10 Best Santiago Chile Attractions That You MUST SEE
Santiago, the capital of Chile is a fascinating city. Lying in the centre of the valley with the River Mapocho flowing by, it has a varied landscape. Some solitary isolated hills, scattered patches of greenery, neo-classical buildings and narrow winding alleys are one’s first impression of this curious city. The Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean are clearly visible from Santiago.
A modern metropolis today, Santiago has a well developed transportation system, plenty of shopping centres, restaurants, theatres and other amusement facilities which ensure that visitors have plenty of options to entertain themselves.
Apart from all the modern amenities, what makes Santiago an attractive destination, is that it can still boast of having a treasure house of 93 heritage sites within the city boundaries. These include architectural structures, archaeological artefacts and historical monuments.
Best Santiago Attractions
1. La Moneda Palace
Wikimedia/Alonso Jiménez Quesada
Built in the neo-classical style with a pronounced Roman Doric pattern, it is said that La Moneda Palace is the only palace in all the Latin American countries, which has a purely Italian neo-classical structure. Rectangular in shape, the palace has three patios, one is the hall at the entrance, the second is a covered area, while the third patio is the one which is used for official ceremonies. In front of the palace is a square which has several statues decorating it.
La Moneda palace is the residence of the Chilean President and the seat of the Government of Chile. A ‘must watch’ is the traditional Changing of the Guards ceremony, which takes place here every two days.
2. San Cristobal Hill
Located towards the northern part of Santiago, San Cristobal is about 300 metres higher than the general level of the city. It takes approximately an hour to reach the top of the hill on foot. A better and easier way to access the hill is by funicular rail, which is quick and inexpensive.
An impressive 22 metre high statue of the Blessed Saint Mary is built on a sanctuary housed on top of the hill. This statue stands out as an iconic landmark of the city. At night, it looks even more beautiful with its illumination. A small chapel and an amphitheatre for holding religious ceremonies also form part of the sanctuary.
At the foothills of San Cristobal Hill are the National Zoo and a beautifully landscaped Japanese Garden. Two public swimming pools have also been built here. Perhaps the most popular attraction of this area is a beautiful public park called the Santiago Metropolitan Park, which is the city’s biggest area of greenery.
San Cristobal Hill is a popular family destination because it has so many attractions built around it. It also provides a fascinating view of the city from the top of the hill.
3. Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Located in the centre of the city, this museum has a wonderful treasury of pre-Columbian artefacts and works of art collected from different parts of Central and South America. Some of the exhibits are 10,000 years old.
Beautifully moulded pieces of pottery belonging to different regions and cultures of the pre-Columbian period are the main attraction in the museum. Also remarkable are the uniquely shaped wooden spatulas, ceramics and gold and silver artefacts displayed here.
There is a separate gallery for textiles which exhibits a wonderful and varied range of textiles collected from the various countries around the Andes.
A visit to this museum is both interesting and informative. It gives one a wonderful overview of the different cultures which existed in Chile and the other neighbouring Latin American countries.
4. Parque Forestal
Flickr/Razi Marysol Machay
This park has been built on land reclaimed from the River Mapocho which runs through Santiago. It is located in the downtown area of the city, and provides an extensive stretch of park land along the bank of the river.
Parque Forestal is a lovely green area to walk through as one explores the historic downtown area of Santiago. Several rows of trees lining the park, and many statues scattered around the park area, make it an extremely pleasant experience.
5. Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts
The National Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of items of art from Chile and the South American countries in the vicinity.
The stately museum building called the Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1910, as part of the city’s centenary celebrations. It is a beautiful Neo-classical building patterned on the Baroque style of architecture.
Particularly eye-catching is the solid glass cupola above the central hall, which was designed and made in Belgium. The central doorway is also surrounded by glass. The liberal use of glass in the palace building creates a mystical illusion with the sunlight striking against the marble statues and making them look ethereal. In fact, the museum building is so beautiful, that it has to be seen to be believed.
6. Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Located in the historic centre of the capital, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago is the seat of the archbishop of Santiago de Chile and the centre of the archdiocese. Its location in the centre of the city has made it a starting point from which distances of all places around Santiago are measured.
Patterned on the neo-classical style, the church is built of stone and looks very impressive from the exterior. The interior of the cathedral is very grand, and the richly decorated altar adds to the overall splendour of the church. Next to the church is a small museum of religious exhibits.
7. Araucano Park
This is a large park with a host of facilities for recreational activities. There is a biking area, a skating area, badminton and tennis courts, a gymnasium, and a playground with swings. Rose gardens and an aviary in the park add to its universal appeal. Araucano Park is also the venue for hosting several events in the city.
8. Plaza de Armas
This is the main square in Santiago and the hub of the city’s varied attractions. It is flanked by historic churches and government buildings. The majestic Metropolitan Cathedral dominates the western part of the plaza.
The square has wonderful shopping malls and many restaurants which make it a favourite haunt of the locals, as well as visitors to the city. The plaza should be visited both in the daytime and at night, when the whole square is lit up. The plaza becomes even more vibrant and lively with large numbers of people thronging it.
9. Santa Lucia Hill
An interesting walk through a maze of trails and stone steps through terraces and scattered churches along the path, leads you to the Torre Mirador at the top. From here, you get a fantastic view of the entire city, and the Andes Mountains in the distance.
If you choose not to manoeuvre your way through the web of trails, you have the more convenient option of using the elevator which would take you straight to Torre Mirador. Interestingly, as per tradition, a cannon shot is fired into the air from here every day at noon.
10. Museum of Memory and Human Rights
This is a memorial museum, dedicated to the victims of violations of human rights during the Pinochet dictatorship. It exhibits the memorabilia of devices used for torturing the innocent victims.
Sprawled across the main entrance of the museum, is a poem, ‘Estada Chile’, composed by Victor Jara, a well known Chilean folk singer. Jara wrote this meaningful poem only a few hours before his death during the 1973 military uprising.
As you take a tour of the museum, you will see newspaper snippets, letters written by prisoners and corroborations by survivors, which depict the inhuman treatment meted out to hundreds of innocent victims.
The museum contains 11 rooms which are categorized according to topics such as the military coup of 1973, the torture meted out to victims, the fight for freedom etc. The very first room has a gripping title, ‘Human Rights, Universal Challenge.’ Other rooms carry headings such as ‘End of the Rule of Law’, ‘Repression and Torture’, the ‘Pain of the Children’, Absence and Memory’ etc. The last two rooms are appropriately captioned ‘Return to Hope’ and ‘Never Again’.
Dedicated to the preservation of human rights, the museum hosts events and exhibitions to highlight the injustices of tyranny, and violation of basic human rights.
A visit to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights is certainly an eye opener. It makes us understand how many innocent victims have suffered and been subjected to inhuman treatment during tyrannical and dictatorial regimes.
No visitor to Santiago should go back without seeing this great museum, as no trip to this city can be complete without a visit to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights.