Santiago – famous for ponchos, pisco sours and Pablo Neruda – now has another local hero to shout about: Hotel Magnolia, a boutique townhouse in the hip El Centro district. This revamped 1920s building mixes the ornamental elegance of its art deco past with up-to-the-minute touches of steel, glass and concrete to create a bold and youthful city stay. Its surroundings are just as impressive as its interiors: you’re just a cueca dance away from the capital’s must-see museums, parks and restaurants.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £183.76 ($251).
Rates include a buffet breakfast of bread, home-made cakes, fruit salad and hot dishes like bacon and eggs any-which-way.
Creative Smiths can seek out the black-lacquered piano in reception; it’s topped with a couple of gleaming brass trombones, too. If you’re more fitness-focused than musically-minded, there’s also a small but modern gym kitted-out with high-quality machines from treadmills to cross-trainers.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, gym, roof terrace, two meeting rooms. In rooms: TV, air-conditioning, minibar, safe, Damana bath products and a vanity set containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, sewing kit, shoe-shining pad and shaving utensils.
Our favourite rooms
Bag one of the three large, luxurious and impeccably designed suites, which have eucalyptus wood-clad walls, soft under-lighting and modern furniture. After a day pounding Santiago’s streets, sink sightseeing-worn toes into monochrome-patterned shagpile rugs, stretch out on cotton-covered sofas and flop into the seriously bouncy bed. If you’ve blown your budget on Chile’s famous lapis lazuli, book into a more modest room on the third floor, where the original stained-glass windows will cast a blue glimmer to match your new gems.
Leave anything black at home: Santiago was made for road-testing your brightest, boldest outfits. Make like traditional locals and mix as many prints, cuts and fabrics as you can fit in your case.
On balmy summer evenings, head to the wooden-and-glass-floored rooftop terrace (ice-cold cocktail in hand) and sit pretty on padded rattan sofas flanked by steel-potted shrubs.
Children over two are welcome, but there’s not much to occupy them. If you can, we recommend you leave little ones at home, as this is more of a couples’ stay. Baby cots can be added to all rooms free of charge.
If night sky-watching is your thing, opt for a dinner spot in the atrium area under the glass ceiling and watch the heavens fade from blue to black.
You won’t need anything too smart, but pack a pair of heels and a swishy skirt (a linen shirt and navy chinos for Mr Smith) for after-hours dancing and shimmy-shimmy-shaking on the terrace.
Dotted with potted palms (and the requisite marigolds) and hung with enormous, balloon-like Tom Dixon lamps, the restaurant is bright and modern. Thanks to long, age-spotted mirrors and a glass-panelled ceiling supported by steel girders, there’s a light, airy feel to surroundings. The black-and-white tiled floor and simple wooden tables form a discrete backdrop to imposing design: one concrete wall juts into the dining room in a huge arc, making its leaded windows a focal point. The menu is just as impressive, groaning with local dishes. We’re particularly fond of the caldillo de congrio (conger eel stew) and the lamb shanks, softly braised in Carménère wine. The menu changes seasonally, so you’ll need to head back often to sample new favourites.
Stained-glass windows cast a multi-coloured glow over Bar Magnolia, where industrial pendant lights hang sentinel over a marble-topped, burnished bronze bar. Take a pew on a leather-and-wood seat and ask the bartender for a radish- or avocado-muddled pisco sour – Marigold’s speciality. If the sun is shining, earmark a table on the roof terrace, where Santiago’s golden sunsets are reflected in the glass-accented floor.
Breakfast is from 6.30am–10.30am (11am at weekends). Lunch is served from 1pm–3pm and dinner is from 8pm–10pm. Bar Magnolia is open daily from 6pm–11pm.
Everything on the restaurant’s menu can be ordered to your room between 7am and 10pm.
Hotel Magnolia is located in the middle of the historic El Centro neighbourhood, where galleries, restaurants, parks and bars line the buzzing streets.
Most major European and US airlines (including British Airways; www.britishairways.com) operate flights to Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, a 25-minute drive from the hotel. Transfers can be arranged from US$34; ask the Smith24 team when booking.
Alameda Station is a 20-minute drive from Hotel Magnolia. However, trains in Chile are unreliable and only run the relatively short distance from Santiago to Talca. You’re better off driving or taking taxis.
If you plan on exploring Chile beyond Santiago, you’ll need a car. Hire one from a booth at the airport, then take the Costanera Norte to the hotel.
Taxis are easy to hail and good value. Alternatively, flag down a cheaper colectivo: a group taxi running a fixed route, shown by a roof sign. These usually wait at metro stations and leave when they’ve got a minimum number of passengers.
Worth getting out of bed for
Santiago’s bustling centre is packed with cultural diversions: the Museum of Visual Arts, the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts and the Cultural Centre of Gabriela Mistral are all within walking distance of the hotel. If your tastes run more towards the literary, make a pilgrimage to La Chascona, former home of Chilean diplomat and poet Pablo Neruda. Should this whet your appetite for lines and lyrics, his other two houses can be found in the coastal towns of Valparaíso and Isla Negra (both around 90 minutes’ drive from Santiago). Magnolia is minutes from Santa Lucía Hill, a verdant park squeezed between the skyscrapers; come here for an early morning stroll to admire the stone monuments and ornate, butter-yellow buildings in its centre. Shopping in the capital is a game of two halves: there are big-name boutiques and designer brands aplenty in the Costanera Centre, while the Bellavista market (on Pío Nono) has a mish-mash of colourful finds and fancies to delight vintage lovers. We like Patronato (in the Recoleta district) for its traditional threads at knock-down prices, and Feria Artesanal Santa Lucía (in the Cerro Santa Lucía) for authentic trinkets, alpaca wool and handicrafts.
A five-minute walk from the hotel, Casa Lastarria serves Chilean-style tapas in an ancient building revamped with a modern, dark wood-clad interior: order plump prawn ceviche, ibérico ham salads and roasted octopus. The same distance away, Sur Patagónico (+56 2 2638 8878) is true to its name, with a menu featuring Patagonia-inspired dishes from mushroom risotto to hearty steaks seared on the parrilla (grill). Oenophiles should head to Bocanáriz, a wine bar and restaurant which couples tuna tartare and herb-speckled mussels with a long list of local tipples.
Hotel Magnolia has a cocktail selection large enough to occupy several evenings, but if you’d rather explore further afield, Chipe Libre is our in-the-know recommendation for a classic pisco sour; fruity and flamboyant additions, from oranges to chillis, sit pickling in huge jars on steel shelves, waiting to be added to the drinks of adventurous customers.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this haute heritage hotel in central Santiago and unpacked their pisco sour recipes and hand-woven ponchos, a full account of their South American city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hotel Magnolia in Chile…
Before you swing open the polished wooden doors to Hotel Magnolia, be sure to look up: the stone façade of this 1920s grande dame is part of its (considerable) charm. The first three floors showcase original, neoclassical French architecture; the newly-built floors above bear a carved glass front, the inverse mirror image of those below. It’s a nifty trick, combining the classic and contemporary – something this hotel has made into an art form. Within, a sweeping marble staircase and harlequin-tiled floor contrast against steel-and-wire walkways and Tom Dixon lighting; exposed brick walls and sky-high glass ceilings brighten interiors, adding an industrial edge to traditional features. Our favourite room is the library, with its black-steel shelves and polished oak table: curl up here with glass of local vino and a classic tome – perhaps a Pablo Neruda, in homage to your surroundings. There’s plenty to explore en casa (spot the antique armoires and stained-glass windows), but it would be practically criminal not to take advantage of Magnolia’s super-central location: the Santa Lucía Hill, Cultural Centre of Gabriela Mistral and Museum of Visual Arts are on your doorstep.