Although Santiago is a sprawling city, the city centre is quite compact with many of the historic buildings, bars and restaurants nestled together in just a few neighbourhoods. Below is a little description of each neighbourhood so you can see which area you think might suit you best.
Nestled under the Saint Christopher Hill, Bella Vista is a neighbourhood of contrasts. It is famous for being a bohemian neighbourhood where artist have their studios. There are student bars selling cheap beer in litre bottles, a private University, and live music. On a parallel street there are fine dining restaurants serving up the very best in Chilean cuisine, first class boutique hotels and shops selling handmade souvenirs. The neighbourhood ends with the entrance to the funicular that takes you up the Saint Christopher Hill which gives magnificent views over the whole of Santiago and the snow capped Andes.
Top pick hotel – the Castillo Rojo: http://www.castillorojohotel.com/
As the name suggests, this castle-like building, built in 1927, looks like something out of a fairytale with turrets and balconies. Recently restored and open for just 1 year, the interior of this building retains all of its original charm complete with original features, antiques and furniture made and sourced in Chile.
This old, historic neighbourhood, which is little more than a few streets, has a village-like feel, nestled in the hustle and bustle of the centre of Santiago. It has great restaurants and cafes, artistic independent shops and is within walking distance of the `Plaza de Armas’, Museo de Bellas Artes (fine art museum), the Santa Lucia Hill and the neighbourhood of Bellavista. On a Saturday and Sunday it also has a fun little antiques market. It has a number of lovely boutique hotels that have recently opened in restored historic houses.
Top pick hotel – Lastarria Boutique: http://www.lastarriahotel.com/en/acerca-de/
On entering the hotel, one shouldn’t be put off by the small lobby and reception area. Once you climb the first flight of stairs you enter the charming breakfast room which leads onto the terrace and garden – a small oasis in the centre of the city. The perfect place to relax after a day of sigh-seeing or travelling up from chilly Patagonia!
Providencia is the first residential neighbourhood that you reach just outside of the city centre. Although more residential, it has plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes and is on the metro line 1 (the red line) which makes it just a short trip into the centre of town (as a first time visitor, you would still feel as if you are in the city centre). Providencia is safer and calmer than the city centre and just a short taxi ride to the neighbourhoods of Bellavista and the more affluent Las Condes and Vitacura.
The more luxurious hotels in this area tend to be larger, more business like hotels but the Santiago Park Plaza still manages to capture some of the local flavour. There are also number of more guest house style boutique hotels with my top pick being the Meridiano Sur. If you are looking for a characterful mid-range hotel then this is a great option.
[Read Sally from Swoop’s tips on Things to do in Santiago]