At the heart of Santiago de Chile's historic district is the city's social hub, the palm-shaded Plaza de Armas. Surrounded by the neoclassical facades of Santiago's most important buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral; the Municipalidad, or federal building; and perhaps most striking, the magnificent Correo Central, or old post office. Two pedestrian malls, lined with handicrafts vendors, independent musicians, and plenty of cafes and shops, stretch out from the festive city center. Most of Santiago's museums and important sites are within a few blocks.
Since 1540, the venerable expanse of stone, cement, and sculpture has been a social hub, and it still serves as a gathering place for folks from across the cultural spectrum. Whether you're here to learn some history, feed a few pigeons, or just enjoy a glass of wine, the Plaza de Armas probably offers the finest people-watching in Chile.
The Plaza de Armas is the historic center of Santiago, and is walking distance to many of the city's most popular destinations, including museums, parks, and many restaurants and hotels. There are pricey parking lots nearby, but the surrounding streets are often so congested that it's usually much more convenient to take the metro. The L5 green line stops right beneath the square, at the Plaza de Armas stop.
While the plaza is a social hub that hums with activity around the clock, the best time to visit is in the late afternoon and on weekends. The whole city seems to turn out to enjoy the sunshine and passing flirtations, as do street performers and musicians, who'll put on all sorts of shows for a few pesos.