They say first impressions last, good or bad this can either cloud your judgement or enable you to realise that some things are better if you take the time to scratch under the surface. To be honest the drive from the airport into central Santiago had me thinking some pretty average thoughts about our chosen first stop on our adventures. When your judgement is clouded by expectations and/or prejudices… Or just a whole bunch of smog it’s easy to assume the worst. As I would later find out due to the surrounding mountain ranges Santiago suffers from a bit of smog, that is until the rain cleanses the air to reveal those beautiful snow capped mountains.
Once you get past the level of general litter in the streets you get to appreciate what Santiago has to offer, namely some of the beautiful historical architecture that can be found around the city.
Coming from a place where if you miss your train you have to wait at least 15-30 min for the next one (in the CBD) but more like an hour in outer suburbs) having a consistent and regular public transport service is the best thing for an urban explorer and for the efficient functioning of a city in general (looking at you Brisbane!). The Metro in Santiago is a perfect way to get around and explore the sites this city has to offer.
Catedral de Santiago was quite beautiful, huge arched walkways with intricately decorated ceilings. I am in no way religious but I do love exploring old churches for these very reasons.
Cerro San Christobal, located in Bella Vista you can either climb up the hill (not recommended due to petty crime/muggings) or take the Funicular. For a reasonable cost this cable car takes you past the zoo to the top of the hill where a statue of the Virgin Mary watches over the city. A small church can be found but more popular is the amphitheatre area where outdoor masses are held on special occasions.
Cerro Santa Lucia is a park located in the center of Santiago and is a must see when visiting the city. Some gorgeous views can be had once you scale the fort at the top of the hill. Also the main entry to the park has a grand stair case that is a wonderful introduction to the grounds.
A couple of days before we were scheduled to leave there was a bit of rain which cleared the air of all the pollution. This left us with amazing views of the surrounding snow capped Andes. Towards the end of our stay I got the feeling that we could find a few more gems in the city, hunting for a half descent cup of coffee took us to some more popular areas where some good food could finally be found, because where we were staying all we could find was pizza/pasta restaurants and the typical bakery chain Castanos.
Perhaps it was due to this being the first stop on our adventure (with both Tash and I suffering from a bit of jet lag) but I would say Santiago is a city that can grow on you if you let it. Much like any busy city you need to take the time to explore all the hidden nooks and crannies to get a real sense of what the place really has to offer.
In general I felt this was a great city to visit for a short few days checking out the main sites then moving on or possibly better as a central base from which to explore the surrounding towns and country side while exploring the inner Santiago in your down time.