2. The historical heartland
Santiago is a city that wears its history on its sleeve. Beautifully-preserved colonial architecture stands shoulder to shoulder with municipal buildings from the 80s. While these rather banal modern edifices won’t have you reaching for your camera, the jumble of architectural styles paints a fascinating picture of Santiago’s past.
At the city’s core lies Plaza de Armas. Crowned as the first public space by Santiago founder Pedro de Valdivia in the 16th century, it’s also the emblematic heart of Chile. From here, you’ll also be well-placed to reach a number of museums. Try Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino and Museo Colonial, and then make time for the peaceful interior of the Catedral Metropolitana. Founded again by Valdivia, it was repeatedly restored and rebuilt over the centuries after devastating earthquakes. You can even see neoclassical influences from the Italian architects who reimagined it in the 1800s.
One of these architects, Joaquin Toesca, also designed Palacio de la Moneda. This ornate palace was once the country’s official mint. Today, it’s the seat of the Chilean President. It makes an imposing impression from every angle, and you can explore it as far as the inner courtyards.