Stopover in Santiago - Where to Stay, Where to Eat
Ahhh, South America… a vast continent brimming with adventures and experiences. But, as regular travellers from Australia know all too well, getting there and back can be far too much of an “adventure” – those trans-Pacific flights are a never-ending source of chaos and delays. Whether it be from Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland, to Santiago or Buenos Aires, with Qantas or LATAM, the likelihood of making it in to or out of the continent on time seems to be 50-50 at best.
After years of making multiple connections by the skin of our teeth, or, more disappointingly, overnighting in the nondescript airline-appointed transit hotel when being bumped onto the subsequent day’s flight, we have finally accepted this as a South American reality, and factored in a stress-alleviating overnight stay in Santiago on our inbound and outbound legs. Whilst somewhat contrary to our usual approach of maximising every day on holiday, these few extra hours between critical flights has vastly reduced our frustration (and blood pressure) when adventuring in South America.
And as a place to transit, it is hard to find fault with Santiago – blessed with idyllic weather and serene scenery, this mountain-ringed metropolis is home to a bevy of boutique hotels and a wealth of epicurean delights. An overnight stay is a fantastic opportunity to test out a hip new hotel, hit a charismatic wine bar and sample the latest in modern Chilean cuisine.
Our recent journey to Brazil was punctuated with one such stopover in Santiago. After a disastrous start to our adventure (including waking in Sydney to a message from Tripcase (yes, Tripcase, not our airline!) that our flight had been cancelled), and a cavalcade of delays, misinformation, rebookings, unbookings and general ridiculousness, we arrived in Santiago just a few hours late, grateful to have arrived at all, but somewhat frazzled.
Enter Hotel Magnolia to the rescue. In bohemian downtown Lastarria, just metres from the iconic Santa Lucia Hill park, the hotel charms us from the moment we lay eyes on its warm, honey-coloured facade, adorned with its signature fleur de lis. An ornate wrought-iron gate is opened by the doorman, and we enter into the hotel’s striking interior – an uncannily successful blend of whimsical castle and ultramodern style. The reception desk is at the base of a six-storey atrium, arching above with angles and glass. On either side is a wide metal-and-wire staircase, spiralling up both sides of the atrium and encircling the dual steel elevators. Behind reception is another vast staircase, the original of marble and tile. To the left of reception is the library, with walls of books and magazines and inviting leather recliners. To the right is the well-stocked bar and the beautiful restaurant, with its dramatic lighting, mirrored walls and in-built turret. There are decorative touches everywhere, with clever use of wood, glass and metal, and the overall aesthetic is impressively hip. The hotel is the result of a painstaking two year restoration of an original 1920s building, and it is obvious that no expense was spared when it came to creating an eclectic, original and utterly charming design.
Check-in is seamless and efficient. We are soon whisked up to the top floor, where our room, number 65, is uniquely blessed with a suspended walkway entrance traversing the atrium, its glass walls providing vertiginous views down the entire six floors of the hotel shaft. It is an impressive way to enter a room, and provides an air of exclusivity.
The room itself is stylish and modern, with neutral tones of blues and greys. The bathroom is expansive, set with warm coloured marble, light wood furnishings and large glass panels adorned with more of the signature Hotel Magnolia logo. The entire length of the room is windows, embossed with copper coloured inlays, and opening onto a full length balcony, with views of the Castillo Hildalgo, the nearby high-rises and the adjacent Santiago street life.
With just one night to sample the delights of the hotel, we quickly freshen up, whilst imbibing some of the delicious Chilean red wine that is our free extra through booking with Mr & Mrs Smith. We then head up to the hotel’s highly-rated rooftop bar. Here, with views of the Andes sparkling in the late afternoon sun, we are welcomed by charismatic bar staff in dapper tartan uniforms. We choose pisco sours as our complimentary welcome drinks – expertly mixed and delicious, they are soon soothing us into the rhythms of South America, and we make ourselves comfortable as the sun sets over Santiago, before heading out for dinner at the much lauded Borago (see our review here Restaurant Borago, Santiago, Chile).
After dinner and a jetlag-dispelling slumber in our room’s very comfortable bed, it is time for breakfast in Hotel Magnolia’s stunningly beautiful restaurant. Early this Saturday morning, we are the first guests to breakfast (a rarity for us!) and the chef was keen to present her fare to us. Although no English was exchanged, it was obvious she was particular enthusiastic for us to try her warm quinoa and cauliflower salad – and whilst we confess this would not normally make our breakfast shortlist, it was a very delicious, very healthy early morning surprise. The remainder of the buffet was similarly tasty, with a wide range of cereals, an extravaganza of freshly prepared pastries and breads, and a selection of cold cuts and hot offerings, including some of the best scrambled eggs we have had in a long while. And the coffees were expertly poured and served in soup-bowl-sized cups. It was a perfect start to the day, and our transfer was ready and waiting for us in the lobby when we arrived, ready to transport us to the airport to start our South American adventure in earnest.