Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)#10 in Best Things To Do in Santiago
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Flanking the western edge of the Plaza de Armas, this neoclassical cathedral has a history that stretches back to 1541 when Spanish conquistador and city founder Pedro de Valdivia requested a place of worship be constructed at the edge of Santiago's colonial square. However, a fire tore through the first structure, and two buildings constructed in its place were destroyed after major earthquakes in 1647 and 1730. The towering cathedral that stands today underwent construction around 1750, and in the 1780s, Italian architect Joaquín Toesca added a new twist: a blend of neoclassical style with baroque elements. The result is an interior that boasts intricate stained-glass windows and an elaborate altar ornamented with marble and deep blue lapis lazuli.
Although you'll have to battle dense crowds to experience this site, recent visitors agree that the cathedral is a must-see site. "Do not miss this beautiful cathedral. Everything is just stunning, from the floor tiles to the frescoed ceilings," raved one TripAdvisor user.
Visitors are welcome to explore the church for free from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays. Depending on when you visit, you may encounter Mass; be respectful of ongoing religious services by keeping your voice down and your camera flash off. You'll find the cathedral bordering the Plaza de Armas in Santiago's central district. To reach the cathedral, take Line 5 to the Plaza de Armas metro station.
More Best Things To Do in Santiago
Beckoning to an artsy crowd, the Bellavista neighborhood features graffiti-lined streets with cafes, art galleries and boutique shops. Here, you'll find inventive cocktail bars and eclectic eateries rubbing shoulders with antique homes and colonial mansions. Spend some time exploring La Chascona — the former home of celebrated poet Pablo Neruda — before scouring the Patio Bellavista shopping area for souvenirs. Also be sure to continue north to take in the scenery from Santiago's crown jewel: St. Christopher Hill, a nearly 3,000-foot high hill tucked inside Metropolitan Park.
The creative energy, trend-setting boutiques and laid-back vibes found in Bellavista make this a popular hangout spot among travelers and locals alike. And according to some recent visitors, the best way to experience it all is by wandering away from the main drag, Pío Nono. "This place is like an outdoor art museum. Between the colorful houses and the street art there seems to be a surprise around every corner," one TripAdvisor user said.
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