Santiago: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 21, 2020

The conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago in 1541, one hundred kilometres from the coast and at the foot of the Andes. Since then the capital of Chile has become one of the main South American cities with more than 7 million inhabitants. Its relatively compact centre can be visited on foot although the metro is well developed to connect the suburbs.

01. The Moneda Palace

Initially built at the end of the 18th century as a mint, the building soon became the seat of the Presidency of the Republic. President Allende was found dead there during the 1973 coup, his statue is now in front of the palace. There is a changing of the guard every two days, with music and horses. There is a cultural centre under the front plaza.

02. The Plaza de Armas

Following the usual plan of Spanish colonial cities, the Plaza de Armas is located in the heart of the city and brings together several public buildings. Free of the heaviest car traffic, it is a beautiful space to relax and meet in the shade of the trees. Painters sell their paintings there and a public Wifi network is accessible free of charge.

03. The Cathedral

The cathedral stands on one side of the Plaza de Armas, built at the end of the 18th century, it succeeds several earlier buildings destroyed by earthquakes. It adopted the classical style of the time while resting on powerful pillars supporting the vault. Under the choir, a crypt plunged into darkness creates a mysterious atmosphere.

04. The City Hall

The equestrian statue of Pedro de Valdivia stands in front of the city hall in the Plaza de Armas. The neo-classical appearance of the façade dates from the beginning of the 20th century after a fire that led to a restructuring of the building. During the military dictatorship the local powers passed to the army, the return of the civil powers marked the revival of democracy.

05. The Chamber of Representatives

This large white building with its crenellated columns is just an empty shell. Since 1990 the Congress has been relocated in Valparaiso, a hundred kilometres away. It is easy to understand the benefit for a dictatorship to move the parliament away, it makes less political sense since the restoration of democracy.

06. Mapocho train station

The imposing facade of the station is very similar to equivalent structures in Europe. It was used from 1912 to 1986 in a period when the economy was based on ore, the train also made it possible to travel the long distances of a very extended country. Since then, the station has become a cultural venue for exhibitions, fairs and conferences.

07. The Central Mercado

The building of the central market dates back to the end of the 19th century, it used the most advanced techniques of the time with a steel structure made in Scotland. There are more than 200 stalls, mainly for food, but not only. A growing share is also left to eateries, which attract customers with the illusion of proximity to suppliers.

08. La Chascona

It is one of the residences of Pablo Neruda, a communist poet. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Close to President Allende, he was hospitalized for cancer at the time of the coup, and died shortly afterwards. He built this house in 1953 for his mistress who later became his third wife. La Chascona is now a museum.

09. Cerro Santa Lucia

The hill suddenly rises 70 metres above the plain. It was this defensive advantage that decided the creation of the city. Remains of its military past are still visible, with fortifications and cannons. It has since become a green space with paths and fountains. A series of stairs lead to a small lookout that dominates the rooftops of the city centre.

10. Cerro San Cristóbal

Overlooking Santiago from 300 meters, the hill provides an aerial view of the city spreading to the foot of the Andes. It can be walked up by a path through a wooded park, with the funicular being the most common option. At the top stands a statue of the Virgin seen from many places in the city, a chapel accentuates the religious side.

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