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Santiago is the capital of Chile and is armed with Chile’s largest international airport. For this reason, it is often the starting and finishing point for most people visiting Chile.
Many tourists have limited time in Santiago before heading off to their next destination or catching a flight – which is why an itinerary for spending one day in Santiago is so handy!
We know that for those heading down to Patagonia, a layover in Santiago is almost guaranteed. Or, if you are traveling around South America, usually a Chile holiday only allows for 2 or 3 nights in Santiago total.
So, for that reason, I’ve created this awesome 1-day itinerary in Santiago after spending time in the city to narrow down what you shouldn’t miss.
I’ve included the absolute highlights of Santiago in one fun-filled day. Here is how you should spend 24 hours in Santiago!
Enjoy the view at Cerro Cristobal
You’re going to start your day in Santiago by jumping in a taxi or uber from your hotel and heading to the base of Cerro Cristobal. Cerro Cristobal is a mountain right in the city of Santiago. It is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Santiago and for good reason – it’s amazing!
From the top of Cerro Cristóbal, you will have panoramic views of the city as well as the gorgeous mountains as the backdrop. There are tons of walking trails and viewpoints at the top to explore and even little shops and cafes!
My best advice? Get up early and head up Cerro Cristobal first thing in the morning on your one day in Santiago. This way, you’ll beat the crowds, and the heat (if it is summer), and can have your morning coffee with the absolute best views in the entire city!
You can actually hike to the top of Cerro Cristobal, but it is a steep hike and not something I recommend if you have only one day to spend in Santiago. Hiking will take up a lot of valuable time so instead, I recommend catching the funicular or cable car.
They both open at 10 am, so you should be at the bottom lined up to get your tickets at 10 am! You can find the location of the cableway and funicular here! It is best to get a taxi or Uber from your hotel to the base.
The Cableway (Gondola)
The cableway to the top of Cerro Cristobal is closed on Mondays. So, if your one day in Santiago happens to fall on a Monday, the funicular is your only option.
The cableway costs 2,700 CLP for an adult roundtrip (about $3.50 USD).
The Funicular (or Cable car)
The funicular is a large car that moves up the mountain on tracks. It is the most popular way to reach the top of San Cristobal.
The line for the funicular can be long, but it does move fast as the funicular seats many people at once.
A round trip for the funicular is 2,000 CLP (about $2.60 USD) on the weekends and 1,834 CPL ($2 USD) on weekdays.
Exploring the top of Cerro Cristobal
I would allow yourself about 30 minutes to an hour at the top of Cerro Cristobal. There are adventure parks, swimming pools, and tons of trails. I recommend just going for a wander and enjoying a view. And as I said before, find a nice café with a view and have your morning coffee!
Once you’ve had enough of Santiago’s most famous view, head back down to the base of San Cristóbal for your next adventure – the central market!
Tour option: If you don’t want to get yourself to Cerro Cristobal and around to all of the stops I mention, consider booking a full-day organized tour! This particular tour comes highly rated and includes a stop at almost all of the places I mention in this blog!
Related Read: If you’re wondering about hitchhiking in Chile you’re in for a treat… read the story of our first experience hitchhiking in Chile here.
Lunch at the Central Market
After you’ve finished at Cerro Cristobal, flag down a taxi or call an Uber and head over to the Central Market (or “Mercado Central” in Spanish.”) This should be a short 20-25 minute ride with a bit of usual traffic.
When you arrive at the market you’ll find tons of stalls to shop. Check out all the fruit and veggies offered, and maybe even buy something that you normally wouldn’t! There is so much to see in the market.
When you’re hungry, head upstairs in the market for lunch. You’ll find a ton of small local restaurants to choose from. Although they don’t look like anything fancy, they are local, cheap, and delicious! No inflated tourist prices here!
I recommend trying Chorrilana (french fries, steak, sausage, onion, and egg). This dish is HUGE and will easily fill two people. It is a Chilean favorite and although not the healthiest, trying one of their most popular dishes is an important way to experience Santiago!
Another popular dish in Chile is a Completo, which is a fully-loaded hot dog served with mayo, avocado, and tomatoes! It is more of an on-the-run type food, and personally not something I enjoy, but that’s not to say everyone won’t like it!
Spend a couple of hours at the market exploring and eating before heading off to the next part of your day – history and sightseeing!
Related Read: Is Patagonia a part of your Chile travel plans? Well it should be! Read about the best things to do in Patagonia here and it’ll be hard not to be conviced to plan your visit.
Free Santiago Highlights Tour
Next, on your jam-packed one day in Santiago, you’re going to exit the central market and walk 850 meters (2,789 feet) to the Museo National de Bellas Artes (the National Museum of Fine Arts.) You need to be here at 3 pm, which is when a daily free walking tour starts!
I have personally done this exact tour and loved it! They take you around to many of the historically significant (and beautiful) buildings in Santiago with explanations along the way. Expect to see the Plaza de Armas, La Moneda, the cultural center, and even a new trendy neighborhood!
The best part is that the tour is completely free. You just tip the guide at the end whatever you think is fair!
This free walking tour departs every day at 3 pm. I recommend signing up for it online in advance just to confirm your spot.
The tour will last for about 2.5 to 3 hours and finished in the hipster neighborhood of Lastarria. This is only just across the street from where you’ll finish your day here in Santiago.
Note: You can visit all of these places on your own, but you will definitely miss out on the history lesson and stories. I recommend taking at least one tour during your one day in Santiago just to be sure you can learn about what you’re seeing.
If a large group free walking tour doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can also book a paid private half-day city highlights tour. A tour like this is more personalized and you’ll cover more ground in a shorter amount of time!
Happy Hour and Dinner in Bella Vista
When you finish learning about the sights in Santiago, you’ll head across the street to the neighborhood of Bella Vista. This area is the trendy university suburb of Santiago and is home to plenty of cute bars and restaurants.
The street of Constitucion is lined with bars and restaurants with nice outdoor patios for people watching on the busy street. I recommend picking a place and enjoying a couple of happy hour drinks before having a big dinner.
If you’re up for it, you can party until late here. However, I have a feeling you will be tired after one very busy day exploring Santiago!
Related Read: Here are some important South America safety tips to be aware of that will apply to your trip to Chile.
Other Options for Spending 1 Day in Santiago
My above itinerary might not appeal to everyone, and that’s okay! There are a few other ways you can spend your one day in Santiago. Some other great alternatives include:
Day Trip to Valparaiso
If visiting Valparaiso isn’t already part of your Chile travel plans then you might consider taking a day trip from Santiago. On a full-day tour, you can explore Chile’s most colorful seaside city. The city center of Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the buildings are all painted colorfully and covered with street art.
If you have more time, I recommend spending a night or two in Valparaiso to really experience this vibrant touristic city. There are tons of things to do in Valparaiso to keep you busy. Be sure to check out our blog to find out where to stay in Valparaiso!
Full-day Winery and Vineyard Tours
Wine lovers know that Chile is famous for producing extraordinary wine. Well, around Santiago you can visit many different (famous) wineries and vineyards. Of course, if you’re going to be sampling all of the wine you’re going to need a designated driver.
So, a wine tour is the best way to get around for a full day of exploring Santiagoas countryside and sipping world-class vino. This one, in particular, explores the Casablanca region which is one of the best in the country. You’ll visit 3 boutique wineries with 14 samples involved. I’m feeling the buzz already!
Guided Tour of the City
If my above itinerary sounds a bit too complicated for you in terms of getting around from place to place, consider just booking an organized full-day tour instead!
This Santiago city highlights tour goes for a full 8 hours and includes a stop at pretty much all of the places I list above (with a couple of small differences.) For those who don’t want the hassle of planning their 1 day in Santiago, this is definitely the easiest and best option!
There is also a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus system in Santiago which is a great way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time! You can buy the bus pass online in advance!
For more detailed info, check out our blog about the best things to do in Santiago, Chile!
Related Read: If you visit this beautiful country you need to start planning your bucket list. You can read our Chile highlights blog for some inspiration!
Where to Stay in Santiago
There are plenty of amazing options for places to stay in Santiago, Chile. But, if you’ve only got 24 hours to spend in the city then a good location is the most important thing!
Here are my top 3 choices for places to stay in Santiago with central locations for exploring (one for every budget!)
Low Budget – Plaza de Armas Hostel
Central location doesn’t have to mean expensive. This hostel is located right at the plaza and even offers views of the plaza! There is a rooftop terrace and other communal areas for meeting other travelers. Dorm rooms are available as well as reasonably priced private rooms.
Medium Budget – Hotel Ismael
This hotel is trendy and modern while located right in the old city of Santiago. All rooms have air conditioning, a mini-refrigerator, a balcony, and comfortable beds. You’ll also find a swimming pool as well as a bar and restaurant on-site!
Luxury – Hotel Magnolia
This hotel is perfect for those who want a luxurious stay in Santiago. It is located in the trendy Lastarria district only blocks away from many attractions. They have a gorgeous rooftop pool as well as a bar and restaurant. This hotel is one of the most highly reviewed in all of Santiago!
You can browse, compare, and book all of the hotels in Santiago on our personal favorite hotel booking website, Booking.com!
Related Read: Find out where to stay in Buenos Aires that are safe and close to the best tourist attractions!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for much for reading our blog! I hope it has helped you plan your one day in Santiago, Chile!
Of course, if you’re traveling more in Chile be sure to check out our Chile blogs! Or, we also have tons of blogs about Patagonia as well as Argentina! Wherever you’re headed, happy travels! Some other blogs you might find helpful are: