Barrio Santiago Centro is the historical part of the city and is full of tourist attractions, including Cerro Santa Lucia, National Library, Plaza de la ConstituciÃ³n, La Moneda, Plaza de Armas, Museo Precolombino, Palacio de la Real Audiencia, Catedral Metropolitana and Museo HistÃ³rico Nacional. The area is easy to navigate and itâ€™s possible to explore it in one day. Tourists are well catered to, and itâ€™s easy to find hotels and restaurants. Foodies will love the Mercado Central (fish market) and La Vega (fruit and vegetable market).
If you have a bit more time to spend in the city center, youâ€™ll notice that despite the historical buildings and impressive plazas, this is the home of the working class. You can find some department stores and thereâ€™s Mall de Centro on Puente 689, but with numerous discount stores and market stalls, Santiago Centro is more of a bargain huntersâ€™ shopping paradise than Rodeo Drive.
Adventurous explorers might be tempted to try a coffee in one of the infamous CafÃ©s con piernas (coffee shops with waitresses in miniskirts). Some are touristy and fairly wholesome, something like Hooterâ€™s. Others, identifiable only by their blackened windows and low thumping music, are little more than strip clubs that serve coffee.
Santiago Centro is a good base if you want to make a whistle-stop tour of the city. However, it can be a bit scary after dark and tourists should be careful with their belongings. If you plan to stay in Santiago for a few days, itâ€™s probably better to stay in Bella Vista or Providencia where the nightlife is better.