Santiago is a city of more than 6 million inhabitants, but almost all places of interest are within walking distance of the historic center.
CERRO SAN CRISTÓBAL
We started with the best, the main attraction of the city is this central hill converted into the so-called Metropolitan Park. Admission is free and opens daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter and until sometime later in summer:
- It is much bigger than it may seem, so allow yourself at least a couple of hours, especially if you are on foot. It has multiple viewpoints, picnic and recreation areas, some specially prepared for children.
- It allows magnificent panoramic views from its summit, presided by a 14-meter high statue of a shining white Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. To climb up there, the park has:
- A cable car operating from 10 am to 7:45 pm (18:45 pm in winter), adult price between 1,400 C $ and 2,700 C $ depending on the distance we travel. Closed on Mondays.
- A funicular with the same schedule as the cable car, costing for an adult 1,500 C $ one way or 2,000 C $ roundtrip during the week, 1,950 C $ and 2,600 C $ on weekends. There is a combined funicular and cable car ticket.
- By natural gas minibus.
- Or walking on steep lanes, the option that I used.
- There is a Japanese garden, open from 10 am to 6 pm, free admission, closed on Mondays.
- There is also the National Zoo, quite small, open from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Mondays, adult admission 4,000 C $.
- A small botanical garden.
- And two swimming pools, Tupahue and Antilén, closed in winter, adult admission 6,000 and 7,500 C $.
In addition to walking or cycling, there are natural gas minibuses that run circuits throughout the park from 10 am (2 pm on weekends) until 6 pm. They do not work on Mondays either. A single adult ticket costs 650 C $ on weekdays and 720 C $ on weekends, and a full day pass costs 2,850 C $ and 3,310 C $ respectively.
From the hill you can see the glass skyscrapers of the financial district, a short distance from the center-east entrance of the Metropolitan Park. Among them stands out the new Costanera Center, with its large central tower, the Gran Torre Santiago tower, the tallest building in Latin America. Its viewpoint on the last floor at 297 meters, the Costanera Sky, can be visited. Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Admission price for an adult 15,000 C $ (fast pass 20,000 C $). At its base there is an extensive and modern shopping center with more than 300 international shops and restaurants. From this viewpoint I do not have my own photos, since I was half built when I went in 2008, but I hope some of my relatives as part of their trip “Moras go Chile” go up there, rate it and be kind enough to give me a photo for this article.
In the southwest corner of the Park we will find one of the fashionable neighborhoods, which in addition to many types of renovated restaurants and classic buildings painted in vibrant colors, houses the house – museum of La Chascona, where Pablo Neruda lived. Those interested in this author can visit it from 10 am to 6 pm (winter) or 7 pm (summer) for 7,000 C $ (includes audio guide). Close on Mondays.
We continue the itinerary in a southwest direction through Bellavista neighborhood and the small Parque Forestal (Forest Park):
- Doing if we want a stop at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), located in a beautiful building from 1910 that seems taken from Paris (of which I do not own photos either, Mora family you have more duties). Open from 10 am to 6:45 pm, closed on Mondays. Admission is free since March 2015. I did not visit it because in 2008 it was necessary to pay. Nearby are the Gabriela Mistral Center and the Museum of Visual Arts.
- Immediately to the south is the magnificent Cerro de Santa Lucía, much lower than the previous one, but with acceptable views and, above all, an excellent and ostentatious architecture reminiscent of the Portuguese Sintra.
- Wandering west we will come across the central square, called Plaza de Armas, which is not very exciting despite the presence of its Metropolitan Cathedral in the northwest corner, next to a glass building. Admission is free and opens daily between 9 am and 11 am depending on the day of the week, and closes at 7 pm. As in the rest of the religious buildings of South America, comparisons to European ones do not leave it in good place. It is on the corner of the majestic Central Post Office, from 1882, and it could well be taken from Vienna, and next to it is the National Historical Museum.
- Leaving the square by its southwest corner, walking a few meters we will arrive at the only museum that I visited and that I do recommend, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. Open from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Mondays, adult admission 7,000 C $ (only 1,000 C $ for Chileans and foreign residents). One of my weaknesses in the museums are the old sculptures, rare and nice at the same time, and this museum has an acceptable amount of that type of pieces (and now some scholar may tear his clothes if he wants about my comment). Immediately to the west is the Palace of the Courts of Justice, also from the beginning of the 20th century, and considered a National Monument. Some 200 meters further to the west is the Alhambra Palace, of Hispano-Arab architecture headquarters of the National Society of Fine Arts, made in the nineteenth century with inspiration in the Alcazar of Seville and the Alhambra in Granada.
- Let’s continue wandering around the center, preferably in a southerly direction, marveling at how not only it has not been destroyed, but it is even attractive to the eye, combining buildings of several hundred years with glazed tunnels and futuristic sections, until arriving at the Palace of La Moneda, which has little to do with the currency, since it is the seat of the president of Chile, but its outdoor areas and patio can be visited from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, as well as the interior in organized groups. It faces one square to the north and another to the south, and the latter, together with part of the building, make up the Palacio de la Moneda Cultural Center, with art exhibitions.
BARRIOS LASTARRIA Y BRASIL
By now we will have had more than enough of historic buildings, museums, and parks, it is time to return to enjoy one of the greatest attractions in Santiago, its offer of cafes and restaurants, each decorated with more charm and with a more appetizing terrace than the previous one.
- Lastarria, immediately to the northwest of the Historic Center, has the nickname of the “coolest” neighborhood in the city, and is in some ways the continuation of Bellavista.
- While Brazil, somewhat further to the west, has the peculiarity of housing a large number of stately homes, typical of the upper class resident in the area in the nineteenth century, neogothic and neoclassical style, which half abandoned in the middle of the 20th century when the rich guys moved to another area, suffered a considerable decline. Needless to say, it was an easy pray for bohemians and today is one of the most fashionable areas of the city. It is the favorite area for backpackers and where I stayed.
ONE DAY EXCURSIONS
VIÑA DEL MAR
Scarce 120 km of highway to the west separates Santiago from its beach in the Pacific Ocean, Viña del Mar, a city built by and for summer, spring, autumn and winter leisure whenever the weather accompanies, which is usual. Clean, tidy, with an extensive seaside promenade and countless restaurants, cafes, accommodations, places to party and blocks of buildings, all in the purest style of the Spanish Benidorm, this city of almost 250,000 inhabitants is not a place where to go for its architectural beauty, but guarantees leisure of any type we prefer.
To get there, most use a private vehicle or take one of the very frequent buses; there are approximately every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., they only need previous reservation on holidays or weekends, when hordes of Santiaguinos rush to spend the day in Viña del Mar. The two main companies are Pullman Bus and Turbus, they take 90 minutes and cost from 3,000 C $, although there are unnecessary bed and Premium services that can cost up to 5 times more expensive. Buses depart from several stations, but most of them do it from Terminal Alameda, Alameda Avenue (one of the main ones in Santiago), 3km southwest of the Historic Center, near the Central Railway Station and the University of Chile.
Neighboring Valparaíso is to Viña del Mar what yin to yang, white to black, order in front of chaos, modernity in front of decadent classic, and is infinitely more visited by foreign tourists. Its historic center is UNESCO heritage since 2003, consisting of countless houses, mostly made of wood and dating from 150 to 70 years old, built without any urban planning, painted in cheerful and original colors in Central American style, creating an attractive set.
One street in Valparaíso
For detailed information, check its own specific article.
CAJÓN DEL MAIPO
If Viña del Mar is “the beach of Santiago”, Cajón del Maipo is “its mountain”. Recommended for those unfortunate with such a short time in the country that it is not possible for them to visit Chilean Patagonia, at least they will taste a bit of the Andes and even some traces of pseudo-desert. Santiaguinos frequent it for hiking, adventure sports and camping; This 25-km-long Andean canyon is just an hour away from Santiago in a southeasterly direction. It corresponds to the boxed basin (hence its name) of Maipo River, between hills and rocky massifs. Its most recognized points are El Yeso Reservoir (embalse), which usually reflects the mountains that surround it, and the peak called El Morado Natural Monument, and there are several hot springs where bathing is allowed, but none of the best sites are free, you have to pay to access them.
To get there:
- The most advisable is to explore the area in your own or rented vehicle.
- Another frequent option is to book a day trip from Santiago. Most last between 8 and 10 hours, cross the canyon to Embalse El Yeso and cost around 75,000 C $ (about 80 €) per person, although in low season you can find sales from 35,000 C $.
- Much cheaper, by public transport, there are two options:
- From Bellavista Florida Metro station (Line 5) take Metrobus 72 to San José de Maipo (ticket 600 C $).
- From Las Mercedes Metro station (Line 4), at the Vicuña Mackenna Poniente exit, take the Cajón del Maipo bus, or the aforementioned Metrobus 72, towards San José de Maipo.
- At least there are two buses every hour. To reach some of the destinations it is not necessary to go as far as San José de Maipo, which is at the end of the canyon; It is convenient to indicate to the driver exactly where we want to go so he can tell us where to get off.
MORE ON SANTIAGO DE CHILE:
WHEN TO GO, TRANSPORT, WHERE TO SLEEP AND EAT, DANGERS>