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Santiago

Photo Credit: Johnny Stockshooter/Alamy

Santiago

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Santiago

Photo Credit: Chile DesConocido/Alamy

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Welcome to Santiago, Chile

When it was founded by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in 1541, Santiago was little more than the triangular patch of land embraced by two arms of the Río Mapocho. Today the area of the original municipality is known as Santiago Centro, and is just one of 32 <i>comunas</i> (districts)—each with its own distinct personality—that make up the city.You'd never confuse Patronato, a neighborhood north of downtown filled with Moorish-style mansions built by families who made their fortunes in textiles, with Las Condes, where the modern skyscrapers built by international corporations crowd the avenues. The chic shopping centers of Las Condes have little in common with the outdoor markets in Bellavista.Perhaps the neighborhoods have retained their individuality because many have histories as old as Santiago itself. Ñuñoa, for example, was a hardworking farm town to the east. Farther away was El Arrayán, a sleepy village in the foothills of the Andes. As the capital grew, these and many other communities were drawn inside the city limits. If you ask <i>Santiaguinos</i> you meet today where they reside, they are just as likely to mention their neighborhood as their city.Like many of the early Spanish settlements, Santiago suffered some severe setbacks. Six months after the town was founded, a group of the indigenous Picunche people attacked, burning every building to the ground. Undeterred, the Spanish rebuilt in the same spot. The narrow streets that radiated out from the Plaza de Armas in those days are the same ones that can be seen today.The Spanish lost interest in Santiago after about a decade, moving south in search of gold. But fierce resistance from the Mapuche people in 1599 forced many settlers to retreat to Santiago. The population swelled, solidifying the city's claim as the region's colonial capital. Soon many of the city's landmarks, including the colorful Casa Colorada, were erected.It wasn't until after Chile finally won its independence from Spain in 1818 that Santiago took the shape it has today. Broad avenues extended in every direction. Buildings befitting a national capital, such as the Congreso Nacional and the Teatro Municipal, won wide acclaim. Parque Quinta Normal and Parque O'Higgins preserved huge swaths of green for the people, and the poplar-lined Parque Forestal gave the increasingly proud populace a place to promenade.Santiago today is home to more than 6 million people—nearly a third of the country's total population. It continues to spread outward to the so-called <i>barrios altos</i> (upper neighborhoods) east of the center. It's also growing upward, as new office towers transform the skyline. Yet in many ways, Santiago still feels like a small town, where residents are always likely to bump into an acquaintance along the city center's crowded streets and bustling plazas. Explore

  • Restaurants

    Menus cover the bases of international cuisines, but don't miss the local bounty—seafood delivered directly from...
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  • Hotels

    Santiago's accommodations range from luxurious hoteles to comfortable residenciales, which can be homey bed-and-breakfasts...
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  • Nightlife

    Although it can't rival Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, Santiago buzzes with increasingly sophisticated bars and...
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  • Shopping

    A cluster of bookstores can be found along Avenida Providencia in what is known as the Galería El Patio, a courtyard...
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  • Entertainment

    From the dozens of museums scattered around the city, it's clear Santiaguinos also have a strong love of culture....
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  • Activities

    Santiago has a variety of sports activities for the spectator or active participant.
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  • Places To Explore

    Here are a few of the must-see spots to get familiar with Santiago.
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Things you can't miss

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Lively Scene at the Central Plaza de Armas

Street vendors and outdoor cafes ring this colorful downtown square, where you’ll also find the Natural History Museum and the magnificent cathedral.

Lively Scene at the Central Plaza de Armas

Image Credit: Getty Images

Cafes and Shops Invite Strolling in Bellavista

Diverse food and a lively art scene make this neighborhood a favorite of locals. Take the funicular up San Cristobal Peak for a vista of the city.

Cafes and Shops Invite Strolling in Bellavista

Image Credit: David A. Barnes/Alamy

World-Class Art of Central and South America

The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art displays sculpture, jewelry, pottery and much more from Maya, Inca and other cultures dating back thousands of years.

World-Class Art of Central and South America

Image Credit: Alamy

Tour Chile’s Finest Wine-Growing Regions

Dozens of wineries offer tastings in the Maipo Valley near Santiago, and in the Colchagua Valley, farther south. Go on your own or join a guided tour.

Tour Chile’s Finest Wine-Growing Regions

Image Credit: Bon Appetit/Alamy

Mercado Central: Paradise for Seafood Lovers

Set in a historic 1872 building, the bustling Central Market teems with local produce and the diverse harvest of Chile’s long Pacific coastline.

Mercado Central: Paradise for Seafood Lovers

Image Credit: David Coleman/Alamy

Join the Locals on the Beach at Viña del Mar

Sun-seekers from Santiago (and Argentina, too) head to this seaside town for its beach scene, vibrant nightlife and overall hedonistic atmosphere.

Join the Locals on the Beach at Viña del Mar

Image Credit: Image Source/Corbis

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Must Reads Before You Go

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Unplug and Renew With a Relaxing Vacation

Recharge body and soul at these quiet, secluded retreats.

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Stay Healthy on a Plane

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6 Places to Experience Big-City Wilderness

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Common Mistakes When Packing for a Trip

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When packing for your trip, don't overpack. Light travel is much more enjoyable. These travel tips help eliminate items you don't need to keep your luggage in check.

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