Santiago, the thriving capital city of Chile, is a midpoint stop for many travelers who plan to visit Patagonia. However, the city itself is not that popular among tourists. Many complain about how boring and average it is, and no one really stops in Santiago for Santiago, except for me (?).
Afte spending some time in remote cities and the Atacama Desert, I had the urge to be in a real, metropolitan city — that’s the moment I realized I am truly a city girl. As soon as I arrived in Santiago, I was back in my element. It’s almost refreshing to see human beings populating urban streets after endless mountain views and cow shit.
My friend was quite unimpressed with the city upon arrival. “Chile just doesn’t seem to have a strong cultural identity, and the food really sucks,” he said. He was somewhat right — it’s hard to pinpoint what Chile stands for culturally among all of its distinctive neighbors in South America. I did, however, find Santiago to be an interesting capital city through mundane things despite its perceived uninterestingness.
The bathroom mystery.
Flushing toilet paper down the toilet is an abomination in South America, but not in Santiago! Chile is known to be the fastest-growing economy in all of South America — being able to flush your toilet paper is one of the undeniable proofs of economic advancement. HOWEVER, the public bathrooms in Santiago are absolutely beyond horrifying. Okay, so you have money to install a modern toilet, but you don’t have money to hire cleaners? The Santiago bathroom mystery always remained as a big question mark in my head.
Chilean food does suck.
What is Chilean cuisine? It’s so ambiguous and even some Chileans admit that they are not good cooks. Food in Santiago is very expensive but the quality reflects nothing of the price, and you can find a lot more foreign cuisine than Chilean restaurants. We noticed the popularity of hot dog places and the locals’ love of excess mayonnaise on their hot dogs — that was quite strange to us Americans haha.
Wine is cheaper than food.
Food is expensive? No problem, just live on wine because it’s cheaper than food! Chilean wine is world famous and it’s so affordable — you can get a bottle of incredibly refined wine for less than $8. Carménère is a must-try in Chile: the grape was originated from France, but a plague in the late 1800s almost wiped out all of the vines in Europe. Fortunately, carménère lived on and thrived in Chile, and today the country is responsible for 90% of the carménère production worldwide.
Bocanariz is a trendy wine bar in Lastarria, offering 300+ selections of wine and some mind-blowing desserts!
Street dogs are very well fed.
Street dogs are everywhere in Santiago, but they are very friendly and well loved by locals and tourists alike. Unlike most stray dogs in other parts of the world, the ones in Santiago receive lots of food and even winter clothing sometimes. They are little charmers that know how to melt everyone’s heart. We were told that some of the dogs have become so integrated into the city that they even know how to take buses!
I can understand why travelers would think Santiago is a boring city. Nothing really stands out and screams SANTIAGO! Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see such a westernized city in the far end of South America, and this is the place to learn about the humbling history of dictatorship in Chile. Most people recommend staying in Santiago for 2 days, but I stayed 10 days and still felt like I was missing out on many things the city had to offer. Keep a curious mind if you ever visit Santiago, and I am sure you’ll find all the interesting things about this uninteresting capital city! 🙂