Romantic Santiago

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Romantic Santiago
In Santiago you can sip fine wine or cocktails while looking out over the Andes at sunset, and if you want to explore beyond the city, some charming wine country and the wild Pacific coast are both quick trips.
By Liz Caskey, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by José Enrique Molina/age fotostock
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    A Night at the Opera
    Designed in 1857, Santiago's historic opera house embodies opulence and features distinguished musicians and conductors throughout the year. Book center stage tickets for the opera, symphony, or a piano recital, and take the opportunity to dress elegantly and make a night of it. Dine afterwards at one of downtown’s most sophisticated restaurants, fittingly called Café del Ópera. A short stroll away from its namesake venue, the café is situated on a scenic corner by the entrance of Santa Lucia gardens and is an intimate setting in which to enjoy refined French cuisine.
    Photo by José Enrique Molina/age fotostock
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    Innovative and Intimate Dining
    Dine at some of Latin America's best restaurants like Boragó, where Chef Rodolfo Guzmán catalogs Chile's indigenous foodstuffs in a theatrical meal. El Europeo is a Santiago white tablecloth classic, where young new chef Alvaro Romero focuses on refined, Chilean seasonal cuisine and an outstanding wine list. Reserve a table at Osaka at W Santiago, where the chefs excel in the Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine known as Nikkei. Expect creative sushi rolls alongside tiraditos, sashimi served with exotic sauces. Savor an evening at Baco, a charming wine bar and bistro where classic French fare is accompanied by wines from one of the city's top lists. Splurge on a special vintage, order fresh oysters from Chiloé Island, and enjoy.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Perfect Parks for Picnics
    From September to May, make the most of Santiago's weather by enjoying a picnic with your loved one. Choose a beautiful park like Parque Forestal in downtown, whose century-old trees, palms, grassy lawns, and relaxed vibe set the mood for romance. Or head to the newish Parque Bicentenario in upscale Vitacura, which sits alongside the Mapocho River and has a stunning view of the Andes. In the summer, relax in lawn chairs or stop for a pisco sour at Mestizo. Parque Metropolitano, the largest in the city, also has picnicking spots with valley views. Stock up on provisions at Coquinaria in El Golf, El Mundo del Queso in Providencia, Emporio La Rosa near Parque Forestal, or 1893 Gourmet in Barrio Italia.
    Photo by Luis Padilla/age fotostock
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    Decompress at the Spa
    After exploring Santiago on foot, you'll want to pamper yourself at the city's top spas. For a deluxe local experience, head to Balthus Spa in posh Vitacura. The full-service spa has a complete menu of massages, reflexology, reiki, and facials, along with full-day packages that include use of their gym, yoga classes, and access to indoor and outdoor pools. You can also try W Santiago’s spa in El Golf, which offers a variety of massages—ranging from shiatsu to deep tissue—along with facials and other treatments for couples. Be sure to soak in the Turkish steam baths, especially during the dry summer. For a blissful chakra massage that will help you recover from even the longest trek, make an appointment at the Singular Santiago.
    Photo by Goce Risteski/age fotostock
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    The Romantic Port of Valparaiso
    An hour away from the hustle and bustle of Santiago, the colorful, charming port of Valparaíso extends over 20-odd hills above the Pacific. This port is a UNESCO World Heritage site that feels steeped in another era, with European mansions and Victorian homes that were erected during the city’s heyday. Explore the labyrinth of meandering streets filled with quaint boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Ride the funiculars from street level up into the hills. Spend a day on Cerro Alegre and Concepción and lunch with a view of the sea at Café Turri or Montealegre in the chic Casa Higueras hotel. Head to Ápice for organic produce and seafood. Check out Palacio Baburizza (Fine Arts Museum) or just roam the enchanting streets.
    Photo by Pierre-Yves Babelon/age fotostock
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    Afternoon Delight
    Every day from 5 to 7 p.m., cafés around Santiago fill with friends, family, and lovers who pause for tea or an espresso, a sweet treat, and some conversation. Traditional teatime in Chile is called onces and features cake, pastries made with manjar (milk caramel), or a repeat of breakfast with toast, jam, butter, and mashed avocado. Head to the Lastarria neighborhood for its high concentration of cafés. Try cool Café del Ópera, a modern spin on an old soda fountain, with marble-tiled walls and a long counter. At Colmado, everything from the almond milk to the vegan muffins is homemade.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Couple Up in the Clubs
    If you want to get your groove on head for Barrio Bellavista, which has plenty of cool bars and clubs. Start with a cocktail and conversation at the elegant Aubrey Hotel piano bar; after 11:00 p.m. check out Bar Constitución, where young Santiaguinos sling local drinks like piscola and get down to an eclectic mix of music. For a vibe that combines bar, nightclub, and restaurant, nearby Etniko has been a go-to spot for years; it serves up tasty sushi and other Asian fare while a DJ spins rhythmic deep house. La Fería, across the street, doesn’t get going until after midnight but there's always a scene from Thursday to Saturday.
    Photo courtesy of Nils Schlebusch/The Aubrey
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    Sip Your Way Around Chile
    Although Chile is world-famous for its wines, many visitors discover varietals they knew nothing about before. More than 12 wine valleys in central Chile produce everything from zesty sauvignon blanc to earthy carmenere, silky pinot noir, and heady cabernet sauvignon. Santiago is surrounded by wine valleys to the north and south, but if you can’t get out to wine country, make time for an evening of tasting at Bocanáriz, which offers a variety of themed wine flights, or Barrica 94. If you want to bring wine back, head to Santiago Wine Club to score lesser-known boutique gems or to El Mundo del Vino to stock up on Chile’s reference wines.
    Photo by Kristy Krone
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    Explore the Local Fashion Scene
    To enjoy a day of high-end shopping, head to Alonso de Córdova and Nueva Costanera and explore the luxury stores that line the streets. While many international brands are in this area, it's also a hot spot for Chilean designers; check out the Sisa Collection, which uses fine local fibers to create classic, stylish cuts of outstanding quality. Also stop by Walka Studio, which has been making artisan jewelry for more than a decade. Incorporating uniquely Chilean materials like copper, crin (horse hair), and cow's horn, Walka Studio has merged avant-garde design with quality craftsmanship to create trendy accessories beloved by hip Chileans. For beautiful, handcrafted shoes, seek out the Bárbara Briones atelier.
    Photo courtesy of Alejandro Araya/Sisa Collection