Santiago basks in one of the world’s most spectacular settings. The Chilean capital is framed by a circle of mountains – a coastal range to the west and the snowcapped peaks of the Andes to the east. The city’s spirit matches the grandeur of its landscape. There, thriving artistic and culinary enclaves wait to be explored, charming old districts beckon travelers longing for another time and an infectious energy permeates every street. Visitors are treated to a flourishing arts scene, fine museums, a booming cafe culture and a huge range of activities at the doorstep of the mountains, making Santiago one of the world’s most exhilarating cities.
The colorful streets of Santiago were the inspiration for many of the works of Pablo Neruda, Chile’s most celebrated poet. When Neruda needed a hideaway to romance his mistress, he built La Chascona, named after his lover’s unruly hair. Although the poet loved the sea, he disliked sailing, so he modeled the living room after a lighthouse and designed the dining room as a ship’s cabin. The home contains an astounding collection of shells, colored glass and artworks by the poet’s famous friends, and the Fundacion Neruda maintains it as its headquarters.
The arts are celebrated and nourished throughout the city in museums and galleries. One of the best is the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende. What began as a populist art initiative during the presidency of Allende blossomed into an incredible collection with over 2,000 works by artistic heavyweights like Matta, Picasso, Tapies and Miró. The permanent collection is truly a thing of beauty, sitting in contrast to the eerie gallery filled with Allende’s personal effects. The juxtaposition between the artwork and the torture instruments used by the dictatorship is both jarring and moving.
The simply stunning Museo de Artes Visuales is a work of art itself, designed by local architect Cristián Undurraga. The raw beauty of the stripped wood, glass and concrete exterior gives way to four winsome galleries displaying photography, engravings, sculptures and paintings. Tucked away on the top floor is the Museo Arqueológico de Santiago, where dark stone walls provide an atmospheric backdrop for carvings from Easter Island, ceramics from Molle and San Pedro and silver jewelry from Mapuche.
Other museums worth exploring include the Museo Colonial de San Francisco, the Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología, the outstanding Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino and the Museo del Huaso, which honors the country’s cowboys with an impressive collection of hats and ponchos.
Santiago has a gritty beauty, but there is one place in the city that absolutely dazzles. The lavish Palacio Cousiño was built by the Cousiño-Goyenechea family’s wine-making and silver-mining riches in the late 19th century. The palace is the most shockingly ornate building in Santiago, and it beckons visitors with marble columns, glistening crystal chandeliers, incredible carved cherrywood furniture and other visual delights.
If you prefer natural beauty, visit the Parque de las Esculturas. The riverside green stretch is dotted with sculptures by local artists, and the captivating gardens are a favorite place for joggers and cuddling couples. The Cerro Santa Lucía park is also worth a visit. There, a labyrinth of interconnected plazas and walkways lead visitors to the crow’s nest, offering panoramic views of the city. Visit at sunset when the entire city is coated with soft light, and you will understand why Santiago has inspired so many artists and writers.
Santiago Geographical Location
Santiago is located in the center of Chile with the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. It is Chile’s largest city and has a population of approximately 201,000.
Spanish is the official language of Chile with Mapudungun, German, and English also common throughout the country.
Santiago Predominant Religion
- 70% Roman Catholic
- 15% Evangelical
- 8% None
- 7% Other
Among the other religious groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Jews, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists, and members of the Unification Church.
The Chilean Peso is the official currency of Chile.
It is rainiest in Santiago during the mild winter months. The summer months do receive rainfall as well and the temperature are usually hot.
Santiago Main Attractions
- Cerro San Cristobal
- La Chascona
- Museum of Pre-Colombian Art
Other Attraction in Santiago
- Plaza de Arms
- Estación Mapocho
- Plaza de la Constitución
- Cerro Santa Lucia