Most cities are characterized by the skyscrapers adorning their skylines--think Taipei 101, the Empire State Building, or the Gherkin Building. Santiago's skyline is defined by the Andes mountains instead, although this city has its share of skyscrapers as well. No matter which way visitors look, they'll see snowcapped peaks and breathtaking views.

Year-round, pedestrians will enjoy strolling through the city's extensive green spaces and parks. In the winter, skiers can make it to South America's largest resort in under two hours. In the summer, the nearby waterfall-adorned natural parks will amaze hikers. Freshly-caught seafood and Chilean wines will awaken travelers' tastebuds. Santiago entices visitors from around the world with its beauty. When visits end, travelers can't wait to come back.

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Santiago's City Parks

Santiago's urban parks comprise more than 700 hectares according to Parque Metropolitano. That is roughly twice the size of Central Park in New York, but the whole of Santiago takes up fewer square miles than the Big Apple. That means visitors will find parks around every corner as they explore the city.

The crown jewel of Santiago's parks is Metropolitan Park or Parque Metropolitano. It's Latin America's largest urban park and it features cable cars and a funicular. Not only is the ride fun, but the views of the city and the mountains are spectacular. Other sites to visit include the National Zoo, Chagual Botanical Garden, and Santiago Forest. Travelers could spend days seeing everything in this park--there are more than 14 kilometers of walking and biking paths.

Parque Metropolitano

  • Unlimited cable car rides for a day and scenic bus tour: $9-14 via website
  • Zoo admission: $5 via website
  • Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00AM - 6:00PM

Santiagueños are quick to mention another fundamental role the Metropolitan Park plays in their lives. The city sits in a dip in the mountains. The peaks around it trap emissions there, creating a cloud of smog. Particles in Santiago's air often reach dangerous levels for its citizens. This is being counteracted by reducing the number of cars, improving public transportation, and creating more "green lungs" or areas planted with trees. The Metropolitan Park is the city's most important green lung.

Santiago's Architecture

There are two must-see buildings in Chile's capital. The first is the tallest building--Sky Costanera. The second has received awards for its innovative architecture--Templo Bahá'í de Sudamérica.

Sky Costanera is smack-dab in Santiago's downtown area. Many travelers will find that it's within walking distance of the Metropolitan Park as well as the hotels in the beautiful Provendencia neighborhood. The sky-scraper houses a mall on the lower levels. Visitors can take an elevator to the highest floor for incredible views.

  • Sky Costanera - Andres Bello 2425
  • Admission fee for viewing deck: $18-20US
  • Hours: 10:00AM - 8:00PM

Sky Costanera is all about the material things in life, but Santiago's other architectural wonder is just the opposite. The Templo Bahá'í de Sudamérica is a place of worship and spirituality. The structure itself is a twisting dome sitting at the outer edge of the city in the foothills of the Andes. The building is surrounded by native plants, flowers, and shrubs. Its astounding beauty brings visitors closer to the divine.

Travelers can reach the temple with public transport but will need to walk about 30-40 minutes uphill for the final stretch. Travelers who think that sounds straining should take a taxi. The temple doesn't charge an entrance fee, but asks that visitors make a reservation online before visiting to keep the space crowd-free.

  • Templo Bahá'í de Sudamérica - Diagonal Las Torres 2000 Peñalolén
  • Reservations: Via the website

The Seafood In Santiago

With more than 6000 km of coastline, it makes sense that Chile is famous for its seafood. Santiago's Central Market boasts the best seafood in the capital. Inside this vast 19th century market, a central area is packed with elegant stands offering dishes featuring squid, conger eel, salmon, shrimp, and more. It feels like traveling back in time 150 years or so. Fine woodwork and cast iron partitions separate each dining area. Tables set with crystal wine glasses and table clothes beckon marketgoers to enjoy and leisurely meal there.

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The side wings of El Mercado Central de San Pablo are lined with stands offering the same dishes, but for lower prices. These establishments look less refined and in poorer repair, but the smells that waft from their kitchens are just as enticing.

Other stands offer fresh products for travelers who want to cook for themselves. They can choose from seafood, fish, cheese, meat, sausage, fruit, wine, and more.

Mercado Central

  • Hours: 9:00am - 8:00pm

Of course, there's more to see in and around Santiago. There are wineries to visit, ski slopes to experience, and national parks to explore. It's easy to understand why, every year, more than a million people choose this destination.

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