Santiago Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Santiago

The downtown area of Chilean capital Santiago is a true treasure trove for architecture and history lovers. Spending time in Santiago, surrounded by the snow-capped Andes, will be even more enjoyable if you follow this orientation walk and explore the city's colonial past.
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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: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santa Lucía Hill
  • San Francisco Church
  • Palacio de La Moneda
  • Church of Our Lady of Grace
  • Municipal Theater
  • Basílica de la Merced
  • Santo Domingo Church
  • Catedral Metropolitana
  • Museum of Sacred Art at Cathedral of Santiago
  • Pre-Columbian Art Museum
Santa Lucía Hill

1) Santa Lucía Hill (must see)

Most of the time, hills are not seen as tourist attractions, but the Santa Lucia Hill in downtown Santiago veers away from this cliché as it features several beautiful sights, including fountains, a castle and stairways. Though it was originally called Huelen, which means “melancholy”, it brings smiles to the faces of many travelers who are awed by its beautiful facade. Its current name commemorates Santa Lucía day which is the date when Pedro de Valdivia conquered the hill in 1541.

The current beauty of the hill can be attributed to the efforts of Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna, who remodeled the hill by developing a road across it, building a chapel and introducing different varieties of trees and vegetation which did wonders to the hill's appearance. This he achieved with the help of Manuel Aldunate, Enrique Henes and Andres Staimbuck. Fountains, as well as several lookout points, have been connected by paths and stairways, and this has made the hill one of the best places for a leisurely walk.

In December 1983, Santa Lucía Hill was declared a Chilean national monument and currently, a lot of events in the Castillo Hidalgo take place there, including weddings. It is also one of the best spots to get a scenic view of the city of Santiago.

Why You Should Visit:
Can be a great addition to any sightseeing walk involving Santiago's central area, as it is right between Barrios Lastarria and Bellas Artes, two of Santiago's most charming artsy areas.
If you're in the market for souvenirs, you're in luck: the hill is located directly across from the Santa Lucia artisan market, where you can find a wide range of reasonably priced Chilean items.

It is best to visit on the weekend, as there is less traffic in the city and therefore less pollution.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7pm; Free entry
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Francisco Church

2) San Francisco Church (must see)

The church and the convent of San Francisco form the oldest religious sight in Santiago and the former symbol of the city. The colonial complex preserves a lot of memories and holds great spiritual importance for Santiaguinos.

The church, whose history is tightly intertwined with that of the city, was originally built in 1554 to accommodate the Virgen del Socorro. However, an earthquake reduced the first building to dust and the present day structure is a replacement built on the same spot later on. Its walls, a testament to the old age, have been modified and reinforced several times over the years.

A lot of ornamental additions have been made to embellish the structure, including a beautifully decorated wooden roof – a magnificent sight to behold.
There is also an annexed convent which showcases spectacular colonial art, including silverware, tapestry, figurines and paintings, which, if combined, could easily have won a prize as the largest and finest collection of colonial art in Chile. There are also many religious and other artifacts that were once used by the monks, and a wonderful collection of silverware, carvings and dozens of paintings in the rear rooms, which depict the life at the time of Saint Francis.

Why You Should Visit:
Full of Spanish paintings and other art forms in the unique style of the time. The attached museum also contains a vast array of extremely old ecclesiastical items and artworks which can't be photographed so the only way to see them is to go there. Well worth the small entry fee, but note that there is very little information in English.

The peaceful internal garden is a cool oasis on a hot day, with chickens and peacocks roaming about, and stunning tropical flowers.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palacio de La Moneda

3) Palacio de La Moneda (must see)

Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda ("Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Center") is a cultural facility located in Santiago, Chile, under the Citizenry Square, in the southern façade of the Palacio de La Moneda. It is intended to place the Chilean capital in the international cultural circuit, allowing participative and formative access for all citizens to the cultural and audiovisual richness of the nation. It was built between November 2004 and January 2006 and was designed by Chilean architect Cristián Undurraga. It contains 7,200 m², with two main exhibition halls, each 620 m² in area. Also, this center houses other minor exhibition halls: the Centro de Documentación de las Artes ("Arts Documentation Center", with information and resources concerning modern and contemporary art), and Cineteca Nacional ("National Film Archive"). The museum also has a Digital Laboratory (for film restoring and digitalization), restaurants, a café, and a small shop. There is a new art and technology exhibition room, a parking garage under the space with room for 564 cars on 4 levels, with pedestrian and vehicular access on Morande street and Teatinos street. If you plan ahead, you can get a free guided tour of the museum. On the weekends only the general public can receive the tour. On weekdays, social organizations, students, and companies can organize a guided tour, as well as the general public.

Why You Should Visit:
The tour is interesting and lasts a little over 1h, and includes the chance to see the changing of the guard and various interesting rooms & artifacts important to Chilean history.

You will need to take your passport or ID card for the tour. Don't forget to make your tour reservation at least few days in advance.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of Our Lady of Grace

4) Church of Our Lady of Grace

This catholic temple in downtown Santiago belongs to the religious order of Saint Augustine. It is the second oldest church in Chile, built in 1625, and was later remodeled into Neoclassical and Baroque styles.

The wooden figure of Christ, located inside the church, is an attraction in its own right and draws thousands of pilgrims each year from all over the world because of a legend associated with it. According to this legend, during an earthquake that hit Santiago de Chile in 1647, the figure of Christ, that had traditionally a crown of thorns on its head, got shaken and the crown slipped down to the neck. An individual, who was there at the time, attempted to return the crown to its original place, on the head, at which point the face of Christ started bleeding and the whole ground began to shake. They took it as a sign and since then the crown has never been touched again; it remains on the neck of the statue to this very day. Other than that, the church is noted for its architectural splendor and is open to all members of the public, religious and non-religious.
Municipal Theater

5) Municipal Theater (must see)

If the unique teardrop crystal chandelier in Santiago Municipal Theater could speak, it would tell tales of the awesome performances that have graced the halls of this theater, as well as of the famous ballet dancers, pianists, conductors and violinists whose art its walls have remembered. The theater was built by several architects and was inaugurated in 1857 with a maiden show of “Ernani”, an opera by Giuseppe Verde performed by an Italian company. At the time, the theater could seat 1,800 people.

Over the years, the building has suffered several fires and earthquakes which devastated the interior, each time meticulously restored. In 1974, the theater was declared a national monument and in the following years has established a solid reputation for artistic excellence and exemplary performances.

Lately, the theater also has made a mark with its digital documentation center which preserves the theater's history and the country's cultural heritage. The information it provides is available on the Internet free of charge.

Why You Should Visit:
Ballet, theatre, philharmonic orchestra and operas with artists and dances from all over the world.
There are guided tours twice a day, and you can visit areas not normally included in theater tours.

There are limited spaces, of course, so for big events, you would need to book early.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Basílica de la Merced

6) Basílica de la Merced (must see)

Basilica de la Merced is a great religious sight in Santiago and a proof that not all relics associated with Jesus Christ are stored in the Vatican. The basilica is said to house a sliver of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, which was reportedly donated to Chilean mercenaries by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. This has made the basilica a major attraction, along with its splendid, neo-Renaissance architecture and a religious museum inside.

The church was built originally in 1566 by Mercedarians, but destroyed by an earthquake; a new building was raised in its place in 1736. The church boasts a spectacular interior with a Bavarian Baroque pulpit and the sixteenth-century image of Virgin Mary on the altar. The church museum displays the life of the Merced order and holds some truly exceptional pieces from the Easter Island, including a rare rongorongo tablet. Despite the presence of an on-site museum, masses are served in the basilica every day.

Why You Should Visit:
The street presence is bold but the interior is balanced, much resembling the grand halls of some French renaissance palace.
Beautiful deus! Incredible timber floor! And, if you're lucky enough, you can hear the charming bell.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Santo Domingo Church

7) Santo Domingo Church (must see)

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.

Why You Should Visit:
Bears the signs of surviving many events and has a largely unadorned interior, the main point of beauty and attraction being the statue of the Madonna and Child dressed in white with a rich royal blue and golden cape.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Catedral Metropolitana

8) Catedral Metropolitana (must see)

Santiago's Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the largest and most impressive churches in Chile. It was erected between 1748 and 1775, and its facade received its present neoclassical look from Joaquin Toesca. In 1879, towers were added to the structure and other modifications were made to the offices, the palace of the archbishop, and the cathedral’s façade.

The interior of the cathedral is magnificent with its three naves and splendid ceiling. Several urns in the nave, at its right, are said to contain the remains of Chilean cardinals, while the central nave features altar seats made of mahogany, and the main altar made of white marble in 1912 in Munich. The pulpits date back to the 16th century; the organ – to the 18th.

The third nave, to the left of the cathedral, has altars dedicated to St. Michael the archangel, and Santiago the Major, the city’s patron. The Holy Sacrament Chapel within the church is similar to Saint John's Chapel in Rome.

The Museum of Sacred Art is located close to Plaza de Quintana and was founded in the 19th century. The tomb of St. James was discovered on the very spot, on which the altar was built. There are also several paintings and sculptures, as well as religious ornaments.

Why You Should Visit:
Quite a majestic edifice indeed, with the solemnity that was sought after.
Well decorated inside, grand and massive from the outside – a good place to observe Catholic culture in Chile.

Go early before most of the crowds arrive so that you can get some good photos (also the light is generally much better).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museum of Sacred Art at Cathedral of Santiago

9) Museum of Sacred Art at Cathedral of Santiago (must see)

The Museum of Sacred Art is located close to Plaza de Quintana and was founded in the 19th century. The tomb of St. James was discovered on the very spot, on which the altar was built. There are also displays of religious works of fine silver left behind by the exiled Jesuits, as well as an ensemble of religious paintings, sculptures & furniture. The museum is free and reached through the bookstore neighboring the cathedral.

Don't miss the ethereal courtyard, a paradigm of faded grandeur.
Pre-Columbian Art Museum

10) Pre-Columbian Art Museum (must see)

Art enthusiasts in search of Pre-Columbian art should definitely make a stop at the Pre-Columbian Art Museum in Santiago where some of the finest collections in this category are housed. For more than half a century, architect and passionate art collector, Sergio Larrain Garcia-Moreno, dedicated his time to collecting artifacts, most of which are currently located in the museum, opened in 1981.

The historical scope of the art displayed in this museum is about four and a half thousand years and each of the art pieces presented has a beauty that evokes emotion and exhibits the passion that the collector obviously had. Art from Mexico, Central America and the Amazon are featured in this museum, and they have a lot of aesthetic value, though most of them are not popular.

The museum is a testament to the diversity that existed in the Americas before the 16th century, in terms of culture and heritage, and outlines the daily activities of the indigenous people – architecture, music and war. The museum also contains an audiovisual library that has a lot of music files available to the public. One has to be a member of the museum, though, to borrow any of them.

Groups that wish to tour the museum can email their request up to one month in advance; the tours are available in Spanish and English.

Why You Should Visit:
To feel transported in time by walking through the halls, particularly the display in the basement of true primitive and pre-Columbian art.
There are also 3 galleries housing temporary collections that are equally well displayed, and with information also available in English.
The accent is more on the aesthetics of the artifacts and the museum really succeeds in carrying that through.

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

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Santiago, Chile

Create Your Own Walk in Santiago

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Santiago is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Recoleta Commune Walk

Recoleta Commune Walk

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 Km or 3.2 Miles
Santiago Landmarks Walking Tour

Santiago Landmarks Walking Tour

Santiago offers amazing views of beautiful mountains that surround the city. The hills that lie within the city have became landmarks due to the magnificent view of Santiago they offer and because of the monuments that sit upon them. This self-guided tour will lead you to the most popular landmarks of Santiago:

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
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Historical Churches and Cathedrals

The main religious buildings of Santiago were built in the 17th and 18th centuries and are set in the center of the city. These amazing buildings and monuments are mostly Catholic temples but there are a few Orthodox churches as well. The following self-guided walking tour will lead you to these sacred places:

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

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