Fresh out of Santiago's International Airport, excited to practise our Spanish which we'd spent months perfecting, only to encounter…Chilean Spanish…
As our sweet smiley taxi pickup driver tried to welcome us in Spanish we both looked at each other wondering if we'd arrived at the right place…What was this strange language?!
Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit, but Chilean Spanish is the hardest Spanish dialect to pick up. Even native Spanish speakers have trouble understanding Chileans. For example, they cut off the end of every other word, connect words together so you don't know when one word starts/finishes, and they speak at such a rapid pace… Then there are the Chilean slang words thrown in to confuse you even more, especially “weón” – randomly placed in every other sentence! It's actually quite a beautiful sing-songy dialect to listen to.
Santiago is certainly the perfect base to get your head around this quirky dialect. The gay scene here is massive, particularly in the Bellavista neighbourhood – probably the largest in all of South America outside of Sao Paolo. The city is also home to an exciting wine culture with world-class wineries to visit, lots of impressive city street art to awe at, tons of outdoor adventures like paragliding to try out, and natural hot springs to relax in – remember the city has the Andes mountains right on its doorstep.
And then there are the boys! Smokin' Hot gorgeous Latino looking Chilean studs everywhere you look…
Trust us when we say you WILL have a fantastic time in Santiago!
And we've got you covered right here with our detailed gay guide to Chile's capital city. We've put together all our practical tips from our firsthand experience travelling in Santiago as a gay couple, including the latest info on the best gay hotels, bars, clubs, parties and events, which we always keep updated thanks to the help of our local gay friends in Santiago.
Discover the gay nightlife of Santiago
The gay scene of Santiago is huge and quite overwhelming – so many options to choose from! It certainly was for us when we first arrived so we booked ourselves onto a gay nightlife tour of Santiago with a (very handsome!) gay local called Edu. We loved it and highly recommend it to LGBTQ travellers, if anything, as a fantastic way to quickly make lots of new friends!
Is Santiago safe for gay travellers?
Absolutely – the capital of Chile is super gay!
There are very few places in the world that rival just how diverse the gay scene of Santiago is, with so many bars, clubs and parties happening almost every day. We felt extremely safe here as a gay couple and often saw other LGBTQ couples walking the streets of Bellavista holding hands.
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At first, we weren't that surprised at this given that Chile is one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. But, very strangely, when it comes to LGBTQ rights in Chile, the country is on the conservative side despite being an economic powerhouse. For example, whilst Chile has introduced an array of anti-discrimination laws, allows LGBT persons to openly serve in the Chilean army AND to donate bl00d with no deferral period (very rare for a developed nation to allow this!) it still hasn't legalised gay marriage or adoption like its more liberal neighbours have done (Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Brazil).
We're not saying it's unsafe for LGBTQ travellers in Chile. Far from it! We just expected Chile to be leading the way with LGBTQ rights in South America given how prosperous and advanced it is. For us, Chile felt like the Switzerland of South America – ie super-advanced yet quite conservative.
Finally, and as we advise for any country you visit: if you're heading to more rural areas of Chile, we advise caution with PDA as pockets of homophobia do still exist in some of the small towns/villages. For more, we advise reading our interview with Ivan from Santiago about what gay life is like in Chile from a local's perspective.
Get your personalised gay friendly itinerary to Chile
Our friends Ivan and Freddie are local gay guys living and working in Santiago. They are passionate about their country as well as the gay scene. They set up a gay tour company called Pride Tours Chile, specialising in planning holidays for LGBTQ travellers around the country. They can take care of everything, whether you want to visit the best wineries, go stargazing in the Atacama Desert, trek in Torres del Paine, awe at the street art of Valparaiso or just bar hop around the gay bars of Santiago.
We've teamed up with Pride Tours Chile to offer our readers an exclusive 5% discount off the total cost of any trip you book with them. We tried them and had a fantastic time. We absolutely adore what they do and HIGHLY recommend them to all gay travellers to Chile!
Santiago gay area
Bellavista is the main gay area of Santiago, where the majority of the city's gay bars, clubs and hotels can be found. Bellavista is located just northeast of the main Plaza de Armas between the Mapocho River and San Cristóbal Hill. The closest metro is Baquedano. Bombero Nuñez is the main gay street of the Bellavista neighbourhood, which we always use as the reference point – our own little Pink Epicentre!
Bellavista is also Santiago's Bohemian neighbourhood, full of some really impressive street art, hip restaurants and art galleries. Formerly the city's ‘red-light district' area, Bellavista quickly transformed into the hip neighbourhood that historically attracted intellectuals and artists including the most famous of all, Nobel Peace Prize-winning poet/politician legend – Pablo Neruda. His house in Bellavista, La Chascona, is now a popular museum you can visit.
Quite simply, this is where we recommend you base yourself in Santiago. It's by far our favourite part of the city – buzzing, charming and full of character!
Landing at Santiago airport soon?
Santiago's airport is around 17km (10.5 miles) to the city centre, roughly 30 minutes by taxi. To minimise stress and maximise comfort, we recommend booking your private transfer to ensure you have an English-speaking driver waiting for you in the Arrivals Halls.
Gay hotels in Santiago
We never had any problems booking a double bed at any of the places we stayed at in Santiago, particularly the ones in and around Bellavista. As we said above, we recommend basing yourself in Bellavista so that you're close to the best gay nightlife of the city as well as being quite centrally located in a trendy hipster part of town.
We set out below the best gay friendly hotels we tried in Santiago for all budgets, which we recommend for fellow LGBTQ travellers:
The Aubrey Boutique Hotel
Why we love it
- A serene oasis boutique hotel located in Bellavista, walking distance to the gay bars and La Chascona
- Set in a 1927 mansion that looks like a fairytale palace
- Glorious outdoor heated pool and sun terrace
- A hotel made for a goddess!
Looking up at The Aubrey as we entered the grounds it felt like we were about to enter a Disney fairytale castle!
The Aubrey is super famous in Santiago. It's not only a stylish gay owned hotel in Bellavista, it's a sight itself to behold, both inside and out.
This was Santiago's first boutique hotel when it opened in 2010, set in a 1927-built, mock-Tudor mansion. It's also a multi award-winning hotel, including the National Geographic's “Top hotels of 2011” and Condé Nast's Traveller Hot List 2010 award.
Once inside, you can tell it has been decorated by a gay man. It's incredibly stylish, blending modern with old. To give you an idea, most of the original features have been preserved such as the dark wood staircases, exposed beams and original parquet floors. Set against this are the Chesterfield sofas, colourful wingback chairs and bright rugs. It's pretty impressive and you can easily spend an entire day just photographing everything in sight!
There are only 15 rooms to book at The Aubrey and each one is a mini-museum to behold! Our room was decorated with Tom Dixon lamps, leather chairs by Chile’s Santiago Valdés and mosaic-tiled walls. We had a private balcony and a massive (really pretty!) bathtub – it's as if it was all designed to feature as the background to Instagram thirst-traps! And not just the rooms: the pool area is another perfect backshot for your thirst-traps, complete with Greek-style stone pillars!
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Luciano K Hotel
Why we love it
- Classy gay friendly boutique hotel close to Bellavista
- An Art Deco dream with geometric patterns and original tiling
- Our favourite rooftop bars in Santiago
- Triple-glazed rooms guarantee a peaceful night's rest!
Luciano K is a vision! An Art Deco vision to be exact.
It is named after Chilean architect Luciano Kulczewski who built it in the 1920s, inspired by Art Deco.
From the moment we set foot inside the marble entrance, we fell in love. We loved exploring inside, the dining room for example is decorated with geometric patterns, winged chairs, original tiling and signs using Art Deco lettering. The centrepiece is the charming wrought-iron elevator, which is famous for being the first working in all of Chile.
There are 38 rooms to book in this classy hotel. Unlike the rest of the hotel, the room sare completely modern with impressive soundproofing: triple-glazed windows to be exact! The rooftop bar is a popular hangout for both guests and non-guests. We noticed quite a few gay locals hanging out here for pre-drinks before heading out in Bellavista. There is also a small plunge pool in the corner of rooftop bar which is quite a romantic spot to soak in to enjoy the city views with a few Pisco Sours and a Seby to hand!
In terms of location, Luciano K is in the residential Lastarria neighbourhood, around 10 minutes walking distance to the gay bars of Bellavista. The Plaza de Armas and La Moneda presidential palace are around 20 minutes walking distance from Luciano K, or two metro stops from Baquedano station, which is a few blocks away from the hotel. For food, there are many excellent restaurants right by Luciano K including Castillo Forestal and our favourite: Sarita Colonia. The rooftop bar also serves a mix of tapas, sandwiches, steaks and ceviches.
Why we love it
- Our favourite gay friendly hostel in Santiago
- Super hip young vibe with terrific reviews
- Walking distance to the Bellavista gay scene
- Friendly, welcoming, clean and even includes breakfast
Hostel Forestal is the best hostel we found in Santiago. It's minutes walking distance to the gay scene in Bellavista, located just by Parque Forestal in the Lastarria district.
It's super affordable and has a fun quirky vibe going on with the decor, which is also what caught our eye!
We highly recommend Hostel Forestal to solo LGBTQ travellers who want to meet likeminded people.
Hostal Forestal offers a choice of dorms or private rooms to book, depending on your budget. We always get asked who's the top and who's the bottom and we always give the same answer – we try to avoid dorm beds when staying in hostels as it usually works out cheaper to book a private room rather than 2 dorm beds. But if we had to choose, Seby prefers the security of the top bunk whilst I am more easy going and happy to take the bottom bunk.
The vibe at Hostel Forestal is all geared towards being social and getting guests to meet and mingle. For example, there is a games room where you can play board games with other guests. There is also a sun terrace area, BBQ facilities and a communal kitchen area where guests mingle. We also like the book exchange available. If you're travelling around South America and only relying on the Lonely Planet book, this is the place you can pick up more country-specific guides for your next destination.
Best gay parties in Santiago
Santiago has many many excellent gay bars and clubs which we set out below, however, what we loved most about the gay scene here was the number of weekly parties happening. Every week a handful of gay events take place at different venues, which we recommend checking out. We summarise the main ones here:
Fiesta Barcelona is one of the oldest gay monthly parties happening in various venues in Santiago and also in neighbouring Viña del Mar. It's also famous for being one of the best electro-pop and EDM parties in Santiago. Pop fans like me will also love the occasional Britney and Spice Girls hits they throw into the mix.
This party is an example of why we love Chileans so much. The guys who come here are hot! Shy as well – at least compared to their Argentinian cousins, which makes them even more endearing in our opinion. For the latest parties happening, check out their Facebook page and also the Super Fiesta Barcelona Instagram.
The Taurus Group organise electro gay parties in Santiago. This is where the best electro house DJs will perform, which has included the likes of Renato Cecin, Isaac Escalante and the excellent Nina Flowers (from Ru Paul's Drag Race). One of the things we love about the Taurus parties is that they often team up with Scruff, which means the crowd is slightly older than Barcelona and has a stronger bear presence.
The Taurus parties happen at different venues each month like Ex Bunker. Check their Facebook page for the latest info about the next event.
Whether it's Pride, Carnival or mid-summer, a Toby party is the place you need to be! The crowd here is more mixed with music ranging from pop to electro and the odd reggaeton anthem as well. Toby parties are more spectacular with performers, drag queens and some very handsome Speedo-clad exotic dancers.
The Toby parties take place at different locations every month, usually at Ex Bunker, Femme Club and Fausto. For the latest information, check out their Facebook page.
Gay bars in Santiago
Bombero Nuñez is the main gay street in the Bellavista neighbourhood where the bulk of the gay bars of Santiago can be found. And there sure are heaps of them! It was quite daunting at first to navigate, which is why we did a gay night tour of Santiago with a local to help us navigate this labyrinth of Chilean fabulousness. Highly recommend, especially if you're a solo LGBTQ traveller who quickly wants to make new friends.
Another point to note about the gay scene of Santiago is that Mondays is a total write off – almost all bars are shut. In addition, the gay bars of Santiago don't get busy until after 10pm. For this reason, we've also included a few gay restobars in this section where you can head to earlier than 10pm for drinks.
Station Restobar is one of the largest gay hangouts in Santiago. We love it because it's one of the few gay places in Bellavista that is busy before 10pm! Each time we came here there was always a large crowd of (very cute!) gay guys hanging out in the large terrace area. The food at Station is pretty good too. We usually got a few tortilla Españas to compliment our Pisco Sours. Note that as this is a “restobar”, you will be obliged to order food with your drinks due to the city's strict licensing laws.
Station RestoBar is only open from Tuesday to Saturday evenings until around 3/4am. It is located at Antonia Lopez de Bello 64.
Contramano is our other favourite restopub to head to as a “la previa” – Chilean slang for pre-dancing drinks. It's not as big as Station, but on weekends, it has some fascinating alternative cabaret-style shows we recommend checking out. During weeknights they have “After Work Happy Hour” drink promotions which attracts a rather handsome crowd of suited ‘n' booted Chilean lads! Contramano also has its own designated area just for single guys – one to bear in mind if you're a solo traveller looking to connect with one (or two!) locals.
Contramano is open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 8pm until around 3am. It is located at Bombero Núñez 388.
Bar 105 is a cutesy, cosy gay bar for men. Despite its size, it always draws quite a large crowd. For us, Bar 105 was our favourite gay bar to start the evening before heading to Farinelli or Dionisio. Bar 105 is most famous for its infamous night called “Dark Room” every Thursday from 10pm! Find out more on the Bar 105 Instagram gallery.
Bar 105 is only open from Wednesday to Saturday evenings until around 5am. We recommend heading here from around 11am, especially on weekends otherwise you'll be drinking solo! Bar 105 is located at Bombero Nuñez 105 right in the heart of Bellavista.
Burdel has some of the funniest standup comedy drag shows we've seen in Santiago, especially on weekends. It also has a mix of some pretty out-there cabaret performances ranging from the bizarre to the outright hilarious. Definitely worth checking out just for this! Later in the evening from around 1am, Burdel becomes a dancing space with some very handsome tattooed exotic dancer boys titillating the guys. On weekday nights Burdel attracts a large crowd of guys mainly in their 20s, thanks to its 2 for 1 drink promotions and karaoke themed nights.
Burdel is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10pm until around 3/4am. It is located at Antonia Lopez de Bello 126.
Despite the name, the only castrato singing you'll hear at Farinelli is the sound of the drag queens cackling at the tops their voices. These queens are extremely fierce, serving you the best drag shows in town! Forget our complaints about the Chilean accent/slang we mentioned at the start of this article – just wait till you hear gay Chilean slang thrown at you…Now that's taking your Spanish to a WHOLE new level! Farinelli has a table/seat style setting for the drag shows which start each evening from around 11pm. Trust us, it's worth it. Even if your Spanish is limited, you'll love it here especially as the queens make every effort to throw in plenty of English jokes to incorporate everyone.
Farinelli is open Tuesday to Sunday evenings from 10:30pm until around 4/5am. It is located at Bombero Nuñez 68.
The Dionisio Divas also slay big time in Santiago! This gem of a place is one of the oldest gay venues in Santiago, owned by the same team behind Farinelli. Local drag queens start out their careers here before joining the circuit of entertainers we see each night in places like Farinelli and Burdel. The shows are more local than those at Farinelli so you may struggle to understand if you don't speak much Spanish. Though to be honest, even with our basic level of Spanish, trying to understand the Chilean gay slang was near to impossible!
Dionisio is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9pm until around 4/5am. The shows start at around 11pm. Dionisio is located at Bombero Nuez 111.
Gay clubs in Santiago
There are many gay clubs in Santiago. Just like the gay scene of Buenos Aires, Bogota and Montevideo, you'd be wise to factor in a dolly nap as these places don't get busy until well after 1am! As with the bars, Santiago has many clubs to check out. We recommend doing a Santiago gay night tour whereby a local will take you to the best drag shows and parties happening on that particular night.
These are some of the best gay clubs in Santiago that we loved and recommend you check out. Note that the best/busiest nights out happen on Fridays/Saturdays, so it maybe worth coinciding your Santiago trip to fall on a weekend rather than on a weekday:
A gay night out in Bellavista on Friday and Saturday evenings will almost always end up at Ex Bunker at some stage in the night! Friday is more a mixed dance night with men of all ages. Saturday is the big night here and definitely our favourite gay evening in Santiago, particularly when they host one of the big parties like Barcelona or Toby. There are drag shows happening throughout the night with live DJs and, of course, plenty of haaawt Chilean guys dancing away. Always a guaranteed fun night out here says we!
Bunker is only open Friday and Saturday evenings from midnight until around 5am, however, we suggest arriving from around 2am onwards to avoid dancing solo! Bunker is located at Bombero Nuez 159.
Ex Femme is the other main gay club of Santiago which crowds flock to at weekends. When we went out on Saturday evenings in Santiago, we'd usually switch between Femme and Bunker depending on where the crowds were hanging out at. Ex Femme is more focused on Tech House music in its main dance hall but also had a smaller second room for us pop queens to dance away to Britney and Katy Perry! We found the crowd at Femme to be a little bit younger than Bunker. On nights when Femme is hosting a big party like Toby, then this is the place to be!
Ex Femme is located at Bombero Nuñez 169. It is only open on Saturday evenings from around midnight until around 5/6am.
Il Divino is a super-club, one of the largest gay clubs in not only Santiago but in the whole of South America! It reminded us a lot of our experience at the Theatron gay club in Bogota. Il Divino has a capacity for up to 3,000 gays spread over 3 large dance halls with a mix of cabaret, exotic dancers and visual/artistic performances (ooh er…). Il Divino is a pretty epic gay night out in Santiago!
Il Divino parties only happen on Friday and Saturday evenings from midnight until around 5am. It is located around 20-30 minutes taxi ride from central Santiago on Route 60, Kilometro 16 exit Espacio Broadway, in the Pudahuel area.
Club Soda is a smaller gay club in Bellavista. It's a more local and mixed crowd for both gays and gals. We loved Club Soda more for the music, which focused on reggaeton and the latest Latino pop hits. One tip our friends told us before going – connect with the Club Soda Instagram page and ask to be put on their guest list to skip the queue. They also have a Facebook Club Soda Group, which we recommend joining to connect with locals, but you'll need some basic Spanish.
Club Soda is open from Wednesday to Saturday evenings from midnight until around 5am. It is located at Antonia Lopez de Bello, 125.
Illuminati is one of the cooler, hipster gay clubs in Santiago, or as our friends put it, ‘the trendier alternative to Bunker'. It's a quite a young crowd here, mainly gay guys and gals in their 20s and some in their 30s. One of their most popular nights is the Wednesday “Oliver Miercoles” party which is very studenty with lots of cheap drink offers. As cheesy pop queens, we love the music here – Ariana, Pink, Christina, Britney…flawless!
Illuminati is open Tuesday to Saturday evenings from midnight until around 4/5am. It is located at Antonia Lopez de Bello, 131.
I also misread it as Fisto – a bad wind-up joke to poor unassuming Seby that stuck throughout our stay in Santiago… rest assured, it's not that at all! Fausto means “magnificent” in Spanish, and it's in fact one of the oldest gay clubs in Santiago (going strong since 1979). Fausto is most famous for drag queens, who not only perform here throughout the night but also act as “hosts”. Many local drag queens start out their careers here and test their latest routine to the live crowd. Of course, be sure to expect lots of handsome topless musclemen, live DJs and exotic dancers all dancing away to the latest Latino pop hits. Note for otter boys: on Friday evenings Fausto has one of the best bear parties in Santiago.
Fausto Discotheque is open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from midnight until around 4/5am. It is located at Avenida Santa María 832 in the Providencia neighbourhood.
Sometimes also called XLimon, this is the playground for students, younger gay guys and their fans. It's also one of the fewest gay bars/clubs that we found in Santiago (I think probably the only one!) that's open on a Monday, which makes it very unique! Our friends told us that Monday is also the best night because that's when all the hairdresser boys like to hang out here. In terms of music, Latino hits and reggaeton lead the way with the young pretty crowd – anytime a Shakira hit came on, the squeals of pleasure made us giggle! Find out more, including all their drinks promotions on the (very thirsty!) Limon Santiago Instagram gallery.
Limon is open every day from 11pm until around 4/5am. It is located at Dardignac 142.
Blondie is quite a large gay club spread over 4 rooms – 2 large and 2 small offering quite a diverse mix of music including 80s/90s pop, Chilean Punk and electronic. For us, Blondie had a very alternative feel, with a varied crowd of punks, goths, kitsch…and Seby! Yup, this was my Seby's favourite gay club in Santiago. Although this is a Shakira/Britney/Rihanna-free zone, my wild, crazy Frenchman loved the atmosphere at Blondie a lot. It's relaxed, chilled yet heaps of fun! Find out more and look out for any promotions on the Blondie Club Twitter account.
Blondie is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings from 11:30pm until 5am. It is located at Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 2879.
Gay saunas in Santiago
If you want that little extra dab of Latino culture, you're in luck! There are quite a number of gay saunas in Santiago. These are the most popular to check out:
A bit dated but it's where all the hot guys go, mainly guys in their 20s and 30s. They have special offers for under 25s and students. It's open Monday to Thursday from 10am to 9pm, then on 1pm on Friday open all the way until Sunday evening. It is located at Bellavista 282, just around the corner from Sarita Colonia and a few blocks from Parque Forestal.
One of the best gay saunas for older men and bears. It is open everyday from 1-9pm and located outside of Bellavista at Chacabuno, 33 in Barrio Yungay. It's also just a few blocks away from Blondie club should you want to head here first before partying.
Il Palatino is also located outside of Bellavisa over in Barrio Brasil at Maturana 96. As such it's more of a local crowd compared to the others, attracting guys of all ages. They always have promotions, which they announce on the Il Palatino Facebook page, so definitely keep an eye on that before going. Il Palatino is open daily from 2-11pm.
Oasis Spa is just outside Bellavista in the Lastarria area, popular with guys in their 40s and older. Oasis also has a strong bear following due to the ad hoc bear parties it hosts. On weekends it's open late so commonly attracts the after-party boys. Check their website for more details. Oasis is located at Ricardo Matte Pérez 0216 and is open daily from 3-10pm. On weekends it's open until 7am.
Gay Pride in Santiago
Santiago has quite a handful of gay events happening throughout the year. We've highlighted some of the best ones to look out for, which we think LGBTQ travellers will love. This includes two Pride parades – one in June, the other in the sunnier month of November. Alongside each of these is a large international gay film festival. Remember that the movie industry is big business in Chile – a country that won the first Oscar in Latin America (for Bear Story in 2016).
Also note: all these events are organised by the excellent Movilh. We've referenced their relevant social media/weblink:
Marcha del Orgullo in June
The Marcha del Orgullo is Chile's gay Pride event that takes place simultaneously in Santiago, Concepción and Valparaiso. It started in Santiago in 1999 as a small protest movement with a few hundred people attending and has now grown into one of the largest Pride events in South America attracting over 100,000 people. It usually takes place on the last Saturday of June. For the latest info, check out the Movilh Facebook page.
LGBT+ Film Festival in June
This is the first of 2 gay film festivals that take place every year in Santiago. This one is called Amor Festival Internacional De Cine LGBT+. We love this one because they aim to contribute to the normalisation and acceptance the queer community through film – something that is so important for us! The Festival includes a jury panel and award-type ceremony at the end. Find out more on the Fest Home website.
LGBT Film Festival in October/November
The Festival de Cine LGBTI en Chile takes place alongside the summer Pride event in October and November. As with the June festival, this event includes a jury and awards style ceremony, this time focusing on two categories – Short Films and Feature Films.
Open Mind Fest in November
Every November the Movilh group organise another Santiago Parade through the city, which culminates into an amazing electronic street party called Open Mind Fest in Plaza Italia. This has grown massively to become one of the best concerts in the city – definitely one to look out for if you love your electro beats. For the latest info, check out the Events section of Movilh's Facebook page.
Gay travel agent in Santiago
Pride Tours Chile is a brilliant company set up by gay locals who are passionate about their country and want to show it off to LGBTQ travellers. We love them. We love what they do and also think it's really important that we all support local gay businesses like this in our travels.
We did a cycling tour in Santiago with Pride Tours, as well as a wine tour visiting some of the best bodegas outside the city. We also discovered the gay scene of Santiago with the Pride Tours boys and had a fantastic time. The Pride Tours team also organise tours further afield, from San Pedro Atacama in the north to Torres del Paine in the south. They can craft up an itinerary for you based on what you want to see and do in Chile. We cannot recommend them enough!
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Gay restaurants in Santiago
There are many highly rated restaurants in Santiago to check out. The best part is that some of the best ones (like Sarita Colonia) are fabulous and based smack bang in the heart of the gay scene of Bellavista! These are a snippet of some of our favourites restaurants in Santiago to tick off a few items from your Chilean culinary Bucket List:
A must for foodies! This tour blends culinary discoveries in local markets with the main sights of Santiago. We had a passionate local who taught us all about the different Chilean dishes to try including humitas, machas a la parmesana and pastel de choclo. If you also love travel exploration through food as much as we do, then we recommend you check out this tour.
Sarita Colonia has to rate as one of our favourite gay restaurants in the world. This gay owned gem right in the heart of the Bellavista gay scene is quirky af and also (unsurprisingly!) one of Santiago's most highly rated restaurants. Get this: the theme is “Peruvian transvestite” with the most eclectic mix of kitsch art and sculptures! Sarita Colonia was actually a real person – Peruvian lady with the ability to make miracles happen. Well, the restaurant certainly makes miracles happen – entering here, it feels like you've entered Alice in Wonderland. It's pretty spectacular! Food is also excellent – well prepared and delicious – those ceviches! But: this is one very popular restaurant that you DO need to book a few days in advance!
El Toro is another popular gay restaurant located opposite Sarita Colonia. It's more rustic but has one of the best steaks in the city. We loved it more for the outdoor covered seating area which is the perfect spot to people watch and see who's out in town! We also like El Toro as a place to come in the afternoon for early cocktails before heading over to meet friends at Station or Burdel. If, like us, on our first night in Santiago you tried to get into Sarita Colonia and realised you needed a reservation, this makes a decent alternative for dinner.
Chile's seafood is famous and the Mercado Central is one of the best places to come for the tastiest and freshest seafood ever! It's open every day until around 5pm, which makes it more of a lunch stop. There are many small restaurants and small food courts in the Mercado Central that you can easily spend a few hours just immersing yourself in this foodie paradise. We also love the Mercado Central for its unique architecture and the fact that it is a real live fish market with a buzzy exciting atmosphere.
Things to do in Santiago
If you like wine, especially Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, then Santiago is the perfect base to visit some of the many bodegas around the city as well as the nearby cultural gem and gay friendly Valparaiso. The street art of Bellavista was also a top highlight of the city for us as well as the Costanera Tower, the Funicular and La Chascona. Here is a summary of each one:
Explore Bellavista's street art
Whether you do this yourself or with a tour, we strongly recommend spending a few hours filling your Instagram with the bright and colourful street art murals in the Bellavista neighbourhood. A lot of effort goes into some of them – we stopped and watched one group preparing a new mural which took them the best part of 3 days to complete it! One of the best ways to take it all in is on a bike tour of Santiago which as well as the street art of Bellavista also includes visits to the Presidential Palace, Parque Forestal and a few food markets.
Ride the funicular
If it's a clear day, head up to the summit of Cerro San Cristóbal via the funicular. The city views from the top are impressive as you get to see the Andes in the background. The ride up on the funicular is also a lot of fun – the back seats are the best. At the top, we visited the pretty Japanese Gardens and also the Rio-like statue that overlooks the city (except it is not a statue of Christ but of the Immaculate Conception). The funicular entrance is located near La Chascona in Bellavista so handy to tie in the two together. Another handy tip is to book a funicular tour before heading up – it's inexpensive, skips the queues and also includes a guided tour.
Another place to head for terrific views is the Costanera Tower aka the Gran Torre Santiago. Standing proud at 300m/980ft, the Costanera is the tallest building in all of Latin America! When we first saw it from afar, we thought we were hobbits heading to Mordor – it has that look about it don't you think? Level 61 and 62 is where to head for the panoramic viewing platform, ideally at sunset. You can book your tickets in advance to save time and skip the queues. Also in the Costanera Tower is a large 6-floor shopping mall in case you want to top up your travel outfits.
Chilean wine is world-famous, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. The Maipo Valley is one of the best places to visit around Santiago – it has some of the best wineries in the country and is close enough to the city to visit as part of a day trip. We recommend booking a wine tour experience to a winery like Concha y Toro, which includes your hotel pick up, a tour of the winery and of course, the best part, the wine tasting! This is also the best place to buy a few bottles to take back home as a souvenir.
La Chascona in Bellavista was Pablo Neruda's romantic hideaway with his wife Matilde, as portrayed in the 1995 movie “Il Postino”. Today La Chascona is a museum offering a fascinating insight into this man's pretty extraordinary life. Neruda was a famous Chilean politician and Nobel prize-winning poet, with a very extravagant, eclectic and quirky taste for interiors! We recommend getting the audio and following the path it recommends. Along with La Chascona, Neruda had many houses across Chile including La Sebastiana in Valparaiso and Isla Negra in El Quisco.
Plan your trip to Santiago
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Santiago, Chile. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
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How to get there: most gay travellers will be flying to Santiago international airport. The airport is around 20km (12.5 miles) Northwest from the city centre. There are public buses running 24/7, however the quickest way to get to Santiago centre is via taxi, which is only around 20 minutes. We recommend pre-booking your transfer to minimise stress, skip taxi queues and have an English-speaking driver waiting to meet you at the Arrivals Hall.
Visa requirements: Travellers from most EU countries, USA, Canada and Australia don't need a visa to stay in Chile for up to 90 days as a tourist. You will, however, need to show that you have a return/onward travel ticket if you arrive by plane and a passport with at least 6 months validity from the day you arrive. You can check your visa requirements for Chile here.
Power Plugs: Chile uses two main types of power plugs. The first is type C, which is common in Europe, the second is type I, which is mainly used in Australia, New Zealand, China and the South Pacific. If you're travelling from the USA or UK we recommend buying a good travel adaptor.
Travel insurance: Don't leave home without it! We always strongly recommend getting adequate travel insurance cover for any trip. Cancelled flights? Theft? Injury? Tick to all of those! We recommend World Nomads because their coverage is comprehensive and making a claim (if needed) is super easy.
Vaccinations: All travellers to Chile should make sure they're up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and chickenpox. Most travellers should also be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Some travellers may also need vaccinations for hepatitis B, yellow fever, malaria and rabies, depending on what and where you'll be doing. Check the CDC website for the most up to date info for Chile and also speak to your local doctor or travel nurse.
Currency: The currency used in Chile is the Chilean Peso. $1 is around 820 Pesos, €1 is around 900 Pesos and £1 is around 1,000 Pesos.
Tipping culture: The norm is to tip around 10% if service is not already included. The tipping culture of Chile is very similar to that of Europe – ie you don't need to tip for every drink in a bar or your taxi driver, but of course it won't go unappreciated if you do!
Accommodation: There are many excellent hotels in Santiago to check out. We love using Booking.com because they have an extensive selection, show the best online prices and they offer free cancellation for most listings.
Sightseeing and adventure: We've only listed a slither of the many sightseeing highlights of Santiago. For more inspiration, we recommend checking out GetYourGuide.com. It always gives us ideas of things to see and experiences in every place we visit. In addition, their tours are affordable and very easy to book.
When to visit: Santiago can be visited all year round. It has 4 clear seasons which are the direct opposite of what we have in the Northern Hemisphere: winter is June, July and August; Summer (peak season) is December, January and February. We think the best time to visit is during the “shoulder season” of Spring (September, October, November) or Autumn/Fall (March, April, May) when is pleasant and there won't be as many tourists.
Gay map of Santiago
Here's a gay map of Santiago which includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Santiago!
For more inspiration:
- To read more about the gay scene of Santiago, check out our interview with Ivan about what it's like growing up gay in Chile
- Check out these fabulous gay hotels throughout Chile
- As well as these interesting facts about Chile you might not have known
- Find out our favourite experiences while travelling in South America
- As well as the best gay travel destinations in South and Central America
- Check out our romantic roadtrip through Northeast Argentina
- If you like wine you need to read our gay guide to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina
- And don't miss the best foods from Argentina