Photograph by wastesoul, Getty Images
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The Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral is located in Santiago's historic center.

Photograph by wastesoul, Getty Images

Discover the Best of Santiago

Explore Chile's capital with these top 10 tips.

Santiago’s cultural expressions, local cuisine, and proximity to both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean make it a city any traveler will love.

Wildlife

The most beautiful bird you can observe through the Andes range is the condor, the national bird of Chile. These birds can be seen in some spots in the mountains around Santiago, in Cajón del Maipo, but the best condor-spotting opportunities are found high in the mountains just over a hundred kilometers to the south of Santiago at the National Reserve Río Los Ciprses. After witnessing this hypnotizing being, you will feel a deeper connection to the admiration and meaning given to this bird, which is sacred to so many native cultures of the continent.

Archaeological Site

In the metropolitan area of Santiago there are over 400 archaeological sites, some of them being more than 10,000 years old. Among those uncovered are old, indigene residences, cemeteries, and ceremonials sites, but most of them are still waiting to be defined as official places to be visited. The only recognized place where Mapuche and Aymara ceremonies are still performed is El Blanco Hill; it’s especially alive every year for the celebrations of the indigene's New Year at the end of June.

UNESCO Site

There are no UNESCO sites in Santiago, yet there are a few waiting to be approved such as the Iglesia de San Francisco and La Moneda, the government palace. Located very close to Santiago you can visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso and Sewell Mining Town.

Cultural Sites

From traditional arts to contemporary exhibitions, the museums not to miss are the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, both located in Bellas Artes, the more hip and culturally active neighborhood of the city. The National Natural History Museum is located inside one of the most beautiful parks in the city, Quinta Normal. Just across the street you will find the museum dedicated to the most recent part of Chile's history, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which commemorates the victims of human rights violations in the country.

Best Day Trip

Valparaíso is a must-see, hosting one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country: an open-air museum full of art, graffiti, and colorful houses displayed within the hills. Located 120 kilometers from Santiago, Valparaíso is also the perfect place to try fresh seafood, as it is located right on the Pacific coast. If it’s nature you seek, the Andes Mountains offer options to do hikes and treks at different difficulty levels.

Off the Beaten Path

Get inside the local culture and explore some of the big markets. For a weekend visit, Persa Bio Bío is the biggest open-air market extending through several streets and featuring furniture, clothing, decorations, second-hand books and antiques, gaming, and, of course, a wide variety of national and international food. On weekdays, La Vega Central is the biggest fruit and vegetable market in the city center.

Most Iconic Place

The tallest building in Latin America is definitely worth a visit. At 300 meters high and offering panoramic 360-degree views, Sky Costanera has the best city view in Providencia. Visit during sunset and you will have one of the best memories of your visit to Santiago.

Late Night

Nightlife is an important part of the social life of every Santiaguino. As most of them are working long shifts, night is the sacred moment to enjoy life and meet with friends. Favorite areas such as Providencia, Bellavista, Lastarria, and Vitacura offer different options to go out for drinks or dinner. Keep in mind Chileans are used to eating dinner late—around 10 p.m.—and start their parties near midnight.

Historic Site

The most important historic site in Santiago is Cerro Santa Lucía. It was here that Pedro de Valdivia decided to fund the city of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura in 1541, and it was around this remnant volcano the city started to develop. Today it includes a 65,000-square-meter park with fountains, stairways, and at the highest point, the original canyon that announced noon to everyone in the area. A few blocks from here, at the opposite side of the Alameda del Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, the artery street of the city, you will find the oldest monument in the country, Iglesia de San Francisco, a church and convent dating from colonial times.

Local Quirk

You know you are in Santiago when you suddenly hear cymbals and drums. These are the sounds of the Chinchineros, urban street performers who play a bass drum-type percussion instrument with long drumsticks strapped to their backs. They also use a rope with a noose tied around the performer's foot to play the cymbals, which also form part of this improvised instrument.