Santiago is the Chilean capital and main urban centre, being home to more than 6.5 million people, or 39 per cent of the population. This modern and sparkling city is administratively organised into 47 municipalities, one of the main ones being La Florida, the third largest in terms of inhabitants and home to one of the stadiums set to host the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Chile 2008.
The Chilean capital was founded on 12 February 1541, by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia at the foot of Huelen, a small hill. Thanks to its advantageous central geographic location, as well as being a mere 100 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean and at the foot of the imposing Andean mountain chain, Santiago has become a political, cultural and economic centre par excellence.
has grown at an increasing pace in the past few years, blending its
historic past with modern architecture which has turned it into one
of South America's most cosmopolitan cities.
Points of interest include a civic centre, containing most of the city's historic, architectural and cultural heritage, and the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Art Museum), modelled on the Petit Palais in Paris and home to a collection of European and Chilean art.
Further must-sees are the Palacio de la Moneda, a colonial era-style palace and currently the presidential residence, the stock exchange, the law courts and the Parque Forestal (main city park), as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral and Plaza de Armas square. Santiago is also surrounded by areas of great natural beauty and interest, such as the famed ski resorts: Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado.
The city has two universities of international renown: the Universidad Catolica and the Universidad de Chile, which the majority of Chilean presidents and government officials have attended.