Each of Santiago’s neighbourhoods is unique and varied. For the best nightlife, head to the sidewalk cafes and beer halls of Lastarria and Bellavista. Dine out at upscale restaurants like Los Condes and Providencia. Visit the museums in Centro, and stroll the pedestrian malls. Sometimes you might forget you’re in a South American country: Santiago feels a little more westernized than most. Its flourishing economy and busy arts scene make it a great city for young people and older adventurers alike. To make matters even better, it’s a great launching point for exploring Chile’s outer-lying scenic wonders. If you’re ready to explore Santiago, use this as your guide.
Places to Visit in Santiago
- Museum of Memory and Human Rights
- Plaza de Armas
- Chilean National Fine Arts Museum
- Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art
- Parque Las Escultras
- Barrio Brasil
Unique Things to See and Do in Santiago
- See the graffiti in the bohemian Bellavista neighbourhood
- Take the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal
- Try some rock-climbing in Santiago
- Visit Pulitzer Prize winning poet’s Pablo Neruda’s home
- Go paragliding over the city
A Spanish conquistador by the name of Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago back in 1541. Since then, Santiago has grown into a mishmash of cultures, but with its strongest influences from the Spanish and the aboriginals.
Santiago was a planned city right from the start. Pedro de Valdivia planned a street grid from the Plaza des Armas and began its construction immediately. However, not long after, Mapuche warriors nearly destroyed the entire settlement and almost starved out the colonialists. As you might’ve guessed, the colonialists fought back and Santiago was later rebuilt with its original plans.
By the 16th century, Santiago was a small settlement. It didn’t start growing until the 18th century when the cathedral and La Moneda (the mint) were both built. Wealthy landowners began moving in, and the city flourished. Colonial rule ended in the 19th century, and by the mid 19th century, Santiago was booming with the Californian gold rush. Things steadily increased since then, with WWII industrialization and urban migration.
In the 70s, Santiago was involved in a coup that deposed Salvador Allende, who was the first Marxist leader to be democratically elected in the entire world’s history. Political prisoners were rounded up and sent to torture centers and “prisons.” A leader has been democratically elected since 1990, and Santiago has enjoyed peace and prosperity since then.
Nowadays Santiago is a big urban sprawl, divided into rich and not-so-rich neighbourhoods. Although there’s been social inequality and problems with pollution, Santiago is a modern-day cosmopolitan city with lots to offer both its residents and its visitors.
Getting Around Santiago
Santiago has a very reliable public transportation system, and so it isn’t necessary to bother with a rental car. In fact, do yourself a favour and stick to public transit – traffic can be crazy in Santiago!
Did you know…?
Chileans love their dogs! Nearly every household in Santiago has a dog or three, and street dogs can be found everywhere (although they’re generally mild-mannered and sweet).
Did you ALSO know…?
Although the language is Spanish, Chileans tend to have their own dialect and mannerisms when it comes to speaking the language.
Public buses are modern, and the only way you can pay is with your Bip! card. Otherwise, taxis are in abundance around the city.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Santiago
The climate in Santiago is a lot like the Mediterranean: mild winters, and very warm and dry summers. Snow only occurs in the mountains, which are accessible 90 minutes from the city. Things get a lot hotter in the summer months. During this time, tourists from neighbouring South American countries vacation in Santiago and the city gets quite congested, and prices are much higher. Come during the winter months for the less crowded experience.
If you want to read more about Santiago – check out Santiago – Putting The “Fun” In Funicular Since 1923.
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