Non Touristy Things to Do in Santiago: San Diego Neighborhood

When I returned to Santiago, my hometown, after spending time abroad, I faced the challenge of finding a permanent place to live. Securing a rental in Chile can be quite a bureaucratic process, even for Chilean citizens like myself.

I had to rely on the help of a friend’s friend who had an available apartment just two blocks away from the San Diego neighborhood. It was a part of the city I had never paid much attention to before, but from my balcony, I started to notice its unique charm.

San Diego: A Glimpse into Santiago’s History

San Diego is one of Santiago’s oldest neighborhoods, situated south of Alameda Avenue, along San Diego Street and its surrounding areas. While it may not be a typical tourist hotspot, it offers a glimpse into the real Santiago. So, if you’ve already explored the popular tourist attractions, take a detour and discover what San Diego has to offer.

Literary Treasures and More

Starting from the north, you’ll encounter a series of used bookstores, where the enticing aroma of old books fills the air. These stores stock everything from vintage magazines to the latest bestsellers, available in both English and Spanish. Venture into the shopping arcades, and you may stumble upon literary treasures tucked away in stores run by passionate book collectors.

Two Wheels for Santiago’s Streets

As you continue down San Diego Street, you’ll come across numerous shops specializing in bicycles, spare parts, and helmets. If you’ve fallen in love with Chile and plan to stay a while, this is the place to find your perfect “traveling companion.” Prices here are often more budget-friendly than in other parts of the city, and some shops still craft custom bicycles.

The Pulse of Santiago’s Music Scene

San Diego also boasts two iconic concert venues, the Caupolicán Theater and Cariola Theater.

While they may have been overlooked for years, they have experienced a resurgence thanks to alternative bands. These theaters are particularly popular among K-pop and heavy metal enthusiasts.

Occasionally, even renowned bands like Faith No More grace their stages, so check out upcoming events for a memorable night out.

A Taste of Chilean Tradition

When it’s time for lunch, make sure to visit one of the city center’s most traditional restaurants, Las Tejas. This large space is known as “The Palace of the Terremoto” and offers a unique Chilean drink: the terremoto, a sweet and potent concoction made from pipeño wine, pineapple sorbet, grenadine, and a dash of bitter liquor.

If you haven’t tried this typical Chilean beverage yet, Las Tejas is the place to do it. The restaurant also serves classic Chilean dishes like beans and spaghetti, cazuela, and arrollado.

It may not be fancy, but you’ll enjoy an authentic Chilean experience. Friday and Saturday nights often feature live music and vibrant parties that start from scratch.

Of course, if you’re ever visiting Santiago and want to enjoy the city luggage-free, you can always leave your belongings to one of our trusted local Stashpoints!

Architectural Beauty and Kitschy Fun

If the terremoto leaves you feeling uneasy, you can find solace and beauty in one of the city’s most exquisite churches, Los Sacramentinos Church, located at the intersection of Santa Isabel and Arturo Prat streets. This architectural gem, inspired by Paris’s Sacré-Cœur, was inaugurated in 1919 after nearly a decade of construction.

In addition to its stunning design, the church faces a square that provides an unobstructed view for beautiful photos. Although not always open, it occasionally hosts free classical music concerts in the early part of the year, thanks to its exceptional acoustics.

Right behind Los Sacramentinos, you’ll discover Juegos Diana, a kitschy city icon. This “amusement park” combines classic arcade video games with dance machines, a carousel, and even a small wheel of fortune that offers a unique perspective of the neighborhood from above. Anyone born in Santiago in the 80s likely has a colorful photo from this place.

Even if you’re not interested in playing games, the entrance is free, so take a stroll and relish the journey back in time.

Culture, Entertainment, and Hipster Vibes

A few years ago, Espacio Diana emerged next to Juegos Diana. This cultural center offers dance lessons, including the national dance, cueca, and hosts fantastic plays.

Right next door, you’ll find La Diana, a super-hipster restaurant that, while slightly pricier than the rest of the neighborhood, features the playful decor of Juegos Diana. It’s an ideal spot for a mid-afternoon cocktail or dinner.

Nature’s Retreat in the Heart of the City

If you ever feel overwhelmed by the bustling crowd, a peaceful escape awaits you at Parque Almagro, a green oasis that stretches between Cousiño Palace on San Ignacio Street and San Diego Street.

During the day, you’ll encounter families and people working out, but it’s best to avoid visiting after sunset, as it can get a bit risky.

Bonus: Farmers’ Market Delights

And here’s a personal bonus for you: if you enjoy exploring farmers’ markets, head to Coquimbo Street on Wednesdays or Saturdays, between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., starting from San Diego Street. There, you’ll find an array of vendors selling fresh vegetables and fruits. You can even grab a bite to eat at the impromptu street restaurants.

San Diego neighborhood has all of this to offer, making it an excellent choice for those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture and avoid the typical tourist traps. While you’re in the area, consider leaving your bags with one of Airkeep’s trusted keepers—perhaps even me!

Enjoy your adventure in this hidden gem of Santiago.