Santiago de Chile: The Basics
January 1, 1970
by Inner Traveler
To understand Santiago de Chile as a touristic place, we have to see it under the light of day and night, from heights and from the ground, in the simplicity of a coffee in a quiet neighbourhood and in the frenzy of the city life. After all, is the capital city. It has to be something for everyone right? So, honouring the diversity of a city that was built over and over again by different cultures, we have summarized 4 inexcusable destinations to know in one day (or less) for your visit to Santiago. Let’s start:
1. Plaza de Armas (Main Square), Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago and National History Museum.
#Architecture #History #Religion #Art&Crafts
The Square was set by the conquerors in 1541, upon a Tawantisuyu solstice “kancha” (religious open space). The place was the intersection of two roads (the principal road and the coastal road) of the Inca road system. It was a strategic place between the two principal heights of the city, Huelen Hill (now
Santa Lucía) and Tupahue Hill (now San Cristóbal). With these conditions, the conquerors decide to make this places a refugee, principally for the guns (guns = armas), once installed they started to design the new city of Santiago. During colonial times, the square was used as a market place, of justice centre (hanged people, dismembered people, punished people was exhibited here as an example). After the independence, was remodelled with the idea of making a place to hang out and enjoy the free hours of the day.
Today, the main square is more a traditional and touristic centre than anything else. The government offices were transferred to other places, and the walks just-for-fun are no longer a thing to do here. At west, the Metropolitan cathedral rises to protect us from the monsters of the far west sea (a strange superstition of Christian sailors back in the days of conquest), in the north face of the square, are three historical buildings, now used by (from west to east) the Chilean post office (once the governor’s palace), the national history museum (once the Royal Court Palace), and the municipality of Santiago, used by the colonial council. In the square itself, you will find a lot of artists selling their draws, paintings and else.
- Hidden, at the north side of the cathedral, the Peruvian and colombian migrants started to set, that’s why the streets around the north-west of the main square is called “Pequeña Lima” (Little Lima) because of the peruvian capital city. If you dare, you can buy something to eat from them, at dawn, when everyone goes back home, migrants sell cakes, fritters, roasted meat and a lot of other things to the hungry pedestrians who walk by (personal favourite: “papas rellenas” or stuffed potatoes).
- If you keep walking west from the north street of the square (Cathedral Street) to Bandera Street, and turn south, at a side of the magazine seller, there’s an old lady who sells horse hair crafts, a traditional and very old technique of the Chilean countryside. You can find pins, earrings, dolls, headbands and more.
2. Palacio de La Moneda (Coin Palace)
#History #Architecture #Art&Crafts #Walk
This is the seat of the Chilean president, and holds the offices of a few ministers. The building was originally to be the place were coins would be minted, it was actually like that from 1814 to 1929. After that, a president though it would be a nicer place to be a presidential palace, so moved there and the coin palace was taken to other place. And even after that, other president though it was complicated to work and live in the same place, so moved from La Moneda but keeping the offices there.
Architecturally speaking, the building is the hearth of the civic centre. Which starts in the citizenship square (the square at the north of the palace) and ends in Almagro’s Park. It has never been finished properly, but the intention lies there. Walking from the north, you will find the citizenship square, the Coin Palace, La Alameda (the principal avenue of the city) with the giant flag in the middle and the constitution square were the statues of Bernardo O’Higgins and José Miguel Carrera are (founding fathers). To the south from here, Paseo Bulnes (Bulnes’s pedestrian walk) holds other ministries offices and buildings of the army and police, it extends for five blocks to get to Almagro’s Park, in between you can find restaurants, bars and stores.
Going back to La Moneda, in the basement is installed a cultural centre which offers artisanal products of high quality from all over the country, unlike fairs the crafts here offered are qualified by the Chilean Artisans Foundation. Also, the cultural centre has a permanent exhibition of the well-known visual artist and musician Violeta Parra, and temporal exhibitions of world topics (the last ones were: Samurai and Africa, and now Egypt) and national topics, like Chilean landscapes and Chilean photography. You can check the tickets prices and schedule here: www.ccplm.cl
- One of the cafeterias inside the cultural centre is “Café Torres”. This place is well known for be the inventor of the famous Chilean sandwich “Barros Luco” that includes a grilled beef, melted cheese and toasted bread (traditionally a bread called “Marraqueta”, wich is crunchy on the outside and soft inside, similar in texture to baguette).
- If you reached Almagro’s Park, set your sight to the east. At the end, you’ll see an imposing structure 69 meters high. It is the Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament. The style is roman byzantine and was built in 1919.
3. Cerro Santa Lucía (Santa Lucia Hill)
#Walk #History #Sightseeing
We’ve already said that this hill was the strategic point of Santiago durain the conquest and the colonial times. In this place, Diego de Almagro founded Santiago but, naming it “Santiago de Nueva Extremadura” under the favour of the king of Spain. For the mapuche people, who lived here where the Spanish came, the hill was named “Huelén”, for the historians, this could mean two different things: Cursed Hill or Lonely Hill (this last one is the most adequate, because of the condition of this hill in comparison with the others in the area, which are part of a mountain chain called “San(saint) Ramón”).
Many years later, the hill was conditioned as a walk for the aristocracy. This was one of many projects in the city trying to give Santiago a “Frech” look. Back in those days, it kind of replace the role of the Main square, as the place you have to be seen in. Today, Santa Lucía Hill is small compared to the buildings around, but was quite an experience to see the city from there before the towers came.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find the Hidalgo Castle, built as a fortress in the colonial times, and after remodelled to be an exclusive event centre for the aristocracy, today is a restaurant and keeps organizing events of different kind.
If you´re here and already took a billion pictures, you can visit the National Library and the Municipal Theatre, both close to the hill, to the west. Also, if you exit from the north gate, you can reach the Bellas Artes Neighbourhood, and enjoy in one of the many small cafes around.
4. Barrio Lastarria (Lastarria Neighbourhood)
#Foodie #Antiques #Walk
If you walked from the Main Square, then to La Moneda, and after that to the Santa Lucia Hill, you deserve a break. Assuming you started early your walk, now is after noon. Lunch, please? Keep walking from the north gate of the hill to the east, after a few blocks (actually is only one block, but very large), and you’ll reach Lastarria Neighbourhood. This quiet street is the perfect place to lunch with family or have a drink with friends at the end of the day (If party and heavy drinking is what you’re looking for, we recommend you Bellavista Neighbourhood). The restaurants here, are known to serve a high quality fusion gastronomy, keeping always in sight the traditions of Chilean food.
We dare you to get lost in the side streets and discover the hidden places with gastronomic treasures, and forget for an hour the noise of the city and taste a different kind of typical food proposal.
We highly recommend you “Chipe Libre” restaurant, at Lastarría Street 282 (www.chipelibre.restorando.cl). Here, the idea is to end the usual fight for the origins of pisco between Chile and Perú, and enjoy the virtues of both sides of the desert. If you’re not so interest in drinking, the menu offers many options of chilean/Peruvian food, for you or to share. Give a chance to the desserts, a less common proposal to find in fusion restaurants.
At the north end of the Street, is the Parque Forestal (Forestal Park), a green lung at the side of the Mapocho river. You can enjoy the walk, go to the Teatro del Puente (theatre of the bridge) and rest for a heavy night (or not so much) at Bellavista Neighbourhood.
- Some of the antique sellers in Lastarria street have tokens of the old mineral companies of the desert. This tokens were given to the workers instead of money, to buy food and supplies in a store called “Pulpería”, owned by the same mineral company.
- Craving for something sweet? walk to the north of Lastarria Street and turn right to Merced street. You’ll find an Ice cream store called “Emporio de la Rosa”. We’ll leave the tip here, a cone of lúcuma-manjar ice cream will speak for itself (lúcuma is a fruit, manjar is also known as “dulce de leche”).