Where To Stay In Santiago, Chile: Centro, Providencia, Or Las Condes

Neptune's Terrace Fountain, Santa Lucia Hill, Centro, SantiagoPin
Neptune’s Terrace Fountain, Santa Lucia Hill, Centro

Santiago is one of South America’s largest and most dynamic cities. Not only is it home to 40% of Chile’s population, but it’s also a cosmopolitan epicenter, welcoming travelers and expats from around the world. Deciding where to stay in Santiago can therefore be a challenge—with so many neighborhoods to choose from and a huge variety of accommodation options, how do you know which is best?

Should you check into a hotel downtown in Santiago Centro, live it up at a luxurious Las Condes resort, or rent an Airbnb in Providencia? Which to choose will depend on your budget, travel style, and preferences, but to help you decide, let’s compare these three popular Santiago neighborhoods and see what each has to offer.

Sightseeing and Culture

From historical landmarks to iconic viewpoints, there’s plenty to see and do in Santiago. But which neighborhood is best placed for sightseeing in the city?

Centro

Staying in Santiago’s Centro district means the city’s sights will be right on your doorstep. The Plaza de Armas is the buzzing epicenter from where it’s a short walk to historical landmarks such as the La Moneda Presidential Palace and the Cathedral of Santiago. Head to the National Historical Museum and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights to learn more about Chilean history, watch an opera at the Municipal Theater, then climb Santa Lucia Hill (Cerro Santa Lucia) for a view over downtown.

Just north of Santa Lucia Hill, you’ll find the bohemian barrios of Bellas Artes and Lastarria, where you can stroll the cobblestone lanes and visit the Fine Arts Museum (Palacio de Bellas Artes).

Costanera Skyscraper, Providencia, SantiagoPin
Costanera Skyscraper, Providencia

Providencia

Providencia’s claim to fame is its striking architecture, which flanks the grand boulevard of Avenida Providencia. Explore Barrio Italia, where the colorful shopfronts and tree-lined lanes have a whole different vibe, then visit La Chascona, the one-time home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

The district is also home to two of Santiago’s headline acts. Ride the funicular up to the hilltop of Cerro San Cristobal, crowned with a 72-foot statue of the Virgin Mary, then compare the views with those from the Sky Costanera Observatory, Santiago’s highest building.

Las Condes

This well-heeled neighborhood caters more to its affluent residents and thriving expat community than the tourist crowd. As such, there’s little in the way of sights in Las Condes, but you can still marvel at the soaring glass-fronted skyscrapers of the financial district, nicknamed ‘Sanhattan’ after New York’s Manhattan.

Of course, having fewer tourist attractions has its plus side—you won’t have to battle with the crowds when exploring the district.

The Winner: Centro

Bars and Nightlife

Santiago’s hard-partying reputation is well-deserved, and this city can keep the carrete (party) going well into the early hours. So, where is the best place to drink and dance in Santiago?

Centro

Downtown Santiago is better known for its monuments and museums than its nightlife, although you’ll still find plenty of spots to drink or dine after sundown. However, many nightlife hubs are within walking distance of the Centro hotels, so this is still a good choice for those looking to party.

Barrio Lastarria is packed with cool cafés, where you can sip a beer on the terrace while soaking up the atmosphere. West of the Plaza de Armas, Barrio Brasil is home to some of the city’s hippest bars, where you can listen to live music or watch street performers around Plaza Brasil.

Patio Bellavista, Providencia, SantiagoPin
Patio Bellavista, Providencia

Providencia

If you like to party, Providencia is the neighborhood to visit, and Barrio Bellavista is the reigning star of Santiago’s nightlife scene. Santiaguinos congregate at the many beer bars along Pío Nino, while cocktail bars line the streets of Antonia López de Bello and Mallinkrodt. Nearby, Bombero Núñez has the city’s best LGBT bars and clubs.

For a more laid-back night out, many of the bars and cafés in Barrio Italia stay open late, too. This district is a little pricier, but you’ll find bar menus filled with creative cocktails, craft beers, and Chilean wines.

Las Condes

The nightlife in Las Condes has a different vibe from the rest of Santiago. You won’t find the streets bustling with hipster bars or nightclubs blasting music into the early hours. There are, however, chic cocktail bars and wine bars to be found around the financial district, as well as Flannery’s Irish Geo Pub, a popular haunt for expats. Some of the best bars are located in Las Condes’ top hotels, so it’s a good idea to choose accommodation with the nightlife in mind.

The Winner: Providencia

Restaurants

Whether you’re working your way through our list of must-try Chile foods or want to sample Santiago’s foodie scene, each neighborhood has something to tempt your tastebuds.

Mercado Central, Centro, SantiagoPin
Mercado Central, Centro

Centro

Centro is king when it comes to street food and cheap eats. Street food stalls are easy to find around Plaza de Armas and the surrounding streets, where you can pick up hot empanadas or order a refreshing mote con huesillo (a sweet peach drink made with fresh wheat) in the summer months. Duck into one of the simple cafés to try a completo (Chile’s version of the hot dog) or head to Barrio Lastarria, where you’ll find cafés and restaurants serving everything from sushi to gelato.

Another must-visit in Centro is the Mercado Central (Central Market), famous for its fish and seafood. This is the spot to pick up fresh produce or picnic supplies, and it’s busiest at lunchtime, when locals flock to the food court. Order a classic caldillo de congrio (fish stew) or sample some Chilean ceviche.

Providencia

Variety is the name of the game in Providencia. Whether tucking into traditional Chilean cuisine at a cozy local eatery, tasting innovative fusion cuisine at a high-end restaurant, or picking up some street food along Pío Nono, Barrio Bellavista has something to suit all tastes and budgets, and there are new spots popping up all the time.

Over in Barrio Italia, you’ll find intimate restaurants with an international flavor, whether that be Italian, Mexican, or Vietnamese. Head here for a leisurely brunch or afternoon once (Chile’s ‘tea time’).

Malbec Room, La Cabrera Restaurant, Las Condes, SantiagoPin
Malbec Room, La Cabrera Restaurant, Las Condes (Photo Credit: the restaurant’s website)

Las Condes

If fine dining is your style, look no further than Las Condes. This is where you’ll find gourmet cuisine from famous Chilean chefs like Matias Palomo (Sukalde) and Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó), and some of Santiago’s most lavish (and expensive) restaurants. Book a table at a rooftop restaurant in Vitacura or try one of the growing number of vegan or vegetarian restaurants.

For something more familiar, Las Condes’ shopping malls and high streets are where you’ll find American chain restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks.

The Winner: Providencia

Shopping

Whether you want to max out your credit card at a shopping mall or pick up some unique souvenirs, Santiago is a great place to shop. Here’s what each neighborhood has for shoppers.

Centro

Shopping in downtown Santiago can feel touristy, but it’s easy to get away from the souvenir stands if you know where to look. Bellas Artes and Lastarria are crammed with small shops, where you can buy everything from clothes to antiques. Or, head to the Feria Artesanal Santa Lucia, a small artisan market where you’ll find traditional handicrafts and souvenirs—this is a good place to pick up quality alpaca wool clothing.

Providencia

Chile’s largest shopping mall, the Costanera Center, is located in Providencia, where you’ll find dozens of local and international shops, along with a food court, cinema, and supermarket. For a more local shopping experience, browse the art galleries and independent boutiques of Barrio Bellavista, or browse the weekend handicrafts market along Pio Nono. More boutiques and artisan shops can be found in Barrio Italia.

Parque Arauco, Las Condes, SantiagoPin
Parque Arauco, Las Condes (Photo Credit: the Mall’s Facebook page)

Las Condes

Las Condes is a paradise for shoppers. Designer stores and high-street favorites line the shopping boulevards of Alonso de Córdova and Nueva Costanera, and there are several shopping malls to choose from, including Parque Arauco, Mall Sport, and Mall Alto.

It’s not all high-end shopping, though. Another must for visitors is the Los Dominicos Handicraft Village, where you can peek into artisan workshops and purchase quality handicrafts. Look out for hand-woven textiles, ceramics, and jewelry made with the Andean gemstone lapis lazuli.

The Winner: Las Condes

Parks and Recreation

The vineyards of the Maipo Valley and the rugged peaks of the Andes are both within day-trip distance of Santiago, but there are also a surprising number of green spaces in the city. Which neighborhood has the best parks and outdoor recreation areas?

Centro

Downtown Santiago is the busiest and most urbanized area of the city, and there’s a distinct lack of greenery in this part of town. The short hike up Cerro Santa Lucia will get your heart rate up (rewarded by the magnificent views from the top), while the Parque Forestal provides shady spots for a picnic.

Providencia

While most visitors opt to take the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, active types can hike to the summit (about a one-hour walk), or if you feel like less of a challenge, ride the cable car up and hike back down (about a 30-minute walk). At the top, you’ll also find Santiago’s National Zoo and a Japanese garden—pack a picnic to enjoy as you gaze out over the city skyline. From there, a number of walking trails lead the way through the gigantic Parque Metropolitano (the largest in Santiago).

Also in Providencia is the Parque Bicentenario, which features open-air art installations by Chilean artists along the banks of the Mapocho River and stretches north into Las Condes. Another option is Parque Bustamante, which has several cafés and a skate park.

La Busqueda Sculpture, Parque Bicentenario, Providencia, SantiagoPin
La Busqueda Sculpture, Parque Bicentenario, Providencia

Las Condes

Leafy parks, golf courses, and country clubs can be found around Las Condes. Head to Parque Bicentenario to stroll along the Mapocho River and spot flamingos around the North Lake. Closeby, Parque Araucano has a rose garden, children’s playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, and a skate park.

Las Condes is also the gateway to the Andes, where summer travelers can hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride, and winter visitors can hit the ski slopes. The ski resorts of Valle Nevado, El Colorado, and La Parva are all less than a 90-minute drive from Las Condes.

The Winner: Las Condes

Accommodation options and budget

Santiago is a huge city, and thanks to its excellent public transport system, it’s easy to explore no matter which neighborhood you choose. If you haven’t already made up your mind by now, the deciding factor will probably be your budget and accommodation preferences. Let’s look at what each area offers.

Centro

Accommodation in Santiago Centro is often cheaper than in Providencia and Las Condes, and there’s a wide variety. Mid-range hotels and guesthouses are plentiful, but you’ll also find backpacker hostels and a few more upmarket options, all within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas. Head to Bella Artes for the cheapest spots or neighboring Lastarria for something more stylish.

Providencia

Backpacker hostels are clustered around Bellavista and Barrio Italia, but you’ll equally find hip boutique hotels and cozy guesthouses. Accommodation in the rest of Providencia can be quite pricey, but the abundance of vacation rentals and Airbnbs make it a popular destination for families and groups.

W Santiago, Exterior ViewPin
W Santiago

Las Condes

Travelers with a taste for luxury should head to Las Condes. This is where you’ll find five-star hotels, glamourous spa resorts, and international hotels such as the Hilton, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and W Hotel. Apart-hotels and short-term rentals are also possible for longer stays, but they all come with a hefty price tag. If you’re on a tight budget, staying in Las Condes probably isn’t for you!

The Winner: Centro/Providencia

Places Mentioned

Sightseeing and Culture

Centro
La Moneda Presidential Palace
Morandé et Moneda
Centro

Cathedral of Santiago
Plaza de Armas
Centro

National Historical Museum
Plaza de Armas 951
Centro

Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Matucana 501

Municipal Theater
Agustinas 794

Santa Lucia Hill (Cerro Santa Lucia)
Avenida O’Higgins/Santa Lucía, or Santa Lucía/Subercaseaux
Bellas Artes

Fine Arts Museum
José Miguel de la Barra 650
Barrio Bellas Artes

Providencia
La Chascona
Fernando Márquez de La Plata 0192
Barrio Bellavista

Cerro San Cristobal
Pio Nono 450

Sky Costanera Observatory
Av Andrés Bello 2425,
Providencia

Bars and Nightlife

Las Condes
Flannery’s Irish Geo Pub
Encomenderos 179, Las Condes

Restaurants

Centro
Mercado Central
21 de Mayo/San Pablo
Centro

Las Condes
Sukalde
Nueva Costanera 3451
Vitacura

Boragó
Av San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer 5970
Vitacura

Shopping

Centro
Feria Artesanal Santa Lucia
Avenida Liber Bernardo O’higgins/Carmen

Providencia
Center
Av Andrés Bello 2425,
Providencia

Las Condes
Parque Arauco
Av Presidente Kennedy 5413
Las Condes

Mall Sport
Av. las Condes 13451

Mall Alto
Av. Pdte. Kennedy Lateral 9001

Los Dominicos Handicraft Village
Av. Apoquindo 9085

Parks and Recreation

Centro
Parque Forestal
Belles Artes

Providencia
Parque Metropolitano
Pio Nono 450

Sculpture Park
Av. Sta. María 2205, Providencia

Parque Bustamante
Providencia

Los Condes
Parque Bicentenario
Bicentenario 3236
Vitacura

Parque Araucano
Av. Pdte. Riesco 5877

Accommodation and budget

Las Condes
Hilton
Av Vitacura 2727

Marriott
Av Presidente Kennedy 5741

Ritz Carlton
El Alcalde 15

W Hotel
Isidora Goyenechea 3000

Recommended Tours

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