In the Maipo Valley, surrounded by the World’s longest continental mountain range – the Andes – lays a very special city. Santiago de Chile is a unique piece of land. Here tradition meets modernity and nature meets the city life. Let’s have a walk around its streets to get a better understanding of its complex personality.
Santiago was founded in 1541 by the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. He named it after St. James, and the name “Santiago” is an evolution of the Latin version of the name, “Sanctu Iacobu”. Today it is not only the capital of the country but also the largest city in Chile with approximately one-third of the population living there.
All around the city are the signs of its past. It all starts with the main square of Santiago. Plaza de Armas was built when the city itself was founded. It is not only the city’s most important historical site, but it’s also surrounded by many more important buildings. From the square, you can admire the architecture of the neoclassical Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, the construction of which ended in 1800, but had been reconstructed due to earthquakes. Another wonderful building you can admire from the square is the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago, built in early 19th century and turned into the National History Museum of Chile in 1982, and the Central Post Office Building from 1908.
Santiago is full of neoclassical architecture, although many of the buildings were destroyed by the earthquakes. The placement of the city, from its beginnings, created a constant risk of a disaster. Yet, the people of the city continued to develop it and created buildings capable of withstanding the earthquakes and the floods.
There are entire neighbourhoods full of 19th-century buildings, such as the Lastarria or the Barrio Italia. Many consider Barrio Lastarria the cultural centre of the city. This bohemian district is full of historical sites, but also art, music, and delicious food. It’s the perfect place to go back in time, have a stroll and admire the culture of the country. Barrio Italia is a more quiet place, where you can have a rest from the noise of the city.
While Santiago is centuries old it is not just a place for the history geeks. It is a modern city. That creates a wonderful contrast, making it that much more interesting. The city is becoming more diverse each year, and it is growing to become one of the most interesting places in Latin America.
While some of its districts are perfect for the travel back in time, some are great to enjoy the very modern nightlife. Bellavista is the go-to spot for both bars and clubs to dance the night away in, as well as some of the best street art in the city. Another great spot for a night out is Plaza Ñuñoa, slightly further from the city centre, which makes it a little bit calmer than the Bellavista.
In Santiago, you can also enjoy an incomparable location in an exclusive area of “El Golf”, Las Condes. There you will find modern architecture in a Business District. It also has nice walking areas, fine restaurants, theatres and shopping malls. There are also attractive alternatives of lodging in Las Condes, like Hotel Rugendas, 51 rooms Boutique Hotel plus Executive and Tourist Apartments like Time, perfect for short or long stays. The important commercial complex of the Costanera Center is located in Las Condes. It features the Sky Costanera, an observation deck, from which you can admire a 360° view of Santiago. Costanera Center is also one of the city’s many shopping centres, so if you want to by yourself a little something, there will be plenty of opportunities for that in the city.
The modern locations around the city are just as interesting to visit as the historical places.
We cannot forget about the nature that surrounds the city. Many people say that the name of the country – Chile – comes from a Native American word meaning “where the land ends”. It seems highly possible after you wander to its capital. Tall mountains surround the city, creating a one of a kind border. That gives some amazing opportunities to the visitors and inhabitants alike.
Firstly, the mountains create the perfect viewpoint. There are many places around the city perfect for admiring it in its whole beauty. The most popular one is the Cerro San Cristóbal. It gives you the perfect view of the city with The Andes in its background. Another one is Cerro Santa Lucia, this time in the centre of Santiago. Unlike Cerro San Cristóbal, it gives you a 360° view. Both are the perfect spots for admiring a sunset or if you have enough motivation, a sunrise.
But the mountains create also another opportunity. Santiago is around an hour away from a ski resort. There are slopes for different levels of progress, so anybody can find the perfect place for himself. The best time of the year for winter sports in Chile is between mid-June and mid-October. So if you’re a fan a the winter sports, take it into consideration when planning your trip. With over 100 wineries in the country, Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wine in the world.
Santiago also has some beautiful parks. The most popular is the Parque Forestal. It is the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, with about an hour worth of paths to wander through. There are often musicians and street artists in the park, so not only is it wonderful for relaxing but can also be entertaining.
There’s one more thing Chilean nature, particularly climate is great for. Wine. Chile is the 5th largest exporter of wine in the World. Its products become increasingly more popular, and many consider them to be some of the best wines today. It is the perfect place for both a degustation and a walk through the vineyards.
The Art and Science
Santiago has many truly interesting museums and art galleries. If you want to visit some of them, we advise you to go to Quinta Normal, the museum district. We especially recommend you the National History Museum, the Artequin and the Museum of Science and Technology.
For more art, you can head to the MAVI (Museum of Visual Arts). And if you would like to learn more about the history of Chilean art, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art will be perfect for you.
Santiago also has 3 different museums dedicated solely to the most famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. The most popular one is La Chascona, in Bellavista. All of the museums are former homes of the writer, which makes them that much more interesting.
Santiago is one of the most interesting and beautiful capitals in the South America. If you have never thought of going there, we believe you should add it to your bucket list.