Cerro Santa Lucia is one of two hills that overlook Santiago, where in 1541 Pedro de Valdivia founded the city long before Chile existed as an independent country. At the time, the hill was called Huelén by the indigenous people; a nearby street (by metro Salvador) still bears that name.
The hill rises about 230 feet over the surrounding part of the city, and there are excellent views of downtown from several terraces up there. Cerro Santa Lucia has three main constructions: the main entrance on the Alameda, with its wide, curving staircase, fronted by a fountain and backed by a yellow mansion; the fort at the top from which the best views of downtown can be seen; and the Castillo Hidalgo, which often hosts large international events.
There are also gardens and the Pedro de Valdivia Plaza, which has its own fountains and colorful tiled benches with Moorish influence. The top of the hill can be reached via the main entrance, as well as by way of the pedestrian access at the corner of José Miguel de la Barra and Victoria Subercaseaux, up a flight of stairs. There is also an elevator on the west side of the hill, where the pedestrian street Huerfanos ends, but this route only takes visitors halfway to the top.
Visitors to the hill would be hard-pressed to miss the cannon-firing, which takes place every day at noon and can be heard throughout many parts of downtown. This activity was suspended for several months after the 2010 earthquake, but it is back, routinely surprising those wandering the area.
The two metro stations closest to Cerro Santa Lucia are Santa Lucia and Bellas Artes. Visitors can easily walk over the hill by going up the main entrance from the Santa Lucia side and exiting down on the Bellas Artes side, or vice versa. Many people opt to tack on a trip up the hill to their time spent in the Lastarria neighborhood, Parque Forestal or both. Good shoes are recommended, as some of the upper staircases are uneven and most of the hill is cobblestoned.