After my winterly crossing of the Andes, I spent nearly two weeks in and around Santiago de Chile to explore Chile’s capital and the historic port city of Valparaíso.

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Santiago is not only the capital but also the economic centre of Chile as well as one of the largest cities in the Americas. About 40% of the Chileans (about seven million people) call it their home.

With its museums, theaters, restaurants, bars, and cultural programs, it is the political and cultural centre of the country.

Due to its proximity to both mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it is possible to ski and later chill on the beach, all in the same day. The Andes can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains, however, contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the city. It is a great place for strolling around and exploring the neighborhoods, which all have unique characteristics and vibes. The following pictures will give you an overview.

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The city has a downtown core of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, e.g. the Palacio de Tribunales de Justicia.
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Walking around Plaza de Armas: Straight ahead the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Museo Histórico Nacional on the right.
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If you want to try fresh seafood, the Mercado Central is the place to go.
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Gleaming piles of fresh fish and crustaceans which can also be directly eaten in various restaurants inside Mercado Central.
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View from Cerro Santa Lucía, a nice little hill 69 m above the city.
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At the foot of Cerro Santa Lucía.
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Fuente de Neptuno at Cerro Santa Lucía.
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In downtown you can find several spots to watch people play chess.
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An interesting exhibition of Andy Warhol’s works was happening at the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda.
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A selection of Andy Warhol’s iconic art pieces.
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A monument honoring Salvador Allende, the first socialist president in Latin America. He was overthrown during the 1973 military coup, before the military junta of Augusto Pinochet dissolved the congress, suspended the constitution, and began terrorising the country until 1990.
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Londres 38, a building that served as a torture center during Pinochet’s rule and that now acts as a memorial center / museum.
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One of my favourite activities in the city: Hiking up to Cerro San Cristóbal and enjoying the views.
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The modern business district of Las Condes.
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While walking around Las Condes I bumped into this: The 15th German Fire Brigade of Santiago. I was aware that there had been quite a bit of German immigration into Chile during the 19th and 20th century, but I also learned that the first voluntary firefighting regiments in Chile were founded by German-Chileans in the mid 1900s.
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And clearly, this brigade boasts state-of-the-art fire engines including German labels: An interesting tradition.
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Beautiful view of the CBD and the snow-capped Andes during a hike on Cerro San Cristóbal. The iconic Gran Torre de Santiago (300 m) is currently the tallest skyscraper in Latin America.
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On Cerro San Cristóbal, I saw many super well-signed mountain biking trails. I can imagine the fun people have when they can easily do a few rides right after work.
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CHPE Libre is a Pisco bar in Santiago and labels itself the “Independent Republic of Pisco“. While there are still numerous arguments about who (Chile or Peru) produces the better one of this grape brandy and who actually invented the famous Pisco Sour, CHPE Libre offers a huge variety of both Peruvian and Chilean Piscos to unite the people.
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CHPE Libre explains various Pisco types in detail and underlines what makes each one unique rather than claiming Chilean Pisco is better than Peruvian. I tried a couple of Pisco Cocktails in Lima as well as in Santiago. All had amazing tastes.
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Just 95 km from downtown Santiago at 2,600 m elevation, there is quite a picturesque reservoir (Embalse El Yeso) which is worth a day trip.

 

A highly recommended excursion from Santiago is a bus trip to Valparaíso. Located about 120 km northwest of Santiago, it is one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports.

Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans through the Straits of Magellan.

During its heyday, Valparaíso emerged as an attractive destination for European immigrants, when the city was also called “Little San Francisco” or “The Jewel of the Pacific”. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, however, caused a significant reduction in nautical traffic and gave Valparaíso’s port-based economy a serious blow. In recent years, the city has staged a recovery due to growing agricultural exports.

Besides that, artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have settled in the city’s historic hillside districts, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, are contributing immensely to the city’s revival. Today, the city’s labyrinth of cobbled alleys, colorful buildings, and some of Latin America’s best street art make up a paradise for taking (Instagram worthy) photographs (see below).

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View of the port facilities from one of the hill streets.
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Plaza de la Victoria in Valparaíso
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Similar to Mexico skulls and skeletons are a popular subject for Chilean artists.
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“Beer as cold as your ex-girlfriend’s heart”.
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This highly-detailed painting camouflages the door perfectly.
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Without making it look vandalised, the wall paintings blend in with this restored house so well.
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The vibes of Valparaíso are relaxed. Even the dogs take it very easy.
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Indeed an alternative world heritage.
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Many buildings seemed abandoned, except when laundry was hanging out for drying.
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Art and political messages often come along. In this case, there’s a movement which wants to get rid of AFP (Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones), a profit-making company that manages the pension fund in Chile. “No+AFP” = “No más AFP” = “No More AFP”
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Exploring the streets and corners of Valparaíso takes hours. Luckily, there are many inviting cafes around.
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This dog followed me for quite a while. He is also in one of the previous pics.
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And another one.
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View of the busier streets of Valparaíso.
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It’s always fun to see VW Kombis as they are called in Latin America.
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The “fine-tuned” window.
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Couldn’t come up with any interpretation for this one.

 

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Less than 10 km up the coast, clean and orderly Viña del Mar is a sharp contrast to the charming jumble of neighboring Valparaíso. Manicured boulevards lined with palm trees, a sprawling public beach and beautiful expansive parks have made “Viña” a popular weekend and summer destination for well-off Santiaguinos.