Santiago Chile

Chile’s capital city of Santiago was founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, who gave it the name Santiago de Nueva Extremadura, “Santiago of New Extremadura” (Extremadura is a region of Spain). The location was chosen for its pleasant climate and strategic importance; the city is built on an island between two branches of the Mapocho River. Native Indians were enlisted to construct the first houses.

Today, Santiago is Chile’s largest settlement. With almost 6 million inhabitants, it is the home of almost 40% of the country’s people and is one of Latin America’s biggest and most important cities. It is also Chile’s financial and industrial centre. In the last 30 years the population has doubled, leading to overcrowding, pollution and problems with the city’s overloaded infrastructure. As a result, the government has tried to encourage people to move elsewhere, though with limited success.


Chile occupies a thin strip of land down the coast of South America to the west of the Andes, the world’s longest mountain range. The snow-capped mountains can be seen from all around Santiago, which is only a short distance from both ski slopes (30 miles away) and beaches (60 miles). The beaches at Viña del Mar are excellent. January and February are the summer months in the southern hemisphere and this is a popular holiday location.

Within the city itself there is a huge amount to see and do. At the east end of downtown Santiago, the Santa Lucia Hill is a site of particular historical interest. Valdivia conducted the city’s founding ceremony here in the 16th century, on the site used for reconnaissance and as a lookout-point by the conquistadors. Views from the top are unparalleled except by Cerro San Cristóbal (Santiago’s highest point) in the Bellavista district. San Cristóbal is located in the huge Parque Metropolitano, which has botanical gardens, a zoo and two swimming pools. If you don’t feel like walking, there is a funicular railway or a cable car to the hill’s summit.

Valdivia’s [ checker board housing layout] can still be seen in the older parts of Santiago today. The city’s most important buildings were clustered around the Plaza de Armas. The imposing and ornate Metropolitan Cathedral was constructed in 1745 on the site of Santiago’s first church (which native Indians burnt down shortly after it was built; this is now the fifth church on the site). The cathedral houses the Museum of Sacred Art.

Santiago has many other museums, the largest and most recent of which is [ Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda]. The [ National Museum of Fine Arts] (free admission on Sundays) exhibits many works of Chilean art. The [ Chilean Museum of pre-Columbian Art] houses items that show the history of the Andean and Central American cultures before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The area around Santiago is an important winegrowing region. The Maipo Valley, just south of Santiago, has several vineyards. In Pirque, the Concha y Toro vineyard offers guided tours. The nearby village, with its haciendas (huge ranches) provides beautiful scenery and walks. Santa Rita, Santa Carolina and Cousin o Macul are other vineyards in the area open to visitors.


As Chile’s economic centre and its capital, Santiago has a huge number of malls and shops offering a large range of international goods and brands. Alongside these, however, “artesanias” (craftsmen) and local markets sell more traditional products – look out for their alpaca jumpers and other clothes. Handmade Andean jewellery, made from silver and Lapis Lazuli, is also worth considering. Because the craftsmen make their wares for the local market, they are bought primarily by the Chileans themselves. You can therefore be confident that you are getting the real thing, rather than over-priced and mass-produced goods aimed specifically at the tourist market. Plaza de Armas, the old city’s main square, is a good place to find local art and other crafts.

Supermarkets are open until late (usually 10 or 11pm) and all day at weekends.


Santiago enjoys its nightlife into the small hours of the morning. People will often eat as late as 11pm and go on to a nightclub after 1am, returning home around dawn. The most lively nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

One of the best districts for nightlife is Bellavista, which has many informal restaurants and cafés. After 11pm these will often lay on live music for customers (usually boleros or Latin). Providencia, with its upmarket American-style bars, is popular amongst expats and visitors as well as local professionals; expect loud music and expensive prices. Nuñoa is the location of Santiago’s underground scene, frequented by students.

As well as the ubiquitous Latin music, Santiago is known for its Jazz. One of the best venues is [ Club de Jazz], in Nuñoa. Although it is only a small club, it frequently hosts some of the best international, national and local musicians.

For those who prefer their evening entertainment a little earlier, there is still plenty on offer. Look out for newspapers with information, such as El Mercurio’s “Wiken” or La Tercera’s “Guia Fin de Semana” – weekend supplements which include film, theatre, live music and other event listings.

Tourist Information

Chilean Tourism Promotion Corporation,Office 1501 Providencia, Floor 15, Av. 11 de Septiembre 2353, Santiago,Chile

  • Tel: +56 2 431 0530
  • Fax : +56 2 431 0516
  • Email:
  • Website: []


Santiago’s airport is [ Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport], 11 miles northwest of the city. Flights from here serve destinations all over the world.

Driving from the airport to downtown Santiago, turn left from the Circunvalación Américo Vespucio onto Route 68, which continues east and turns into Alameda Street, Santiago’s main avenue.