Santiago Travel Blog› entry 12 of 96 › view all entries
Santiago is surrounded by hills. Easiest to visit is a small hill Cerro Santa Lucia which is right in the centre of the city´s business district. It was from this hill that the Spanish founders of the city fought off attacks from the local Indians in the early days after they founded the city. Perhaps even more famous is Serro San Cristobal which towers over the city and is capped by a 36m high status of the virgin Mary. Just below the summit there is a chapel where the Pope, on his only visit to Chile in 1986, celebrated mass. Reaching the top is easy, there is a funicular railway stopping part way up at the city zoo. From the viewpoint the view is quite dramatic, but as normal in Santiago there is smog over the city so it is hard to make out the the snow capped Andes in the distance even with the naked eye.
Despite the smog I so like Santiago. As I have learnt one of the keys to enjoying a new city is to stay in the right area. We opt for Providencia, which isn´t a bad choice but our hostel is 20 mins walk from the metro so really too far from the nightlife. The hostel is very tidy and clean and there are a few local restaurants but next time I´ll pick somewhere closer to a better range of bars and restaurants. I´m pleased though we did not pick to stay in Barrio Bellavista. This is the bohemian part of town and might be Ok for a night out but is much less convenient and would be hard to get much sleep particularlt at the weekend when we understand the place really rocks.
Santiago city centre is surprisingly compact and easy to tour the main sights on foot. We catch the metro down to the Plaza Mxxx, the presidental palace and centre of the Chilian government (though parliament was moved to Valpariaso in the 1980´s) and walk though the commercial centre to the Plaza Armas. It is hard to find a good place from which to photgraph the cathedral as there is a large book fair set up in the square. We then walk up to the central market and to the river.
We walk back via Barrio Bellavista and in the end find it just as quick to walk all the way back to the hostel rather than catching the metro. The metro here is brilliant, quick, efficient and simple to use. There are two types of ticket, one for peak and another for off peak. With a single ticket you can travel for one journey anywhere on the network. Locals use smartcards so there is no queue for tickets. Melbourne should be embarrassed that Santiago can get this right when they are still struggling to implement their new ticketing and smart card system.