Santiago, Chile’s gateway city, is booming. Cropping up amongst the colonial buildings and traditional markets are sleek new buildings, funky cocktail bars, and refined hotels. But don't let those skyscrapers fool you—the heart of the city is still in its history. Here's how to take it on in one great, pisco-fueled night.
In Santiago, happy hour is practically a flash mob. Cafés go from quiet to jammed at the magic hour, when pisco sours, the citrusy national cocktail, start to flow. At Chipe Libre in Barrio Lastarria, the pisco pros behind the bar can school you in the nuances of the spirit as they serve two-for-one cocktails until 6 p.m.
Photo by Aislyn Greene
A view with a room
Just around the corner, the Singular Santiago hotel is 1) a primo home base for the night, with its deep soaking tubs and central location and 2) a more intimate stop for round two of your evening. Votives and a brightly lit infinity pool outside make the rooftop bar twinkle, and gin and tonics made with Chilean 1724 tonic give a different kind of glow. Time it right and you’ll get a show, too: sunset coloring the snow-glazed Andes.
Make yourself at home
No, your Uber driver isn’t trying to kidnap you. It’s just that the Vitacura neighborhood is so residential you’ll think it can’t possibly be home to Ambrosía, the city’s best restaurant. Trust. Chef Carolina Bazán serves vividly plated Chilean surf and turf in a renovated house that’s part modern garden party, part upcycled gallery. (Check out the chandelier made from teapots.)
Photo courtesy of Ambrosia
On weekend nights, the bar-filled Barrio Bellavista swells with peacocking college kids and urban professionals. Be close to the scene, but not in it, at La Chimenea, a decades-old restaurant, theater, and music venue combo that stays relevant by hosting the best of Santiago’s art, food, and music world, from modern tango bands to local beer tastings.
Sarita Colonia, a bar named for Peru’s unofficial patron saint of misfits, feels like a cathedral gift shop, with its stained glass and foot-tall Jesus statues. But as you sip a stiff pisco-based Kill Me Now on the third-floor patio and survey the crowd—straight, gay, young, old—you’ll see the place lives up to its motto: All are welcome.
Photo courtesy of Sarita Colonia
The milk of the tiger
The next day
To ease a hangover, Chilenos turn to leche de tigre, the spicy-citrusy ceviche marinade. What may sound like the absolute worst thing after one too many piscos is surprisingly refreshing. You don’t have to go far for a twist on the classic. Bocanáriz, a wine bar two blocks from the Singular, makes an excellent avocado and passion fruit ceviche. And with nearly 400 Chilean wines, it’s a fine place for a little hair of the dog, too.
Photo courtesy of Bocanáriz
Poetry in motion
And when it's light out
There’s reading Pablo Neruda—the Nobel Prize–winning Chilean poet—and then there’s glimpsing the life of Pablo Neruda. From the Singular, hike the mile up to his former hillside home (and love nest), La Chascona, now a small, quirky museum. The nautical-themed home is as romantic as his poetry. Wander through the lighthouse-inspired living room, peruse his map-lined library, and pick up a copy of The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, the most comprehensive collection of his translated poetry, in the nearby gift shop.