Santiago de Chile
Anyone who arrives in Chile’s capital after a strenuous flight, usually from the European winter, will encounter a mixture of the familiar and the foreign, without the inevitable culture shock that sets in in other Latin American metropolises.
Not only does Santiago’s architecture seems familiar in its mixture of restored buildings of European style epochs of the 19th and early 20th centuries alongside modern functional buildings or representative glass palaces, but also the population of the metropolis resembles that of European capitals in their well-dressed bustle. Even the background noise remains subdued, clichés of the exuberant temperament of the “Latinos”, which is expressed in loud, extroverted behaviour, are left unfulfilled.
The obvious strangeness like the fact that the sun is in the north at noon, or the Andes cordillera towering over the city, but mostly hiding behind the cities haze, often remains concealed.
A third of all Chileans live in this metropolitan area, which is not only the undisputed economic and political centre of the country, but also its cultural heart.
The city map of the historic centre follows the typical chessboard pattern of the Spanish-colonial urban planning and helps with orientation. Santiagos Plaza de Armas is the starting point for a tour of the historic centre. The square square, with its music pavilion, green spaces and park benches, is flanked to the west by the twin-towered 18th-century cathedral, with lavish Baroque decor inside. On the north side of the plaza are the historic Post Office building, built as a governor’s palace, the Museo Histórico Nacional in the former royal audience building and Santiago’s Town Hall. The Cerro San Cristóbal, from where one has the best views over Santiago de Chile, is reached by both a rack railway and a cable car.
Among the most interesting areas outside the city centre are the Bellavista, which is considered an artists’ and pub district, the student district of the Barrio Brasil (around the Plaza of the same name), the picturesque Concha y Toro street (Metro República) or the pub scene around the Plaza Ñuñoa in the district of the same name.