Let’s say you have one day left in Santiago before heading to your next destination and are unsure of what to do, and/or your budget is a bit tight. If itchy feet are not a problem for you, the following is a route I planned and tested myself to discover the main tourist attractions downtown or pretty near it, mainly on foot.
Wake up early, so you can make the most of your day. My advice: 7:30 in the morning.
Take the nearest metro station and get off at Moneda Metro Station (red line). Exit through Morandé Street. You are now on the corner of Alameda Avenue and Morandé Street, in front of Palacio La Moneda (The House of the Government).
There is a museum below Palacio La Moneda; its name is Centro Cultural La Moneda. Interesting, temporary or seasonal exhibits are available for free before noon.
If you are starving, right next to Palacio La Moneda, on 83 Morandé Street, you’ll find a lovely, greeny spot called Plaza de Bolsillo, which is literally, a pocket-size square, where you can buy a cup of coffee (there will be cheaper options on your way, but the place is beautiful), while you admire the mural painted on the back wall.
Plaza la Constitución in at the corner of Morandé Street and Moneda Street, one block from where you were and it has several landmarks you can photograph.
- The statues of Jorge Alesandri Rodriguez, Eduardo Frey Montalva and Salvador Allende, who were presidents of Chile, and also, the statue of Diego Portales, Prime Minister of Chile when the country was only a few decades old.
- A magnificent Ginkgo Biloba tree on the corner of Moneda Street and Teatinos street. An ancient species which cannot reproduce itself anymore. It is said to have appeared on earth about 270 million years ago, meaning, before dinosaurs ever existed.
- The Ministerial buildings around Plaza de la Constitución.
Optional: If you are not keen on local coffee shops, there is a Starbucks in the middle of Agustinas Street, between Morandé Street and Bandera Street.
Walk along Moneda Street, to the East, until Bandera Street. The building in front of you is the Stock Exchange building, built in 1893. Take the cobblestone street called New York, which probably won’t appear in your maps unless it is google map. Everything on that street in beautiful, plus you’ve got a nice chocolate store and at least three coffee shops.
Nueva York Street is only a one-block street, and in the end you’ll get again to our Main Avenue-Alameda Avenue-, also known as Bernardo O’Higgins, in honour to our founding father. Right in front of you is the oldest University of the country. Can you guess the name? Good! It’s Universidad de Chile.
Double back from Nueva York Street until Bandera Street, and then from Bandera until you get to Compañía Street. Museo de Arte Precolombino is right on the corner. The fee is …. If you choose to enter, you should be done with the museum by about 11 AM.
Don’t forget to refill your bottle of water before leaving the museum!
*Bonus: the building that probably called you attention in front of Museo de Arte Precolombino is our Law Court.
Locate the corner of Compañía de Jesús Street and Bandera Street. Walk along Compañía Street to the East and a block from where you were, you’ll find Plaza de Armas, which has the following interesting spots.
- Al Pueblo Indígena Sculpture right in front of where you are.
- Catedral Metropolitana, on the corner of Ahumada Street and Catedral Street.
- Museo Historico Nacional (which used to be Casa de la Real Audiencia), a beautiful pale-colour building with a tower, located right next to Correos de Chile (the old governor’s house). The museum is free, and it doesn’t take more than 40 minutes. Once inside, don’t forget to ask for the tour up to the tower. There you’ll have a panoramic view of the Plaza. Children under 10 cannot go on that tour,
- A 1712-map of Santiago, in front of Museo Histórico Nacional.
- Pedro de Valdivia Statue riding a rainless horse. Inaugurated in 1963, the statue was inverted in 1999, facing now the Cathedral instead, since a lot of people suggested the conqueror seemed to be turning his back to God and the Square.
Walk along Estado Street to the south. Pass Huerfanos Promenade and turn East on Agustinas Street. Walk along Agustinas Street. One block from where you were, you will see Teatro Municipal de Santiago. If you are lucky, it will be open for visitors.
Keep walking through Agustinas Street. Go pass San Antonio Street and Enrique Mac Iver Street. (Bonus: On the corner of Agustinas Street and Mac Iver there is a big mural painted on the side of a building. It represents a kid hugging a pen). Turn South on Miraflores Street and walk until you get to Alameda again. From where you are, you should be able to see Santa Lucía Hill. Don’t climb the hill yet.
Feria Santa Lucía, the biggest craft market downtown, is on the other side of Alameda Street. It is the perfect place to buy crafts for the family and friends. Also, there is a natural juice stand in the middle of the fair. Very nice products, but if you don’t like sugar, you’ll need to say it, otherwise the seller may add three tons of it. Just say “Poquita azúcar, por favor”.
*The marvellous building in front of the craft market is Our National Library.
With the presents in your bag, go cross Alameda Avenue again and enter the hill from the main entrance. Then, ask the guard for the following landmarks:
- Pileta de Neptuno: A beautiful fountain located on the second floor.
- The canons used by the Spanish governor to terrorise the Chilean neighbours if the independent army arrived to the city, about 210 years ago.
- Lautaro’s Statue. It doesn’t look like a Mapuche. Instead, he looks like a Mohak (LOL).
- Castillo Hidalgo, on the North side of the hill.
- The view point on the top of the hill and on your way up, a tiny church where the remains of the mayor who transformed the hill into a beautiful garden rest.
Come down the hill from the back entrance. Santa Lucía Street changes its name to José Miguel de la Barra to the north. Walk two blocks to the north and you will find Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes. I totally love it! Check the coffee shop inside. It is expensive, but sometimes it has souvenirs worth buying. There is also another souvenir shop on the first floor of the museum, right next to the entrance.
In front of the main entrance of the Museum, there is a restaurant that looks like a tiny castle, and a park. The name of the park is Parque Forestal. Cross the street towards that building and walk one block inside the park. Check the plaques with the scientific names of the trees. Turn west on Merced Street. On the corner of Merced Street and Monjitas Street you will see the very famous ice-cream store Emporio La Rosa.
Lastarria Promenade is one more block to the West. It’s a wonderful neighbourhood to take a walk. Restaurants are kind of expensive, but most of them very nice. Plus, there is a nice street market, with a lot of handmade products, some of them, unique. In addition, on the corner of Lastarria and Rosal Street there is a massive mural, transforming the facade of the residential condo in a 1900 city landscape.
Walking down Lastarria you will eventually get to Alameda. Once there, take a taxi from the other side of the avenue (or else you will be paying more) to the Teleferico in San Cristobal hill, which is on El Cerro Avenue and Pedro de Valdivia Norte Street.
Take the Teleferico to the middle of the hill. Enjoy the view of Santiago and if your feet are still able to walk, get to the top of the hill. Then, take the Teleferico back down the hill, take a taxi to Providencia Avenue and allow yourself a treat in one of the many restaurants you can find in there. They won’t be as cheap as in the historic centre, but I assure you, most of them are very good. To have typical Chilean food, go to Liguria in 1353 Providencia Avenue.
Of course there are plenty of things you won’ be seeing on this one-day, self-guided walking-tour. Check my list of historic and/or important landmarks in Santiago to add or remove any of the options I included in this entry. Also, feel free to email me. I’ll be happy to reply! And if you find this helpful, please let me know and leave a comment below.
Click here if you need a physical map.
*Click here to check the list of my favourite restaurants in Providencia Avenue.