A trip to South America normally conjures up images of Alpaca jumpers, high Andean peaks and sultry salsa clubs. Pushing the boundaries of the technology scene is not normally what immediately springs to mind. Well, since 2010 that’s started to change. The Chilean government launched StartupChile in Santiago to support tech entrepreneurship in Chile. They offer almost $40,000 in equity free funding for startups willing to base themselves in Santiago for six months. It’s been a phenomenal success, taking in startups from all over the world (well over 1000 to date!).
I was one of the lucky 100 selected as part of Generation 12,with my company Acteavo, out of almost 2500 applicants to participate in the program. So now I call Santiago my home.
My last time in Latin America as part of a year long backpacking trip, I avoided Santiago entirely. Thinking back, it wasn’t marked out as a “must see” by fellow travellers as I made my way down the continent. Why was this? Truthfully I’m not really sure, maybe it’s the cost (Chile and big cities are slightly more expensive), distance or just bad PR.
StartupChile has been a great introduction to the life of the city for me. So armed with some inside knowledge my fellow “Suppers” and I want to help peel back the layers of the onion on a modern, Latin metropolis!
The Old Favorites
If you’re passing through any city you’ll probably make your way to a central point and work from there. In Santiago, this is most likely the Plaza de Armas (pretty ubiquitous in any South American city), taking in the Catedral de Santiago and some of the early history of the city. A short walk from here is the La Moneda Palace and the scene of the coup in 1973 and the emergence Augustin Pinochet.
Head a little East from the city centre on Alameda and you’ll see Cerro Santa Lucia, this is a stunning hill park and a great way to get some pics of the cityscape and mountains. Behind this is the bohemian neighbourhood of Lastaria. It has a fantastic selection of coffee shops and bars. For coffee I recommend Wonderful Cafe and for drinks Culto Bar (be sure to check out their fabulous roof terrace).
From Lastaria you can also explore the Belles Artes area including the romantic Parque Forestral and the Museo de Bellas Artes. Two of my favorite restaurants are a short walk from here on Merced: Indian – New Horizon and Thai – Asian Street Food. Both are affordable and tasty.
Further East is the Bellavista neighborhood, on the foothills of Cerro San Cristobal. This is a mecca for bars and restaurants including the uber touristy Patio Bella Vista. There are great options here but explore a little more and you can find an array of local secrets as Amanda Barnes from the Squeeze Magazine attests:
“There’s a bunch of trendy bars and restaurants, especially around the Patio Bellavista area, but if you amble a few streets towards Recoleta (around Loreto street) you’ll find the city’s best and most authentic Asian restaurants – Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese – as well as a great mix of Arabic and Peruvian joints. It is the most ethnically diverse part of the city, and you can taste it!”
Providencia is a very middle class and European looking neighborhood that stretches up Avenue Providencia. Nestled within it is Barrio Italia, a tranquil neighbourhood of hipster coffee shops and artisanal craft stores. This is a great place to people watch over a coffee, catch up on emails or just chill out. Highly recommended.
Local entrepreneur, Alonso Olate of Simplit recommends Manuel Montt as a top night spot in the city. He suggests California Cantina as a good expat bar and Liguria if you want to combine drinks and food.
“It is a large flea market in the south part of the city, where you can buy furniture, electronics, fake Jordans from the 90s, hunting rifles, sports gear, and much else.”
It’s an excellent destination if you are furnishing a new apartment, and a fun place to walk around for a couple hours and munch on street food. Go to the Franklin train stop on the green line and take a right out of the station.
Santiago offers the day tripper lots of choice including sumptuous wine tours, treks in the Andes or trips to the coast in nostalgic Valparaiso. Head further south for some real adventure in Pucon or Patagonia in the deep south.