Santiago is the capital of Chile and one of the fastest growing cities in South America. Established in the 16th century, it has representative districts with colonial buildings, and the present rapid development is reflected in modern skyscrapers whose panorama can be admired against the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.
Although from the beginning of its existence, Santiago was the most important center in Chile and the seat of administration, until the nineteenth century it remained a small city. Only the rapid development of the northern part of the country related to the extraction and trade in saltpetre made it quickly attract new residents and expand. Currently, it is also a thriving technological center, sometimes referred to as the Silicon Valley of South America.
The place where the city's history began is the Santa Lucia hill, now a popular tourist attraction in Santiago and an excellent vantage point over the center. On its premises are the Hidalgo Castle and the Neptune Fountain. The second attractive viewpoint is the Saint Christopher Hill.
It's best to start exploring the center of Santiago from the main square of Armas. The baroque Metropolitan Cathedral stands next to it, the interior of which is drenched with splendor and decorations. The Constitution Square and La Moneda Palace are within walking distance. This part of the city has a lot of colonial buildings interspersed with contemporary buildings, which creates an interesting mix.
For a momentary escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can visit one of several parks. The Quinta Normal Park with a large pond, where you can go pedal boats, is the closest to the center. The O-Higgins Park with the Fantasilandia water park is much more extensive. It is one of the main attractions of Santiago and attracts large numbers of visitors on hot days.
While visiting Santiago, do not forget about the local museums. They are located mostly in buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The most important ones include the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Historical Museum, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Gabriela Mistral Museum of Education and the Museum of Remembrance and Human Rights, which preserves the memory of victims of Augusto Pinochet's rule.