The area around Santiago was settled by indigenous people centuries before the arrival of the Spanish, but it was the Conquistadors who laid down the foundations of the city in the 1500s. They build Santiago on a grid, following a master plan, which was certainly innovative for the age. The Plaza de Armas, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Governor’s House all survive from this period.
You’ll certainly want to explore Santiago’s architectural heritage, but as there are 174 monuments in the custody of the National Monuments Council, it might take you a little while! Three of these monuments - the Sanctuary of Cerro El Plomo, La Moneda Palace, and the Church of San Francisco - have all been proposed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Climbing to the top of San Cristóbal Hill you’ll have the best views of Santiago, and will also see up close the giant white Statue of the Virgin Mary which is the symbol of the city.
Santiago has a thriving cultural scene, with numerous museums, galleries, and theatres. The Municipal Theatre of Santiago is renowned for its performances of ballet, and the Estación Mapocho has been converted from a railway station into a centre for the arts.