Santiago de Chile. One of the places to visit absolutely in Chile: It’s possible to enjoy the thriving Chilean capital city and mountains in the same day!
Santiago de Chile was founded as Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura on 2nd February 1541; roughly seven years after Francisco de Pizarro colonized much of southern South America. It is now a thriving capital city, home to plenty of history and culture, as well as a city rich in diversity.
The Capital City of Chile
Almost immediately after its establishment, the city’s main square was designed and constructed, with streets leading from it. A fort was also placed in the center of the square – hence its name Plaza de Armas – however, only half a year later, all the buildings were demolished in a raid on the city. The Spanish set about rebuilding the city, based on the original plans of a grid pattern extending from the central square, yet Santiago was never to be a leading South American city under Spanish rule, due to competition from nearby cities, as well as several earthquakes which prevented rapid urban expansion. In fact, it wasn’t until Chile achieved independence from the Spanish in 1818 that the city really began to take shape. Under Pinochet’s dictatorship, the city was stifled and art and culture were prevented from flourishing. However, since the return to democracy, the city has recovered its cultural heritage.
Santiago de Chile has one of the world’s most stunning backdrops of any city; from the city center you can see all the way to the snowy peaks of the Andes, which are only an hour or two away and where incidentally you can enjoy a hike, a horseback ride or even whitewater rafting over the summer, and a weekend of skiing in winter.
Within the city there is so much to see and do: the aforementioned Plaza de Armas is a particular highlight, full of delightful flowers and benches that surround a fountain. Chile’s seat of government, the Palacio de la Moneda (formerly the colonial mint – hence its name), is another architectural masterpiece, constructed at the end of the eighteenth century. Santiago’s oldest colonial-era building is the Iglesia de San Francisco, a church whose construction started in 1586. If theater is more your thing, then the Teatro Municipal is one of the finest performing-arts stages in Santiago, and there’s always something being performed there.The Gran Torre Santiago, due to be completed in 2014, is the tallest building in Latin America.
In terms of nightlife, there’s plenty of choice. The historic center is the obvious place to start. Live music is particularly popular in the Ñuñoa part of the city, as well as Bellavista, an area that’s also widely recognized as having the best restaurants and cafes in the city.
The city’s location in the southern hemisphere means that the climate in Chile is reversed. Summer falls between November and March, with average temperatures of almost 30 degrees; meanwhile the coldest months are generally June and July, when daytime temperatures rarely exceed 15 degrees and can drop to zero at night.