Travelling to Chile? Have a week or a day for some touring? Here are my favourite 7 FREE must-see spots in Santiago de Chile to choose from. Get ready to be cultured in all things Santiago. For free!
1. The view from the top of San Cristóbal Hill (Cerro San Cristóbal)
You know that statue of Jesus in Rio de Janiero, Brazil everyone has photos of? Did you know Chile has it’s very own massive Virgin Mary statue? Yep! And it’s right in downtown Santiago.
This statue and the general top area of Cerro San Cristóbal can be reached by a 45 minute walk/hike up the hill from 3 different entry points. The easiest to find is just to the left of the funicular starting point. Another option is to take the funicular (cable car) to the top, which costs less than $4 USD per person.
Once you’re at the top, prepare yourself for beautiful views! I suggest reaching the top early in the morning before the crowds arrive, however if you don’t mind the people, at sunset it is stunning, and you have almost a 360 degree view of Santiago below. Definitely a must-see!
2. Santa Lucía Hill (Cerro Santa Lucía)
Santa Lucía Hill is right in the heart of the city. You can enter at multiple points around the hill. This is a great spot to do a bit of walking, or even to have a picnic and watch the passersby. Walking towards the tip of the hill you will find long, narrow steps which curve up to a look-out of Santiago and the Andes mountains.
This is an important hill because it is where Santiago was officially founded by Pedro de Valdivia, and Charles Darwin actually has a signed plaque just before the last set of stairs up to the very top look-out, stating it was one of his favourite views ever – I am a biology nerd and Charles Darwin is my hero so this was quite exciting!
Right across the street (across the Alameda), is a large artesanal crafts market where you can browse and find anything from handmade leather boots to classic souvenirs like the Indio Picaro (if you don’t know what that is, you’ll find out!).
3. Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)
This museum is gorgeous. Right when you walk in, the entire building opens up into extremely high ceilings and light beams shining through to the floor. Here you can find replicas of famous statues from around the world and quirky exhibits which seem to be on constant rotation. If you’re into fine arts from around the world, this is your go-to. As a separate note, you must place your larger bags in the lockers provided to the left of the front entrance. No entry fee is required. No photos allowed in certain exhibits.
4. Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos)
Entrance is free, you must check in any larger bags at the front desk. This is an absolute must-see to educate yourself about the deep history engraved in Chile. This museum highlights Chile throughout the dictatorship between 1973 and 1990. It is powerful and packed with amazing, many sad, artefacts and details of what occurred during this time period. The building and layout itself is beautiful, and overall it is extremely well done. If you are interested in learning more about Chile and it’s history, do not miss this.
5. La Moneda Palace
This is the government palace of Chile. You are usually not able to get very close to the moneda due to guards and barriers, but it is a must to walk by and check out the statues of historical figures among the grass areas in front. Here is the location of the beginning of the dictatorship which rocked Chile from 1973 to 1990. Interesting fact: When the flag at the top of La Moneda also has the coat of arms on it, this means the president is currently inside the Palace.
6. Parque Forestal
This beautiful park runs through the centre of Santiago city along the Mapocho River. Strolling through the trees and stopping to see various views is a pleasant, free activity for anyone. It runs alongside the Mapocho River which is a popular reference point. Whenever I am in the city I always try to walk through Parque Forestal instead of through the busy streets, hopefully with a fresh empanada in hand, and immerse myself in the greenery within the busy city of Santiago.
7. Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral & Plaza de Armas
Coming from a country that is very young (Canada), seeing places like these leave me in awe. Santiago is saturated with beautiful heritage buildings and cathedrals, and one of my favourite cathedrals has to be the Metropolitan in Plaza de Armas. The outside is breathtaking in itself, but once you enter it’s like you’re in a whole new world. Take your time looking at the statues, the ceiling, take a seat and absorb it! It’s breathtaking.
**BONUS free must-see: My second favourite cathedral is the Cathedral de los Sacramentinos. Not many know about this cathedral as it is slightly out of the exact center of the city, but when it is open, it is absolutely amazing. Check out a photo I took inside on my instagram .
Travelling to Chile? Here are my top 5 must-know etiquette tips for Chile.
Have you travelled to Santiago? What’s your favourite spot to visit (free or not)? I’d love to hear ’em!
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-Jenn, The Redhead Abroad