Although the capital of Chile, Santiago is somewhat underrated.
Santiago is nowhere near as famous as Argentina’s Buenos Aires and lacks the number of visitors that are attracted to Brazil’s Rio de Janiero.
But Santiago is a relaxed, safe and clean South American city, with plenty of authentic Chilean attractions. By all means, visit Chile to see some of its spectacular natural wonders – it is home to part of the Andes and Patagonia, after all – but after flying into the country, be sure to see its capital’s main attractions before you head off!
Best things to do in Santiago
- Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights)
This museum serves to commemorate those who suffered at the hands of the military regime of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. It was opened in 2010 under the former President Michell Bachelet. It demonstrates the history of the dictatorship and is frank about everything that happened throughout the regime.
It discusses what happened in the military group and the subsequent effects on citizens in Chile and Santiago, as well as commemorating those who lost their lives. It’s a very worthwhile place to visit in Santiago – vital to visit to pay respects to the victims and learn about how such an atrocity could happen in a relatively stable country, within living memory for many people.
- Plaza de Armas and the Presidential Palace
An historic square in modern day Chile, the Plaza de Armas is lined with tropical palm trees and archaic buildings. The square contains various statues, including one of Pedro de Valdivia, who was Chile’s conqueror and founder of the city of Santiago.
Often known as the buzzing centre of Santiago, Plaza de Armas offers lots of great ways to pass an afternoon. Why not try your hand at chess, enjoy Cueca dancing – a typical Chilean style of dance – or watch some of the local street entertainers. The Plaza de Armas is a wonderful, vivacious square with plenty to do to pass some time.
- Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral
The most impressive religious edifice in Santiago, this must-visit for history fans is situated in the northwest corner of Plaza de Armas. It’s free to explore and has baroque architecture.
It is the country’s leading location for Catholic worship and it began as a small cathedral in 1600. Earthquakes have wrecked the cathedral on various occasions, and today’s cathedral was consecrated in 1775. The cathedral features a crypt and three naves, a chapel and altars. It’s a stunning display of Southern American Catholicism and is a must-do cultural experience in Santiago.
The Cathedral opens from 11am Mondays, 10am Tuesdays – Saturdays and 9am on Sundays, and closes after mass at 7pm. Visiting after mass is not permitted.
- Iglesia de San Francisco
No building is as synonymous with Santiago as this church, which was established after its first colonisers in 1554. The original building collapsed in an earthquake – but the present-day church was constructed between 1586 and 1618, and it is still one of the oldest colonial buildings in Chile. It is free to enter, and is incredibly interesting for anyone who enjoys exploring old churches.
- Parque Metropolitano de Santiago and Cerro San Cristobal
Known as the ‘Green Lung’ of Santiago, the Parque Metropolitano is located on the eastern end of the Bellavista neighbourhood. It is surrounded by various mountains: San Cristobal, Piramide, Chacarillas and Bosque de Santiago.
A 45 minute hike will take you to the summit of Cerro San Cristobal which looks out over Santiago from 300 metres. Alternatively, you can take a funicular and leave at different stages of the hill. There is the national zoo, Japanese gardens and outdoor swimming pools on the hill, and at the top is a 22 metre statue of the Virgin Mary gazing over the city’s panorama.
Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.