Cultural life is expressed through buskers on the buses, organ grinders and artists engaged in juggling, sketches, or living sculptures in the street. On the south bank of the Mapocho River, the Forestal and Balmaceda parks form a green column that awaits you with important cultural attractions. The first of these is the Estación Mapocho Cultural Center, an old railway station that is used for exhibits and events.
The neighborhood is a traditional one and it is suggested that you take the time to get to know the Central Market. In the middle of Parque Forestal, a sculpture by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero seems to welcome you to the palace of the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. This is an area with an intellectual air to it, good cafés and book stores that connect with Cerro Santa Lucía, which allows you to take a historic and beautiful stroll downtown.
Opposite the hill is the palace of the National Archive and Library. Delving further into the city center you will find the Municipal Theater and, near the Plaza de Armas, or main square, the National History Museum, the Santiago Cathedral and the Pre-Columbian Museum.
Plaza Italia connects Forestal and Balmaceda parks. This is where the University of Chile Theater is located, while the Pio Nono Bridge takes you to the Bellavista neighborhood and to the Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda’s house-museum. With its bohemian character, the Bellavista neighborhood has places for the lovers of theater, literature, jazz, and gastronomy.
Parque Bustamante runs from Plaza Italia southward and has a modern literary café, an open air theater, and access to the Metro station containing Chile’s longest mural. Further east, Parque Balmaceda also has its own literary café with a library and spaces for writer workshops and conferences. The Spanish Cultural Center and a number of galleries with old book shops offering used books and bibliographical gems can be found nearby.
Matucana street, where Violeta Parra sang when she first arrived to Santiago, is in western Santiago and starts opposite the Estación Central, the main railway station in Chile. Here you can find the modern Santiago Library and the Matucana 100 Theater. Both places are old warehouses that have been recycled into modern cultural centers. The Quinta Normal is only a few steps away, with its tree-lined lanes, promenades and lagoons. It is home to the Museums of Natural History, of Contemporary Art, of Science and Technolgy, the Railway Museum and the Children’s Museum.
The Metro station has the Pablo Neruda Room and the Artequín and Education Museums are near the park. Of course, there are other museums in other neighborhoods: in the Mirador Interactive Museum, MIM, you can get to see a birds-eye view of the Metropolitan Region in a 3D film, while in the National History Museum and the Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum you can go over the country’s history.
The latter of these houses paintings donated by major artists, including Roberto Matta. Plastic arts exhibits are mainly to be found in eastern Santiago. The exclusive neighborhood around the street Alonso de Córdova concentrates a large number of art galleries that mainly exhibit paintings, engravings, photography, and sculpture. The area also has an attractive supply of gastronomy and fashion boutiques.