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Santiago is an exciting blend of old and new: old Spanish colonial architecture alongside modern structures. Since Santiago lies in an earthquake zone, the city strictly limits the height of all new buildings; therefore, the skyline of Santiago is relatively “flat;” not like other major urban centers in the world such as New York City or Chicago. The great majority of buildings, however, are more European-American than Spanish-American in style and form. This delightful blend of contemporary and tradition gives Chile’s gateway city a welcoming smile for its foreign visitors.
Spanning east to west on Santiago’s main avenue, Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, is a variety of different neighborhoods and architectural styles. The first section is comprised of small, unobtrusive stores and homes, gradually becoming more grand and refined as you continue toward the Estación Central, the main rail station. Built in 1900, the station itself is comprised of two distinctive buildings linked by a huge metal cupola.
Opposite the rail station is the Avenida Matucana, known for its lovely historic homes leading to the picturesque Quinta Normal park.
Further along the main avenue is Santiago’s busy and hectic financial and business district, which features an eclectic mix of modern design, austere structures and old, traditional styles such as the Ex Congreso Nacional , the Museo de Arte Precolombino and the Palacio de Justicia.
Past the clamor and activity of the business district, Santiago turns her charms on once again as reflected in the neighborhoods of República and Dieciocho. The city's inhabitants who became rich from the mining boom during the early 20th century built fine palaces and mansions in these neighborhoods, many of which today have become part of the University. French is the predominant architectural style of these magnificent buildings.
Santiago offers many other fine architectural styles; here are just a few of the city's important landmarks: