While I am well acquainted with mountain biking after this recent spring, city biking was never an activity I had given a chance. But, when I had the opportunity to join La Bicicleta Verde on their Markets and Local Life tour, I couldn’t turn it down.
Santiago was a city I had a week to explore, and I wanted to uncover all I could about it. A tour by bicycle sounded like the perfect way to do this.
After easily finding my way to their brightly painted building, I found myself sitting in their equally vibrant green office at 9 o’clock Wednesday morning. Since I had spent Monday and Tuesday exploring Santiago on my own, I was excited about what lay ahead, and most importantly about what the tour could teach me.
I was also looking forward to changing up the pace at which I saw the city. Earlier in the week, I walked and wandered the city streets as I usually do, but with La Bicicleta Verde I’d be able to see more of Santiago, plus it was just as green as using my feet.
After waiting for everyone to arrive, I was joined by a couple from Arizona and a young woman from Brazil, we were each given a bottle of water, a helmet, and our adorable green bikes. After adjusting the seat and getting instructions on how to work the breaks and gears, we were on our way to explore Santiago.
The idea of getting on a bike in the middle of a new city was a bit daunting, but we started off on the back roads of Bellavista, which helped grow all of our confidence levels. Plus, Josh, our guide for the day, was very encouraging and always stopped or looked back to make sure we were all okay.
Heading through Bellavista, we stopped to look at some street art, and then we were on our way to our first stop: one of Paolo Neruda’s homes.
Neruda was a Chilean poet and politician who had not one, but three homes throughout Chile. While you can tour the inside of the home during certain hours of the day, we were treated to the outside view, a little history lesson, and the street art that was located in the area. This particular home was built on the outskirts of the city as a romantic hideaway for him and his wife.
From Paolo Neruda’s home, we made our way through Barrio Patronato, a location that’s known for clothing shops and Asian cuisine. Many of Chile’s newest immigrants from Palestine and Syria have moved to this area of town and started businesses. It’s also where many of the Chinese and Korean immigrants live as well.
For us, it was a quick short cut to the markets, and our first stop was La Vega Central, where we tied up our bikes and had a look around.
Vendors were selling fruits and vegetables, dog and cat food, bath and beauty supplies, and cleaning products to name a few of the items that could be found. There were even spots to gamble, if one was interested.
After a quick overview of the market, we all sat down at a table for coffee and juice, along with freshly made sopaipillas, a delicious round pastry-like bread made with pumpkin. After a cold morning cycling around, this snack hit the spot.
The tables around us weren’t full, but watching market life go by as we sat and ate our snack was an absolute treat. Kittens warmed themselves by the coal grills, women sat and peeled potatoes, and men sat with huge bowls of hot, steamy soup; this was the real Santiago.
After warming up a bit, we headed back out and across the street to the next market, El Mercado Central. Inside, the market had restaurants and stalls selling fruit, vegetables, and souvenirs, but the main draw was the fish, whose venders lines the perimeter of the market. Since it was early morning, the market was bustling and full of life.
From here, we were off to Plaza del Armas, a plaza in the middle of the city that feels an awful lot like a square you’d find in Spain. That’s because it was built around the time of the Spanish settlement and was used for military training, hence the name. Today, it’s a gathering place for people, full of preachers, entertainers, fortune tellers, and artists.
After a little more history, we left the plaza and headed back to the office of La Bicicleta Verde, and even though that ride was a bit more difficult, with more traffic, I was getting used to seeing the sights by bike. I didn’t want the tour to end, but after my morning with Josh, I felt that I had a much better handle on the city.
If you’re in Santiago and are looking for a different way to see the city, I’d recommend La Bicicleta Verde in a heartbeat. Not only do they have the city tour I took, but they also have a Parks and Politics tour, as well as winery tours, night tours, and walking tours, or if you’d rather go off on your own, they also rent out bikes. Either way, seeing Santiago by bike is definitely an activity that should be on your list, and for help with that, look no further than La Bicicleta Verde.
What to know:
Price: Depends on the tour, but the Local Life and Markets tour that I took was $18.000 CLP, or $36 USD
Tour Length: About three hours
Attire: Comfortable shoes and layers. The bikes are cruisers, so you don’t have to get decked out in athletic gear, just make sure you’re comfortable.
Address: Loreto 6, corner Av Santa Maria, Metro Fine Arts
A special thanks to La Bicicleta Verde for a accommodating me on the tour. As always, the opinions are my own.