I've been working on this post for a while, because it was very apparent to me when I first came to Chile that santiaguinos don't realize how great their city is. If you ask a Chilean what they think about Santiago, more than likely they'll mention how awful the pollution and transantiago are. I'll admit that I often miss clean air, but transantiago isn't so bad. Sure, the micros can be really confusing and little worn down, but coming as someone who grew up in the middle of Nowhere, Arizona, I think we're lucky to have such an easily accessible, affordable, and consistent form of transportation! Those of us living in a good part of the US know how difficult life is without a car. Thinking back to high school, I never would have made my band rehearsals, dance classes, or any activities outside of school without a car. Here, I can reach all parts of the city by bus or metro! I can even catch a bus to the airport or next city over.
Younger Chileans seem surprised when I say that there is so much to do here! Obviously traveling outside of the city is fun (just two weeks ago I spent a day at the beach with my host family), but there’s a lot to do within Santiago as well. There are fairs on the weekends. Some are occasional but others are weekly or even daily. Last weekend I went to Lollapalooza where I saw many great artists. Music from the US is popular here too! As is lots of other music from around the world. Bars and clubs are busy pretty much all days of the week -at least one trip to Bella Vista is a must. There are various museums. Theaters hold plays, music performances, and dance recitals. Live music can be found everywhere: the metro, in restaurants, at fairs, in plazas, or wherever else musicians can occupy space.
You don't have to leave the city to get in your day hike either -just climb Cerro San Cristobal. If you're really looking for a challenge, it's a rite of passage to run or bike it. Best of all, the view from the top is all the reward/motivation you need. I love seeing the number of people that will take advantage of a day of good weather here. Parque Bicentenario, Museo Parque de las Esculturas, and Parque O’higgins are some of the beautiful parks people visit on sunny days. In addition to the public parks, Santiago has an amusement park called Fantasilandia and a national zoo. I’ve also found free yoga and zumba classes in nearby parks and plazas. Chileans, it seems to me, love to get outside. I’ve seen groups of teens squeeze into the little patch of grass between the street and sidewalk just to soak in some sunlight.
I should also note that santiaguinos are much better at celebrations than we are in the US. Where we have Independence Day, Chileans have Independence Week. When asking what you're doing for el dieciocho (sept. 18), it's implied that you’ll tell your plans for the week. Although many people do travel during this time, there's plenty going on in the city: fondas, asados, carretes, and fiestas. Like any well populated city, there is all sorts of shopping. You can find local artisan crafts, high-end brands, and everything in between. Big spenders can visit the various malls that sell all the well-known brands while those trying to get the most for their buck can make their way to second hand stores. I personally like shopping at the fairs on the weekends. Even if I don't buy anything, I enjoy the walk. There’s plenty of shopping to be done on the street too! Forgot your umbrella? No worries! I guarantee someone will be at your metro stop with a handful of umbrellas ready to save you. None of these exciting enough for you? There's almost always a protest of some sort. I encourage you to watch one pass by. At the very least they're interesting. I recently walked by countless motorcyclists protesting a new restriction. Escorted by the police, I was amazed to see the number of participants.
There's also no doubt that the average santiaguino is very kind. I read in Isabel Allende's book Mi pais inventado that Santiago is big city with the heart of a small town. I think this is very true. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't watch your purse on the metro or its okay to leave your wallet in your back pocket when walking down the street. Santiago has some of the best pickpockets in the world. However, I've never come across anyone in this city who wasn't happy to give me directions, nor have I ever come across an impatient salesperson. With the exception of running to work (which often involves squeezing onto the metro), people don't tend to rush here.
Of course, these are only a few of the things that Santiago has to offer. The best part about this city is that there is always something new to discover. From the top of the Gran Torre Santiago, South America’s tallest building, I saw for the first time just how big this city is. I couldn’t make out where the city ends! There is still much more to discover and appreciate.
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<p>I study Physics and Spanish at the University of the Pacific. When not studying, all I want to do is dance or get outdoors. I've moved to Santiago to get the best of everything: city, mountains, beach, desert, and more!</p>