I am always overwhelmed when traveling to new cities that are big. What are the best areas to stay in? Will I be near healthy restaurants? Will I have to take an expensive taxi or long train to get anywhere cool? It is true that location is everything. After spending 3 weeks in Santiago, I have searched high and low for the best places to stay. As always, these are my criteria for choosing the "best" location:
1. Safety: Need I say more? I want to be able to walk around alone at the very least without any issues.
2. Fun: I don't want to stay in a snooze fest part of town 30 minutes away from the main town center! I look for places near or in town attractions. I like places just barely on the outskirts if not the middle to avoid loud noise and rowdy late night behavior.
3. Near healthy food: In other words near good restaurants or grocery stores where healthy food is available: By near I mean walking distance or as close to that as one can get. Healthy food = priority
4. Cleanliness: The last thing you want when arriving to a foreign city is for your hotel or hostel to be in some janky part of town that is unsightly at best. Areas that are clean and well kept are necessary and show a level of care and effort put forth by the people in that area. This typically goes hand in hand with safety.
Santiago is a huge city with some great neighborhoods and some bad ones. Even in nicer areas, it can be boring and far from things so it is important to choose carefully where you stay. On the plus side, there is a very easy subway system here that costs close to nothing. Mrfreemiles.com has a great guide to taking the train here. I suggest staying somewhere both near the train but also walking distance to the city's hotspots and good restaurants. The healthy restaurants are quite spread out you so while you will have one or two walking distance from you, the rest will be all over the city accessible via metro.
The map above shows the different neighborhoods within Santiago. In the middle of the red rectangle roughly lies the famous San Cristobal Hill. You can see this from pretty much anywhere in the city. Around the hill within that red rectangle is Santiago Central. My personal favorite area to stay in where there are many great restaurants, nightlife, and cool sights. However, this area is huge! So I outlined where to stay within Santiago Centro.
The North and East (purple and yellow) part of the map is the higher class end of town that is beautiful but a little more quiet. Great if you have a higher budget and want to relax in luxury but can afford to take taxis across town. The Grand Hyatt is over in the yellow region, for example. As far as the blue and green regions go - forget about them for now.
Thanks to our friends over at TripHappy, below is an adjustable map (with all of the above spots geo-located).
Santiago Centro (red)
1. Santa Lucia:
Great for all ages, this area is where I stayed during my 3 week Spanish school. I really enjoyed it because it was a stones throw from the famous Santa Lucia Hill, a quick 12 minute walk to Bellavista (where you have access to San Cristobal Hill), 2 blocks from the metro, right next to Plaza De Armas, and on the border of Barrio Lastarria. Wow! That was a mouthful. I walked 30 minutes to school everyday which was located at the border of Providencia. It is a clean enough, safe place to stay in the city and very centrally located. Only cons were that there were not too many healthy restaurants near by. There were a few I liked between Barrio Lastarria and Bellavista, but for the most part you have to make the trek to Providencia to get the good stuff :). A price you pay for a part of town with energy, nightlife, and cool sites. Next time though I think I'll stay in Providencia. Another positive is the area is inexpensive - Kyle and I scored a really cheap apartment the day of (due to some original plan issues) for only $55 a night. Not bad right? It was equipped with a kitchen so I was able to stock up at the healthy grocery stores in Providencia and make some meals myself.
2. Barria Lastarria
Such a charming and quaint part of town! I loved this area. The streets are pretty and clean and there are tons of restaurants and bars consolidated to one small area. It is lively yet not over the top. I think of it as a calmer and nicer version of Bellavista (see below). Good if you want to have a drink but not get too wild. I would stay here any day as the apartments/hostels look really cute and clean. Loved it!
A more wild and grungey part of town. Located just under San Cristobal Hill, Bellavista is a younger area that is lively to say the least. Hundreds of restaurants and bars are jam packed throughout the neighborhood and are totally raging late night. Patio Bellavista (a nicer center within Bellavista comprised of a collection of shops and restaurants) is touristy but still great for dinner and drinks. Two of my favorite places were located here - Cebicheria Constitucion and Zenzero (the vegan ice cream place!). Similar to Valparaiso, one of Pablo Neruda's unique homes is here and can be toured all day. If you like a lot of activity and central location - this is a good place to be. Not for those that like peace and quiet.
Santiago Oriente (yellow - Northeast region)
Nestled above Providencia, Vitacura is a beautiful area. It is pretty far from everywhere else in this post, but a lovely place to stay nonetheless. I would take my parents here or stay here for a relaxing getaway. The famous Parque Bicentenario is located here - a must see! Great for walking around or spending the day reading outdoors.
Providencia is a nice part of Santiago but is very big and very spread out. It doesn't have as fun of nightlife but does have really great healthy restaurants including my favorite La Chakra. My Spanish school was also on the border of Providencia in a really nice area. If you don't mind taking the metro one or two stops here and there, it is a great place to be. Most of the restaurants in my Healthy eating in Santiago post are within Providencia!