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Santiago History

Santiago has grown into one of Latin America’s most successful cities.

Santiago was founded in 1541 by a small band of Spanish conquistadors. The location was chosen for its proximity to Cerro Santa Lucía (high ground that could be defended) and the Mapocho River as well as the temperate climate and fertile ground.

But the conquistadores were met with great resistance from the Incas and Picunche who nearly destroyed the town.

By the 1600s, Santiago was taking shape however, and the expansion was rapid. In 1770, the governor commissioned the Metropolitan Cathedral and La Moneda presidential palace to be built.

The Battle of Chacabuco on 12 February 1817 was a key moment in Chilean history. José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins led the resistance army to victory against Spanish royalists and on the same day Chilean independence was proclaimed.

Growth continued throughout the Republican era and an ambitious plan of civic building was formed, leading to the development of the education system and the forward-thinking landscaping of Cerro Santa Lucía.

The railway arrived in 1857. Santiago was now a modern and reasonably wealthy city with trams and paved streets.

By 1940, nearly 1 million people, many immigrants from Spain and Italy, packed the city. Almost as significant as the railway was the connection of the Pan American Highway, which was extended here in the 1960s.

However, Chile suffered from the same poverty as other southern countries. This led to political instability, the key moment being the 1973 coup d’état that saw the liberal president Salvador Allende ousted (fatally) and replaced by the violent military regime of General Pinochet.

Santiago was the scene of horrific atrocities against those perceived to be anti-Pinochet. Unlike the regime in Argentina, Chile’s government began to look west, opening up ties and trade with Thatcher’s Britain and Reagan’s USA.

Today, Santiago is a modern and lively place, leading one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries.

Did you know?
• The city was originally named Santiago de Nueva Extremadura.
• An earthquake in 1647 levelled the city.
• Around a third of the country’s population lives in Santiago.

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Featured Hotels


W Santiago

Starwood Hotel's W chain has landed in Santiago, with a blaze of imaginative lighting, colourful fittings and quirky furnishings. Compared with many of the W hotels around the world, this is tempered slightly by Chile's conservative tastes – no bad thing. The 168 rooms are well appointed. The level of service is unsurprisingly high. The rooftop pool is an interesting place to spend a few hours relaxing, and the bar is excellent.

NOI Vitacura

Overlooking the Parque Metropolitano de Santiago, NOI Vitacura provides a sanctuary from the urban bustle of the capital. This sleek high-rise hotel oozes style through its contemporary design and sophisticated suites. The rooftop terrace offers a late night bar, pool and unbeatable views of the Andes on a clear day.


Perhaps the most sensible option of any of the these listings, ChilHotel is practical, comfortable and affordable. On a quiet street within easy walking distance of the Metro in Providencia, it is the sort of place you would be happy to put your parents on a visit to the city with its good-value rooms (although some err on the small side) and polite service.

Hotel Foresta

This beautifully located hotel (right by Cerro Santa Lucía) has been around for a while. It has kept its old style, which means it is chock full of character, although sometimes this spills over into a slightly cluttered feel. However, the service is very attentive and with the arty district of Lastarria right next door, it is one of the best and most affordable options in town.

Ritz Carlton

Setting the standard for hotel opulence in Santiago, this is where the service is impeccable, Egyptian sheets adorn your bed and there is just about every luxury you could possibly desire within the hotel's walls. Gyms, swimming pools, three restaurants and an internationally renowned sommelier are all available to those lucky enough to stay here.

Happy House Hostel

A superb, ambitious renovation makes this colourful converted Barrio Brasil mansion the place to head to satisfy your old bohemian instincts - even though you now have more cash in your pockets. With everything from a games room to a delightful patio with views right over the city, this lovely relaxed place is for former backpackers who can afford to indulge themselves a bit more.