When traveling through Chile and Argentina no matter where your final destination happens to be, a stopover in Santiago and/or Buenos Aires will be necessary at some point during your travels.
Our first destination was Mendoza with a 24-hour stopover in Santiago, Chile. We arrived from our overnight flight around 9:00am and our flight to Mendoza was scheduled for the next morning at 11:00am.
So what to do in 24 hours in Santiago?
Let's jump in and get started...
Things To Do in Santiago, Chile (24-Hours)
We spent a little bit of time doing research before we got there to see if there were any must see stops or things to do. We are not museum people AT ALL so we decided to plan our day around trying the local food and strolling through the neighborhoods and markets.
Being huge seafood lovers our first stop was the Santiago Central Mercado. This market is over 100 years old and is packed with vendors selling fish, fish stalls selling simple Chilean fish dishes as well as full-size restaurants located in the center of the market. I had read many mixed reviews about this place (that it was too touristy, that it was the best place to get fish, etc). So we had to check it for ourselves especially since I have a small love affair with visiting local markets no matter what country I am visiting. We got to the market just before lunch so the food stalls and restaurants were pretty empty, all encouraging us to come in a eat at their establishment. Luke absolutely hates getting approached so I could already tell he wanted to leave. I was adamant about eating there since again, It was supposed to have the freshest fish. So we sat down at one of the food stalls and ordered grilled sea bass, ceviche, and a fish stew. I am not sure if it was
I had read many mixed reviews about this place (that it was too touristy, that it was the best place to get fish, etc). So we had to check it for ourselves, especially since I have a small love affair with visiting local markets no matter what country I am visiting.
We got to the market just before lunch so the food stalls and restaurants were pretty empty, all encouraging us to come in and eat at their establishment.
Luke absolutely hates getting approached so I could already tell he wanted to leave. I was adamant about eating there since again, it was supposed to have the freshest fish. So we sat down at one of the food stalls and ordered grilled sea bass, ceviche, and a fish stew.
I am not sure if it was the place we selected or what we ordered but everything was too fishy for us so it was a huge disappointment. While I do recommend a stroll through the Mercado to check it out, I would suggest saving your money and heading to Barrio Lastarria neighborhood for lunch.
Barrio Lastarria, Santiago
Barrio Lastarria is known as the tourist area of Santiago. The streets are lined with outdoor cafes, restaurants, shops, and gelaterias. There are a variety of restaurants but the majority are serving up traditional South American cuisine. Since we did not eat much of our meal at the fish market, we chose one of the outdoor cafes to grab a salad and a beverage. While Lastarria is known as the tourist neighborhood and more pricey than some of the others, we thought our lunch which included a starter, a salmon salad, and dessert for $7.50 (US) was quite reasonable and very good.
Our hotel was located in the Barrio Lastarria neighborhood just across from the Parque Forestal, which is a beautiful park that was filled with locals and tourists.
The park is also home for many Santiago dogs. We couldn’t understand why there were so many healthy and happy dogs in the park and why there were doghouses throughout the park. We later found out that while no individual owns theses dogs, the neighborhood people take care of them by bringing dog food daily, supplying the doghouses, and providing fresh water for them. With every group of people sitting under a tree there are 1 or 2 dogs sitting with them. I have never seen something like this. It was probably one of our favorite parts about Santiago.
We stayed at a boutique hotel in Barrio Lastarria, 312 Ismael. The hotel is centrally located and has a cool hip vibe to it. Our room was clean and spacious and the communal areas like the cafe and bar were always very busy.
Breakfast was included with our stay as well as wifi. The hotel was located just across the street from Singular Santiago. It was booked during our stopover so we were unable to stay there but it's definitely worth a visit whether you stay there or not. The rooftop bar is a must visit for sunset and cocktails while in Santiago.
What & Where To Eat + Drink
Eat at any of the outdoor restaurants and cafes in Barrio Lastarria. If you check out yelp or trip advisor most of the restaurants in this area have a 4-5 star rating.
Seafood: Some of the best seafood in the world come from Chile so if your only stop in Chile is Santiago then eat plenty of seafood because if you are headed to Argentina you will be eating meat, meat, and more meat. Expect lots of ceviche’s, salmon, sea bass, and fish stews.
Coffee: Coffee is a pretty big deal here in Santiago. There are cool craft coffee shops all over Barrio Lastarria so if you love coffee like we do, you must pop into a few of these establishments.
Ice cream and Paleta's: Gelateria's and Paleta shops are bustling at all hours of the day. If you are only here for 24 hours you must grab a sweet treat.
Pisco Sour: You can't leave Chile without sipping on a Pisco Sour. Pisco is the national liquor in Chile and Peru and you can find Pisco Sours on just about every menu in Santiago.
What To Know
Getting in: A visa or entry fee is not required to enter Chile so if you are headed to Argentina and have an opportunity to stopover in Santiago, you can do so without any additional fees.
Transportation: Santiago has uber which makes traveling to and from the airport and around town extremely affordable. We only took uber to and from the airport but had wonderful English speaking drivers both times. The fair was about $30.00 each way. We loved that we did not have to worry about getting Chilean Pesos at the airport to pay for a cab.
Safety: Overall we felt safe in Santiago, especially in the Lastarria neighborhood. Unfortunately, we may have felt too comfortable and left ourselves vulnerable to theft.
We stayed at Ismael 312, which is a nice boutique hotel that requires a key to enter the lobby. While we were waiting for our uber in the morning to take us back to the airport to head to Mendoza we were sitting in the lobby with all of our luggage right in front of us when the front desk let in a gentleman dressed in a nice suit who claimed he was picking up a guest for a tour. He had a black backpack on and when nobody was paying attention(or simply looking down at their iPhones), the gentleman placed his black backpack down next to our backpack and then picked up our black backpack and walked out the door. We didn’t even realize it was the wrong backpack(it looked very similar) until our uber arrived.
At first, we thought it was an accident but we quickly realized it was a scam when we noticed the backpack left in place was empty with several more empty backpacks inside the one backpack. Not only was it frustrating to have $1000+ USD worth of our belongings stolen, but this caused us to miss our flight and a sequence of other mishaps which put a huge damper on the start of our trip.
The entire event was captured on camera and was far too professional and had us thinking that it very well could have been a collaborated effort. Can't say for sure, but it was very well planned out and orchestrated amongst whomever was all involved. Bottom line is that you really need to have your belongs literally on you, as a quick glance down to your iPhone and boom, your backpack is gone. It literally happened that fast. The hotel obliged our request and the police came out and did their song and dance, but this all seemed like part of the drill to appease us that they were doing everything they could to assist on their end. In hindsight, we should have just called it a loss right away, and just moved on so that we didn't miss our flight. Tough to do, but waiting around was just a complete waste of time as our goods were most likely already being divided amongst the "team" who was involved.
Luckily Luke had moved his passport and MacBook to his other bag that morning so we were able to continue on with our trip but it was not a good start to our trip or a good way to end our 24 hours in Santiago.
We met other travelers after departing Santiago that had also been mugged and robbed in Santiago. All claimed to have left themselves vulnerable by not paying attention. Theft can happen anywhere and this is not a reason to not go to Santiago but our advice is to always be aware of your surroundings and don't let your guard down just because you are in a nice neighborhood or staying at a nice hotel. Also, iPhones go for 3x times the amount compared to the states, so this is a hot commodity down here, so flashing it in certain neighborhoods may not be the smartest thing to do. Keep it in your pocket, your other belongs tight on your body in front of you and most importantly your eyes open to your surroundings at all times.
Happy and safe travels!