Sights of Santiago

Out and about in one of South America’s thriving cities

By: Janeen Christoff

Santiago is the largest city in Chile, the capital and home to more than 5 million people. Despite revitalization after years of dictatorship, many tourists overlook Santiago as a destination and more commonly, visitors use the city as a jumping-off point for travel to other Chilean destinations. However, whether you have a few hours or a couple of days, there are some places that shouldn’t be overlooked.

To see the hustle and bustle of Santiago, clients should start at the Plaza de Armas and explore the streets and boulevards surrounding it. There they will find the Metropolitan Church on the west side of the plaza. The cathedral was the fifth to be erected on the spot after the first four were destroyed by fires and earthquakes. Construction of the baroque building, designed by an Italian architect, took 30 years, and inside clients will find an alter constructed of lapis, bronze and marble.

The Pre-Columbian Museum, located in a former colonial Customs House, is just one block from the Plaza de Armas. It is small and easily navigated, housing amazing treasures of 4,500 years of civilization before the influence of Spanish rule. On display is an array of gold work, weavings, tapestries and pottery, all beautifully restored. There is no need for a guide if clients are traveling on their own. Each exhibit has a Spanish and English description. However, English-speaking guides can be booked and reservations are recommended. Clients should allow approximately one hour to meander through the various galleries but reccommend at least two hours for the museum, since, in addition to the permanent collection, there are also regular special exhibitions. A schedule is available on the museum’s Web site, although there is no English translation.

Santiago’s Mercato Central is a thrill for shoppers who want a taste of local flavor. Clients can walk around and check out the fish market, where vendors clean the day’s catch. There are also various kinds of local herbs and sundries for sale and several restaurants. The market itself is comprised of an awe-inspiring steel structure made in England and shipped to Chile, piece by piece, in the 19th century. One thing to mention to clients is that pushy vendors relentlessly call visitors over to dine in their restaurants, try their fish or buy their produce. It can be chaotic and overwhelming, but if clients are prepared, it’s also a great place for an authentic experience and a chance to buy some local wares.

Cerro San Cristobal or St. Christopher’s Hill is home to Santiago’s Metropolitan Park and the highest point in Santiago. For exercise, many Chileans walk up the to the top of the hill, but clients can ride the cable car, take the funicular, built in 1925, or simply drive up the winding road to the top for views of the sprawling city and the peaks of the Andes mountains. For the best view, clients should go at sunset, and if they are lucky and it’s a clear winter day with snow in the mountains, the glow of the sun sinking below the horizon turns the Andes a brilliant pink and makes for fabulous photos. Santiago is notoriously plagued by pollution so the view is not always crystal clear, but the park is spectacular nonetheless.


Mercado Central
Vergara and Av. 21
Open daily, 7 a.m-3 p.m. (restaurants are open until 8 p.m)

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
(The Pre-Columbian Museum)
Bandera 361, Santiago
Open Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cerro San Cristobal (St. Christopher’s Hill)
and the Metropolitan Park
The park is open daily 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Metropolitan Church & Museo de Arte Sagrado
Plaza de Armas
Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m; Sun. 9 a.m.-noon v