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Overview to Santiago de Chile: Travel Guide and Tourist Information

Santiago de Chile

Surprisingly modern and well-heeled, Santiago is one of South America's most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities. The city combines the hubbub of street vendors and frantic locals with enough creature comforts to put a compelling case forward to the international traveler.

For most travelers, Santiago is a stop-off city; a base from which to explore the surrounding area. And, so varied are its attractions that, unless you have several days to explore the sprawling (and unexpectedly bohemian) outskirts, your time will be best spent in and around the center.

Like most of Santiago, the Downtown is laid out on a (visitor-friendly) grid network. Apart from the odd major road and the gentle Rio Mapocho, streets are straight and create handy geometric blocks. The epicenter is the Plaza de Armas, from which all distances in Santiago are measured.

The Plaza is well-cultivated and busy, with an array of people gathering to chat or sell their wares. The grandiose cathedral is located here, as is the Museo Historico Nacional and the excellent Museo Precolombino, with its slightly ghoulish exhibition of ancient Chinchorro mummies.

A sacred triangle of attractions surrounds the Plaza. The bottom left corner features the Palacio de la Moneda (check out the changing of the guard), whilst the bottom right corner hosts the lush Cerro Santa Lucía. And ar t the top of the triangle (and next to the river), you’ll find the Mercado Central.

Once at the Mercado, it’s a short walk across the river into Bellavista – the spicy Latin Quarter and the old home of Pablo Neruda. A funicular can be caught from here that offers easy access to the top of San Cristóbal, where amazing views and a 22m statue of the Virgin Mary await.

Santiago’s recent history is undeniably tempestuous. But these days, the streets are safe, the people are as friendly as ever and any self-respecting backpacker is sure to enjoy exploring its dense and intriguing inner-city.

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