Best-Kept Secrets of Santiagueño Streets
So, you’re learning Spanish and you’re ready to explore the Spanish-speaking world and practice what you know. ¡Fantástico! But where to?
That’s easy— Chile. ¿Por qué? Me preguntas…
That’s easy, too! The people are incredibly welcoming, sweet, and extremely intellectual & artistic.
The Spanish is adorable (everything is “ito”) and always interesting because there are a lot of Chilean-specific words (some of these come from the indigenous Mapuche language of Mapudungun).
It’s incredibly diverse, hosting the driest desert, the longest coast-line, and some of the tallest mountains in South America! Oh, and who can forget Patagonia?
And the cities are gorgeous. There’s La Serena– a desert-beach town complete with penguins; Valparaiso, a very artistic and hilly sea-side destination; Santiago, the heart and capitol of the country… Other top destinations include indigenous Temuco, mystic Chiloé, Antofagasta… I could go on.
Oh, and they won La Copa America games twice in a row. (¡VAMOS LA ROJA!)
If you opt for (& when you land in) Santiago you should make time for:
- La Bicicleta Verde & Tours 4 Tips – These gems are not to be missed. These guys give tours with a side of consciousness and comedy in Santiago & Valparaiso, on bikes and by foot. You’ll discover their favorite local haunts and uncover some amazing (and enlightening) history, and meet lots of Spanish speakers along the way. Their tour guides are amazingly knowledgeable and it’s sure to be a good way to make some friends and learn memorable bits of Chilean trivia. On walking tours, you pay what you think your tour was worth (usually around $10 USD).
- Street art is another free not-so-secret gem in Santiago. (Here’s a sneak peek but it’s better in person!) You can learn so much about the dreams, the past, and the identities of a people by looking at their walls. The murals can be found all over the city, and there are some excellent tours that will give you the back stories, too. Valparaiso is famous for its street artists, so if you get the chance to go there be sure to look around!
- El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is Free. Always. Just like the Met, it’s donation only and AWESOME. (Oh, and also closed Mondays.) Spend a morning here and ask for a tour, check out the modern art section and the ever-changing exhibitions in the front hall. A very impressive collection that tells a lot of Chilean history and gives you insight into the social fabric of Santiago. When you’re finished you can walk right through El Parque Forestal and over to lunch at El Mercado Central (sure to be in your guide book).
- GAM – The museum & cultural center dedicated to the beloved Gabriela Mistral always has interesting and beautiful exhibits outside that are free and open to the public. Very socially conscious, very cool place to hang out for a day and practice Spanish! There is usually music and always street vendors who have cool antiques and would love to tell you all about Santiago’s charm. The building itself is a tribute to the iron & copper industry in Chile.
- Sopapillas & Completos… and for that matter, sopaipletos- Just try them all. You will understand. You never knew that mayonnaise was supposed to go on hot dogs, but it is. And it’s delicious.
- Concha y Toro– This popular vineyard is really an easy trek away from the city, and even the view from the subway-ride there is worth seeing! Pop up for an afternoon and enjoy a beautiful tour, a tasting, and take home some bottles that can only be found on-site. (This is a bargain, at only ~$15 USD.)
- Cerro Santa Lucia– This might not pop up on every Lonely Planet guide because it is overshadowed by the very popular Cerro San Cristobal (also cool, but costs money). Cerro Santa Lucia is a free way to see lots of city views and try some Chilean street-food favorites like mote con huesillo—a drink made with a peach!
- Maestra Vida– One of my favorite “underground” salsa clubs in the very popular Barrio Bella Vista. There’s almost always live music- which is spectacular- and the lighting and interior of the place feels like a speakeasy. Very romantic and fun! Highly recommended. Everyone will be eager to teach you how to dance, so don’t worry if it’s your first time.
City Spaekeasy Spanish Teacher Ashley
This article was written by City Speakeasy’s amazing teacher Ashley! Ashley had the pleasure of living in Chile for almost a year. While there, she learned Spanish, ate too many sopaipletos, and enjoyed the warmth and ingenuity of the Chilean friends and family she made. Now she teaches Spanish at City Speakeasy!