Parque de las Esculturas: an urban oasis in Santiago

This park is the perfect place to kick back and relax in a quiet setting while enjoying the artwork on display.

This bronze bull is one of the park's highlights. (Photo: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez/Flickr)
This bronze bull is one of the park's highlights. (Photo: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez/Flickr)

If  you have a spare afternoon in Chile’s capital city, it’s well worth taking the time to wander across to the charming Parque de las Esculturas (Sculpture Park) in the Providencia district, east of the city center.

Stretched between the fast-flowing Mapocho River and Avenida Santa María, the park is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle and just chill out. Best of all, it’s free.

The artwork: As the name suggests, Parque de las Esculturas is an open air art museum that is home to close to 30 different sculptures produced by acclaimed Chilean artists. Set among a rich collection of native trees, the pieces blend in effortlessly to the natural environment. Among the highlights are a striking bronze bull, an abstract shape carved out of white marble and an evocative representation of grass on a windy day. The park also boasts a sunken outdoor gallery area which hosts temporary exhibitions from time to time.

The history: The idea for Parque de las Esculturas was conceived following a flash flood in June 1982 when the Mapocho River burst its banks, destroying the public gardens that snaked along its northern edge. The section between the Pedro de Valdivia and Padre Letelier bridges suffered particularly severe damage and local artists and authorities decided to use the space to develop a unique outdoor cultural space. The park was officially opened in December 1986, making it the first outdoor museum of its kind in Chile, and in 2008 it was added to the International Council of Museums’ world circuit of open air museums.

The plan: Upon arrival, take a stroll along the winding pathways that weave their way through the sculptures. At the park’s entrances are well-marked signs with a suggested route, but feel free to follow your instincts and your interests. After exploring all that the park has to offer, pause for a rest on a bench near your favorite sculpture or spread out on the grass like the locals. When you’re done, head back to Avenida Providencia for a drink and a bite to eat at one of the many bars and restaurants on offer.

When to go: It’s best to visit Parque de las Esculturas in spring or summer when Santiago puts on its best park weather. Between January and March the local municipality usually arranges a series of free open air concerts in the park.

Getting there: From Metro Pedro de Valdivia, head north along Avenida Pedro de Valdivia across the bridge and the park is on your right.

By Tim Dixon