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Museums: Santiago Chile

So you’ve been in Santiago for a few days, and you’ve done the wild stuff—you’ve eaten some seafood empanadas and a few completos loaded with toppings, and you’ve had some late nights out dancing and downing pisco sours.  All of those things are great—and pretty much mandatory on a trip to Chile—but there is also quite a bit of cultural activity in this vast South American metropolis.  If you’d like to turn your trip into a bit more of a learning experience, you can visit the myriad museums on offer in Santiago.

Chile’s capital is home to a variety of museums and cultural centers that cater to many different interests.  In terms of art, there are quite a few, but there are some that should simply not be missed.  First and foremost is the National Fine Arts Museum (MuseoNacional de BellasArtes), which houses classical and modern works from Chilean artists and foreigners alike.  There are rotating exhibits that encompass a wide range of mediums and styles sure to suit all interests. The entry fee to this rather large museum is $600 CLP for the general public, $300 CLP for students or senior citizens, and free for anyone under 18.  Like several other museums in Santiago, entry is free on Sundays, and the museum is closed on Mondays. The museum is located alongside Parque Forestal, which is walking distance from the Bellas Artes metro stop on the green line.  For a purely modern experience, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo), which is run by the University of Chile and is also located along Parque Forestal, on Ismael Valdes Vergara street.  Since its foundation in 1947, the museum has specialized in providing a comprehensive selection of modern artworks from Chilean artists. Admission is $600 CLP and the museum is closed on Mondays.

Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts
Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts

If history and science are more your thing, you should make a point to visit the National Natural History Museum (Museo Nacional de la Historial Natural), which provides a viewing of the vast scope of natural life in Chile.  There are rotating exhibits on recent discoveries or studies as well as long-standing displays on the incredibly diverse plant and wildlife that reside in Chile.  Admission is $600 CLP for adults and $300 CLP for students but free for everyone on Sundays. The museum, which is located in Parque Quinta Normal, is closed on Mondays along with the park.  The park is accessible via the Quinta Normal stop on the green line.

The newest, and perhaps the most fascinating museum in Santiago is the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos).  The purpose of the museum is to shed light upon the human rights violations that occurred in Chile from 1973-1990 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.  The museum was inaugurated in 2010 by former president Michele Bachelet, so all of the exhibits are relatively recent and extremely well-kept.  Anyone wishing to fully understand the history of this enigmatic country would do well by visiting this museum. The exhibits are open Tuesday through Sunday, and entrance to the museum is always free.  It is located at Avenida Matacuna 501, which is also alongside the Parque Quinta Normal.  Take the green line to the Quinta Normal metro stop.

National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of Natural History – Santiago

Of course, as Santiago is a vast and diverse city, there is an array of other, smaller museums you can visit.  If you start with these larger ones, you will be able to find out information about similar activities of interest throughout the city—just ask a museum attendant or browse through the pamphlets on offer.  Make sure to check on the museum’s website or ask at your hotel before planning a visit to the museum, as different holidays or national events can cause them to close sporadically.  In fact, in 2013, there were several workers’ strikes that rendered the museums closed for days at a time.  These institutions are wonderful and worth a visit—just make sure you double check before you head out the door.  Also, if you’re a student or a senior citizen, bring some form of identification with you to receive the discounted price.  You may want to consider bringing a bit of extra cash as well, as there can be some great souvenirs available in the gift shops.