The lushly forested Cerro Santa Lucía is Santiago’s most imaginative and exuberant piece of landscaping. Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that for the first three centuries of the city’s development this was nothing more than a barren, rocky outcrop, completely ignored despite its historical importance – it was at the foot of this hill that Santiago was officially founded by Valdivia, on February 12, 1541. It wasn’t until 1872 that the city turned its attention to Santa Lucía once more, when the mayor of Santiago, Vicuña Mackenna, enlisted the labour of 150 prisoners to transform it into a grand public park.
Quasi-Gaudíesque in appearance, with swirling pathways and Baroque terraces and turrets, this is a great place to come for panoramic views across the city. If slogging up the steps doesn’t appeal, use the free lift on the western side of the park, by the junction with Huérfanos. While it’s always busy and safe by day, muggings have been reported in the Cerro Santa Lucía after dark.