Santiago Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Santiago

Santiago is the political, financial, and cultural center of Chile. The capital city was founded on Santa Lucia Hill in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes, Santiago offers history, gorgeous architecture, world-class museums, and fabulous markets.

Start your trip from Santa Lucia Hill which has one of the best views of Santiago and the Andes mountains. The hill contains many historical statues and structures. You'll be immersed in Santiago's history as you climb to the top. Next, visit historic buildings and meet locals on Paseo Ahumada. This pedestrian-only street is a great place to immerse yourself in Santiago's culture.

Santiago was laid out in a grid design and has two historic squares. Don't miss the changing of the guard in the Constitution Square. The Arms Square was laid out in 1541. Here, palm trees shade a fountain celebrating famous liberator Simón Bolívar. The Metropolitan Cathedral towers over Arms Square. Visitors will love the cathedral's ornate and intricate architectural details. Arms Square is also home to the Central Post Office building, where visitors can see the world's first stamp.

The Pre-Columbian Art Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts from various Pre-Columbian cultures. The National History Museum details Chile's history and has impressive art and exhibits on display in 18 exhibition halls.

The Santo Domingo Church has simple lines and blends several architectural styles. Visitors will love learning more about Santo Domingo at this national monument of Chile. Finally, for an immersive cultural experience, check out Central Market. Shop for fresh produce, souvenirs, and taste local food.

Put on comfortable walking shoes and take this self-guided tour to immerse yourself in Santiago's remarkable culture and history.
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Santiago Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Santiago Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Chile » Santiago (See other walking tours in Santiago)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santa Lucía Hill
  • Paseo Ahumada (Ahumada Promenade)
  • Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)
  • Pre-Columbian Art Museum
  • Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral)
  • Plaza de Armas (Arms Square)
  • Central Post Office Building
  • National History Museum
  • Santo Domingo Church
  • Mercado Central (Central Market)
1
Santa Lucía Hill

1) Santa Lucía Hill (must see)

Santa Lucia Hill is 629 meters (2,064 feet) above sea level and 69 meters (226 feet) above the local area. This unique hill is the remainder of a 15 million-year-old volcano.

The hill was originally called Huelén in pre-colonial times. In 1541, Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia claimed the hill for the Spanish and named the hill Santa Lucia. Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago from Santa Lucia, making this hill an important historical site. During Santiago's early days, missionaries used the hill to pray and worship.

In the early 1800s, Manuel Olaguer Feliú, a Spanish military engineer, built two forts on the hill. Castillo Hidalgo was built in 1820, and the fort is open to the public. Today, the site is home to an enormous park. A series of stone steps lead visitors to the top for an incredible view. The climb may be challenging, especially on a hot day.

The steep steps twist their way past terraces, trees, statues, fountains, and gardens that have been erected over the centuries. Each terrace allows visitors to rest before continuing. Don't miss the beautiful Neptune Fountain.

In 1849, United States Naval Officer James Melville Gilliss founded an American observatory on the hill. Gilliss sought to measure the solar parallax precisely. Chile purchased the equipment and formed Chile's first National Astronomical Observatory on the site.

Traditionally, an 1824 cannon is fired every day to mark the noon hour.

Why You Should Visit

Santa Lucia Hill marks the site of Santiago's founding and is now a beautiful park in the middle of the city. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, discover the history of Santa Lucia, and enjoy a breathtaking view from the top of the hill.

Tips

Visit on a clear weekend day. On the weekends, there is less traffic, and the air is often clearer with less smog. The clearer the air, the better your view of the mountains.

Opening Hours: daily: 9am-7pm; Free entry
2
Paseo Ahumada (Ahumada Promenade)

2) Paseo Ahumada (Ahumada Promenade)

Paseo Ahumada is a four-block-long pedestrian-only street used by two and a half million pedestrians each year. Here, you'll find historic buildings, shops, and restaurants. The highlight of a walk along Paseo Ahumada is watching busy Santiagans go about their daily life. Immerse yourself in city culture as locals travel from their offices, grab lunch, and go shopping.

Street musicians and performers often entertain passersby. You'll see ballroom dancers, folk dancers, and musicians of all kinds. Street vendors hawk their goods; this is an excellent place to shop for trinkets and souvenirs. Paseo Ahumada is lined with trees, providing shade and respite on this busy street.

The Banco de Chile building is one of the historic buildings found along Paseo Ahumada. The 1926 building is a gorgeous example of Beaux-Arts-style architecture. Classical columns create an imposing effect, while the ironwork gives the building an ornate look.

As you walk, stop at one of the popular mote con huesillo stands. You'll enjoy this popular local drink made with a sweet peach punch and wheat.
3
Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)

3) Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)

The Plaza de la Constitución is named in recognition of the ten Chilean constitutions. The square is surrounded by government buildings such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Municipality of Santiago, and the Chilean Central Bank. The square was updated in 1983 with paths, a grassy area, trees, and an underground parking lot.

There are two fabulous water fountains in the southern part of the square. Visitors will find five statues commemorating influential Chileans. Diego Portales founded the Chilean republic. Other statues are of Chilean presidents. Pedro Aguirre Cerda governed from 1938-1941, Jorge Alessandri was preseident from 1958-1964, Eduardo Frei Montalva was president from 1964-1970, and Salvador Allende was president from 1970-1973.

The La Moneda Palace dominates the square and is the seat of government. In front of the La Moneda Palace, there are flags representing 12 different regions of Chile. Don't miss the changing of the guard, which takes place every other day at 10:00 am in front of the flags.
4
Pre-Columbian Art Museum

4) Pre-Columbian Art Museum (must see)

The Pre-Columbian Art Museum is one of the world's top museums and a highlight of Latin American museums. Visitors will gain an important historical look at the wonderful culture of the Pre-Columbian Americas. The museum hosts over 3,000 artifacts, including ceramics, fabrics, jewelry, and tools.

The Pre-Columbian Art Museum is located in the Old Royal Customs House, built in 1807. The museum's extensive collection covers about 10,000 years of history and 100 different groups of people. The collection is divided into four areas.

The Mesoamerica area includes an Aztec statue of Xipe Totec, a Mayan bas-relief, and a Teotihucan incense burner. In the Intermedia area, visitors will find pottery from the Valdivia culture, one of the oldest cultures in the Americas. The pottery dates back to 2,700 BCE.

The Andes Centrales area features the oldest textile in the museum. The painted cloth is from the Chavin culture and is about 3,000 years old. In the Andes del Sur area, visitors will find Aguada ceramic urns and an Incan quipo.

The Chile Before Chile exhibit is fabulous and gives visitors a real insight into the lives of the original inhabitants of this land before colonization. The Chinchorro people mummified their dead before the more well-known Egyptian culture began mummifying their dead. The museum has a Chinchorro mummy on display, dating back to 1,900 BCE.

Visitors will also learn about the Anconcágua culture, which survived for 9,000 years hunting animals that are now extinct. Other unique pieces include Mapuche totem poles which were each carved from a single tree. Visitors will be impressed by the Rapa Nui wooden statues.

The displays are labeled in Spanish and English.

Tip:
Try to arrive before lunchtime, as it is usually packed.

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
5
Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral)

5) Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) (must see)

The Catedral Metropolitana was built between 1748 and 1800. This neoclassical cathedral has baroque features, including gilded columns and gorgeous, inspiring frescos. There has been a church standing on the site since the city was founded in the 1500s. The previous churches were all damaged by fire and earthquakes. Even the current cathedral has had structural damage and repairs made due to earthquakes.

Italian architect Joaquín Toesca was responsible for the gorgeous architecture of this important cathedral. The interior is stunning. The central nave is full of statues on the walls. The altar is magnificently ornate with marble and deep blue lapis lazuli. The stained glass is intricate and beautiful. Artist Ignazio Cremonesi painted the ceiling in 1906.

The seats and pulpits are meticulously carved from wood. The floor is decorated with thousands of tiny tiles in an intricate black and white pattern. The crypt houses the remains of Chilean archbishops. The lost tomb of Diego Portales, one of Chile's founding fathers, was discovered under the altar in 2005 and moved into the crypt.

Visitors will also find a museum adjoining the church. The Museum of Sacred Arts is home to many interesting religious artifacts. Silver craftsmanship by Jesuit priests includes a silver tabernacle and silver lectern. The museum also has a lovely courtyard.

Don't miss the Sacred Chapel, designed in 1846 by Eusebio Chelli.

Why You Should Visit

This is one of the most impressive and beautiful cathedrals in Chile. Its interior is reminiscent of Italian churches. Spend some time here to soak up all the ornate details.

Tips

Arrive early in the day as the church gets quite busy. An information board at the entrance to the cathedral outlines important statues and interesting features.

Opening Hours: daily: 10am-8pm
6
Plaza de Armas (Arms Square)

6) Plaza de Armas (Arms Square) (must see)

The Arms Square was founded along with Santiago in 1541. During the time of the Spanish colonization, it was customary to leave a city block empty and surround it with government buildings and a cathedral. If an attack happened, the city's residents could gather in the square and be defended.

Most of the buildings surrounding the Arms Square were completed in the 1800s. The beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral dominates the square. Other notable buildings in the square include the Royal Palace and the Central Post Office. A glorious fountain celebrating liberator Simón Bolívar stands in the center of the square. Over 100 palm trees shade the fountain.

There are several indoor malls with entrances from Arms Square. You'll find handcrafted goods, cafes, and fascinating corridors. The Chess Club of Santiago meets on the outdoor stage regularly. Just walk up and ask for a game.

On the weekends, you'll find musicians, painters, entertainers, and food vendors in the busy square. Dancers join together to dance the Cucea, a traditional Chilean dance.
7
Central Post Office Building

7) Central Post Office Building

The Central Post Office Building was initially designed by Ricardo Brown and built in 1881. Architect Ramón Fehrman remodeled the building in 1908, adding the neoclassical facade, a third floor, and the elaborate glass cupola. The facade is symmetrical and harmonizes well with the other historical buildings in the Arms Square.

The historic pastel-pink Renaissance-style building features two Corinthian columns. The Central Post Office is still a working post office where you can mail your postcards.

Visitors can check out the interesting postal museum, which features thousands of stamps from all over the world. The museum has an original Black Penny stamp. This English stamp was the first stamp in the world.
8
National History Museum

8) National History Museum

The National History Museum of Santiago would appeal to history buffs from all over the world, much as to lovers of art who would also find plenty of interest in its corridors and one of the eighteen exhibition halls. The museum, located right opposite Plaza de Armas, is a historical marvel which recounts the nation’s illustrious history from the time of early explorers and discovery by Europeans to about 1973 when the Junta coup plunged the country under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

The layout of the museum makes it very easy for a visitor to navigate through its halls, easily transporting themselves in time from the era of Chile's first discovery to the colonial period, the independence time through to the modern days. There is so much to learn about all these periods and the traveler will definitely have a lot to take in. Practically everything that has molded Chile into the country it is today, including railroads, wars, conflicts, industry and expansion during the colonial era, is on display.

Paintings in the National History Museum are nothing short of impressive, too, with original portraits of individuals who have gained a foothold in the history of the country.

Tip:
Remember to ask for the free audio guide - they're good! You can also ask to visit the clock tower and see Arms Square from above.

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm; Free admission
9
Santo Domingo Church

9) Santo Domingo Church

This religious edifice in the downtown area of Santiago is a solid proof that the most beautiful structures can also be the simplest. Its architectural marvel lies in simple lines, dominated by two towers at the top, featuring the Bavarian Baroque style. The church shows a mixture of architectural elements and artistic diversity that may be another reason why it looks so beautiful. The outside appearance reflects neoclassical influence with a touch of Creole. The church was built by Juan de los Santos Vasconcellos, who laid its foundation in 1747, before Joaquín Toesca took over the construction in 1796.

The interior is quite spacious and adorned with several paintings from the colonial era. Visitors can learn much about Santo Domingo in whose honor the church is named. The building has withstood several earthquakes and fires which partially damaged the structure; the interior had to be refurbished, though. In 1951, the church was declared a national monument of Chile.
10
Mercado Central (Central Market)

10) Mercado Central (Central Market) (must see)

The pulsating heart of Santiago is definitely the bustling Central Market which displays the richness of the country in terms of food, vegetables and fruits. Right in the middle of the market is an iron statue that exhibits its artistic element. The market is a testament to the wealth of Chile and a visitor have a lot to choose from, from food to handicrafts. Like any marketplace, the Central Market can be quite noisy, lively and entertaining as well, and if one does not mind crowds, would have a wonderful time here.

The best time to visit this place is during lunch hour, as you will get to experience the full splendor of the market, as well as sample some of the delicacies on offer, including fish marinade, ceviche or zucchini. Mariachis are present in various corners of the market, and their sweet music brings order to the noise, as they serenade visitors and locals.

The market's metal structure was originally made in England and then moved to Chile and assembled here in 1872 to serve as the National Exposition venue before it was transformed into a market. It is now a symbol of art and life in the city of Santiago and is open every single day except election days.

Why You Should Visit:
To grab a bite and buy your authentic Chilean souvenirs (e.g. textiles, alpaca scarfs) for a very good price.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-5pm

Walking Tours in Santiago, Chile

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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