If you spent any time with me over the past six months, you probably heard me talking (incessantly) about the City Hike. What began as a way to spend a Saturday became my highlight of 2015 – spending hours and hours meandering Chicago’s various neighborhoods and, of course, eating so much food. We would walk 15 miles in a day, checking out the spots that had forever been on our instagram wish lists and ending the evening with tired feet, full bellies and happy hearts.
My friend Ian and I dreamed up the City Hike because we realized that the best way to see a city was to just wander through it. We discovered that you didn’t need big plans, you just needed to get out there and explore. Plus there is little we love more than walking. And eating. And people-watching. Win win win.
So here I am on my international adventure, and the City Hike lives on.
Yesterday, Melanie and I made up and conquered City Hike: Santiago. So if your find yourself in Chile wanting a great (and long) day of exploring, look no further. Here is what we did. And here is all the guide you need.
We stayed in the Bellavista Neighborhood – which I highly recommend. There is so much going on, lots of hostels and it’s walkable to just about everything.
From Bellavista, start the day walking toward Cerro Santa Lucia. Note that Santiago is sleepy in the mornings – my early rising propensity gets me nowhere here in South America. Sleep in for awhile – you won’t be missing anything because everything is closed until at least 10 anyway.
Stop for breakfast at Colmado Coffee – a trendy (like, whoa hipsters rejoice) coffee shop in a cute little ally. You can get whatever your heart desires – chemex, pour over, french press – and even iced chai if you explain it well enough!
Keep walking down Merced to Cerro Santa Lucia, a hill that pops up right in the middle of the city. HIke up the hill, enjoying the fountains and plazas and beautiful views on the way. At the very top, you can get a full panorama of the city!
Mel and I spent a while hanging and chatting in the shade – the sun is strong and hot, so if you are as white as I am, make sure to load up on sunscreen. And if I’m learning anything from Chileans it’s that rest is a good thing, especially when it’s this hot.
After hiking and relaxing, backtrack a little bit down Merced to grab lunch at Buffalo Waffles. You guys. I cannot emphasize this stop enough. This food is insanely amazing. It’s a waffle filled with cheese. And bacon. And arugula. And garlic sauce. Oh. My. Word. They have a bunch of other options too, all looked insanely delicious. The spot is only a little storefront, so take your food down to the park to picnic, or sit on one of the benches lining the street.
With a full belly, you are ready to explore (and hopefully dance!) at Plaza de Armas. When we got there, a band was playing and people were dancing in the square. It was so fun to watch and they were so talented! We wandered to the center fountain, and I was inspired by the little kids splashing around in the water – so much so that I got my feet wet myself.
We had the great fortune of meeting Luis, a sweet old man who asked us where we were from. When we said the US, he got so excited – he had been studying English and wanted to practice with us. He told us all about his kids – an engineer, a mathematician and a robotics guy. And about his doctor, who told Luis that now that he is 74, he should learn languages, play instruments, and ride a bike to ward off alzheimers (seems like solid advice to me!). Then he asked to take selfies with us! I realize this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but don’t be afraid to meet new people hanging out in the plaza – if Luis is any indication, they are awesome!
As you cross the plaza, make a stop at Pablo Fernandez Soto’s art shop (or, I guess, not really a shop, but a street area). He is remarkably talented and so sweet – and Melanie and I each bought pieces from him. He’ll tell you stories if you ask, and he’ll definitely make fun of you a little bit 🙂
Pop in the Catedral Santiago across the street – it’s a beautiful church and a peaceful (and shady) respite from the Plaza’s bustling heat. We also checked out the post office, because, why not? And I’m pretty sure there are several museums around this area too, but we skipped them.
Head back down Merced and stop at Emporio La Rosa – apparently one of the 25 best ice cream places in the world. Or, if you’d rather, grab a popsicle right down the street. I had both. Obviously.
Backtrack your way toward Bellavista, enjoying the beautiful parks along the way, then check out Cerro San Cristobal – the big hill (and most recommended attraction) in Santiago. There is a funicular that takes you to the top, but you could also walk it (or bike ride it if you are feeling extra brave/insane). The views are beautiful, and there is a nice prayer garden where you can rest and reflect.
At the top, don’t forget to try mote con huesillos – a famous Chilean drink made with peaches and oats. All the (crazy) bikers who ride to the top immediately stop and have a cup. And because we are SO Chilean, we decided to have one too. Surprisingly good, as soon as you get over the fact that there is oatmeal floating in your juice.
Come down the funicular and take a little walk around Bellavista. Stop at any of about a million bars and restaurants with outdoor patios and enjoy happy hour (remember, this is South America, so happy hour goes until about 9pm – all the praise hands). I had one of the best margaritas of my life at a little place in Bellavista, and many places also had amazing-looking mojitos. But of course, when in Chile, you should probably go for a Pisco Sour just because you can.
If you still have any energy and are feeling like you want a treat, walk the opposite direction down Merced and the parks. You will pass by a big fountain that flashes in colors and lights and is surrounded by couples PDAing it up – super romantic, right?
Make your last stop of the day at La Liguria for a true, exceptional Chilean dinner. You will splurge a little bit, but it’s so worth it because oh my word this place was amazing. The wine list alone was 5 pages long (I mean, this is Chile after all), and even with relatively fluent Spanish, we were still confused by many of the menu items (for whatever reason, the unique words for snapper, herring and various cuts of meat weren’t big on my high school vocab lists). Without the ability to easily translate, we did the next best thing – ask the waiter what his two favorite dishes were and order those. And YUM.
Food = amazing. Wine = amazing. Atmosphere = amazing. We are big fans of yours, La Liguria.
At this point, you’re probably dead. Because I don’t mess around on City Hike days. Get a cab. Go home. Sleep. You deserve it. Then wake up and find some more great Chilean spots to explore!