Santiago, the capital of Chile, is a cosmopolitan city, and arguably quite underrated. Surrounded by the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coastal Range, it has a striking setting, fascinating history and a nice, modern feel.
There are historic buildings, museums, and parks to enjoy during the day, and great restaurants to explore after the sun goes down. Santiago is also within easy reach of many vineyards, so expect to be spoiled for choice with many amazing wine bars around the city. For day-time exploration of the city, the most famous landmarks are located around the city centre and within walking distance from each other.
Some places that are worth a visit are:
1. Plaza de Armas
Considered the heart of Santiago, Plaza de Armas is a very lively area surrounded by history and amazing architecture. It is always full of life, with local buskers, caricaturists and the Chess Club of Santiago each occupying their own corner of the plaza.
Around the plaza you will find some important buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National History Museum and the Central Post Office which has a large collection of stamps from all over the world.
You can also find the Casa Colorada (Red House) - the oldest colonial building in the city which has survived multiple earthquakes - and the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, the best museum in the world for ancient Central and South America artifacts.
If you want to get a real feel for the city, take a seat on a bench and watch daily life unfold on Plaza de Armas.
2. Palacio de La Moneda
Palacio de La Moneda is Chile's Presidential Palace. Bombed by the military in the 1973 coup that overthrew Salvador Allende and brought Pinochet to power, the majestic building was restored and reinstated as a palace in 1981. There are free tours of the palace, and while there you could also visit the Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Centre that shows art and cultural exhibitions. You can also watch the changing of guard’s ceremony every other day at 10am.
3. Santa Lucía Hill
Walking 30 minutes up to the top of Santa Lucia hill, you will cross plazas, statues, fountains, ponds and viewpoints from which to admire the cityscape. The stairs will lead you to the top of the fort which provides a bubble of peace and calm in the middle of Santiago, as well as 360 degree views of the city below.
4. San Cristóbal Hill and Metropolitan Park
This is the largest green area in Santiago and will offer you the greatest views over the modern part of the city, with the Andes Mountains backdrop (if the weather is clear). At the top you can find the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception and a large statue of the Virgin Mary – the patron “saint” of Santiago.
There is also a zoo, two swimming pools and a botanical garden within the park’s bounds. How you reach the top is up to you: there is a funicular that goes to the top of the hill, or you can hike, cycle or drive up.
5. La Chascona
For poetry-lovers, a visit to La Chascona is an opportunity to walk in the steps of Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet. the house, La Chascona (woman with the tousled hair), was built for his mistress Matilde, who later became his third wife.
Now a museum, visitors can learn about the history of this fascinating building assisted by an audio guide. The house is filled with his collections, and evidence of his passion for the sea and creativity is evident everywhere: the dining room is modelled on a ship’s cabin and the living room on a lighthouse.
6. Sky Costanera
Sky Costanera is the tallest building in South America at over 300 metres high. If you have an evening to spare, it’s a great place to go and watch the sunset over the city as it dips behind the cordillera.
If you would like to visit Santiago, you can see our Chile holidays here.