The capital of Chile, Santiago, is immense and stretches endlessly, climbing the slopes of the mountains. However, the center is affordable and relatively small (a vaguely triangular area bounded by the river Mapocho). It is a city with wide avenues and squares, lined with public buildings and churches which are also surrounded by parks, although Santiago is not free from traffic jams and pollution.
The Virgin Mary guards the city from the peak of 860 m in the Cerro San Cristobal which is part of the Metropolitan Park.
Among the attractions of Santiago we can find the colorful central market, the historic center of La Plaza de Armas, Paseo Ahumada (pedestrian street and frequented by street musicians and street vendors) and the enormous palace of La Moneda, which has got a colonial-style and it used to be the place where the Chilean currency was issued, but nowadays it is the presidential residence.
The city has numerous museums, including the magnificently restored Precolombino and the Museum of Santiago, which documents the present of the e city through dioramas and reconstructions. The Palace of Fine Arts was inspired by the Petit Palais in Paris and has a superb collection of European and Chilean art.
Most budget accommodation in Santiago is located in the seedy area near the bus station in the North. Fancy Hotels can be found in the central area bounded by avenues Balmaceda and General O’Higgins (popularly known as the Alameda). Restaurants abound, especially around bus terminals, pedestrian walkways, the Alameda and Plaza de Armas.
Bellavista, known as the Parisian neighborhood, is one of the liveliest areas of the city, with countless ethnic restaurants and an active crafts fair on Friday and Saturday afternoons.