Seems like Santiago is not satisfied only to be close enough to ski resorts and sunny beaches: Valle Nevado, only 35 miles away, has the largest skiing track in the Southern Hemisphere and Valparaíso , home of the most important seaport in Chile,is located little more than a hour by car from the capital. Beyond all these "proximity qualities", the charming Chilean capital, also exhibits the fact of being one of the most modern, cosmopolite and having one of the best life standards in South America.
Founded by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia, at the bottom of a hill (today known as Cerro Santa Lucía), in 1541, Santiago – the Castilian for Saint James – is located in a fertile valley at the height of 1781ft (543 meter) above sea level, between the mountains of the Pacific Ocean’s coast and the imponent Andes Mountain Range which can be contemplated from almost every place in the city.
Santiago's downtown shelter the most important historic buildings not only for the city itself, but the whole country, as Palacio de La Moneda – the Government headquarters since the 19th century and place of the coup d'état that, in 1973, overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende and established a military dictatorship which lasted for 17 years –, Biblioteca Nacional (the National Library, an official monument of the country, built in the best of beaux-arts), Mercado Central (or Central Market, specialized in local devices and foods) and a huge number of museums and parks.
It is next to Mapocho river, in the northeast portion of the city, that most of Santiago's skyscrapers are located, in the financial districts of Las Condes and Providencia. Since the re-democratization of the country in 1990, many new commercial buildings have been built in that region, specially in the surrounding areas of the Andrés Bello, Vitacura, Providencia and Apoquindo avenues. Displaying lots of post-modern, brutalist and structural expressionism resources on their architecture, these high-rises confere to their skyline a very promising and futuristic profile.