Located in downtown Santiago just next to O’Higgins Metro stop on the Line 1, the park is a terraced set of open grass fields designed by two French architects and inaugurated in 1873. The open space is a perfect setting to lie on your back and relax on the grass. It was one of the most popular outings for Santiago residents in the past century and continues to receive picnickers and visitors to Fantasilandia (www.fantasilandia.cl), an amusement park complete with rollercoasters on the Park’s eastern side. Parque O’Higgins is also the location of Santiago’s Movistar Arena (www.movistararena.cl), which hosts major bands visiting the city. The Park was home to the Capital’s bicentennial celebrations and annual independence day fiestas in September, filling up with traditional fondas, food stands, dancing, kite-flyers, and a massive military procession.
One of the most traditional parks in the city, Parque Forestal is a thin band of vegetation that runs along the south bank of the Mapocho river between Plaza Baquedano and Plaza Prat. Benches beneath the trees provide good shade from the sun and quiet views over the river. A stroll along the park’s gravel paths takes you past two important museums, the Museo Bellas Artes, or Museum of Fine Arts (www.mnba.cl), and the Contemporary Arts Museum (www.mac.uchile.cl), both housed in a beautiful beaux-arts building built for the country’s centennial in 1910.
Cultural and recreational events – among many others the Providencia International Jazz Festival, fashion shows and rock climbing competitions – are frequently held in the Park. Lovebirds, jugglers and artists fill its many hidden corners. Continue along the river and Parque Forestal gives way to a series of parks that end in the newly inaugurated Parque Bicentenario in Vitacura, complete with cultural centers and duck ponds. South of Baquedano, Parque Bustamante is an important green artery for western Providencia, with space for skateboarders and a literary cafe with free wireless internet.
Parque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Park)
With an area of 728 hectares, this is the largest urban park in the country. The park is comprised of the San Cristóbal, Chacarillas, Gemelos and Pirámide hills. Every weekend thousands of people flock to its grassy lawns and gentle slopes, to jog, walk or ride bicycles. The park is most easily identified by the 72-foot (22-meter) Virgin Mary on its summit.
In the summertime Santiago dwellers refresh themselves in the Metropolitan Park’s two swimming pools (http://www.parquemet.cl/?cat_id=15). The Tupahue pool, 82 meters long, is located on the northwestern slope of Cerro San Cristóbal and was decorated by Mexican and Chilean muralists. The Antilén pool – inspired by the classic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu – has a panoramic 360-degree view of the city.
The park has numerous picnic areas in which it’s possible to book a parilla, or grill, to host an asado–the name for a traditional Chilean brabecue. It has a botanic garden, the Santiago Zoo (www.zoologico.cl), a funicular railway and a cable car. Entrances via La Pirámide, Pedro de Valdivia Norte, or Pio Nono in Bellavista, where visitors can find the entrance for the funicular. Trekking circuits and demanding cycling routes can also be found.
Set on a volcanic hill that rises sharply from the flat cityscape of central Santiago, Santa Lucía park is a hodgepodge of paths, caves, and steps leading up to a lookout, statues and even a small castle – Castillo Hidalgo. When Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago for the kingdom of Spain in 1541, Cerro Santa Lucía was the very spot where the ceremony took place. Many years later in 1872 the park was created. Today it is a haven for local youth who want to kiss without their parents seeing. Many tourists also stroll the lovely grounds, checking out the unique structures and lovely flora. Entry is free, although at the gates there is a table where you have to sign in with your passport details, as a security measure.
Santiago’s loveliest and most graceful park opened in 1841 as a plant-acclimatization nursery for imported species, when the area was still outside the boundaries of Santiago city. It is truly one of Santiago’s most underrated attractions, boasting 96 acres (8 ha.) of grassy lawns, dozens of varieties of trees (splendid mature examples of Monterey pine, Douglas firs, Sequoias, Babylonian willows and more), sporting facilities, and a lagoon with paddle boat rental.
The park’s four museums, including the Natural History Museum (+56 (2) 6804615; www.mnhn.cl), make this a great spot to bring children. Also worth checking out is the Artequín Museum, Av. Portales 3530 (+56 (2) 6825367; www.artequin.cl), open Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Housed in a fascinating cast-iron building accented with a kaleidoscope of colorful glass, it was first used as the Chilean exhibition hall at the 1889 Parisian centenary of the French Revolution. Workers took the building apart, shipped it to Santiago, and reassembled it here. The museum displays reproductions of famous paintings by artists from Botticelli to Rubens, Picasso to Monet, and even Andy Warhol’s Marilyn and Francis Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X.