On a clear day, you will marvel at the dazzling landscape that surrounds Chile’s capital of Santiago. The Andes Mountains scrap the sky in the east and the Chilean Coastal Range rise up to the west and nestled contentedly between the two is Santiago de Chile. The city itself is green and vibrant, with a hodgepodge of architecture and an unforgettable energy. The fast-paced metropolis of seven million people has crowds of Santiaguinos constantly moving through narrow streets packed with fruit barrows, news kiosks, cafes and sellers of everything from coat hangers to pirated DVDs.
Home to one of the oldest universities in the Americas, Santiago is a student’s paradise. Wander through neighborhoods with a strong café culture and a bohemian vibe, party districts where the music never sleeps or the financial district of Sanhattan and visit the top of the tallest building in South America.
Wherever your feet lead you, there are incredible things to discover in Santiago. What are you waiting for? Let’s go!
Photo Credits: alobos Life.
Culture and Immersion
While there are myriad districts, or barrios, to explore in Santiago the neighborhoods of Lastarria and Brasil are known for being young and trendy. Lastarria , with its hipster reputation, is full of artists, coffee shops, restaurants and local street venders. Brasil is where the real bohemians live. In recent years Brasil has become quite the hot-spot-- many universities also set up campuses here, so the residents tend to be either young and broke students or elderly couples who’ve been around forever. Colorful graffiti and quirky restaurants make this neighborhood unique.
The calm area of Bellavista is where Pablo Neruda, the brilliant poet, made his home. His Santiago residence is a prime example of the Nobel Prize-winner’s eccentric taste. The giant hanging eyes and gigantic knotty tree trunks holding up the living room ceiling are almost peculiar enough to distract you from the unbelievable view of Santiago from his balcony. Barrio Bellavista may be quiet during the day, but at night the streets heat up. The neighborhood is party central, with countless bars, dance clubs and restaurants.
Santiago is also a great base for exploring the surrounding region. With the Andes so close, you can be right in the mountains in an hour or two. In winter people go skiing for the day; in warmer months there’s also hiking, horseback riding and rafting. In two hours you can be lounging on a beach. Still more tempting are the many vineyards a hop skip and a jump away.
Chile is the most expensive country in South America, but Santiago is still quite affordable. As of July 2013, the exchange rate was about 500 Chilean pesos to the dollar.
A mid-range meal will cost about 3,500.00 CL$ (or $6-20 USD). If you all a good bottle of local wine, it’ll be another 2,000 CL$ (or $4). And the cost of milk? About $650 CL$ or $1.25 USD
Culture Shock and Support System
The main draw to Santiago? The people.
Usually very active (understandable, since the city is just a drive away from incredible skiing and beaches) Santiaguinos are active, exuberant and welcoming. You’ll quickly make friends over a glass of Chilean wine, a cigarette or a cup of strong coffee. Can’t think of a way to start a conversation? Football (soccer) is the ultimate icebreaker in this sports-obessed town!
Santiago is a city with a turbulent past, but through all it's persevered. However, with each political, economic and social hurtle that Santiago has overcome through the centuries, the city comes out more interesting, more diverse and more extraordinary. An exceptional spirit keeps the city moving. Art, culture, and adventure will welcome study abroad students with arms wide open. Bienvenido a Santiago!