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photographer Steve Davies.

Plaza de Armas

Father Christmas and a huge Christmas tree in front of the Catedral de Santiago in the Plaza de Armas.

During the day Plaza de Armas is the heart of the city. This beautiful place traces back to Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of the city, and the year 1541. In that time is there was a protected area in the middle for guarding the arms. Its name was taken from the military and has been called that ever since. This is THE place where people meet, where pass by all the tourists. You will find here local artists selling their paintings, and some of major touristic attractions of Santiago.

Palacio de la Real Audiencia is a beautifully preserved colonial building that houses today the Museo Histórico Nacional (March-Dec Tues-Sun 10am-5.30pm; Jan & Feb Tues-Sat 10am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-1.30pm; 500 pesos, free on Sundays) where you can learn a lot about history of Chile. On the west side of the square you cannot miss a gorgeous cathedral. Near by you can also see a big, old white building of the Correo Central (main post office) which used to be a presidential palace, and also spectacular Municipalidad (townhall). The majestic equestrian statue on the place comemorates Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of the city. All distances in Chile are measured from a metallic plate located in the midlle of the square.

The Plaza de Armas is not only the heart of downtown's Santiago, but also a centre for most activities and is a compulsory place to visit for anybody walking in the centre. It is also the Kilometre 0 for all the distances measured for the Pan American Highway. From here, for example, it is 2,100 kilometres north to Arica, or 1,044 south to Puerto Montt, or exactly 1,000 to the last shrub of vegetation in the desert, before the Atacama desert becomes of a Martian-like barrenness and sterility. Albeit recently remodelled - in a way that somewhat recalls Mexico City's Zocalo - it retains it's lively activity, in the form of street artists and painters, tarot readers and Sunday plays on the music stand. It also becomes quite crazy on Friday and Saturday nights, and is a showcase for Peruvian immigrants on Sunday afternoons (the NW corner is called Peque a Lima, which means for "Little Lima", given the huge amount of Peruvians that hang round there). Plaza de Armas is surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the Santiago Municipality (Mayor's House) and the 17th century - although fully refurbished - Portal Fernandez Concha.

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photographer: Steve Davies | shooting date: 18 Dec 2005 (Sunday) | country: Chile | location: Santiago | in galleries: Travels in Patagonia, Chile | categories: Cityscapes, Architecture, All | camera: Nikon D70 | lens: Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 DC @ 18mm (27mm in 35mm film SLR) | focus distance: inf.m | shooting mode: Program AE | metering: Multi | shutter speed: 1/320s | aperture: f/9 | ISO: 200

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