Santiago is one of South America’s most modern cities. It lies on the river Mapocho and is the capital and largest city of Chile. Santiago offers a cosmopolitan and diverse culture, several architecturally impressive tall buildings, a huge urban development including multiple shopping centres and an ultra-modern transport system. Santiago is also a financial centre and the regional headquarters of several multinational companies. However, coastal Valparaíso to the west is Chile’s legislative centre.
Santiago’s cool Mediterranean weather results in a relatively hot and dry summer period (November to March) and a humid, cool winter period (June to August).
Santiago was founded by Spanish Conquistadors in 1541. Some interesting buildings from the Spanish colonial period include the 1586 Church San Francisco, the 1750 Posada del Corregidor and the 1769 Casa Colorada. Interesting nineteenth century (Republican era) institutions include the Quinta Normal (which previously included the Museum of Fine Arts, currently the Museum of Science and Technology), the School of Arts and Crafts, the University of Chile and the Normal School of Preceptors.
Other areas of interest include the Plaza de Armas, with colonial architecture like the Palacio de la Real Audiencia (currently the Museo Historico) and the Catedral Metropolitana. Look out for the beautifully restored central post office (Correo central), the large bronze statue of Pedro De Valdivia (a Spanish conquistador and professional soldier) and the pretty fountain honouring Simon Bolivar. This location lends itself to people watching, including the buskers, chess players and assorted locals.
Also worth visiting is the Cerro Santa Lucia, a pretty hill in the centre of Santiago with panoramic city views. Getting to the top involves negotiating pathways and steps and you’ll come across several viewing platforms. Some interesting monuments include a statue of Caupolican, the Castle Hidalgo and the fountains of Terazza Neptunod.
Santiago’s main market (Mercado Central), opened in 1872, is now mainly a fish, fruit, vegetable and wine market surrounded by seafood restaurants. It was initially designed to house the Palace of Arts and was declared a National Monument in 1984.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s second home, La Chascona, (built for his mistress) includes his Nobel prize, some interesting works of art by his close friend Diego Rivera and few remaining books (after the dictator Pinochet torched his beautiful library.)
Santiago’s transport is very complex and comprehensive. It includes an international airport, trains and buses, ultra-modern highways, a unified public transport system featuring a contactless smartcard called “Tarjeta bip”, a Metro and over 25 000 taxis. The possibilities for day trips to the nearby Andes mountains are numerous and although relatively distant, a visit to the Atacama desert is also highly recommended.
Posted : Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save