Santiago, Chile

Founded by the Spaniards in 1541, Chile’s capital has grown into its largest city. It requires days to begin exploring all of Santiago’s wonderful features. This travel guide shows a small sample of its highlights.

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1 Sunset over the Capital City of Santiago, Chile

Santiago is home to about 5.5 million people. This is 50% more than the next nine Chilean cities combined. Approximately 30% of the population of the country lives in the capital city. Santiago is located in the Mapocho River Valley shaped by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Coast. The metropolis reflects its Spanish roots and showcases magnificent historic architecture. The skyline is defined by over 1,100 high-rises above 11 floors.

Alcalde 15, Las Condes, Región Metropolitana, Chile

2 Edificio Metrópolis in Santiago, Chile

The nickname for the city’s financial district is Sanhattan, a blending of the words Santiago and Manhattan. Although the neighborhood does not yet have the expansive skyline of New York City, it does contain Santiago’s two largest skyscrapers: the Gran Torre Santiago and Titanium La Portada. Most of the other towers built here since the 1990s are similar in size to the Edificio Metrópolis. The Metropolis Building opened in 1998 with a height of 289 feet and 20 floors of office space.

Paseo Apoquindo 3669, Las Condes, Región Metropolitana, Chile

3 Edificio Banmédica in El Golf Neighborhood of Santiago, Chile

El Golf neighborhood in the Las Condes district is the most exclusive section of Santiago. It is known for its five-star hotels like the Ritz Carlton, some of the best shops and restaurants, several bank headquarters, expensive condominiums and gorgeous architecture. An example is this curve-shaped, 295 foot building called Edificio Banmédica. This office tower was designed by Borja Huidobro and finished in 1996.

Av. Apoquindo 3600, Santiago, Las Condes, Región Metropolitana, Chile

4 Our Lady of the Angels Church in Santiago, Chile

El Golf neighborhood of Santiago is characterized by tall, modern buildings which dwarfs the humble size of the Parroquia Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles. The parish was founded in 1943 by Cardinal José María Caro Rodríguez. It is affiliated with the Augustininans of the Assumption. The Assumptionists are a Catholic congregation established in Nîmes, France, in 1845.

Av. El Golf 155, Las Condes, Región Metropolitana, Chile

5 Parque Arauco Entrance Canopy in Santiago, Chile

This dramatic canopy covers one of the entrances to the Parque Arauco Mall. The two levels of indoor retailers are anchored by Sodimac, a large Chilean construction and hardware chain with over 100 stores in five countries. Also part of this Homecenter is their newest concept called Homy. It markets furniture, bathroom and kitchen products similar to Ikea. The mall also features numerous clothing stores, restaurants, a cinema, a bowling alley and an ice skating rink.

Av Presidente Kennedy 5601, Las Condes, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana, Chile

6 Virgin Mary Statue on San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

A hill towering almost one thousand feet over Santiago has long been a place of worship. The indigenous people once called it Tupahue. This means “place of god” in the Mapuche language. The Spanish renamed it San Cristóbal in honor of St. Christopher. In 1908, Catholics erected this 46 foot image of the Virgin Mary with outstretched hands. The iconic symbol of the city is officially called the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception of San Cristóbal Hill. Pope John Paul II visited here in 1987.

Subida Cumbre, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

7 Rack of Votive Candles in Santiago, Chile

Over 65% of the Chilean population is Roman Catholic, so it is common to see people at a place of worship lighting a votive candle before or after prayer. This rack of dripping wax is at the Sanctuary of San Cristóbal Hill where both the huge statue of the Virgin Mary and the Maternity of Mary Temple are located.

Subida Cumbre Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

8 La Maternidad de Maria in Santiago, Chile

The papal bull of Pope Pius IX called Ineffabilis explained the Catholic belief regarding the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This means she was free of sin. In celebration of that 1854 dogma, construction of La Maternidad de Maria began fifty years later. A statue of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child stands above a relief of St. Christopher at the entrance of this chapel on Cerro San Cristóbal.

Subida Cumbre Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

9 Nativity Scene Relief in Santiago, Chile

Inside of the Maternity of Mary Chapel are several carved reliefs of key events in the life of the Virgin Mary. They were sculpted by Peter Werner Horn. He was German-born artist and a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp before moving to Chile in 1950. He is credited with 3,000 works of religious art.

Subida Cumbre Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

10 People Riding Funicular in Santiago, Chile

An adventure not to be missed while visiting Santiago is a funicular ride in Parque Metropolitano. The entrance (called the Pio Nono station) in the Bellavista neighborhood is shaped like a medieval castle. The rail cars clatter up over 1,600 feet of track with a quick stop at the zoo before reaching the second station at the summit of Cerro San Cristóbal. The funicular was built in 1925 and became a National Monument in 2000.

Manuel Mackenna 452, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

11 Cityscape from San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

There is a lot to do on Santiago’s second highest summit: San Cristóbal Hill. Halfway up is the city zoo. On top are a huge Virgin Mary statue and a Catholic chapel. Additional features include two swimming pools (Tupahue and Antilén), the Jardín Botánico Mapulemu (botanical garden) and the Bicentenary Children’s Park. A major highlight is the terrific, panoramic view of the city below. All of these attractions are part of the Santiago Metropolitan Park.

Zoológico Nacional, Camino Carlos Reed, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

12 Giraffe Entertaining Three Young Girls at Zoo in Santiago, Chile

It was fun watching this foursome interact. It is hard to say if the little girls or the giraffe enjoyed the encounter more at the Chilean National Zoo. The facility opened in 1925 at the base of San Cristóbal Hill within Santiago Metropolitan Park. The zoo is compact by most big city standards but is worth a visit. The 12 acre property houses over 150 species including camels, a jaguar and a baboon plus animals native to Chile.

Zoológico Nacional, Camino Carlos Reed, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

13 Castillo Lehuedé or Red House in Santiago, Chile

This striking red building in Plaza Camilo Mori, which is part of the Bellavista district, was constructed in 1923 for a Chilean businessman named Pedro Lehuedé. In 2013, Castillo Rojo (Red Castle) became a small hotel with 19 guest rooms. They have done an excellent job of restoring its elegant interior including much of the original furniture and decor.

Constitución 195, Santiago, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

14 Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes Entrance in Santiago, Chile

The Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1880 in order to display Chilean art dating back as far as Colonial times (1540 through 1818) through the country’s current period of democracy (began in 1990). MNBA’s grand entrance strongly resembles the Petit Palais art museum in Paris which was completed ten years before Santiago’s Palacio de Bellas Artes opened in 1910.

José Miguel de La Barra 650, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

15 Icaro y Dédalo Statue at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile

Outside of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts) is this impressive sculpture called Icaro y Dédalo. United in Glory and Death is based on the Greek myth of Daedalus. In order to escape his imprisonment on Crete imposed by King Minos, Daedalus crafted wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son. When Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he plummeted into the sea. This statue of the mourning father is a copy. The 1922 original, by Chile’s first female sculptor Rebeca Matte, is displayed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

José Miguel de La Barra 650, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

16 Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes Side View in Santiago, Chile

The bold, rich façade of the Palacio de Bellas Artes was designed by Emile Jecquier. The home of the Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1910 as part of the celebration of Chile’s independence from Spanish rule on September 18, 1810. Nicknamed “The Palace,” it is the exquisite centerpiece of the Parque Forestal. The Forest Park is a 30 acre urban greenspace in downtown Santiago. It was constructed in 1901 based on the design of Jorge Dubois.

José Miguel de La Barra 650, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

17 History of Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago, Chile

On December 13, 1540, Pedro de Valdivia camped his army on a hill the indigenous people called Huelén. In the Mapuche language this means “rock of pain.” The Spanish conquistador renamed it Santa Lucia in honor of the feast day of Saint Lucy. He also declared the valley below was suitable for the formation of a city. This was the origin of Santiago, Chile.

Cerro Santa Lucia. Santiago De Chilr Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

18 Castillo Hidalgo Entry on Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago, Chile

The Spaniards built two forts on top of Cerro Santa Lucia in the early 19th century. After the Spanish were defeated, the citadels were renamed in honor of Argentinean military leaders from the Army of the Andes. This is the entrance to Castillo Hidalgo, a tribute to Captain Manuel Hidalgo. The namesake for the other fortress was Jose Ignacio González. They both died on February 12, 1817, during the Battle of Chacabuco. This was a decisive campaign during the War of Independence of Chile.

Cerro Santa Lucia. Santiago De Chilr Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

19 Castillo Hidalgo Gate on Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago, Chile

Santa Lucia Hill is a park worth visiting. It requires a challenging hike and sometimes narrow steps but your reward is seeing groomed landscaping, the magnificent Neptune fountain and small squares. Towards the summit is the Hidalgo Castle, the brick remnants of an early 19th century fort. Then you will enjoy the views from Terraza Caupolicián. This terrace showcases the cityscape of Chile’s capital city below your feet.

Cerro Santa Lucia. Santiago De Chilr Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

20 Gran Torre Santiago in Santiago, Chile

Construction of Santiago’s tallest skyscraper began in 2002. After several delays, all of its phases were completed in 2015 at a cost of over $1 billion USD. At 984 feet and 64 floors, Gran Torre Santiago has the distinction of being Latin America’s largest tower including the biggest shopping mall with over 100 retailers spread across six floors. The Costanera Center Complex also contains two hotels and an observation deck named Sky Costanera.

Cerro Santa Lucia. Santiago De Chilr Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

21 National Library of Chile in Santiago, Chile

The National Library of Chile was founded in 1813. Since then, it has amassed a collection of over one million books, documents and records. It also houses the country’s archives. This main branch of the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile was built in 1925. It is located on Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins which is named after the library’s founder. Bernardo O’Higgins was instrumental during the Chilean War of Independence in the early 19th century for securing the country’s freedom from Spanish rule. He also served as the second Supreme Director of Chile.

Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 651, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

22 San Francisco Church Bell Tower in Santiago, Chile

When the San Francisco Church was built in 1622 it became Chile’s first Catholic church. It replaced a chapel commissioned in the mid-16th century by Pedro de Valdivia, the Spanish founder of Santiago. This classic bell and clock tower was rebuilt in 1857 after the previous two were destroyed by earthquakes.

Av Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 804, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

23 University of Chile Main Building in Santiago, Chile

Universidad de Chile was established in 1843, making it the country’s oldest university. Approximately 38,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students attend across five campuses. In front of the main building is a marble statue by sculptor Nicanor Plaza of Andrés Bello. This Venezuelan-born diplomat and educator founded the school while he was a Senator of Santiago. He also served as the school’s first rector until he died at the age of 83 in 1865.

Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 1058, Santiago, Chile, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

24 Arturo Alessandri Palma Statue in Santiago, Chile

This silhouette is a statue of Arturo Alessandri Palma. He was the president of Chile three times during the first half of the 20th century. The sculpture is located in Citizenship Square behind La Moneda, the Presidential Palace. The building in the background is Tesoreria General de la República or the General Treasury of the Republic.

Teatinos 40, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

25 La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile

This was Chile’s national royal mint when it opened in 1805. La Moneda means “the coin.” Forty years later, the building was converted into the president’s residence. Today, it serves as the offices for the president and several cabinet ministries. The grassy area is called Plaza de la Constitucíon. The commons was added during the 1930s. The Neoclassical style of Palacio de La Moneda was designed by Joaquín Toesca. He was a prolific architect who served the Spaniards in Santiago during the second half of the 18th century.

Moneda S/N, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

26 Chilean Flag Flying in Santiago, Chile

La Estrella Solitaria or The Lone Star is the proud symbol on the Chilean flag. Approximately 18 million people live in the República de Chile which stretches about 4,000 miles along the Pacific Ocean. After being ruled by Spain from 1540 until its independence in 1818, the country experienced some challenging governments until their transition to democracy in 1990. Today it enjoys one of the best economies and living standards in Latin America.

Moneda S/N, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

27 Intendencia de Santiago Building in Santiago, Chile

Since 1928, the Intendencia de Santiago building has served as the offices for the administration of the Santiago Metropolitan Region. When it was built in 1914, it housed a Conservative Party newspaper named Diario Ilustrado. Edificio de la Intendencia was named a National Monument in 1976. It is located within the Civic District facing the Plaza de la Constitución.

Morandé 93, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

28 Santiago Stock Exchange Building in Santiago, Chile

Nestled in the La Alameda district is the old financial neighborhood of Santiago. Within a triangle defined by La Bolsa, Bandera and Club de La Union you will discover a flatiron building with a clock below its cupola. This is Bolsa de Comercio de Santiago, the Stock Exchange of Santiago. The SSE was established in 1893. Its current listings have a market cap of about $270 billion USD. To put this into perspective, this is about half the size of Apple Inc.

Moneda 1096, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

29 Former World Hotel Now BBVA Branch in Santiago, Chile

Next to the Santiago Stock Exchange on La Moneda is this elegant building with two female sculpted allegories below a green cupola and supported by four Corinthian columns. This National Monument was commissioned by the World Insurance Company in 1923. From 1935 until 1975 it was the World Hotel. Today it is a branch office of BBVA. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria is Spain’s second largest financial services company with assets of $775 billion USD.

Bandera 78 Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

30 Diplomatic Academy of Chile in Santiago, Chile

The Edwards Palace was built in 1888 as the residence for Arthur Edwards. In 1913 it became the headquarters and a social venue for a political party called Club September. Then 60 years later it was named a National Historic Monument, completely refurbished and began to house the Academia Diplomática de Chile. This institution’s mission is to train students to become political diplomats. The Andrés Bello Diplomatic Academy is named after a Venezuelan-born philosopher and author who had a significant role in the independence of his country during the early 19th century. Later he became a professor, lawyer and senator in Santiago. Andrés Bello is also credited with founding the University of Chile in 1842.

Catedral 1183, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

31 Ex Congreso Nacional in Santiago, Chile

When this white, neo-classical building with its columned façade opened in 1876, it housed the National Congress of Chile for nearly 100 years until the government was overthrown by dictator Augusto Pinochet in September of 1973. From 1990 through 2006 it was the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once again it is used by senators and for special congressional events. Ex Congresco Nacional became a National Monument in 1976.

Bandera 468, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

32 Metropolitan Cathedral’s Central Nave in Santiago, Chile

Santiago’s first cathedral located on Plaza de Armas dates back to 1561. The current Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago is the fifth iteration. Bavarian Jesuits commissioned Antonio Acuña to begin construction in 1745. Several other architects influenced its design before the Metropolitan Cathedral was finished in 1830. The Baroque interior has domes with stained glass windows and an ornate molded ceiling graced with frescos. Surrounding the central nave are columned arches. Each supports a chandelier and is flanked by religious statues of prophets and the Apostles. In front of the wooden pews is a German-made marble altar built in 1912. It features a sculpture of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. The cathedral was named a National Monument in 1951.

Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

33 Michael Archangel Slaying Satan in Santiago, Chile

In the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, the Archangel Michael leads angels against the dragon during the war in heaven. After overpowering Satan, he casts him and the other fallen angels from heaven. This statue depicting San Miguel Archangel spearing the devil is in the left nave of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago.

Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

34 Plaza de Armas Architecture in Santiago, Chile

The Plaza de Armas derived its name from when the Spaniards used this square as a military training ground in the mid-16th century. Over the centuries, the Plaza became the social, political and religious center of Santiago. Its boundaries are still defined by historic landmarks including the Municipality of Santiago building (1790), the Royal Court Palace (1808), Portal Fernández Concha (1871), the Central Post Office Building (1908) and the iconic Metropolitan Cathedral (1775 ) reflected here in the modern Edificio Plaza de Armas high-rise.

Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

35 Palacio de la Real de la Audiencia in Santiago, Chile

Palacio de la Real de la Audiencia has served several purposes since it was built in 1808. Tenants have included the supreme court, congress, town hall and a post office. Today, the Royal Court Palace is home to Museo Histórico Nacional. The history museum traces the country’s early Indian settlements, the Spanish occupation from the mid-16th century until 1818 plus major events during the last two hundred years.

Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

36 Pedro de Valdivia Equestrian Statue in Santiago, Chile

The centerpiece of Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s historic main square, is an equestrian statue of Pedro de Valdivia. This Spanish conquistador was a ruthless military leader against Peru and the indigenous people. His success led him to become the First Royal Governor of Chile in the mid-16th century. He is also considered to be the founder of Santiago in 1541. He was captured and brutally executed by the Mapuche Indians in 1553. This 16.5 foot bronze sculpture by Enrique Pérez Comendador was erected in 1972.

Veintiuno de Mayo 500, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

37 Basilica de la Merced in Santiago, Chile

When Pedro de Valdivia established Santiago de Nueva Extremadura in 1541, part of his entourage were brothers from the Order of Mercy. They built their first church in 1566. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1647. The second structure met the same fate by a quake in 1730. Thirty years later this red Catholic church with beige trim was finished. The twin towers of the Basilica de la Merced were added in 1859 and 1885. The Basilica of Mercy has been a National Monument since 1977.

Enrique Mac Iver 341, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

Santiago, Chile Composite of Eight Photos

Chile’s capital offers an array of architecture, museums, theaters, malls, restaurants, churches, parks and attractions. A small sample is shown in this composite. Starting at the top left is Edificio Metrópolis, one of numerous high-rises in the Sanhattan district. Next are two churches: the bell tower of San Francisco (1622) and the doorway to Our Lady of Mercy (1760). It is also worth visiting the Chilean National Zoo on San Cristóbal Hill and the Hidalgo Castle on Santa Lucia Hill. You will enjoy seeing the city’s sculptures such as the United in Glory and Death by Rebeca Matte in front of the National Museum of Fine Arts and Arturo Alessandri Palma, the three-time Chilean president, in Citizenship Square. Finally there is the La Moneda, the Presidential Palace (1805) and several other impressive government buildings in the Civic District.