This historic central square is home to magnificent works of architecture, museums and a nice blend of city workers, street performers and artisans.
Lively and picturesque Plaza de Armas is the historic heart of Santiago. Admire important city landmarks, visit museums and art galleries, shop for handicrafts and watch street performers. Established by Pedro de Valdivia shortly after he founded the city in 1541, this leafy square has been the city’s pulsating epicenter for nearly five centuries.
Take time to marvel at some of Santiago’s most prominent architectural landmarks. The majestic neoclassical Correo Central (Central Post Office) occupies the site of the former home of Pedro de Valdivia. Check out the stamp displays in the building’s free Postal and Telegraphic Museum. Visit the elegant Palacio de la Real Audiencia, built at the start of the 19th century. This former royal court building now houses the National Museum of History. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the square from the museum’s clock tower.
Go to the Catedral de Santiago to admire its ornate façade and lavish marble altarpiece. See Jesuit art and other religious artifacts in the cathedral’s Museum of Sacred Art. Directly in front of the cathedral artists sell their paintings while artisans offer handicrafts and souvenirs.
Sit on one of the square’s benches and observe the diverse mix of characters go about their business. Watch as businessmen get their shoes polished by eager shoeshiners. Observe the elderly compete in chess tournaments and kids chasing pigeons. Listen to religious preachers and soapbox speakers. Keep an eye open for street performers, such as the chinchinero. This one-man band plays a drums strapped to his back while crashing symbols together and spinning around at a dizzying speed.
Running south from the plaza are two of Santiago’s principal commercial streets, Paseo Ahumada and Paseo Estado. Along these pedestrianized streets you’ll find well-known brands and independent stores, street vendors, cafés and restaurants.
Plaza de Armas marks the geographical center of Santiago. Public transport, such as buses and the metro, plus a hop-on, hop-off tourist bus provide easy access. The square is within walking distance of several other major city attractions, including the Mercado Central, Palacio de la Moneda and Cerro Santa Lucía.