Living in Santiago de Chile


We’ve been living in Santiago since January–about three months now. E. and I moved here without expectations even though plenty of people in Buenos Aires had grim warnings about the quality of life and quality of the air. Santiago is often called a small town compared to Buenos Aires, and I can see why. The city isn’t as sprawling. The surrounding Andes trap a lot of pollution. We wanted to make our own decision on the city. Because our lifestyle makes a move possible, we decided to aprovechar (take advantage of) the opportunity.

Cerro San Cristobal stands in the center of the city–it’s the large hill pictured at top. A zoo sits at the foot of the cerro and a park and swimming pool are located on the top. San Cristobal is a popular weekend destination for picnics or drinking mote con huesillo. Tourists and locals take a rail car up the side. Then they take a funicular or walk across the top. It is a surprisingly long distance.


It’s difficult to get a good view at the top of the cerros because of the clouds and smog. The best day to take photos is supposedly after a rain.


We live close to the Cerro Santa Lucia. It used to be a monastary and still retains the feeling of a sweet garden-like refuge. I walked up to the top on one of my first days here.


My general feeling on Santiago is that it is OK. It is not very cosmopolitan. Chilenos as a rule are reserved and hogareños (homebodies).  People are more guarded and less likely to invite a new person into their homes. They eat at home more than at restaurants. Twenty-somethings often live with their parents until marriage.

Even though the city isn’t as sprawling and busy, the traffic isn’t as insane as B.A. Cars generally brake for pedestrians. It’s possible to walk down the street without hearing the constant ring of taxi horns. The pace of life is more calm and understanding.

The food choices aren’t varied. Standard fare includes empanadas, humita (big corn tamales), completos (hot dogs with everything), and meat over french fries. Our choices are pretty limited, but I have found some vegetarian options including a mom-style food stand that sells decent soy meat empanadas made by Hare Krishnas. Avocados are cheap and easy to come by, so we have been making guacamole often. Freshly squeezed or mixed fruit drinks are common.

While Argentines boast their Malbec wine, the Chilean pride is called Carmenere. I find them very similar in taste, a slightly drier red but not as dry as Merlot.  It’s grape harvest season now, and we are buying the sweetest grapes and making our own juice.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of Santiago that I’ve never seen.

Photo Credit: Patrick_Coe



Filed under Chile, Santiago

13 responses to “Living in Santiago de Chile

  1. All pretty spot on observations. You did a great job of describing typical Santiago life…

    The picture from Cerro San Cristobal that’s on my blog was taken not after a raining day, but during a rainy day and it was by far the clearest I’d ever seen the sky so I’d definitely recommend going up when the weather is bad, if you get the chance!

    Kyle (JMCS, posting under my WordPress blog ID)

    Thanks for the tip, Kyle. Congratulations on completing the marathon!!! 🙂

  2. I hope you are adjusting well to your new home! It can be a tough change to move anywhere. I love your photos, the ones from the Cerro make my palms sweat! And I’m sure you’ll find some good veggie restaurants in Santiago if you dig around! Next time we’re there, we’ll make a plan to meet during our 8 hour layover!!

    Sure thing. We would like to meet you and G. Maybe share a glass of wine! 😉

  3. Hi there,

    Glad to hear things are good. Two notes. There is a great Hare Krishna restaurant in downtown Stgo. All I can remember is that it is a couple blocks north of the Alameda, and like three blocks from the Panamericana.

    Also, I would argue that the Chilean pride for wine is Cabernet Sauvignon…they didnt even know that there Merlot was a blend of Carmenere and Merlot until vintners did a chemical test a couple years back. Carmenere is the pride of the marketers of Chilean wine to the outside world. Maybe the pride of chilean wine drinkers is poured out of the garrafa, and could be rivaled by a very special cepa, the Cartonet!

    Thanks for dropping by, Tomas. Do you recommend any wine labels in particular?

  4. The place looks gorgeous to me (but of course I’ve hardly been anywhere!). Your photos seem to capture the sense of calm you describe. How great that you can just pick up and move when the fancy strikes!

  5. nice work. tania and i were engaged in santiago back in 2002 – beautiful place where the pedestrians actually have the right of way…astounding!

    yes, i was born and raised in fairfax, graduated from chantilly hs, and lived three blocks from gmu for a little bit. small world!

    so, are you moving to a new place soon? or are you in santiago for now?

  6. David

    I spent a couple of months in Chile and western Argentina recently and deeply appreciated the family life. Families would even vacation together, but there wasn’t the acrimony and whining that I’m used to seeing (and experiencing). There was much more genuine respect and acceptance of each other, which really appealed to me.

    That’s true. In Argentina, Sundays are considered family days. Usually it appears to be an enjoyable time rather than an obligation.

  7. Beautiful photos! Bless the Krishnas, seriously. And making grape juice with the fresh grapes sounds pretty cool, too.

    Sounds like avery different experience, but that can be refreshing, too.

    It’s funny you say that because a Hare Krishna actually blessed me for buying a loaf of wheat bread. It was a nice feeling!

  8. I hope you get a chance to spend sometime out of Santiago. The people are more friendly and the air is cleaner.

    We are trying to get out more. We went hiking on Easter with a friend, and I was able to get out of the town. It was quiet because of the holiday. Did you spend any time in Valpo or Viña?

  9. Great that you are experiencing life through your own lens, it’s the only way! Good for you. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Still Life Year in Review – 2009 « Still Life in Southeast Asia

  11. Mark Brophy

    The best reason to live in Santiago is that Chile is a growing country that is becoming richer, while in contrast, Argentina is a decaying country that was once very rich, but is now about as wealthy as Chile. In a few years, Chile will pass Argentina and become the richest country in Latin America. I wrote more about why you should move to Santiago on my blog:

  12. Oh, it is very nice place. Thank for your share!

  13. Anj

    You did very well in describing Santiago, Chile. You gave me the idea of places, sceneries and the food Chile can offer to a new comer. That is so awesome! I will be there soon . This will be my first time to experience being half of the globe far away from my home country (Philippines) and what you have written added up on my excitement. Appreciated much.

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