What to see in Chile
Tourist attractions Santiago Chile
Around 40%of the population of Chile live in the Andean capital of Santiago, and it’s easy to see the appeal. The cultural and economic centre of the country, Santiago is awash with brilliant museums, theatres, restaurants and shopping streets, whilst its vibrant nightlife is concentrated around its endless street-side cafes and lively bars. A trip to Santiago is the chance to uncover centuries of Chilean history and uncover a diverse, cosmopolitan culture.
Founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, the city can be split into roughly five distinct districts. Central Santiago is filled with colonial architecture and pedestrianised streets, whilst Providencia is where you’ll find upmarket bars, nightlife and tree-lined neighbourhoods. To the east of the city, Sanhattan is the modern financial distinct, complete with glistening skyscrapers and swanky bars. For a more down to earth, bohemian atmosphere explore Bellavista and the north of the city. Finally, the western and southern parts of Santiago are home to student-friendly Barrio Brasil as well as the city’s airport and central train station.
There are many reasons to travel to Santiago, whether you’re here for sightseeing, skiing in the Andes, discovering the delights of the nearby Chilean Pacific coast or exploring the vineyards of the fertile crescent surrounding the capital. Filled with historic sights, although it is a great jumping-off point for tours of Chile’s spectacular landscapes, it’s worth lingering a while to get a taste for urban Chilean culture or to enjoy Santiago’s world-famous jazz scene!
Things to see in Santiago
A large city, there are countless things to see in Santiago. The Palacio de Moneda is one of the top sights, an ornate neoclassical building and icon of the city. Today, the building houses the Presidential offices, although it gets its name from its former function as the official mint of Chile. The inner courtyard is usually open to the public but for a more in-depth look at the architecture and heritage of this 18th-century landmark, you can book a guided tour of the interior.
The capital is known for its cultural scene, so one of the best things to do in Santiago is to visit the Centro Gabriela Mistral, the go-to venue for concerts and performances from both up and coming and established artists. Events are held here almost every day of the week, although a rotation of art exhibitions are also worth visiting. If you visit Santiago, be sure to explore the Centro Gabriela Mistral, if only to admire its beautiful modern architecture and colourful glass ceilings.
Chile is known as the ‘Land of Poets’ and the former home of one such Chilean artist is one of the best things to see in Santiago. Pablo Neruda, one of the countries most revered poets, once owned La Chascona, a charming house in the neighbourhood of Bellavista. The house was brought for his secret love interest, Matilde Urrutia, and extensively remodelled by the poet to reflect the things he and Matilde loved most in life. Anyone with a love of poetry or romance will enjoy a tour of La Chascona, complete with beautiful furnishings and a painting gifted to Urrutia by Neruda himself.
In the colonial heart of Santiago, you’ll find Plaza de Armas, the centre of the city. Here, the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral stands out as one of the capital’s must-see historic buildings. This 18th-century neoclassical cathedral is the seat of the Chilean Catholic church. The impressive decorative interior, awash with marble columns and ceiling frescoes, is worth the visit, plus it’s the perfect place to find tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of Santiago's old town.
Finally, one of the best things to do if you travel to Santiago is to climb to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, a hilly viewpoint at the heart of Parque Metropolitano, the largest green space in the city. Follow the trail on foot or take the funicular to the summit to enjoy spectacular views of Santiago and the surrounding Andes. If you can time your trip to Cerro San Cristobal for sunset, you’ll be greatly rewarded!