This is a guest post from John Gower, analyst for NerdWallet and a traveler who’s walked the streets of Santiago. If you are interested in guest posting on our blog, please review the guidelines here and get in touch!
More and more, Chile is becoming a tourist hot-spot, with Santiago one of its main attractions. Its vibrancy and metropolitan culture draws in hundreds of visitors every year. Plus you can explore Santiago on foot! Here are some of the best places this beautiful city has to offer…
Santa Lucia Hill
What was once an eyesore is now a must-see. Santiago’s Santa Lucia Hill is a major attraction for first-time visitors, and admission is free!
Originally referred to as ‘Huelen’ by Mapuches living in the region, Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdina renamed it ‘Santa Lucia’ when he founded the city on February 10th, 1541. The hill was then used as a look-out for city planning purposes. From atop the hill is a perfect view of the city of Santiago, nestled before the snow-covered Andes.
In 1872, Santiago’s mayor Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna made Santa Lucia a new attraction by adding beautiful fountains, gardens and a labyrinth of stairways. It was made a national monument in 1983 and is now a lovely place to admire the stunning cityscape of Santiago. Santa Lucia is open to visitors every day from 9am to 7pm. Visitors should keep in mind that Santa Lucia should be avoided after dark. This historic sight can be accessed via the Alameda metro station.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Enter a world of Chile’s dark history, into Santiago’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights. This museum was created in response to the tragedies that occurred during former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. During this time, over 3,000 Chileans were killed. A large space was created and devoted to recognizing these tragic events as part of Chile’s not-so-distant past. It was appropriately dedicated to the victims of this tragic era.
The museum is a three-story space that showcases memorabilia of the victims, including snapshots of those arrested, letters and even bones of the deceased. It is an effortlessly powerful exhibition. The art space is sleek, with glass and copper walls. It was finished in 2009 and opened in 2010. The Museum of Memory is open to visitors Monday-Friday year round and is located in Matucana Center.
Head to the colorful indoor marketplace, Mercado Central, for top-quality fresh food! What was once the capital’s principal wholesale marketplace is now a ‘foodie’ paradise. Every fish and shellfish along the Chilean coast can be found in Mercado Central. Watch fish mongrels as they gut and fillet right before your eyes.
In the center of the marketplace are restaurants that offer authentic Chilean dishes. However, these can be a bit pricey. For a wallet-friendly option, head to one the stalls located on the marketplace’s periphery. You will find an equally delicious and authentic dish, such as a bowl of ceviche. Yum! Mercado Central is open from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and 7am-3:30pm Saturday and Sunday. It is two blocks north of Santo Domingo. Try to visit during lunch for a lively ambience.
La Moneda Palace
Take a stroll to La Moneda Palace for a taste of Chilean history. The palace harbors Chile’s current presidential offices. Take your camera for architectural snapshots of the building’s neoclassical style. It was designed by Italian architect Joaquin Toesca during the 18th century and has been used as a Chilean government building since 1922. Note the damage on the north façade, a result of missile attacks during the comp d’etat of 1973 when former President Allende was overthrown. A monument of Allende now rests on the palace grounds. Head to La Moneda Palace before 10am to witness the changing of the guards. La Moneda is located on Moneda & Morande and can be accessed via the Moneda metro station.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Enter the breath-taking Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago to witness beautiful intricate stained glass windows. Santiago’s first cathedral was built on site in 1541 and interestingly, it is the 5th constructed on this spot as a result of Chile’s earthquakes. Construction began in 1748 and was partially carried out by the same architect behind La Moneda Palace (Joaquin Toesca). Visitors can note the neoclassical style brought on by Toesca in both the cathedral and the Chilean presidential offices. The cathedral is located on 444 Plaza de Armas and is open every day, though visiting hours are increasingly limited so be sure to check beforehand. Bright, sunny mornings are the best time to admire the brilliance of the stained glass windows.
This is a guest post from John Gower, analyst for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you save money with financial tips on everything from travel to the tax benefits of 529 plans.