art and music exhibits.

Cross the river to the Vega Central market, housed in a creaky warehouse and home to a wider variety of both products and people than the relatively sanitized Mercado Central. Between the market and the spillover street vendors nearby, you'll find everything you need from produce to electronic devices to kitchenware.

12:30 p.m. - With the snow-capped Andes as your guide, wend your way east through the crowded streets to Barrio Bellavista, the city's bohemian district. Take in the bright splashes of color and graffiti on the walls before sitting down to lunch at one of the attractive restaurants in Patio Bellavista. Try a hearty plate of traditional empanadas filled with meat and cheese and follow it with a glass of Carmenere, the lost wine of Bordeaux that has thrived in Chile for the last century.

After lunch, head up Cerro San Cristobal hill by walking, driving, or biking for one of the best panoramas of the city.

4 p.m. - Afterwards a visit to La Chascona is a must. The second house of Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda, it was constructed in 1953 for his mistress and built to resemble the interior of a ship. Tours in English and Spanish are available until 6 p.m.

After satisfying your inner poet, head cross the river and walk through Parque Forestal to the Fine Arts Museum.

While you're there take a stroll through the Bellas Artes neighborhood which offers street after street of boutiques and funky cafes that are perfect for relaxing with a cup of coffee.

9 p.m. - Head back across the river to Bellavista, which is a completely different by night. Try Santeria, which features a covered patio, soft lighting and tempting appetizers, and makes for a great start to the evening.

From Santeria, you can walk in any direction to find your "carrete" (party scene) of choice. Bellavista offers laid-back jazz clubs, chaotic discotheques and everything in between. Don't forget to try a pisco sour, the typical Chilean cocktail. For those who can't make decisions, Esquina do Samba at Constitucion 256 offers live Brazilian music every Saturday night, as well as some of the best pisco sours in the city.

Sunday

11 a.m. - After breakfast it is time for the museums. Head back to Lastarria to check out the MAVI, the Visual Arts Museum. Afterward, take the Metro to Quinta Normal to visit the National History Museum and the Museum of Science and Technology, both located in Quinta Normal Park.

2:30 p.m. - Head east on Compania de Jesus to La Peluqueria Francesa for lunch. Although there is an old-fashioned barbershop in the building, it also houses a popular restaurant.

Continue on to Plaza Brasil, in the heart of Barrio Brasil, to take in the historic charm of the neighborhood. From there, walk a few blocks south and you'll be in one of the oldest parts of the city -- Calle Concha y Toro, which was named for the family now famous for being the country's largest wine exporter.

Once home to Chilean aristocracy, this area now has dozens of stylish restaurants and shops. And as it has retained its authentic Santiago vibe better than any other part of the city, it makes for a fitting close to your weekend in the capital.

Editing by Alonso Soto and Patricia Reaney

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